As the NFL approaches its highly anticipated golden anniversary Super Bowl, Yahoo Sports takes a look back at some of the most memorable moments in the game's history.
In our rankings, the moments go beyond the great scores and plays. We also take a look at entertainment performances, scandals/controversies and other events associated with corresponding Super Bowls.
Here's a look at moments Nos. 41-45, in reverse order:
45. Gatorade bath
Just before the Denver Broncos' Gary Kubiak was sacked by New York Giants defensive end Eric Dorsey to cap off Super Bowl XXI, nearly 90 million television viewers were introduced to the Gatorade shower as the next generation's football celebration.
By that point, Giants head coach Bill Parcells already had been baptized several times over. The tradition started more than a year earlier. And by another team.
There's a surprising amount of conjecture on the matter, and fans of the Giants and Chicago Bears have been going back and forth on the lore of this for years.
As outlined in the fantastic biography "Parcells: A Football Life," the Giants contingent believes that the first postgame sports-drink bath took place on Oct. 20, 1985 — 462 days prior to the Super Bowl victory — when nose tackle Jim Burt sneaked up behind an unsuspecting Parcells and doused him. You can imagine the reaction from the hardline, old-school coach.
Bears fans swear it was born almost a full calendar year prior on Nov. 25, 1984 when head coach Mike Ditka got the Gatorade bucket (but was it water?) treatment. The video appears to back this up.
Nonetheless, much of the football-watching nation, which typically was witness to just two national games on Sunday, was seeing the Gatorade soak for the first time when Harry Carson got Parcells on Jan. 25, 1987. By that Monday morning, it had become an iconic sports moment and a Super Bowl tradition for the ages — the kind of thing coaches dream of when they accept their first NFL job.
More Most Memorable Super Bowl Moments:
• Dec. 14: Nos. 46-50
• Dec. 21: Nos. 36-40
ESPN was still in its infancy, less than eight years in existence and nowhere close to the cultural phenomenon. The country was treated to three NFL games per weeks —typically the local game early on Sunday, the afternoon national game of the week and "Monday Night Football." Sports highlights were relegated to about 4 ½ minutes on the local news, most often with a local bent, too.
Baseball might still have been the nation's pastime in 1987, but the NFL soon would surpass it. Super Bowl ratings were on the rise through the 1970s and into the 1980s, spiking with record numbers for Super Bowl XVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers in January 1982. The game has remained appointment television ever since.
So when Carson (wearing a yellow Super Bowl Event Staff jacket to avoid suspicion) made his famous Gatorade dump, it might have been finely tuned, well choreographed and, by that point, quite well known to Giants fans. But for the unsuspecting viewers of the nation, it appeared to be a spur-of-the-moment concoction brewed up as the Giants overwhelmed the Broncos in the second half.
Moreover, it changed the course of Super Bowl and television history. From then on, nearly every other coach — the grumpier, all the more satisfying for the players and the people watching at home — was subject to the icy, sticky bath. It almost has become a disappointment for many when it doesn't happen. For the Giants, the tradition became steeped even more in lore when, upon visiting the White House that following summer, victimized President Ronald Reagan with the famous Gatorade bucket dump (it was filled with popcorn, not the sports drink).
There have even been some tender Gatorade moments. When the New England Patriots won their third Super Bowl title in four years in 2005, Bill Belichick and his 86-year-old father got soaked on a rather cool night in Jacksonville. Less than a year later, Steve Belichick was dead and the lasting image of him for many Patriots fans was his stunned reaction to the Gatorade after his son's crowning achievement.
Really, as Darren Rovell points out in his 2005 book "First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat Into A Cultural Phenomenon," how many traditions like this have lasted? In an ever-changing sports world, it's one of the few to remain, generations later.
