Commentary

The great Super Bowls that never were

Originally Published: February 4, 2011
By Cam Martin | Special to Page 2

Pregame FlyoverScott Halleran/Getty ImagesWe can celebrate the Super Bowl while pretending we don't realize the offseason is upon us.

This is your Pregame Flyover of Super Bowl 45 (or XLV to you Romans), which classifies as both the pinnacle of the 2010 NFL season and the last gasp before the dreaded offseason. What will you do next Sunday? Probably some variation on what you did this past Sunday, when the only football on television was some pointless exhibition called the Pro Bowl. You'd think few people would be interested in watching that, but apparently a whole lot of Patriots and Falcons fans wanted to catch one last glimpse of their underachieving favorites. Unfortunately Tom Brady did not play in the game. But fear not, New England fans, you might get to see your beloved quarterback during the Super Bowl. Maybe in an Uggs commercial?

Now before we get to our fast and loose discussion of the big game between Pittsburgh and Green Bay, two title-hogging teams that managed to avoid each other in the championship round 'til now, let's look at some of the other Super Bowl matchups that surprisingly never came to pass.

Super Bowls that never were

Raiders versus 49ers

San Francisco has played in five Super Bowls and the Raiders have played in four, yet the two Bay Area teams have never faced off for the Lombardi Trophy. It's almost happened a few times -- both teams lost in the 1970 and 1990 conference title games, and the Niners lost to the Redskins for the right to play the Raiders in the Super Bowl following the 1983 season -- but the planets never quite aligned for these two proud franchises. Considering San Francisco has played in 12 NFC title games (second to Dallas' 14) and the Raiders have played in 11 AFC title games (second to Pittsburgh's 15), it's uncanny that both of them never advanced to the Super Bowl in the same year. Maybe Jason Campbell and Alex Smith will succeed where Jim Plunkett and Joe Montana so obviously failed.

Raiders versus Cowboys

These two teams have combined to play in 25 conference title games, yet they've never met in a Super Bowl. It's a shame, too, because a Cowboys-Raiders title game would feature two of the most intriguing owners in the game, Jerry Jones and Al Davis. Media day alone would be special, as Jones would undoubtedly be given a player-like podium to discuss his acumen as a general manager and Davis could expound on his theory that Calvin Johnson is a bust.

Bills versus 49ers

Buffalo lost four straight Super Bowls to start the 1990s, a stunning run of close-but-not-quite that helped overshadow the fact an NFC team, the 49ers, lost three of the first four conference title games at the beginning of that decade. Unlike the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys, San Francisco never had the privilege of beating the Bills in the Super Bowl. When the Niners and Steve Young finally broke through against the Cowboys after the 1994 season, the Chargers and Stan Humphries were awaiting them in the big game. San Diego got waxed 49-26. Unlike Buffalo, the Chargers learned their lesson and have chosen to steer clear of the Super Bowl ever since.

Steelers versus 49ers

Given that Pittsburgh has won six Lombardi trophies and San Francisco has won five, you'd think the two winningest teams of the Super Bowl era could have coordinated their peaks and played in a title game or two. But no, it has never happened. Pittsburgh lost AFC title games in 1984 and 1994, years when the Niners beat the Dolphins (38-16) and the Chargers (49-26) in the Super Bowl. Would Pittsburgh have fared better against San Francisco? Well they probably couldn't have fared worse.

Eagles versus Steelers

Philadelphia has played in five of the past 10 NFC title games (including four straight between 2001 and 2004) and Pittsburgh has played in five of the past 10 AFC title games. On three occasions these two squads reached their conference title games in the same year -- 2001, 2004 and 2008 -- but in each instance we were kept from witnessing an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl. Perhaps that's for the best; otherwise the officials in Greene County, Pa., would have felt compelled to temporarily change the county's name to "Black and Gold County," lest they give the impression that folks there root for a team that wears green colors like the Eagles. If you don't think they'd do that, just know that they made such a swap for this year's Super Bowl -- lest anyone think they were rooting for the "Greene" Bay Packers. Are these people morons? Of course not. They're elected officials.

Some consolation for Clay Matthews on losing
the Defensive Player of the Year Award

Troy Polamalu and Clay Matthews both had seasons worthy of winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award, but more voters felt Polamalu was the better choice. Matthews shouldn't feel slighted, though. After all, he knocked out Kevin Kolb and paved the way for Michael Vick's NFL resurgence. To the best of our knowledge, Polamalu did not facilitate the rehabilitation of any convicted felons this season.

