When the Atlanta Falcons face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday (6:30 p.m. ET, FOX and FOX Sports GO), it will be the eighth time the No. 1 scoring offense has faced the No. 1 scoring defense in the Super Bowl. And the defense has won every matchup but one.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons, who averaged 33.8 points this season, will put that to the test against the Patriots, who allowed 15.6 — the most of any No. 1 defense that reached the Super Bowl. Here's how the previous matchups played out.
Super Bowl I: Packers 35, Chiefs 10
No. 1 offense: Kansas City (32 ppg)
No. 1 defense: Green Bay (11.6)
Quarterback Len Dawson and the AFL's Chiefs had no answers in the second half against Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers of the NFL during Super Bowl I in Los Angeles. The Packers grabbed momentum with Willie Wood's third-quarter interception and pitched a second-half shutout, while QB Bart Starr ignited the offense to earn MVP honors.
Super Bowl IV: Chiefs 23, Vikings 7
No. 1 offense: Minnesota (27.1)
No. 1 defense: Kansas City (12.6)
See, the Chiefs figured it out. Three years after losing to the Packers, they used defense to get back to the big game in the final AFL-NFL duel before the merger. The Vikings' "Purple People Eaters" were the NFL's top defense, but the Chiefs defense took advantage of wet conditions to force three interceptions, recover two fumbles and hold Minnesota to 67 rushing yards. And this time Dawson won MVP honors.
Super Bowl XIII: Steelers 35, Cowboys 31
No. 1 offense: Dallas (24.0)
No. 1 defense: Pittsburgh (12.2)
The Cowboys were the defending champions and not going to be shut down. But in the first rematch in Super Bowl history, the Steelers beat them at their own game to avenge losing Super Bowl X. Terry Bradshaw won MVP honors, breaking Bart Starr's record for passing yards with 318, and Dallas' Jackie Smith joined the ranks of the infamous with The Drop.
FOX Sports' Dieter Kurtenbach ranks it as the greatest quarterback matchup in Super Bowl history, and how can you argue? Dan Marino and the Dolphins vs. Joe Montana and the Niners. It lived up to the hype, with both throwing for more than 300 yards. But it was Montana who won MVP with a then-record 331 yards, and after allowing 10 first-quarter points, the Niners switched to a dime defense that kept the Dolphins out of the end zone the rest of the night.
Welp, there you have it. The only No. 1 offense to beat the No. 1 defense in the Super Bowl. The Niners were the defending champs, with another Super Bowl MVP in Jerry Rice. But Montana, the league MVP, threw a then-record five TDs to earn his third Super Bowl MVP in his fourth championship. The Broncos, meanwhile, lost the big game for the third time in four years.
Super Bowl XXV: Giants 20, Bills 19
No. 1 offense: Buffalo (26.8)
No. 1 defense: New York (13.3)
The Broncos' misery would have nothing on the Bills'. This was the first of four straight losses by Buffalo in the big game, with the Giants controlling the clock for 40 minutes and keeping Jim Kelly's no-huddle offense off the field. Still, the Bills had a chance to win it, if not for these four words — Scott Norwood wide right — that the closest Super Bowl victory in history will be remembered for.
Super Bowl XLVIII: Seahawks 43, Broncos 8
No. 1 offense: Denver (37.9)
No. 1 defense: Seattle (14.4)
Fast-forward more than two decades later, and the NFL is in the midst of an offensive explosion led by the passing game, as evidenced by Peyton Manning and the Broncos. All the more remarkable that the Seahawks stunned the world with the largest Super Bowl victory by an underdog, in the most-watched TV program in American history to that point. And finally, a defensive player (LB Malcolm Smith) won the MVP in one of these defensive triumphs.
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