The biggest storyline from the 10 previous Super Bowls
While professor Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have attempted to squash Deflategate-mania, it seems likely that the pseudo-scandal will hang over Super Bowl XLIX as one of the predominant storylines, if not the main story. But there are other intriguing angles: The Seahawks have a chance to become the first team to win back-to-back championships since the Patriots themselves did it 10 years earlier; Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll faces his former team; and the Patriots seek a return to glory after losing Super Bowls XLII and XLVI -- the former one at the site of this year’s showdown at University of Phoenix Stadium. As we looked back and debated what were the biggest pre-game narratives of Super Bowls gone by, there were some close calls, so we mention the runner-ups. Here we go, starting with 10 years ago.
Super Bowl XXXIX: Terrell Owens: Will he or won't he play only weeks after surgery?
The question of Owens' availability after a monstrous 2004 campaign overshadowed the rest of the Super Bowl XXXIX pre-game intrigue. Doctors did not believe it would be humanly possible for the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver to suit up less than seven weeks after breaking his fibula and undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right ankle. Incredibly, Owens not only suited up against the New England Patriots but played 62 of 72 offensive snaps, collecting nine catches for 122 yards in a narrow 24-21 loss for the Eagles. Runner-up: How a Patriots win -- their third in four years -- would cement their "dynasty" status.
Getty ImagesAl Messerschmidt
Super Bowl XL: 'The Bus' rides home to Detroit (and into retirement)
The buzz before Super Bowl XL revolved prominently around super-sized, well-liked Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, the sixth-leading rusher in NFL history. Bettis considered retirement after the Steelers lost the 2005 AFC championship game to the Patriots but decided to give it one more go, in hopes of reaching the Super Bowl in his hometown, Detroit. After the Steelers defeated the Seahawks 24-10 in the Super Bowl, Bettis said: “I'm a champion and I think the Bus ... the Bus' last stop is here in Detroit." Runner-up: “One for the Thumb” -- a popular rallying cry in Pittsburgh, originated by Joe Greene in 1981 -- as the black and gold pursued its fifth Super Bowl ring -- and finally got it.
Getty ImagesRob Tringali
Super Bowl XLI: Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith become the first African-American head coaches to take a team to the Super Bowl
And thanks to the Colts’ 29-17 victory, Dungy earned the distinction as the first Super Bowl-winning African-American head coach. Runner-up: A very close second storyline centered on whether Peyton Manning would finally win the elusive Lombardi Trophy. Manning silenced some “choke artist” critics by leading a stunning comeback in the AFC championship game, but many NFL fans and media members still regarded him as a guy who couldn’t win the big one. Well, he did. Just the one (so far), but he did.
Getty ImagesScott Halleran
Super Bowl XLII: The New England Patriots’ pursuit of perfection
Alliteration aside, that’s what much of the media called it. In the wake of the Spygate controversy, the 18-0 Patriots scored an astounding 589 points in the regular season (nearly 37 per game) and needed only to squash the 12-point underdog New York Giants for the crown jewel and a perfect season. But David Tyree secured his place in Super Bowl lore with the Helmet Catch, and thanks to a fierce pass rush, David beat Goliath, 17-14.
Sporting News via Getty ImagesThe Sporting News
Super Bowl XLIII: A fairly tale final chapter for Kurt Warner?
Seven years after the Rams fell to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI, with a layover in New York, at age 37 Warner became the third-oldest quarterback to start in a Super Bowl. The Steelers entered the game as 7-point favorites over the Arizona Cardinals, whom many had dogged throughout the postseason after an up-and-down 9-7 campaign. Watching the Steelers prepare for another Super Bowl was old news, so Warner’s Hall of Fame resume and return to the big stage from his humble grocery-bagging roots became a focal point. If not for the perfect Roethlisberger-to-Santonio Holmes touchdown connection with 35 seconds remaining to secure a 27-23 victory, Warner would have had the perfect capstone.
Getty ImagesChris Graythen
Super Bowl XLIV: The Saints try to lift the city of New Orleans
Before Bountygate, before the Saints became villains and the league hammered Sean Payton with a season-long suspension in 2012, the Saints were NFL darlings, perennial losers with a chance to bring a victory parade to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In the 2009-2010 season, only four years after the Superdome became a shelter for displaced residents, the Saints rattled off 13 wins to start the season, then stumbled for three straight after that. They managed to rebound and reach the Super Bowl against the AFC champion Colts. The underdog Saints finished the job with a 31-17 victory, the franchise’s first, and the city enjoyed an emotional parade a few days later. Runner-up: Peyton Manning’s legacy, Part II.
Getty ImagesDonald Miralle
Super Bowl XLV : Clash of cornerstone NFL franchises
This one pitted the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers against the Green Bay Packers, already winners of 13 league championships and three Super Bowl titles -- most of them with the legendary Vince Lombardi, for whom the trophy was named. Stories centered on how another championship would elevate both decorated franchises. Runner-ups: Can Aaron Rodgers step out of Brett Favre’s shadow? And on the other side, many writers discussed the "redemption" of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was suspended four games at the start of the season for violating the NFL’s player conduct policy, stemming from an accusation of sexual assault in March 2010, which never resulted in an arrest or a charge.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
Super Bowl XLVI: The Super Rematch: Patriots vs. Giants -- Round II
Determined to exorcise the demons of 18-1 and recapture the perch atop the NFL, the Patriots carved a road to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI against their big blue nemesis. Once again the Giants did not meet them in the Super Bowl easily -- New York needed a fourth-quarter comeback and an overtime frame to oust the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship. In the end, Eli Manning and the Giants used a pass rush and some magic to officially claim the Patriots’ number in a 21-17 victory. Runner-up: A Super Bowl in Peyton’s backyard in the season (2011) that a neck injury forced him to miss the entire year, while his contract status with the Colts remained unsettled.
Getty ImagesAl Bello
Super Bowl XLVII: The Harbaugh Bowl
As far as storylines go, this one was totally unprecedented -- and pretty cool. Brothers squared off in the Super Bowl as NFL head coaches. Big brother John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens got the best of Jim and the 49ers, but not without another oddity, as the lights malfunctioned at the Superdome in New Orleans, causing a 35-minute delay in the third quarter.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
Super Bowl XLVIII: Peyton Manning’s legacy
Manning and his offensive juggernaut would face the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom in a classic battle of offense versus defense. Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman were quickly becoming household names but Manning, in the twilight of his career with an unknown amount of gas left in the tank, would look to add a second trophy to his case. It took only one half of football to discover that Manning would not succeed.