Super Bowl LIII wasn't the worst of all time, but it's up there

Sunday’s game hadn’t even reached halftime and people were already proclaiming it to be one of the worst Super Bowls ever.

That’s not a surprise given that social media is geared toward both recency bias and negativity. Once it became apparent the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams weren’t going to put on the fireworks show that many expected, the complaints came in a tidal wave.

But with the benefit of a good night’s sleep, where does Super Bowl LIII really rank among the all-time snoozes? The NFL has held 53 of these games and they haven’t all been winners. For those of us old enough to remember, there was actually a period of about 20 years when the Super Bowl’s lopsided results not only became a punchline, but a reality we couldn’t escape.

By our count, there were at least nine Super Bowls that were bigger bores than the one the NFL just put on. Read our list and then let us know where you think it ranks.

10. Super Bowl LIII: New England 13, L.A. Rams 3
Why it was bad: After a season defined by an explosion of offense, we got the lowest scoring game in Super Bowl history. The Rams couldn’t even score a dang touchdown, the halftime show and commercials were instantly forgettable and a Patriots team no one wanted to see win took home another title by simply putting the Rams into a 60-minute long sleeper hold. You could argue Bill Belichick’s game plan was beautiful in its own right, it just wasn’t that interesting for a casual fan to watch.

Redeeming quality: It’s possible this Super Bowl will be viewed better once the Belichick Dynasty finally ends, oh, 30 years from now and the New England fatigue starts to subside. The game was tied with under 10 minutes remaining and it might be a different story had Brandin Cooks held onto that pass the play before Jared Goff’s game-changing interception. Even though it never really felt like the Rams would win, the relatively small final margin of victory means we can’t rank it worse than the blowouts below.

9. Super Bowl XX: Chicago 46, New England 10
Why it was bad: The nation was expecting a rematch between the Bears and the only team to defeat them that season, Dan Marino’s Miami Dolphins. Instead it got Tony Eason and the Patriots, who were never up to the task. The Bears led 23-3 at halftime and dominated so much that the Bears were deciding who should be scoring the touchdowns. (Bad move, Ditka.)

Redeeming quality: It was a victory lap for one of the most memorable teams in the sport’s history. It also gave Chicago something to talk about every five minutes for the next 34 years (and counting).

8. Super Bowl XXXV: Baltimore 34, NY Giants 7
Why it was bad: The 2000 Ravens had an all-time great defense and they simply wouldn’t allow this game to be competitive at any point. Giants QB Kerry Collins completed 15 of 39 passes for only 112 yards and the Giants turned the ball over five times.

Redeeming quality: We got to see the Ravens defense doing what they did best. Also, Trent Dilfer became a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, giving hope to future squads with good defenses but mediocre QBs.

Peyton Manning leaves the field after losing Super Bowl XLVIII. (Getty Images)
Peyton Manning leaves the field after losing Super Bowl XLVIII. (Getty Images)

7. Super Bowl XLVIII: Seattle 43, Denver 8
Why it was bad: The Seahawks led 36-0 before Peyton Manning — who fumbled the game’s first snap for a safety — could get on the board with their lone score of the day. After a good run of competitive Super Bowls, this was a throwback to the days when the NFC would routinely pound a legendary quarterback from Denver.

Redeeming quality: Are you sensing a theme of dominant defenses getting unfairly punished? The Legion of Boom cemented itself among the ‘85 Bears and ‘00 Ravens with this effort.

6. Super Bowl XXIX: San Francisco 49, San Diego 26
Why it was bad: The Niners scored two touchdowns within the first five minutes and the Chargers were never in the game. Go ahead and ask anyone what they remember about this game? Chances are, it’s not much.

Redeeming quality: After two titles as Joe Montana’s backup, the historically underrated Steve Young finally got a chance to win a Lombardi Trophy of his own with a MVP effort.

5. Super Bowl XXXVII: Dallas 52, Buffalo 17
Why it was bad: The Bills turned the ball over nine times during this game and the score was 28-10 by halftime. The Cowboys offense beat the over/under of 45 by themselves.

Redeeming quality: Leon Lett’s debacle, Michael Jackson’s halftime show and the setting in Pasadena at least made for a few lasting memories. You could probably make the argument that the Cowboys-Bills rematch the following year in Atlanta was more forgettable, though the game was relatively closer.

Dan Marino during Super Bowl XIX. (Getty Images)
Dan Marino during Super Bowl XIX. (Getty Images)

4. Super Bowl XIX: San Francisco 38, Miami 16
Why it was bad: You think the Patriots and Rams’ offenses fizzling out was a letdown? This game was between the 15-1 49ers and 14-2 Dolphins — the most combined wins by two Super Bowl teams — and it was an absolute dud.

Redeeming quality: Clips from the game would later be used for “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.” Also, 49ers fans didn’t have to travel far; the game was held in Palo Alto.

3. Super Bowl V: Baltimore 16, Dallas 13
Why it was bad: This was a close game. The Colts won with 10 points in the fourth quarter. But imagine Sunday’s Patriots-Rams game and then add nine more turnovers. This one was ugly as ugly gets.

Redeeming quality: The game serves a decent historical marker. It was the Colts’ first and only Super Bowl title in Baltimore, plus it was the start of Tom Landry’s dynasty in Dallas.

2. Super Bowl XXIV: San Francisco 55, Denver 10
Why it was bad: The biggest blowout in Super Bowl history, this game really defined the chasm between the NFC and AFC in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. The 49ers scored two touchdowns apiece in all four quarters.

Redeeming quality: Watching Joe Montana and Jerry Rice work together was never a waste of time.

1. Super Bowl XXXVII: Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21
Why it was bad: You wouldn’t think a matchup between two teams named after pirates could be bad, but this was a huge disappointment. Though the Raiders were favored behind NFL MVP Rich Gannon, they laid a complete egg after center Barret Robbins went AWOL the night before the game. Raiders coach Bill Callahan might be the worst coach to ever appear in the Super Bowl; he later drew criticism from Tim Brown and Jerry Rice after the pair charged he “sabotaged” the game with a last-minute change to the game plan. The Bucs ran away with the game for their franchise’s only Super Bowl victory.

Redeeming quality: Jon Gruden, who owns a 99-93 career coaching record, will still be cashing huge checks from this game for at least nine more seasons.

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