The Big Game in American Football and all of North American sports, and unofficially a national holiday in the United States, the Super Bowl is the championship game of the National Football League, pitting the champion of the American Football Conference (AFC) against their National Football Conference (NFC) counterpart.
The Super Bowl began as the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game" in 1967, played between the champions of the NFL and the upstart American Football League, as the first step in eventually merging the leagues. In 1969, the name "Super Bowl" was introduced, and the first two were retroactively designated "Super Bowl I" and "Super Bowl II". Once the merger was completed in 1970, 13 of the the 16 then-existing NFL teams became the NFC and the AFL was integrated into the NFL as the AFC, with three teams from the pre-merger NFL joining the AFC. Thus, for the first four years, the Super Bowl championship and the NFL championship were separate titles.
Occurring in late January or early February, the television broadcast of the game is usually the single most heavily-viewed program in the U.S. for a given year, and by a very large margin. Anything less than 90 million viewers — in a country where one-third that is mega-hit territory for a regular show (as a point of reference, American Idol has been pretty consistently the number one show in America for the last decade, and will pull in about 30 million on a good night) — is considered a disappointment.
As such, advertising time on the Super Bowl is the most expensive; thus, Super Bowl ads are well known for being the most elaborate, expensive, and showy pieces of solicitous short-subject film ever produced, many of which will never be shown again (until they show up on YouTube). It is also the time to introduce new campaigns and slogans (not to mention new products), or to pull out the most elaborate version of an existing series of ads. This tradition of advertising grandeur leads many people to tune in just to watch the ads, even those that might not watch football the rest of the year, a seeming paradox that suits the advertisers just fine.
Millions of people, fans and non-fans alike, also use the game an an excuse to host viewing parties at which copious amounts of food and drink (and sometimes other substances) are consumed. Increasingly the Super Bowl is also shown in Latin America (it is huge in Mexico, for instance), Europe and even Asia, despite obvious time-zone problems. Unfortunately some stations lack any on air American Football expertise and the "experts" they invite sometimes don't even know the first thing about the sport. This however has gotten better in recent years and if all else fails you can watch it with the original commentary via numerous live-streams depending on where you live. Increasingly bars, cinemas, US consulates or local American Football teams are hosting viewing parties which makes economic sense if nothing else, considering that most of those otherwise sit empty on what would be a late Sunday Night in the dead of winter. For American Football teams and embassies on the other hand, it is a good way to reach out to the community at large and gain a bit of "soft power" or new supporters / members. Of course the Just Here for Godzilla aspects of the whole shebang tend to be even larger if you watch it outside North America and in a large group or public venue.
To their credit, the NFL will spare no effort in making sure that military personnel who are deployed to remote locations will still be able to watch the game.
Also of note is the halftime show, which, since Michael Jackson's 1993 appearance, has featured major acts in popular music in expensive spectacles. Presuming football fans may not be that interested in non-football material, several clever broadcasters have tried to counter-program this portion of the day (examples include the Saturday Night Live specials, WWE's empty arena match, the Lingerie Bowl, the Puppy Bowl, etc.)
This Big Game is less prone to Hype Backlash than you might think. The network airing the Super Bowl often takes advantage of the huge audience to debut a new series immediately after the game (The A-Team, Airwolf, The Wonder Years, Homicide: Life on the Street, Family Guy, and American Dad! being among the shows to premiere in this manner) or use it to try to give an existing series a popularity boost.
(2015's candidate of choice, airing on NBC was The Blacklist, although that already was already one of their most popular shows. 2016 aired on CBS, who instead of promoting one of their prime-time shows, aired a special edition of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.)
Meanwhile, most other channels put on a No-Hoper Repeat. Super Bowl XLVI, which drew an estimated total audience of nearly 167 million in the U.S. alone, currently holds the record for the most-watched US TV program ever. Non-Americans, picture what it'd be like if the FIFA World Cup happened every year. And it was only one game. That's the Super Bowl.
It was the target of a terrorist attack in Thomas Harris' book and The Film of the Book Black Sunday, as well as Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears, and nearly in reality, too - which is why it's designated as a high profile event meriting additional security by the U.S. government, like the Presidential Inauguration or the State Of The Union Address. A man with an assault rifle thought better of his plan to open fire on the crowd in Arizona and turned himself in in 2008.
By the way, if you're an advertiser or retail store, don't you dare use the term "Super Bowl" without express permission from the NFL. It's not illegal or anything, they just really don't want you to do it.
Although the Super Bowl is not an official holiday, it appears personified as a character in the webcomic Holiday Wars.
The Super Bowl is also known for its extremely expensive tickets, and for being hosted (almost) exclusively (in the modern era) in southern or western stadiums or in domed/roofed facilities due to taking place in the middle of winter. MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey broke that trend by hosting Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.
It's also known for the NFL exaggerating the extent of its trademark rights to the "Super Bowl" name. The NFL insists that it's illegal for churches and other nonprofit organizations to advertise their Super Bowl viewing parties with the name "Super Bowl" or even "Super Sunday", which is widely seen to be contrary to the broad recognition of Fair Use in the United States. But because the NFL's lawyers are very scary and fighting them would be far too expensive, most everybody complies with the NFL's demands anyway. As a result, Super Bowl party-organizers will usually give their events alternate names such as the "Big Game" or the "Superb Owl". The NFL was near-universally considered to have taken it a step too far when they tried to also trademark the term "Big Game"... despite the fact that the term predates the NFL itself by twenty years: it has referred to the annual Stanford/Cal college football game since 1900.
For a list of the championships by year, see our Super Bowl Recap Page.
This Competition Provides Examples of:
- Always Female: Often the singers who have sung "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful" due to the predominantly male audience (though there have been some exceptions like Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Garth Brooks and Luke Bryan).
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: With lots of (Lombardi Trophy-shaped) confetti.
