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Leading Off

Four SI writers pick their favorite Super Bowl images and share what they love about them



PETER KING EDITOR IN CHIEF OF THE MMQB Super Bowl XLIX Feb. 1, 2015, Glendale, Ariz. Patriots 28, Seahawks 24 Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has the perfect pocket around him: Each of his five linemen is blocking a Seahawk. Thom McDaniels, the father of Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and a very successful high school football coach in Canton, Ohio, saw the photo and told his son it was the most perfect football picture he'd ever seen. The biggest thing heading into this game was whether New England could keep defensive end Michael Bennett (72) out of Brady's grill. The Pats did a great job for the most part. And this play happened on the decisive drive, when Brady hit Shane Vereen on first-and-10 from the Seattle 32 with 4:12 left in the fourth quarter. After all those months of coaching to build the perfect pocket for his team, McDaniels can see this picture and say, Man, it was worth it.



GREG BISHOP SENIOR WRITER Super Bowl XXXII Jan. 25, 1998, San Diego Broncos 31, Packers 24 John Elway's career is encapsulated in this photograph. Look at his legs: They're airborne, sideways, turning like the blades of a helicopter as he gains a crucial third-quarter, third-down conversion against Green Bay. Look at his face: the grimace, the intensity, the look that says, I've lost three Super Bowls, and I'm not going to lose another. Look at his body: 37, ancient for NFL quarterbacks, beaten and worn, close to the end. All that came afterward—Elway's bouncing up, arms thrust into the air; the touchdown to cap that drive; the title that had eluded him—doesn't happen unless this moment happens. Nor, maybe, does he lead the Broncos to another Super Bowl victory the following season before calling it quits. The picture is the best way, then, to remember Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback who played 16 seasons for Denver without inhibition or restraint.



RICK TELANDER FORMER SENIOR WRITER Super Bowl I Jan. 15, 1967, Los Angeles Packers 35, Chiefs 10 I had just turned 18 and committed to play football at Northwestern, and the first Super Bowl was a huge deal to me. There are a number of things I like about this photo. The Chiefs' uniforms are roughly the same as now, and the Packers' are identical—they're classics. Kansas City cornerback Willie Mitchell has a forearm pad on, because you used your forearm like a club in those days. I love seeing receiver Max McGee (page 42)—his body just looks horribly unathletic. He looks like a 50-year-old man they just got off the street and said, "Hey, will you put on this uniform? It's got a belt, it's pretty cool. Get out there and we'll throw it to you." Another thing is the empty seats; that must be where the band sat. That was the halftime entertainment then: a marching band. And nobody is wearing gloves, which is why players catch everything nowadays. Back then you used your body to trap the ball. McGee is going to get this right in the breadbasket. That's how it was done.



TIM LAYDEN SENIOR WRITER Super Bowl XLII Feb. 3, 2008, Glendale, Ariz. Giants 17, Patriots 14 This was the first time I covered the Super Bowl for SI. The overwhelming story line was the Patriots' attempt to finish a perfect season, 19--0. Instead, the Giants pulled off one of the biggest upsets in championship history. Obviously the play of the game was David Tyree's remarkable helmet catch, but I won't forget opening my copy of the magazine that week and seeing the vertical photo—taken by SI's Robert Beck, with whom I've worked on numerous features over the years—that opened the story. The New York pass rush against Tom Brady was relentless in that game, and in this photo he is getting crushed by blitzing linebacker Kawika Mitchell (55) and defensive end Justin Tuck (91). The football flutters into the upper lefthand corner of the shot, symbolic of Brady's futility. This photo captures everything about the Giants' defensive effort that night.


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