The good ol' days when Super Bowls were blowouts

Once upon a time, Super Bowl blowouts were a common occurrence. Often those contests involved the Bills or the Broncos, and they left the impression that the Super Bowl was rarely a good game and that the AFC stinks. Lately, however, the games have tended to be close and exciting affairs. Three years ago the Giants beat the Patriots by three points; two years ago the Steelers beat the Cardinals by four points; and last year the Colts were driving with a chance to tie when Tracy Porter intercepted Peyton Manning for a pick-six and the Saints ended up winning by 14. What will happen this year? Hopefully we'll see the first overtime game in Super Bowl history, which would be our first encounter with the new overtime rules enacted for this year's playoffs. Here are the most important things to know about these new stipulations.

  1. If a team scores a touchdown on its opening possession, they win and college basketball season begins immediately.

  2. If a team makes a field goal on its opening possession, the other team can tie with a field goal, win with a touchdown or settle for becoming the first team to lose a Super Bowl in overtime. Losers, yes. But notorious losers.

  3. If both teams make a field goal on their opening possession, the next team to score wins -- even if it's a safety caused when Doug Legursky hikes the ball into his own groin.

  4. If a team punts on its opening possession, the other team only has to kick a field goal to win. If both teams punt on their opening possession, the game is over and both teams are declared winners. After all, there can be no ties in the playoffs.

  5. Count on this: One of the head coaches will not be well versed in all the permutations of the new overtime rules (unless they read this column), and this will affect their strategy and cause their team to lose. Cows will be had by fans, the media and other cows. Does your intuition say Mike McCarthy will be the offending party? Oh it does, huh? Then you must not be Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Tribune, who says McCarthy is already a better coach than Vince Lombardi.

Poll: Super Bowl second most important day
in an American's male life during year

A poll published in this week's issue of The Hollywood Reporter says the Super Bowl is the second most exciting day of the year among American males. What's No. 1? Surprisingly, it's not nudie magazine day. Nor is it the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. No. 1 is Christmas -- which makes more sense as the top pick than the Super Bowl does at No. 2. The big game is fun and all, especially if your team is participating; but if your team isn't participating, you really shouldn't get that jazzed about the end of the NFL season. In fact, I'd say the first game of the regular season is a lot more exciting than the last. Maybe even the first month's worth of games. (Unless, of course, you were a Cowboys fan in 2010.) Come to think of it, maybe followers of "America's Team" were the ones who skewed this poll. It would make sense that they'd be really excited about the last game of the year, since Dallas always owns the offseason.


Probable Game of the Week: Green Bay versus Pittsburgh

Did you hear? The weather was terrible in Dallas this week.

Did you care? Not unless you were there.

This is a rematch: Of a 2009 shootout, which Pittsburgh won 37-36 on a last-second pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace.

The rosters have changed a bit since then: Yes, former third-stringer James Starks is now the starting running back for the Packers, and this hard-charging rookie is now the Pro Bowl center for the Steelers.

The Packers are: 3-1 in Super Bowls.

The Steelers are: 6-1 in Super Bowls.

The Packers' only loss was thanks to: John Elway.

The Steelers' only loss was thanks to: Neil O'Donnell.

What to expect when the Packers are on offense: A lot of tackles by Steelers cornerbacks Bryant McFadden and Ike Taylor.

Why won't the Packers be running too much? The Steelers have the No. 1 run defense in the NFL, the Packers have great wideouts and Pittsburgh's chief weakness is at cornerback.

Which one is Taylor again? He's the gentleman who likes to put his hand in front of his face and shake it side to side.

Why does he do that? Because he's swaggin'.

He's what? I have no idea.

What to expect when the Steelers are on offense: A lot of long, drawn-out plays that have Roethlisberger scrambling to extend the action and Steelers fans screaming, "Throw the damn ball already!"

The last time the Steelers played on national television: They almost blew a 24-0 lead to the Jets.

The last time the Packers played on national television: They almost blew a 14-0 lead to a third-string quarterback named Caleb Hanie.

The Packers have the worst: Team nickname in the NFC. The Browns own that honor in the AFC.

The Steelers have the worst: Unofficial fight song ("Here We Go Steelers") in the NFL.

Isn't "Black and Yellow" by Wiz Khalifa worse than that?

No, that song's awesome.

Madden likes the Steelers: EA Sports has correctly predicted six of the past seven Super Bowl winners (they whiffed on the Giants over the Patriots), and according to simulations run on "Madden NFL 11," the Steelers will beat the Packers in this year's Super Bowl. The winner of next year's Super Bowl is expected to be no one, thanks to the inability of millionaires to divvy up their riches.

Pregame Flyover's Super Bowl prediction: Steelers 33, Packers 30 (OT).

Overtime? Why that means: Free pizza for everyone in America!

Prediction for Most Valuable Player: The most disliked player in Sunday's game, Ben Roethlisberger.

Cam Martin is a contributor to Page 2. He previously worked for the Greenwich (Conn.) Time and The (Stamford, Conn.) Advocate, and has written online for CBS Sports and Comcast SportsNet New England. You can contact him at cdavidmartin@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: @CameronDMartin.


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