- Batman Gambit: Bill Belichick has famously used Super Bowls to demonstrate his skill at this trope, generally with strong results. On the other hand, the directions "make Manningham beat us" have gone down as Tempting Fate.
- Battle in the Rain: Super Bowl XLI between the Colts and the Bears.
- Big Applesauce: As discussed in the intro, the Super Bowl has always been played in warm climates or in domes. The only market large enough to avert that so far is New York City (okay, technically New Jersey) in 2014.
- Big Blackout: Super Bowl XLVII (2013) was delayed for over half an hour when about half the stadium's lights went out. This was arguably the most memorable moment of the night.
- And it had happened before in 2011 for XLV (2011), but for a shorter time.
- Big Eater: Part of the tradition of Super Bowl Sunday is pigging out on a lot of junk food with your friends right in front of the TV.
- Big Game: For American Football, it's the big game. Even people who don't watch any other football games will watch this one, and the winning team claims the title of "World Champions."
- Bladder of Steel: If your favorite team is one of those vying for the Vince Lombardi Trophy, AND you're interested in watching the commercials, your bathroom break opportunities will be limited.
- If you're a fan of the halftime performer, you're pretty much doomed.
- This trope was spoofed in the Super Nintendo version of SimCity. One scenario in the game has you rebuild a city after a nuclear power plant has a meltdown. The cause of said meltdown? The championship football game had captivated 5 million citizens of the city, and they held it in so long that when halftime came, each and every last one of them flushed at the exact same time, forcing all the cooling water to drain from the tank of the reactor.
- This has been somewhat alleviated with the rise of broadband Internet, as all the Super Bowl commercials are up on YouTube immediately following the game. Sometimes even before the game.
- If you're a fan of the halftime performer, you're pretty much doomed.
- Book-Ends: Inverted in that since 2004, the team that wins the Super Bowl then proceeds to host the Kickoff Game for the next season.
- Similarly, as far as teams repeating goes, the 2014-15 season began and ended with the Seahawks, and the 2004-05 and 2017-18 season began and ended with the Patriots.note
- The Buffalo Bills managed to reach four consecutive Super Bowls from 1989 to 1993, only to lose them all. Even worse is that the first of their defeats was lost by a missed field goal, which is today the only thing Scott Norwood is remembered for. It led to the derisive acronym Boy I Love Losing Superbowls.
- The Minnesota Vikings have also lost all four Super Bowls they played in the 1970s. They at least had the decency of losing them intermittently.
- The Denver Broncos had also lost four Super Bowls in the 70s and 80s, all of them by blowouts, before they finally managed to get that elusive title, 8 years after they'd lost their 4th. Then in 2014 they got crushed again by the Seahawks. In fact, three of the five biggest Super Bowl blowouts were Denver losses note A major reason for the blowouts was the fact that the Broncos were facing well-balanced teams with strong offenses and defenses, whereas basically all Denver had was John Elway. Many sportswriters and NFL historians have pointed out that those Denver teams had no business being anywhere near the Super Bowl, and were only there because Elway carried those teams on his shoulders and used his enormous talents to get them to the Super Bowl, then was hobbled by defenses that simply threw everything they had at him and overwhelmed his line and his receivers, and a Denver defense that simply could not keep points off the board. It took Mike Shanahan coming in and actually building a team good enough that Elway didn't have to do it all himself for Denver to finally win two back to back Super Bowls - at a time when Elway was visibly past his prime. The same happened again with Peyton Manning who got crushed in a Super Bowl where he and his offense were all Denver had but did much better (and won) when a past his prime Manning had a world class defense to help him.
- Compounding it for the above teams was the fact that, aside from the Bills in Super Bowl XXV, these teams completely came apart when they got to the Super Bowl and suffered horrendous, fandom-scarring defeats. Even more interesting, when the Vikings lost their 4th Super Bowl (32-14 in Super Bowl XI), the Broncos lost their 1st the following year (27-10 in Super Bowl XII). When the Broncos lost their 4th (55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV), the Bills lost their first in Super Bowl XXV, 20-19 in an absolute heartbreaker. Going by this pattern, the Chargers better watch out (they lost Super Bowl XXIX, a year after the Bills lost their 4th).
- For a long period of time, the entire American Football Conference qualified as butt monkeys, as AFC teams lost 13 straight Super Bowls between the 1983 and 1997 seasons.
- The New England Patriots, considered to be one of the greatest teams, seemed to be on the way to becoming this, losing two appearances in a row to the Giants, with the first of those two losses coming after the Patriots had been undefeated in the regular season and looking to become the first team ever to go 19-0. However, this was averted with their win over the Seahawks in 2015 and their huge Miracle Rally in Super Bowl LI. Then, it got played straight again after their Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
- The 2005 Seattle Seahawks. In the leadup to the game, the Seahawks were 13-3 in the regular season, with the best record in the NFC, and facing the 11-5 Pittsburgh Steelers, who despite their record had snuck into the playoffs at the #6 wild card slot. Despite having the regular season MVP in star running back Shaun Alexander, a top 5 quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck, and one of the top performing defenses in the league, the Steelers were favored by 4 to win, which in gambling parlance is equal to a Curb-Stomp Battle. A majority of the media coverage was showered on the Steelers, specifically the story that long-time veteran Jerome Bettis would retire at the end of the current season. On top of that, the game (unluckily for the Seahawks) itself took place in Ford Field in Detroit, nearly 2,000 miles from the Seattle faithful and just a stone's throw away from Pittsburgh (not to mention the hometown of the aforementioned Jerome Bettis). In almost every measurable metric, Seattle outdid Pittsburgh, except for the score itself, which was heavily influenced by a number of highly questionable calls by the refs, especially in scoring situations. Polls taken after the game concluded that a large majority of fans thought officiating mistakes influenced the game's outcome, but overall outrage was surprisingly subdued, since it was the Steelers on top rather than the Seahawks. Though to this day, some detractors refer to the Steelers as the "Refsburgh Reflers".
