The Brandt Report

Super Bowl memories: From the helmet catch to the '77 Cowboys

Being in Arizona for yet another Super Bowl, it occurred to me that I sure have seen a lot of these games. In fact, I've been present for nearly every Super Bowl ever played. And one thing that's almost always been true: The drama and excitement fly fast and furious.

Super Bowl XLIX offers a clash between two squads that have been on the NFL's biggest stage before. The Seahawks' Super Bowl résumé is, of course, shorter than New England's, though they've won much more recently, while the Pats are led by a coach (Bill Belichick) and quarterback (Tom Brady) who make up one of the most successful duos in league history. All of which makes this the perfect opportunity to once again share some of the Super Bowl memories I recounted in this space last year -- and to add some additional thoughts that came to mind as I contemplated the upcoming matchup.

Below are the Super Bowl moments, listed in no particular order, that stand out as strong as ever as we get ready for Patriots-Seahawks, starting with some memories from previous big games held in the desert:

» This will be the first Super Bowl held at University of Phoenix Stadium since David Tyree made his instantly famous "helmet catch" to help bring the Giants back against the Patriots, and that catch of course comes to mind when looking ahead to Super Bowl Sunday.

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» The bottom line is, that was an unbelievable play. I thought the Giants were definitely dead. And I'm wondering if the Patriots' defenders might have stopped a bit early on the play, as it looked to everyone -- from the fans in the stands to the reporters in the pressbox -- like Eli Manning was about to get sacked. Instead, Manning showed some surprising athleticism and escaped certain doom.

» It's one thing to make such an escape; it's quite another to then throw a catchable ball, which Tyree -- who was a great special teams player but not much beyond that -- somehow managed to glue to his cap. Funny thing about that: They say the Giants threw the ball to Tyree about six or seven times in practice before the Super Bowl, and he dropped every one of those throws.

» That is definitely a top play in Super Bowl history, ranking right up there with Willie Parker's record-setting 75-yard scoring dash in Super Bowl XL, John Riggins' 43-yard run in Super Bowl XVII and Bob Lilly's 29-yard sack of Bob Griese in Super Bowl VI.

» This was, of course, played in Tempe, at Sun Devil Stadium, which was the home of the Cardinals at the time. And it was a special Super Bowl because it marked the introduction of the Super Bowl cybercast. Randy Cross, Jeff Hostetler and myself provided coverage of Super Bowl week for -- which launched that year -- starting with media day on Tuesday and leading up to the game itself. The Internet was just turning into what we know it as today, as this article from the San Francisco Chronicle covering the cybercast makes clear, with its unwieldy use of the term "World Wide Web," helpful explanation of what a chat room is ("an area where people logged onto the site can interact by typing in messages and viewing responses") and slightly bemused overall tone ("Nobody is under any illusions that is a threat to television").

» Just how highly were we thought of? Well, we didn't quite get to sit in the press box -- in fact, we had to sit on top of it, nearly eight stories above the ground.

» Between the three of us, nobody had any idea as to what the Internet was going to be. Mark Zimmerman, who worked at NBC, was a sharp young guy who was on the cutting edge. He was involved with putting the whole thing together. The numbers it generated for the time were unreal.

» Of course, the teams involved, Dallas and Pittsburgh, were two very good teams with great followings. The Cowboys came in loose, but the game ended up being a good one, sparked by a surprise onside kick by the Steelers -- which Randy, Jeff and myself knew was coming, as one of the Steelers coaches told us to watch out for the tactic.

» And by the way, six years later, when my partner for the Super Bowl XXXVI cybercast was Marv Levy, the Internet was a much bigger thing -- but we weren't much closer to the field. We were stationed practically on the roof of the Superdome in New Orleans.

» The Seahawks team that won Super Bowl XLVIII last year played about as well as any team that's ever won the big game -- including the Cowboys squad that captured Dallas' second Lombardi Trophy.

» That Dallas team was an excellent one. We had a pair and a spare at quarterback, with Danny White capable of filling in for the great Roger Staubach -- which, in fact, he did at one point, when Staubach was hurt. We had Robert Newhouse and Tony Dorsett at running back. We had a very good offensive line. We had Harvey Martin -- in my estimation, as good a pass rusher as there was in the league for many years -- and Randy White dominating on the defensive line. Fifth defensive back Randy Hughes probably could have won MVP honors for his performance in this game, though the award was ultimately split by White and Martin.

» As I said in Elliot Harrison's piece ranking all 48 Super Bowls, the 2013 Seahawks definitely could have held their own against these Cowboys. Seattle probably would have held a slight edge defensively, while our offense was probably a little bit better. Still these defenses were both very good -- as you'd have to be to hold a Super Bowl opponent to 10 points or less.

» In fact, the players on that Seahawks roster even reminded me of some individuals on our defense. Cliff Harris was a lot like Kam Chancellor, while middle linebacker Bob Breunig was a lot like Bobby Wagner; both Breunig and Wagner were picked after the first round and probably underestimated as far as what they could do, and both went on to be exceptional defenders.

» This was the first time that the AFL and NFL faced off for pro football's ultimate prize, and the level of competition between the two leagues was intense. There was a lot of back and forth, a lot of "Our league is better than your league," and it showed, both on the field and off. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle decided there should be a party before the game, so everyone gathered at a hotel -- nothing fancy, just a ballroom and some folding chairs. And, of course, everyone from the AFL stayed on one side of the room while everyone from the NFL stayed on the other. The hard-bitten attitude wasn't limited to players, coaches or executives; I remember the wife of one of the Jets' minority owners trying to rile up everyone from the AFL by standing and giving this big, impassioned speech.

» The announced attendance at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was 61,946, though the crowd looked to actually be about 51,000. The funny thing is, if you count everyone who's claimed to be there since then, the stadium would have had to seat about two million. Tickets cost $6, $10 and $12 -- and I remember a big outcry greeting that last price point, with people incredulously refusing to pay that much to watch football. The game wasn't the late-night prime-time showcase it is now, either; I remember the sun shining on my seat below the press box.

» Everyone remembers the great story of Packers receiver Max McGee, who told teammate Boyd Dowler -- one of the really great people of all time, just an outstanding person -- not to get hurt, because McGee, who'd been living it up until 7 a.m., was in no shape to play. Of course, Dowler got hurt, forcing McGee to take the field -- whereupon he caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

» Before the game, I had an opportunity to talk to Belichick. I remember him being really relaxed on the sideline, with his son and daughter at his side. He told me he thought the Patriots were going to really play well that day, that they had really practiced well. Then I walked to the other side of the field, where the Giants coaches told me they were going to do everything possible to control the pace of the game, knowing that New England liked to run lots of plays quickly in order to wear out its opponents. And the Giants did control the clock well.

» One of the stars of this game was Giants punter Steve Weatherford. Eli manning won the Super Bowl MVP award, and rightfully so, but Weatherford was one of the hidden heroes, with three kicks downed inside the 20 and zero returned. We also can't forget about Chase Blackburn, who left a job as a teacher in Ohio to join the Giants in late November -- and made a key interception in the fourth quarter.

» That's not to say that the quarterbacks didn't deserve the attention they got, with Manning completing his first nine pass attempts and Brady completing 16 consecutive passes at one point. Manning, of course, also threw that bomb down the left sideline to Mario Manningham on the game-winning drive -- the ball seemed to go about 40 yards in the air, but it landed in Manningham's mitts like Manning had just handed it to him. And the Giants knocked off the Patriots in a Super Bowl for the second time in five seasons.

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter @Gil_Brandt.

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