For the first time in NFL history, a team will have home-field advantage in the Super Bowl.
That team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, believes playing in Raymond James Stadium will be a “huge advantage” for Super Bowl LV when matched up against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Despite what pundits think about the claim (especially after the Chiefs’ Week 12 win over the Bucs in Tampa), the true home-and-away Super Bowl set-up is a historic one.
What isn’t unique is a Super Bowl in Tampa. For the fifth time, the West Florida city will host the big game. The Super Bowl also makes its third visit to Raymond James Stadium.
Some games have been classics. Others, not so much. But they all mean something in the annals of football history. Let’s rank each Super Bowl played in Tampa, ranked from worst to best.
4: Super Bowl XVIII: Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington Redskins 9 (1984)
The first Super Bowl held in Tampa was a blowout. The then-Los Angeles Raiders cruised to victory over the defending champion Washington Redskins behind an MVP performance by legendary running back Marcus Allen, who rushed for 191 yards (then a Super Bowl record) and two touchdowns.
The Raiders also dominated a strong Washington offense, which had set records for points scored with quarterback Joe Theismann leading the team to a 14-2 record.
But in Super Bowl XVIII, none of that mattered.
Los Angeles swarmed the field, stymieing Washington at every turn. The Raiders dominated in all three facets of the game, scoring touchdowns on a blocked punt and an interception return.
But it’s Allen and his magical 74-yard touchdown to end the third quarter that will forever mark the peak of one of football’s most recognizable franchises.
3: Super Bowl XXXV: Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7 (2001)
This game is known for one thing: the Baltimore Ravens defense.
Baltimore brought to Tampa an uninspiring offense quarterbacked by Trent Dilfer. But the other side of the ball featured one of the most fearsome and dominating defenses in NFL history, led by Ray Lewis (the game’s MVP), Chris McAlister, Rod Woodson, Tony Siragusa, and many others.
Baltimore held the Giants to just 152 yards of offense, New York’s only score came off a kickoff return, and the defense picked off quarterback Kerry Collins four times.
The game was never competitive following a 38-yard touchdown reception by Brandon Stokely in the first quarter.
The Ravens built a 17-0 lead before capping the game with a 10-point fourth quarter and a 34-7 win in one of the biggest blowouts in Super Bowl history.
What fans will remember, though, are the crushing blows delivered by Lewis, the league’s defensive player of the year, and his linebacking cohorts. The defense got a score of its own on a 49-yard Duane Starks interception return, helping hold Collins to a QB rating of 7.1.
2: Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23 (2009)
This may be the most entertaining Super Bowl ever played in Tampa, possibly anywhere, and arguably the most historically significant.
The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the game as heavy favorites over the surprising Arizona Cardinals, who rode a wave of playoff momentum to the Super Bowl following an underwhelming 9-7 regular-season record.
The star-power was serious: Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner, Santonio Holmes and Larry Fitzgerald, James Harrison and, well, it’s hard to compare anyone to Harrison. Especially this night.
The Steelers jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but the Cardinals fought back with a second-quarter touchdown from Warner to cut the Pittsburgh advantage to 10-7. The Cardinals got the ball just before halftime, driving to the Pittsburgh 2-yard line and poised to take the lead with 18 seconds on the clock.
Then Harrison struck.
Usually a quarterback crusher, Harrison dropped into coverage and intercepted Warner’s pass near the front of the end zone. He then sprinted 100 yards the other way, shedding tacklers as he fell across the goal line to give the Steelers a 10-point lead at the break.
Yet the highlights didn’t end there.
In the second half, Arizona snagged their only lead with just 2:37 left in the game. Viewers will long remember the apparent certainty of a Cardinals victory as Fitzgerald sprinted through the middle of the field to score his famous 64-yard touchdown.
But Arizona couldn’t close the door. Roethlisberger drove the Steelers down the field. And with less than a minute remaining, he completed a touchdown pass to Holmes in the back corner of the end zone.
It is one of the most memorable catches in Super Bowl history — Holmes fully outstretched, his toes barely touching the end-zone grass. The Steelers would leave with the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl win.
1: Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19 (1991)
It was hard to decide between the best two Super Bowls played in Tampa. But for the top spot, we go with the game’s 25th edition based on its iconic finish.
Those two words will be forever etched into the histories of two iconic NFL franchises, the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. What’s more, that night began a streak of four consecutive Super Bowl losses for the Bills.
And in a roundabout way, this game helped open the door to the iconic career of current Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady.
Things kicked off in Tampa Stadium with an iconic, war-time national-anthem performance by Whitney Houston. It finished with Bills kicker Scott Norwood infamously pushing a 47-yard field goal to the right, a moment so dramatic it sparked the plot of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
The Bills held a fourth-quarter lead following a 31-yard touchdown run by running back Thurman Thomas. But the Giants, who by then had recovered from a 12-3 second-quarter deficit, kicked a field goal with 7:20 left in the fourth quarter to grab a 20-19 lead. One missed field goal by Norwood later, and New York had its second Lombardi Trophy.
Walking the sidelines that night was 38-year-old Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick, who constructed a game plan so good its physical copy now resides in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Belichick, called “Little Bill” by then-Giants head coach Bill Parcells, saw his coaching stock soar following the Super Bowl win, putting him on a path to becoming a head coach in the NFL.
That journey culminated in Belichick’s 2000 hiring by the New England Patriots. Later that year, he would use his sixth-round pick on a lanky Michigan quarterback: Brady.