- Really, any team that has yet to win the big game. Or even just play in it, especially if the team is older than the Super Bowl itself (i.e., the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions).
- Conspiracy Theorist: Seattle coach Pete Carroll is publicly a 9/11 Truther, and accordingly both of his Super Bowl appearances saw others follow him to the site. One even succeeded in crashing MVP Malcolm Smith's press conference to seize the microphone.
- Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: On the final play of Super Bowl XXXIV, Kevin Dyson of the Tennessee Titans was tackled from behind on the one yard line by the St. Louis Rams' Mike Jones, preventing a game-tying touchdown.
- Similarly, the infamous Leon Lett fumble after he had returned the ball nearly the entire length of the field, only to have it stripped by Don Beebe because he celebrated too early.
- Creator Breakdown: Shortly before Super Bowl XXXVII, star center Barrett Robbins of the Oakland Raiders failed to take his depression medication, and in his confusion abandoned the team the day before the game to party in Tijuana - thinking the Raiders had already won. The episode revealed that he had been misdiagnosed bi-polar disorder, but not before his career had been lost.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Many Super Bowl matches have ended up in big routs.
- All four of the Vikings' Super Bowls have been losses by double digits: 23-7 against the Chiefs in IV, 24-7 against the Dolphins in VIII, 16-6 against the Steelers in IX, and 32-14 against the Raiders in XI.
- There has been a trend lately of close fought Super Bowls, with 7 of the last 11 decided by one possession, and 3 of the others decided by two with the winning team pulling away late. Ironically, the last Super Bowl before this streak, Super Bowl XXXVII, between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders, is considered one of the biggest curb stomp battles in NFL history. That said, not much has been able to even compare to the 49ers utterly annihilating the Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV. Here is a list of the top 5 blowouts in Super Bowl history, not including XLVIII, which would be tied for 3rd on the list.
- In 2014 (XLVIII), the trend was broken, and the Broncos were again the team on the receiving end. We'll have to wait to see if the era of the curb stomp is back again, or if it was just Denver being Denver. Seattle scored a safety against Denver in only 12 seconds after the Broncos center mishandled the first snap and accidentally threw it over Peyton Manning's head, a new record for fastest score in the Super Bowl. The rest of the night was downhill from there, as it would be the end of the third quarter before the Broncos finally scored, down 36-0 at the time.
- Ratings-wise, the Super Bowl trumps pretty much everything else on TV the night of the big game (and really, every other activity that isn't related). See also No-Hoper Repeat.
- Subverted in LI. The Atlanta Falcons led 21-3 at the half, before extending that lead to 28-3 in the first few minutes of the 3rd quarter. The New England Patriots forced overtime (the first ever in Super Bowl history), overcoming the largest deficit in Super Bowl history, and went on to win the game.
- One can say that New England curbstomped Atlanta after the score was 28-3, since they score 31 unanswered points from the end of the third quarter to the touchdown that ended the game. To add to that, the rematch of this Super Bowl in the 2017 season that same year - one of the most heavily anticipated games of the season - was this for New England yet again, as the Patriots dominated them through a foggy night in a game that ended 23-7 with the Falcons' only score being a touchdown over 90% of the way through the game.
- For decades, there was talk of a Super Bowl Loser's Curse, in that all the teams who had lost (which you would logically expect to still be good) missed the playoffs the following season. The losers "curse" was broken in the early 2000's and hasn't been very relevant since, as we now have:
- The Super Bowl Winner's curse, in which the team that won the Super Bowl the previous year will either fail to qualify for the playoffs, or lose their first playoff game. The "curse" began in 2006 (when the defending Steelers went 8-8 and missed the playoffs) and ran for eight years, with the 2014 Seattle Seahawks breaking the streak.
- A more mundane explanation is that Super Bowl teams, win or lose, are often raided for their talent (coaches and players) in the off season, and the fact that they have played more games than non-playoff teams contribute to more injuries the following year. There's also a tendency for star players considering retirement to do so after a Super Bowl to go out on a high note, meaning they won't be back to play another season. A good example of this is the 2013 Ravens, who, after winning the Super Bowl the previous year, parted way with 8 startersnote , including star linebacker Ray Lewis who had been with the team since the beginning. The 2013 Ravens then limped through the season before losing their last chance at a wild-card berth with a loss to the Bengals in the final regular season game.
- Every team who has existed in Super Bowl history (Including teams who changed names such as the Houston Oilers becoming the Tennessee Titans) has at least made it to the Super Bowl, except for four: The Detroit Lions (the only NFC team as of 2017), Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars. There seems to be a curse in place on these teams that prevents them from even getting to the Super Bowl in the first place. The Jaguars and Texans can be excused since they are less than 20 years old and are generally decent playing teams, but the Lions and Browns are long-runners who have become infamous for never being able to make their way to the top. An explanation may be that these 4 franchises have rarely, if ever, had elite quarterback play in the Super Bowl era. Indeed, these 4 teams have historically been built around running games, not passing.
- To add insult to injury for the Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001. Five years prior, the Ravens were known as the Cleveland Browns (the current incarnation of the Browns is an expansion team from 1999, although it owns the pre-relocation history of the original Browns). Much of the front office personnel with the Ravens at the time of their victory was with the team when they were the Browns.
- There is another curse which has never been broken: no team has ever had a true home game. The Super Bowl venue is decided on four years ahead of time, yet no home team has ever made it to the big game. Two teams have played in their home town, but in different stadiums (the LA Rams and the 49ers, who played at the Rose Bowl in XIV and Stanford at XIX, respectively). Super Bowl XLVIII was even the home to two teams (the Jets and the Giants), neither of which were even able to make the playoffs. Two teams, however, came close.