For Parcells, it meant a $120,000 windfall with a three-year deal from Gatorade and its brilliant marketing team. For Carson, it was a $20,000 bump to land him on a Gatorade poster. But for the company, now in its 50th year of existence, it meant incredible publicity and a place in pop culture history that could sustain its place in sports for another half century. Proof? The Gatorade shower has its own Facebook page. It doesn't get much more millennial than that.
There's a certain irony that the Bears reached a Super Bowl (one with higher ratings even) the year before the Giants — and that the legendary, almost comic-book cast of characters on that 1985 team might have earned that place in time had they thought to (again) drench Ditka. But it was the Giants, Carson, Burt and Parcells who earned the signature moment instead.
One we're not ready to wash away.
– Eric Edholm, Shutdown Corner
44. I'm going to Disney
On the surface, Disney and the NFL are not natural partners. There's nothing but joy and delight associated with Mickey's kingdom (OK, maybe except for the bludgeoning the wallet or purse endures), while pain and suffering are status quo in the NFL.
But after months of sacrifice and execution, one fortunate NFL franchise ends up "Where Dreams Come True." From that standpoint, the cultural behemoths are aligned and have become linked with championship glory.
After a record-setting performance, Phil Simms announced to the world what was next for him after the Giants' 39-20 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI.
"I'm going to go to Disney World," a smiling Simms said on camera following a 22-of-25 passing performance with 268 yards and 3 touchdown passes that earned him MVP honors against Denver.
The groundbreaking commercial, apparently conceived during a dinner dialogue, became the conversation the next day.
"It was a big deal. I was the MVP of the Super Bowl and had more people asking me about the Disney commercial than how I played the game," Simms told USA Today's For The Win. "When the commercial came out the next day, everybody just wanted to know all about it."
While Disney has joined Gatorade in becoming associated with winning the Super Bowl, the slogan has crossed over sports. You never saw the Chicago Bulls dump Gatorade on Phil Jackson, but you may recall Michael Jordan saying "We're going to Disney World" after he and the Bulls won their first NBA Finals title in 1991.
The popularity of the spot has increased the anticipation of who'll be named MVP of the Super Bowl. The game's most valuable player is assured to go hang out with Mickey and crew for a day, right?
Ray Lewis, the 2000 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, followed up the regular-season accolades by claiming MVP of the Baltimore Ravens' win over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. A year earlier, Lewis had been linked but not convicted of charges in relation to a double homicide in Atlanta. So whether intentionally or by happenstance, Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer was instead headed to the Magic Kingdom.
– James C. Black, Yahoo Sports
43. 36 seconds
Speaking of Super Bowl XXXV, it may be the least memorable one in terms of on-field drama this century. Statistically, MVP Ray Lewis didn't have a remarkable game: no sacks or interceptions; was in on five tackles. Mr. Disney, Trent Dilfer, had just 153 passing yards and one touchdown.
The biggest hoopla associated with the event was the circus surrounding Lewis, who had been on trial less than a year earlier following a double homicide at the previous year's Super Bowl. Ray Lewis at media day by far was the game's biggest story.
However, there was a record-setting stretch that's been overlooked and accounts for arguably the most exciting 36 seconds in Super Bowl history.
Ravens cornerback Duane Starks seemingly delivered a knockout blow to the Giants with his 49-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave the suffocating Ravens a 17-0 lead with 3:49 left in the third quarter. But the Giants weren't finished. The ensuing kickoff was fielded by Ron Dixon, who returned it 97 yards for a touchdown to pull the Giants within 17-7.
Alas, as was originally thought when Starks had scored just moments earlier, the Giants were indeed toast. Jermaine Lewis, one of the game's scariest return men at the time, followed up Dixon with an 84-yard return for a touchdown of his own to put the Ravens up 24-7. The three touchdowns in 36 seconds are a Super Bowl record.
– James C. Black, Yahoo Sports
42. Kasay's errant kick
The anti-New England Patriots crowd can point to a reason why the Patriots should have lost each of their six Super Bowls during the Belichick-Brady era. New England's victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII had the most merit … until last season (to be revisited later in the rankings).
