On Sunday, February 7th, the Carolina Panthers (NFC) and Denver Broncos (AFC) will meet in Super Bowl “L” (50) at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Kickoff is planned for 6:30pm Eastern time, and the game will be broadcast on CBS. Veteran, versatile play-by-play man Jim Nantz will have the call supported by his analyst partner, former New York Giant QB Phil Simms – Super Bowl XXI’s MVP. Lady Gaga will perform our National Anthem, while Coldplay and Beyoncé will headline the halftime show with support from Bruno Mars.
…Oh yes, and there will be a football game between the 17-1 Panthers and the 14-4 Broncos.
The NFL’s greatest show has come a long way from Super Bowl I on January 15, 1967, when the NFL champion Green Bay Packers defeated the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs 35-10, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. With relatively humble beginnings, Super Bowl I did not sell out, as the L.A. Coliseum was filled to about 65% of capacity (61, 946 attended) on that sun-drenched day. That was the only time the Super Bowl did not sell out, and it was the only Super Bowl broadcast across two networks – CBS (which had the NFL contract) and NBC (which had the AFL contract).
Here are some notes from my Super Bowl notebook and some observations as we head into this Golden Anniversary matchup:
How far do you go back watching the Super Bowl? My personal Super Bowl notebook dates back to Super Bowl XV, when the Oakland Raiders (AFC) defeated the Philadelphia Eagles (NFC), 27-10. That game took place in the New Orleans Superdome on January 25, 1981, five days after the conclusion of the Iran hostage crisis. QB Jim Plunkett of the Raiders was the game’s MVP as Oakland became the first Wild Card team to win the Super Bowl.
When did the Super Bowl start to look like it does today? From my perspective, that started with Super Bowl XXV when the New York Giants (NFC) defeated the Buffalo Bills (AFC) 20-19 at Tampa Stadium. Against the backdrop of the first Gulf War (Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm), Super Bowl XXV was a celebration of patriotism and, with a harbinger of things to come, under heavy security for that time. Whitney Houston performed the National Anthem – one of the first times a recording star of her magnitude performed at the Super Bowl – and delivered one of the great anthem performances. Ever. The game itself was a terrific display of football between two excellent teams. It was a close game, which was a refreshing change after a series of 1980s Super Bowls that were blowouts…culminating the previous year, when the San Francisco 49ers (NFC) dismantled the Denver Broncos (AFC), 55-10 in New Orleans.
When did the big Halftime shows start? There were a handful of interesting Halftime shows in the early years of the Super Bowl, but most of the performances were artistic in nature (Winter Magic in Minnesota during Super Bowl XXVI) or highlighted by college marching bands (Super Bowl I – and throughout the first decade + of the Super Bowl). In fact on January 26, 1992 (Super Bowl XXVI – Washington vs. Buffalo), FOX elected to air an episode of In Living Color, a popular show of the time, up against CBS’ halftime broadcast of Winter Magic, which was a tribute to winter season and the upcoming Winter Olympics. The NFL knew it had to come up with something different, and at Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena, CA was when it all changed. During that January 1993 Super Bowl at the Rose Bowl, Garth Brooks sang the National Anthem and Michael Jackson performed at Halftime…and from that point on, the entertainment factor became a huge part of Super Bowl Sunday. Almost as big as the game. By the way, the Dallas Cowboys (NFC) blew out the Buffalo Bills (AFC), 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII.
When was the first Media Day? This year, the NFL held its first Super Bowl Media Night at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA – home of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. The first organized NFL Super Bowl Media Day – more notable for its popular culture slant than any actual game discussion – was held in January 1988 prior to Super Bowl XXII in San Diego. That game saw Washington (NFC) trounce Denver (AFC), 42-10 behind Washington QB Doug Williams, who took home MVP honors.