- The 2014 Arizona Cardinals, being the best team in the NFL through the first three months of the season. However, a brutal rash of quarterback injuries destroyed their offense and they dropped from the #1 seed to the #5, ultimately losing in the first round.
- The 2017 Minnesota Vikings, who surpassed all expectations by completely dominating the NFC North, though the timely injury to Aaron Rodgers helped out. Then in the playoffs, they pulled off a miraculous win over the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round to become the first Super Bowl host team to make it to the conference championship. With a chance to play in Super Bowl LII at their home venue, US Bank Stadium, on the line, the favored Vikings came crashing down in a 38-7 blowout loss in Philadelphia to the Eagles. Adding insult to injury, the Eagles then went on to win Super Bowl LII over the New England Patriots at the Vikings' stadium.
- In recent times, no player who has won the league MVP has gone on to win the Super Bowl that season. Since Kurt Warner did both in 1999, 7 MVP winners have reached the Super Bowl, and all of them lost, often in particularly heartbreaking fashion. To wit:
- Kurt Warner won a second MVP in 2001, only for his Rams, who were favored by 14 points, to lose on a last second field goal to the Patriots.
- Rich Gannon won in 2002, only to throw 5 interceptions in the Super Bowl on the way to getting obliterated by the Buccaneers.
- Shaun Alexander won in 2005, and the Seahawks lost to the Steelers despite Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger posting an abysmal 22.6 passer rating in what is regarded by many as one of the worst Super Bowls ever played.
- Tom Brady won in 2007, only for the previously undefeated Patriots to lose to the Giants with minutes remaining, fueled in part by a miracle catch (with his helmet) by little-known Giants receiver David Tyree, after Eli Manning escaped seemingly all Patriots defenders to get the pass of in the first place.
- Peyton Manning won in 2013, only for his record-setting Denver offense to get blown out by the Seahawks, who scored just 12 seconds into the game (with a particularly embarrassing safety caused by a miscommunication between Peyton and his Center) and put on one of the most lopsided victories in Super Bowl history.
- Cam Newton won in 2015, only for the Panthers to allow 14 points on turnovers and never be competitive against a notably weak Denver offense. Newton himself was particularly poor, going 18/41 on passes with no touchdowns, an interception and a fumble and was sacked seven times.
- Matt Ryan won in 2016, only for his Falcons to blow a 25-point lead and allow the Patriots to score 31 unanswered points, 19 of them in the fourth quarter, when no Super Bowl team had ever lost when leading by more than 10 previously. To add insult to injury, Ryan did not even get to touch the ball once in Overtime.
- Tom Brady won it again in 2017, and the Patriots came close, but ultimately fell short to the Eagles in LII. Both quarterbacks played excellent games, but Brady gave up a costly fumble at a critical time, and while that didn't make all the difference, it did allow Philly to widen the score and take even more time away, ultimately allowing them to secure the win.
- Dark Horse Victory: Happens quite often; one example would be the Giants' victory over the "perfect season" Patriots.
- The New York Jets for Super Bowl III were 18-point underdogs to the Baltimore Colts at a time when their league (American) was mocked as weaker compared to their rival league (National). Led by Joe Namath - who "guaranteed" victory before the game - the Jets went on to win 16-7, proving an AFL team could beat an NFL team. The images of Namath wagging his finger gesturing "We're Number One" as he left the field became iconic.
- The 2017/18 Eagles played up the "Underdogs" label for all it was worth during the postseason, wearing dog masks after each victory over favored opposition, despite being the #1 seed. They ended up defeating the New England Patriots 41-33 in a nail-biter game that season.
- The 1980 Oakland Raiders were the first team to triumph in the Super Bowl by making the playoffs as a wildcard, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 at Super Bowl XV.
- Defeating the Undefeatable: Super Bowl XLII (42) saw the New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots, who were 18-0 going into the game, having won all of their regular season games. Despite being billed as one of the greatest teams ever assembled, the Patriots lost, 17-14. The entire season is collectively known as "18-1."
- Determinator: As many players never even get close to making it to the Super Bowl in the first place, injured players do whatever it takes to play. Arguably the most famous instance of this is Los Angeles Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood, who went into the game and played every single down on a broken leg (along with the pro bowl the following week). Terrell Davis of the Broncos won the game's MVP honors despite being temporariy blinded (due to heavy migraines) at one point in the game.
- Disney Owns This Trope: As noted in many other places on this page, the NFL is quite aggressive about enforcing its trademarks on the name "Super Bowl" and other associated words and phrases, mostly so that they can get money by auctioning off exclusive rights to use them in advertising.
- Down to the Last Play:
- Super Bowl XXXIV notably came down to the final play itself coming down to the final yard.
- It's become one Adam Vinatieri's signature move, really. He kicked game-winning field goals in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII. In Super Bowl XLI, he kicked three field goals, but ironically missed an extra point.
- Super Bowl XLIX was decided by Malcolm Butler's interception on the Patriot's one-yard line with seconds to play.
- Super Bowl LI went to overtime. The NFL's overtime rules state that the first team to score a touchdown wins, even if it's on the first play (field goals can also end the game if made after the first possession). It took New England a little under four game-minutes to drive from their 25 yard line and score the game-winning touchdown.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Like all sports, there are players/coaches/teams that have won the Super Bowl, but only after suffering great setback in the process. The NY Giants upset of the Pats in XLII came following a time when many New York fans and media questioned the wisdom of keeping coach Tom Coughlin and QB Eli Manning. Particularly with Manning, many said he'd never succeed like his brother has.
- QB John Elway suffered some of the most demoralizing defeats in the SB. He won two in a row in his final two seasons, just as it seemed his opportunity to win had passed.
- Coach Tony Dungy was fired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, just as the team won the SB with players he helped draft and develop. He then went to Indianapolis, where they had great regular success and usually were defeated by the Pats. In 2006, they finally won it all, and Dungy got the ring that had eluded him.
