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Super Bowl Quarterback Mismatches

   by Matt Fargo - 01/22/2008

This is a follow up to an article I put together last season prior to the Super Bowl and it was worth updating for this year. Quarterback mismatches are not very common in the Super Bowl but when they occur, it usually means victory for the favorite. A mismatch is based on opinion and these can be argued all day and this year’s version is right on the border. Eli Manning has stepped his game up huge over the last few weeks and this comparison is based more on the exceptional play of Tom Brady.

Let’s take a look of the past mismatches since 1980 and what the eventual outcome was.

Super Bowl XLI

Peyton Manning had a record regular season and it was no surprise that the Colts were a touchdown favorite. Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and the Bears went into the second quarter with a 14-6 lead but Indianapolis took over by scoring the next 16 points and then capped the game with a 4th quarter interception for a touchdown. Manning was far from perfect going 25-38 for 247 yards with one score and one interception. Rex Grossman played admirably but committed three turnovers.

Super Bowl XXXIII

We have not seen many mismatches in recent years and we have to go back to 1999 to get the one prior to last season with John Elway and the Broncos going up against Chris Chandler and the Falcons. Elway passed for 336 yards and ran for a touchdown to earn most valuable player honors in what turned out to be his last game ever. The Broncos won the game by 15 points but the game was never in doubt as Denver had a 31-6 lead and put it in cruise control the rest of the way.

Super Bowl XXX

Arguably one of the best Super Bowl quarterbacks ever, Troy Aikman led his Cowboys in 1996 to square off against the Steelers and Neil O’Donnell. Aikman did not have the greatest of games as he completed 15 of 23 pass attempts for 209 yards but he didn’t turn the ball over while his counterpart tossed three interceptions. The Cowboys earned a 10-point win and cover which was the 12th straight win for the NFC over the AFC, a record that went to 13 the following season.

Super Bowl XXIX

This was probably the biggest mismatch of the decade and it showed in the final score. Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young led the 49ers, in what would be their last Super Bowl, against the Chargers and Stan Humphries. All Young did was throw for a record six touchdowns while completing 24 of 36 passes for 325 yards. Humphries wasn’t horrible but he wasn’t very good either, completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes while tossing two interceptions. San Francisco won by 23 points and covered easily.

Super Bowl XXII

John Elway was making his second straight appearance for the Broncos after getting beaten soundly the previous year against the Giants and it looked as though he would rebound. He was facing off against the Redskins and Doug Williams and led Denver to a 10-0 lead before Washington exploded for 35 points in the second quarter to take control of the game. Elway completed only 14 passes while throwing three interceptions in the 32-point loss. Williams threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns.

Super Bowl XX

Jim McMahon led the Bears into New Orleans to take on New England and Tony Eason who to this day could be the worst quarterback ever to take a team to the big one. A 36-point Chicago win was never in doubt as Eason threw only six passes before being replaced by Steve Grogan. The Bears set a then Super Bowl record with 46 points and outgained the Patriots by a margin of 255 yards through the first half. This goes down as probably the biggest mismatch we have seen.

Super Bowl XVII

This was the second meeting between the Redskins and Dolphins in a Super Bowl but a similar result did not occur. Joe Theisman led the Redskins against David Woodley and the Dolphins and this was about what the latter didn’t accomplish. Woodley was 4 of 14 for 97 yards, with one touchdown and one interception before getting replaced by Don Strock who was 0-3. Theisman did not have a great game but he didn’t need to as Woodley stunk it up while the Redskins rushing game flourished.

Super Bowl XIV

The first mismatch was another big one as Pittsburgh and Terry Bradshaw went up against Los Angeles and Vince Ferragamo. The result was a 31-19 Steelers victory as Bradshaw completed 14 of 21 passes for 309 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He did toss three interceptions but it mattered none as Ferragamo managed only 212 yards through the air while getting picked off once. It was the Steelers second straight Super Bowl win and fourth in six years.

So we have seen eight quarterback mismatches coming into the big game over the last 28 years and the superior signal caller has come out on top in seven of those. The lone exception was Doug Williams and Washington in Super Bowl XXII. If this is any indication, Brady looks to be hoisting the trophy for the 4th time. This is one instance however that his opposition is playing just as good, if not better. We have not seen a superior effort for the Patriots in quite some time so they could very well be overdue.

Brady led the Patriots with the highest scoring offense ever but that makes nothing automatic. New England is the 17th team to lead the NFL in scoring and reach the Super Bowl. The previous 16 teams are 9-7 in the Super Bowl with last two, the ’05 Seahawks and ’01 Rams, losing those games outright.

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