My Top 5 Super Bowls of the last 25 years (when the SB got competitive) – based on quality of play and close games well into the 4th quarters:
o Super Bowl XXV: N.Y. Giants (NFC) 20, Buffalo Bills (AFC) 19…the Giants controlled the ball for over 40 minutes…and kept Buffalo’s high-powered K-gun offense off the field just enough. We all know how it ended…but that’s not how the game was won.
o Super Bowl XLIX: New England Patriots (AFC) 28, Seattle Seahawks (NFC) 24. Terrific game…full of drama…with the ending debated forever. You can already get ready for the “30 for 30” on the Seahawks’ lost SB. Pete Carroll – a great coach, but come on, the ball has to go to RB Marshawn Lynch.
o Super Bowl XLII: N.Y. Giants (NFC) 17, New England Patriots (AFC) 14…the Giants play some exciting SB games…New England: 18-1.
o Super Bowl XXXII: Denver Broncos (AFC) 31, Green Bay Packers (NFC) 24…an under-rated game. Broncos win their first SB denying Green Bay back-to-back championships…the Elway “helicopter” run in the 4th quarter. Good stuff.
o Super Bowl XXXVIII: New England Patriots (AFC) 32, Carolina Panthers (NFC) 29…also not talked about very much, but what a 4th quarter – 37 total points, including a furious Carolina rally behind QB Jake Delhomme to tie the game…and then, QB Tom Brady and K Adam Vinatieri did their thing.
As we head toward this year’s game, some key notes:
3-1. Denver’s all-time series advantage against Carolina. The Broncos won their last meeting in Charlotte on November 11, 2012…36-14.
2-5. Denver’s all-time Super Bowl record. Last loss: two years ago, when they were hammered by Seattle, 43-8, in Super Bowl XLVIII at Met Life Stadium. Last win: Super Bowl XXXIII (January 1999) when the Broncos defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 34-19…winning back-to-back Super Bowls with QB John Elway, RB Terrell Davis, TE Shannon Sharpe and Head Coach Mike Shanahan.
0-1. Carolina’s all-time Super Bowl record. See above about Super Bowl XXXVIII on February 1, 2004. Great game…and a little controversy during that halftime show with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. You remember.
Some analysis, and a prediction: if this is QB Peyton Manning’s last ride in a Hall of Fame career, it’s already been fun to watch. The AFC Championship Game against New England was an all-time entertaining game, and it will be replayed and re-examined (to include Coach Bill Belichick’s decisions) for years to come. Carolina is athletic and powerful, and it would appear that their lines (offensive and defensive) should be able to control the line of scrimmage. That said, this Denver team has the slightly better defense – with the advantage of its secondary. The weather should be warm and clear (projected: 72 and sunny), and I think Peyton and the Broncos will be able to make some plays against the Panther secondary to take an early lead. But, in the second half, the Panther lines will take control, and QB Cam Newton will be rocking the “dab” in Santa Clara. Panthers, 27-23.
NBA shoot around
Golden State enters the weekend at 45-4. Since January 18th, the Warriors have: hammered Cleveland (1/18) on the road, 132-98, tamed Chicago (1/20) on the road 125-94, crushed San Antonio (1/25) at home 120-90, cruised past Dallas (1/27) at home 127-107, and rolled by New York (1/31) at MSG 116-95. In the win over the Knicks last Sunday night, F Draymond Green scored 20 pts, with 10 rebounds, and 10 assists; it was his 9th triple-double of the season tying the franchise record. The Warriors are emphatically reinforcing that they are the best team in basketball; they have won 40 straight games at Oracle Arena. Golden State has some tough games – on paper – during the week ahead as they continue to challenge the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls’ all-time, single-season record of 72-10. On Saturday night (2/6), Golden State plays Oklahoma City (38-13) at 9pm Eastern / 6pm Pacific on ESPN…and on Tuesday night (2/9), the Warriors will host the Houston Rockets (26-25) at 10:30pm Eastern / 7:30pm Pacific on TNT, in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference finalists.
Toronto Raptors – out on the road. The Raptors lead the Atlantic Division with a 33-16 mark; they are 2nd in the Eastern Conference. Toronto set a franchise record with 11-straight wins, until losing on Monday (2/1) on the road to the Denver Nuggets, 112-93. That was the first game of a 6-game road trip, as the Raptors will host the NBA All-Star Weekend (2/12-2/14) at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors do not play at home until 2/21 against Memphis.
Trouble in the desert. The Phoenix Suns have lost 6 in a row and are mired in one of the worst seasons in their history. With a record of 14-37, Phoenix fired Head Coach Jeff Hornacek earlier in the week, and replaced him on an interim basis with Assistant Coach (former NBA PG) Earl Watson. The Suns have lost 14 straight road games.
Mike Lalor can be heard talking NY Sports on the Spadora on Sports radio program. His blog can be found at SpadoraOnSports.com.