- His QB Peyton Manning was dogged by assumptions that while he was a great QB, he'd didn't have it in him to win a championship, with the added sting of being compared to Tom Brady. The doubts vanished (or at least, greatly diminished) with the Colts win.
- Many teams got their championship following years of mediocrity or, in the case of the New Orleans Saints, being so bad their fans were embarrassed to watch.
- The New England Patriots, prior to their dynasty, were one such team.
- The Baltimore Colts never quite erased their famous defeat in Super Bowl III, but their last-second victory two years later counts as this.
- The Seattle Seahawks had long held a reputation as the picture of mediocrity in a terrible division, losing Super Bowl XL to the Steelers in a questionably-officiated game and making the playoffs with a losing record in 2010. In XLVIII, they finally crushed the Denver Broncos in one of the most lopsided Super Bowls of all time.
- Similar to both Manning brothers, Steve Young of the 49ers finally escaped the shadow of predecessor Joe Montana and the choke artist label in spectacular style in Super Bowl XXIX, lighting up the San Diego Chargers for a record six touchdowns, even managing to pitch in as the game's leading rusher in the process.
- And similar to Young, Aaron Rodgers finally escaped the shadow of predecessor Brett Favre in Super Bowl XLV, winning a hard-fought battle against the Steelers in his third year as a starter. The Packers themselves also managed to overcome a season filled with injuries; they won after losing a Super Bowl-winner record 16 players on their injured reserve list, including their primary running back Ryan Grant and star tight end Jermichael Finley.
- The New England Patriots in LI were down as much as 28-3 in the third quarter, before rallying back to force the first ever Super Bowl overtime (overcoming the largest deficit in Super Bowl history in the process), and winning it with a touchdown.
- The 2017/18 Philadelphia Eagles, having gone decades without a title (their most recent title being before the Super Bowl even existed), were able to secure the #1 seed in the NFC, despite an injury to their breakout star Carson Wentz. They were underdogs in every game they played, though they won, and ultimately were able to win their first title by defeating New England 41-33 in a nail-biter and avenging their Super Bowl XXXIX loss to them.
- The 1971 Miami Dolphins earned their first Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl VI, only to be demolished 24-3 by the Dallas Cowboys. The next year, they pulled off the only perfect season in NFL history, returning to Super Bowl VII, where they won 14-7 against the Washington Redskins.
- Failsafe Failure: Hilariously, in 2013 immediately after Beyoncé's halftime performance, the stadium's power went out despite many failsafes designed to prevent such a thing, due to the same thing happening two years previously.
- Flawless Victory: The 1972 Miami Dolphins are, to date, the only team with an entirely perfect season, finishing 14-0 in the regular season, winning their playoff matchups, and winning Super Bowl VII. The only teams who almost matched it are the 2007 New England Patriots, who went 16-0 in the regular season, then won their playoffs before losing to the New York Giants at Super Bowl XLII, and the 1985 Chicago Bears, who went 15-1 in the regular season (with their sole defeat by, coincidentally, the Dolphins), and won their playoffs before winning Super Bowl XX (where they defeated, coincidentally, the Patriots).
- Full-Circle Revolution: At Super Bowl XXXVI, the New England Patriots were the underdogs defeating the St. Louis Rams and their "Greatest Show on Turf". 16 years later, the Patriots have since become a playoff perennial, earning 7 more Super Bowl appearances (winning 4 of them) which, along with some other controversies (e.g. "Spygate") have led some to humorously dubbing them "The Evil Empire".
- History Repeats: Some examples:
"This is similar to what happened in the Giants and Patriots' second Super Bowl, when Gronkowski was in the endzone, the ball was up for grabs... It was that last bounce of the ball, one of the Eagles deflected it back up into the air, and it looked like the Patriots had a shot, but they just couldn't get anybody to the ball."
- Rams wide receiver Ricky Proehl caught a touchdown with less than two minutes left in Super Bowl XXXVI to tie the game against the New England Patriots. Tom Brady then drives his team into field goal position where Adam Vinatieri kicks the game winning field goal. Two years later Proehl (now a member of the Carolina Panthers) catches a game tying touchdown with less than two minute to play in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Again Tom Brady drives the Patriots into field goal position where Adam Vinatieri kicks the game winning field goal.
- Two of the Giants' Super Bowl runs (XLII and XLVI). After late season slumps, the Giants barely make it into the playoffs (5th seed 10-6 vs. ekeing out a Division win at 9-7). First round they beat up an NFC South team (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons), then they defeat the NFC's top seed in the divisional round (Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers). They win the championship round game in overtime against a 2 seed due in large part to a blunder by the other team (Brett Favre throwing an OT interception for the Packers, Kyle Williams muffing a punt for the San Francisco 49ers), and advance to the Super Bowl to play the Patriots, the number 1 seed in their conference. Both times, the drives where the Giants got the game winning points thanks to an epically athletic catch by a wide receiver in at a crucial 3rd down juncture (David Tyree's helmet catch, Mario Manningham's tiptoeing along the sidelines catch). Both times the Giants score but leave time on the clock for Tom Brady to lead a comeback. Both times, Brady and the Patriots fail.
- Also, both times the Patriots had faced the Giants and the rest of the NFC East in the regular season, so the Super Bowl was a rematch of that game, making for a pretty rare circumstance. Both times the visiting team won.
- Super Bowl LII:
- The New England Patriots win two Super Bowls in three years, both times winning the game by one possession.note They then proceed to make it back to the Super Bowl for a third time the very next year, where they face the Philadelphia Eagles. Unlike before, the Eagles won.
- The Eagles entered the playoffs with a 13-3 record and beat the same two teams in the NFC playoffs to get to the Super Bowl that they did previously, only in reverse order (the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons).note
- Ten years after the infamous 18-1, New England again find themselves in the Super Bowl, playing an underdog NFC East team that surpassed expectations by even making it to this point. The NFC East underdog won again.