What had been a relatively bland affair through three quarters – there was no scoring during the first and third stanzas; in fact, there was a record-setting Super Bowl drought for the first 26 minutes, 55 seconds – became a shootout with a memorable fourth.
Brady, tagged with the dreaded "game manager" label during the Patriots' Super Bowl win over the St. Louis Rams two seasons earlier, put up big time numbers this time around. The eventual game MVP finished with 354 passing yards and three touchdowns, including a 1-yarder to Mike Vrabel with 2:51 left for a 29-22 lead.
The Panthers and quarterback Jake Delhomme, who had 323 passing yards with 3 touchdowns, answered. A 12-yard scoring pass from Delhomme to Ricky Proehl tied it, 29-29, with 1:08 remaining and set the stage for the Super Bowl's first overtime game.
Instead of a booming kickoff into or through the end zone, Carolina's John Kasay sailed the ensuing kick out of bounds around the 11-yard line. Penalty! Patriots' ball at the Panthers' 40.
We all know what happened next. The Patriots picked up enough yardage to set up Adam Vinatieri for the game-winner. Game over … again!
"They were kind of reeling, to be honest with you," then-Carolina wide receiver Ricky Proehl said following the 32-29 defeat, according to ESPN. "I felt like if it goes into overtime, we could win this game. Then John kicked it out of bounds. ... I'm still sick."
– James C. Black, Yahoo Sports
41. Bad snap
The Denver Broncos strode into Super Bowl XLVIII with the greatest offense in NFL history. The Seattle Seahawks sauntered in knowing they'd shut it down.
It didn't take long before everyone else realized it, too.
On the first play from scrimmage at MetLife Stadium, Peyton Manning lined up in a shotgun formation from his own 14-yard line, then took a step forward to change something.
Something changed, all right. Center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over Manning's head and into the end zone, giving the Seahawks a 2-0 lead on a safety 12 seconds into the game. It marked the fastest score in Super Bowl history, and it marked the early end of the Broncos' season.
The Seahawks won 43-8, setting a slew of records unwanted by Denver. It was the largest margin of victory ever by a Super Bowl underdog. It was also the third-largest margin of victory in a Super Bowl, and the first time the winner had more than 40 points while holding the loser to under 10.
It all started with the botched snap. The circumstances behind what went wrong are fairly straightforward, if you ask those involved. The supposedly neutral crowd sounded a lot more like Seattle's vaunted CenturyLink Field than the indifferent, wealthy congregation typically associated with the biggest sporting event in America.
"You can talk about it being a quote-unquote 'corporate crowd,'" Fox broadcaster Joe Buck said after the failed snap. "This crowd is loud."
Broncos head coach John Fox referred to the bad snap as "a little bit of a cadence issue."
"It was nobody's fault, not Manny's fault," Manning said after the game. "It was just a noise issue that caused that play to happen."
Ramirez, for his part, said he thought he clearly heard Manning.
The only thing clear after that play was how long of a night it was going to be for Denver. The Seahawks forced four turnovers, scored touchdowns in all three phases, and didn't allow a score until time ran out in the third quarter.
The "Legion of Boom" yielded only 306 yards against an offense that averaged 457 per game, and only eight points against an offense that averaged almost 30 more.
Seattle's defense — which led the league in numerous categories — largely played second fiddle to Denver's record-setting offense in the build-up to the Super Bowl. Over 60 minutes, the Seahawks proved that people were focusing on the wrong story.
It's hard to single out any member of that defense, either. Richard Sherman was the loudest. Kam Chancellor hit hardest. Bobby Wagner had the most tackles. Malcolm Smith was the MVP.
But the individual parts were not greater than the whole, and that whole was as intimidating as any defense in league history.
Just ask one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game. Just ask the loyal fans of Seattle, who finally won a championship thanks to that defense.
– Joey Gulino, Yahoo Sports