- Super Bowl XLVI ended with Brady throwing a Hail Mary into the endzone that got deflected by Giants defenders, and it came incomplete and short of Gronkowski. Here, same deal. The announcers even lampshade this:
- Hope Spot: Some teams have managed to mount a comeback from a big hole, but they all fell short. In fact, the largest deficit before that was ever overcome for a win in Super Bowl history was a mere 10 points... until LI, where Tom Brady and the Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit (28-3) to win (28-34).
- Even more of a stomach punch: there have been three teams that did come back from deficits of more than 10 points to at least erase the lead, only to lose in the end. The Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV and the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI each came back from being 16 points and 14 points down to tie the game, only to lose on, respectively, a long bomb on the second to last drive of the game with a little under two minutes left, a last second field goal. The Cardinals had it even worse. They came back from 13 points down to take the lead and only had to hold the Steelers on the next drive. The Steelers drove it all the way down the field for a touchdown and the Cardinals ended up losing by 4. The 2017 New England Patriots were able to come back from 11 down to take the lead as well, but their defense was unable to stop Philadelphia from marching down and scoring, even with Zach Ertz's touchdown at the climax of the game being reviewed and still confirmednote , and then Brady fumbled the ball which allowed Philly to widen the gap even further, ultimately for an 8-point win.
- The San Francisco 49ers had this in Super Bowl XLVII: Trailing 21-6 at the half, they kicked off to Baltimorewho then returned the ball 108 yards for a TD. But then the power went out for close to half an hour, and San Francisco rallied, pulling within 3 points. However, Baltimore managed to win 34-31.
- In Super Bowl XLIX, the Seattle Seahawks got hit with two HopeSpots in a row.
- The first came as they were down by four points in the fourth quarter. They made it all the way to the opposing Patriots' 1-yard line, and then got intercepted.
- The second came in the immediate aftermath of the first. The Patriots could not run out the clock as they were too close to their own goal line. Thus, there was still a chance for the Seahawks to score a 2-point safety and start a new drive with possession of the ball. And then they got a 5-yard penalty called against them, followed by one of their players instigating a brawl and getting ejected in addition to another 15 yards, giving Patriots' QB Tom Brady the space needed to take a knee and end the game.
- Finally subverted by the New England Patriots, who have seen three miracle catches done by the team rallying from behind in their last four Super Bowl appearances. First, the New York Giants' David Tyree's Helmet Catch in XLII (New York went on to win), Seattle Seahawks' Jermaine Kearse's catch in XLIX (played straight, as it led to Butler's interception and New England's victory), and Julian Edelman's miracle catch literally less than an inch from the ground (the Patriots would complete the comeback and win the game in overtime).
- For that matter, Julio Jones' sideline catch in LI can be considered one as well. The ref even commented that the catch would "go down in Super Bowl history"... Or it would have had that allowed the Falcons to get in that winning score.
- In the trailing minutes of Super Bowl LII, the Eagles scored a touchdown to retake the lead, but failed their two-point conversion, leaving them up only 38-33 with 2:21 left, at least two clock stoppages, and the Patriots getting the ball back. All of America promptly groaned (or, in the Boston area, and some in the Dallas area, cheered), knowing that the Patriots had more than enough time to make one last comeback drive. And then, several plays later, Eagles pass rusher Brandon Graham crashed through the line for the first sack by either team, and punched out the ball to be recovered by the Eagles. Three runs and a field goal later, and New England was reduced to a desperation Hail Mary, which they failed.
- Iconic Item: Hall of Famer Joe Namath performed the coin toss in Super Bowl XLVIII while wearing a mink coat, which he was infamous for wearing on the sidelines during his playing days.
- Irony: The power outage during Super Bowl XLVII was caused by the activation of a power relay when it wasn't supposed to. The purpose of the relay? To activate and relay power from another source in the event of a power outage.
- I Surrender, Suckers:
- In Super Bowl XLVI, the Patriots deliberately parted to allow the Giants to score, in order to give their offense more time to come back. The Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw realized just too late what was going on, and had an Oh, Crap! moment when he tried to stop on the 1 yard line. His momentum caused him to tumble into the end zone onto his ass for a touchdown. As it happens, sneaky football isn't always winning football: Bradshaw's TD proved to be the game-winning points when the Patriots offense couldn't deliver.
- In Super Bowl XXXII (which saw John Elway win his first Super Bowl); the Green Bay Packers tried a similar gambit in allowing eventual MVP Terrell Davis to run for his third touchdown with 1:45 left and two timeouts (though head coach Mike Holmgren later said he thought it was first and goal instead of 2nd and goal). Green Bay got the ball back in an attempt to at least tie the game with a touchdown; only for the last pass of the game to be broken up with seconds remaining to preserve a Denver win.
- In Super Bowl XLVII, the Baltimore Ravens were at 4th down and 7 yards to go, deep in their own territory with 12 seconds remaining and only a 5-point lead. If the San Francisco 49ers scored a touchdown, the Ravens would lose the game. Instead of a straight punt out of their own end zone, Sam Koch, the punter, held the ball and ran sideways out of the end zone, scoring a safety, giving 2 points to the 49ers. This allowed the Ravens to punt (or "free kick") from their own 20-yard line with only 4 seconds left in the game. On the ensuring runback, the 49ers receiver was tackled after game time expired, winning the game for the Ravens.
- The New England Patriots appeared to take a knee at the end of the 4th quarter in Super Bowl LI to send it to overtime, but it was a ruse to try and get a final trick play in. It failed, and the game proceeded to overtime all the same.note
- Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: As the Super Bowl was being held in New Jersey, during the pre-game Rob Riggle visits a Legitimate Businessman's Pregame Party, complete with several actors from The Sopranos. They, of course, demand that Bruce Springsteen play the halftime show, do the coin toss, and even replace Joe Buck in the booth. When Rob Riggle jokes about the problems getting to the stadium, they respond "Hey, nobody heard nothing about people having trouble crossing the bridge, capiche?"note
- Meaningful Echo: During the Super Bowl XXXII trophy presentation, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen dedicated the win to longtime franchise quarterback John Elway, "This one's for John!" Eighteen years later, Elway, now the team's GM, dedicated their win in Super Bowl 50 to Bowlen, who had stepped down from football operations due to Alzheimer's: "This one's for Pat!"
- Mind Screw: Several ads qualify. Super Bowl ads are known for being weird as well as entertaining.
- Miracle Rally:
- Super Bowl XLII is the truest example (a last-minute touchdown when nothing else would do), though several games have ended with a climactic rally. The Titans' charge to the one-yard line as time expired is also a subversion.
- Super Bowl LI featured the largest deficit overcome in history (25 points, in the 3rd quarter even), with the Patriots completing the comeback complete with a miracle catch.
- Ms. Fanservice: The NFL cheerleaders as well as some of the commercials (like GoDaddy.com, for example). Slightly averted in Super Bowl XLV which was the first one without cheerleaders for both teams.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The Halftime show can sometimes veer into this territory.
- No Communities Were Harmed: For varying reasons, many Super Bowl hosts use a region name rather than that of a host city. Super Bowl XLV was listed as "North Texas" since the actual host city of Arlington is right between Dallas and Fort Worth, and those two communities have been forever civic rivals, with Arlington beginning to edge in as the big "third" city of North Texas. So North Texas is used to prevent any slight. Same with Miami for Super Bowl XLIV and XLVII; the stadium is actually in suburban Miami Gardens, and Miami has a similar rivalry with Fort Lauderdale to the north, so "South Florida" is used there to make everyone happy. For Super Bowl XLVIII, "New York/New Jersey" was used as the game was played in New Jersey's Meadowlands, 10 or so miles' drive from the Manhattan end of the Lincoln Tunnel. This was the first Super Bowl to be hosted by two states.
- No-Hoper Repeat: Basically everything else on TV that night. It usually is an old rerun of a prime time show or a movie.
- Numbered Sequels: Always in Roman numerals, except for Super Bowl 50. Finding a specific bowl in history can be confusing because not only do you have to translate the Roman numerals, but the bowl is played the calendar year after the season (Fall 2011 games led to a Super Bowl in February of 2012).
- There were a few jokes for Super Bowl XXX (30) in 1995, wondering if kids would be able to watch. Oddly enough, 13 Super Bowls later for XLIII (43), some Arizona Comcast subscribers got exactly that for 30 seconds. Comcast apologized.note
- The league decided to market the 50th Super Bowl with the Arabic numeral "50" instead of the Roman "L" because its graphic designers decided that using the Roman numeral with the now-standardized logo wasn't aesthetically pleasing enough, not to mention the connotations of the letter L with "Loss" or "Loser". Roman numerals returned for Super Bowl LInote .
- Oh, No... Not Again!: This trope was inclement torture to the Patriots and their fans due to their last three Super Bowl appearances involving a spectacular catch in the final minute. Even Patriots WR Julian Edelman pointed it out in the 49th installent of America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions.
- Hilarious in Hindsight, as Edelman himself in LI went on to get a miracle grab in the middle of a Patriots comeback that helped send it to overtime and then on to a win.
- One-Hit Wonder: The Jets (III), Buccaneers (XXXVII) and Saints (XLIV) have only made it to one Super Bowl but emerged victorious.
- Paparazzi: The Super Bowl is such an over-the-top event that it draws media from virtually the entire world as well as many non-sports reporters from within the US, many of whom know absolutely nothing about what they came to cover. "Media Day", when players are required to sit for questions, can be spectacularly hilarious as a result.
- Periphery Demographic: Lots of people who aren't football fans still make a point of watching the Super Bowl for the halftime entertainment, and/or the commercials. Outside the US the game is often enjoyed for being an excuse to have a party at a Sunday night and as a celebration of American culture and cuisine - expats will particularly enjoy a taste of home even if they are otherwise no NFL enthusiasts.
- Precision F-Strike: One will inevitably be picked up by the microphones by a member of the winning team.
- Humorously, after Super Bowl XLVII, the normally reserved and quiet Joe Flacco was seen proclaiming that the situation was FUCKING AWESOME!, angering many parental groups.
- The count was 12 in LI, which is currently the most caught on the mic so far in the Super Bowl.
- Punny Name:
- The week of the Super Bowl is used by an American organization to bring awareness to and fight poverty and hunger using the name "The Souper Bowl of Caring". The organization is popular enough they have partnered with several NFL teams.
- Stephen Colbert did a similar thing in his NFL coverage due to (alleged) trademark reasons calling it the "Superb Owl" [sic!] - In truth, the NFL has been known to be paranoid about its trademarked terms. (In fact, because of the way US trademark law works, the NFL is practically forced to be paranoid about enforcing its trademarks.)
- Put Me In, Coach!:
- The unquestioned king of this trope was Max McGee, WR for the Packers in Super Bowl I. So convinced was he that his services would not be required that he spent the night before the game getting blind drunk. When the starter was injured, he came in with a borrowed helmet and a hangover and scored the first TD in Super Bowl history. Subverted in Super Bowl XLVI, when backup Patriots WR Tiquan Underwood was cut from the team hours before the game. That said, the Patriots lost.
- Three times a quarterback has started the Super Bowl after starting fewer than a quarter of his team's regular season games: Doug Williams in Super Bowl XXII (2 starts, though he also came off the bench to lead the team to wins on 3 occasions during the regular season and there were also a bunch of games that year played with replacement players due to a strike), Jeff Hostetler in Super Bowl XXV (also two starts, due to Giants starter Phil Simms suffering an injury late in the season), and Nick Foles in Super Bowl LII (three starts, also replacing an injured starter (Carson Wentz)). All three won.
- Then, of course, you've got the miracle play in Super Bowl XLII, made by David Tyree of the New York Giants, who spent the majority of his Giants career up to that point riding the pine, gets a shot to catch a deep heave from his embattled quarterback and makes it count.
- Arguably even bigger than Max McGee is Washington RB Timmy Smith in Super Bowl XXII. Only in the line up because of an injury to George Rogers, Smith ran for a still-standing SB record 204 yards and two touchdowns. Smith never came close to those numbers again and was out of football within two seasons.
- Percy Harvin was already a superstar, but had missed nearly all of the previous two seasons with an assortment of injuries. In Super Bowl XLVIII, finally healthy, he set up Seattle with two long runs, and then scored on the opening kickoff of the second half.
- A double example in Super Bowl XLIX. With New England largely blanketing Seattle wide receivers Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin, Seattle's passing game largely ran through Chris Matthews, an undrafted veteran of the CFL who had been working as a Foot Locker security guard the previous yearnote . Later one upped by New England, when undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler picked off Russell Wilson in the final seconds to seal the game.
- And speaking of Malcolm Butler, he was excluded from Super Bowl LII. He was never given a real reason as to why Belichick and co excluded them, and he believed that he may have changed the game. And sure enough, with him left behind, they couldn't make it against the Eagles in the end.
- Second Place Is for Losers: No one really remembers the loser of the game, other than their fans. Former coach-turned-broadcaster John Madden once opined that the biggest gap in sports is that between the winning and losing team in the Super Bowl.
- Championship t-shirts are printed ahead of time for both teams. Players on the winning team are handed their shirts on the field at the end of the game, and the rest go up for sale. Losing team t-shirts are shipped off to foreign countries as donations to clothing programs, with in-country sale expressly forbidden.
- There are a few exceptions that have built up levels of infamy over time. Some teams, such as the Butt-Monkey examples listed above, have never been able to recover from their losses in the eyes of the general fandom, often having jokes made at their expense of how you have a greater chance of having... pretty much ANYTHING you can imagine happening than those teams have of winning the championship. The Broncos managed to partially redeem themselves by finally scoring a win and giving the Packers their first loss, but losing 55-10 to the 49ers still remains one of the greatest embarrassments in NFL history. The Patriots' loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII is also fairly well remembered, as it was their only defeat in an otherwise perfect season, to the point that even though the Patriots have since won another Super Bowl and beaten the Giants in a regular season matchup, the Giants are still He Who Must Not Be Named to many Pats fans. You also have the Seattle Seahawks, who will always be remembered for not running the ball on the 1-yard line, leading to an interception by the Patriots to win the game. Then there's the Atlanta Falcons, who will always be remembered for blowing the biggest lead in Super Bowl history. And the Patriots in LII, who lost to an Eagles team that was a hard underdog throughout the entire postseason (including at home against the sixth-seeded Falcons).
- Serious Business: As if football in America wasn't serious business enough.
- Sibling Rivalry: The media around Super Bowl XLVII liked to focus on the fact that the opposing coaches were brothers; Jim Harbaugh with the 49ers and John Harbaugh with the Ravens.
- Subverted by Peyton and Eli Manning, who never faced one another at a Super Bowl, despite playing for opposing conferences.
- Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: All over the board here with the commercials. Expect some of the water cooler talk to be about certain commercials - some people are fans of the funny ones, other people are more deeply moved by ones that tug the heartstrings.
- Sore Loser: If your team beats Tom Brady and the Patriots, don't expect him to congratulate you. After all three of their lossesnote , he went to the locker room without shaking the hands of any of the Giants or Eagles players.
- Super Bowl Special: Trope Namer. The commercials cost upwards of four million US dollars just for a thirty-second ad spot, so companies usually put in a ton of effort to make their commercials entertaining and/or memorable.
- Wardrobe Malfunction: Trope Namer. Janet Jackson's infamous "Nipplegate" scandal happened during the 2004 game's halftime show.
- Who Needs Overtime?:
- It took half a century before a Super Bowl game ever went into overtime. It finally happened in Super Bowl LI in 2017, as the New England Patriots mounted an incredible fourth-quarter comeback to tie the Atlanta Falcons and force the game into OT, which New England went on to win.
- The closest a Super Bowl came to OT prior to this was Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, when the Patriots survived a furious late rally from the St. Louis Rams, but received the ball with only a short time remaining. With the announcers openly suggesting they should settle for the tie and overtime, they drove for a game-winning field goal as time expired.
- Also, Super Bowl XXXIV two years prior, with the Tennessee Titans' drive for a tying touchdown + extra point coming up the smallest of margins short with Tennessee's Kevin Dyson being tackled at the 1-yard line as time expired.
- Super Bowl LII came rather close, too. Trailing 41-33, the Patriots would have needed a touchdown and the 2-point conversion to send it into overtime, and several plays later, the final play came down to a Hail Mary that fell incomplete as time expired.
- Writing Around Trademarks:
- Since the term "Super Bowl" is trademarked by the NFL, many businesses that have promotions or sales for it refer to the Super Bowl as "the Big Game," or a variation thereof. Even ESPN, an American sports network, has had to do this before, which makes all their coverage sound rather unnatural. Strictly speaking, none of this is necessary, since American trademark law isn't entirely stupid, but nobody wants a visit from the NFL's Army of Lawyers.
- At one point, the NFL even took steps to prevent this by attempting to add "Big Game" to their list of trademarks. They were stopped short when it was pointed out that "The Big Game" has been the official name for the annual grudge match between the California (Berkeley) and Stanford college football teams for over a century.note
- Xanatos Gambit: Some advertisers have done this for commercials that push the bounds of acceptability. If the spot airs — great! If it doesn't air, they can stick it up on YouTube for a fraction of the cost and advertise it as a banned commercial, increasing public interest.