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Most-watched Super Bowls of all time


History of the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League between the winners of the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC).

Established in 1966, the Super Bowl replaced the NFL Championship game. The first winners of the trophy were the Green Bay Packers, who beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10, on 15th January 1967.

Victorious teams are now awarded the ‘Vince Lombardi’ trophy, named after who many believe to be the greatest coach in NFL history, and the winner of the first two Super Bowls, both with the Packers.

Last season saw the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles battle it out in Super Bowl LVII, with the Chiefs coming out on top 38-35.

In Super Bowl history, 20 different teams have lifted the trophy, with 15 doing it more than once. Whilst 12 teams have never won, there are four teams who have never reached the big game (Browns, Lions, Jaguars, Texans). The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, both in the AFC, have won six each, with the Patriots doing so in 11 appearances, the most in the NFL. In the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers have both won five times, the Cowboys appearing in eight.

It is amongst the world’s most watched sporting events, only second behind the UEFA Champions League final as the most popular annual club sporting event.

1. Super Bowl LVII – Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles (2023)

The most recent edition of the Super Bowl is also the most watched in NFL history, as 115.1m viewers tuned in to watch the Kansas City Chiefs defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 at State Farm Stadium, in Arizona. This was the Chiefs’ third appearance in the last four seasons, and their second triumph.

Both teams had ended the regular season with a 14-3 record and finished top of their conferences to earn a bye to the divisional round. The Chiefs got past the Jacksonville Jaguars whilst the Eagles took down the New York Giants to progress to their respective conference championship games. Victories against the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers set up a showdown between quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts.

Just days before the game, Mahomes was named NFL MVP for his dominant performances throughout the season. He then led his team to a three-point victory, despite playing on a badly sprained ankle for the majority of the playoffs. The star threw for 182 yards and three touchdowns earning him Super Bowl MVP, whilst Hurts also put together an incredible game, throwing for 304 yards and one touchdown, as well as scoring three rushing touchdowns. His 20 total points scored tied the record for most scored by a single player in a Super Bowl.

It was also the third highest scoring Super Bowl in history, with the Eagles 35 points the most of any losing side.

Not only did the game break the record for most watched Super Bowl, it also became the most watched programme in American television history. Rihanna’s half-time performance saw viewers peak at 118.7m.

2. Super Bowl XLIX – New England Patriots vs Seattle Seahawks (2015)

At second is Super Bowl XLIX, in which 114.4m viewers saw the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24.

Having won the year before, the Seahawks were looking to become the first side to win back-to-back titles since the Patriots did it in 2004. Both sides had finished the regular season with a 12-4 record, the Seahawks making their third Super Bowl appearance, and the Patriots their eighth, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers’ and Dallas Cowboys’ NFL record.

The Patriots’ victory was their fourth ever Super Bowl and ended a 10-year championship drought. The formidable duo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady made their sixth appearance together in the big game. Brady threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. Opposite him, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson recorded 247 passing yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

Brady won the Super Bowl MVP for a third time, although his side’s win was threatened in the dying seconds of the game. Down by just four, the Seahawks needed a touchdown to take victory, and were set up at New England’s one-yard line. They made the decision to pass instead of run the ball and consequently Wilson was intercepted by cornerback Malcolm Butler to seal the win.

Before being overtaken by Super Bowl LVII, this game was only behind the Apollo 11 Moon Landing for most viewed programme in American history. The half-time show, headlined by Katy Perry, peaked at 118.5m before the fourth quarter reached 120.8m viewers.

3. Super Bowl XLVIII – Seattle Seahawks vs Denver Broncos (2014)

A heavy 43-8 defeat of the Denver Broncos by the Seattle Seahawks brought in 111.5m viewers, making it the third most watched Super Bowl ever.

Seeking their first ever championship, the Seahawks raced into 22-0 lead by half-time. They would go on to score another 14 points without reply before the Broncos finally got on the board thanks to a Demaryius Thomas touchdown. The 36-0 lead set a new record for largest shutout lead in Super Bowl history, smashing the previous one of 24-0.

The Broncos, who were pre-season Super Bowl favourites, put up historic offensive numbers throughout the season, led by hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning. They posted 606 total points, averaging 37.9 a game. However, they could not translate this success into the post-season, as the offense that had been so good all year disappeared in the biggest game of the season. They were held scoreless in three of the four quarters.

Manning, who won NFL MVP, threw two interceptions in the first half. The recipient of one of those interceptions, linebacker Malcolm Smith, returned it 69 yards for a touchdown whilst also recovering a fumble and making nine tackles. His incredible impact on the game earnt him a Super Bowl MVP.

Such was Seattle’s dominance, it was the first time ever that the winning team scored over 40 points whilst holding their opponents to under 10. This was Denver’s fifth Super Bowl loss, which at the time was a record.

Despite being one of the most one-sided Super Bowls ever, it still managed to attract a large audience, with Bruno Mars’ half-time show peaking at 115.3m viewers.

4. Super Bowl L – Carolina Panthers vs Denver Broncos (2016)

The Broncos were on the right side of the result this time, as their 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers attracted 111.9m viewers in Super Bowl L.

Despite finishing with a 15-1 record, the Panthers could not win a first title in what was their second ever Super Bowl appearance. In contrast, the Broncos ended with a 12-4 record and boasted the league’s best defense.

That strong defense was on display throughout the game, as they recorded seven sacks and forced four turnovers against quarterback Cam Newton. However, the Panthers managed to keep up by recording five sacks of their own and forcing two turnovers. Broncos linebacker Von Miller won Super Bowl MVP.

Denver got on the board first with a field goal before Newton was strip-sacked by Miller allowing Malik Johnson to recover the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. This was the first fumble return touchdown in a Super Bowl since 1994. Carolina responded with a touchdown but could not get any closer as the Broncos kept extending their lead with field goals. C.J Anderson scored a two-yard rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal the game and the Super Bowl for the Broncos.

A couple of months after the game, Peyton Manning announced that he was retiring. In his final appearance he became a champion for the second time, throwing for 141 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

5. Super Bowl XLVI – New York Giants vs New England Patriots (2012)

Super Bowl XLVI between the New York Giants and New England Patriots saw 111.35m viewers tune in. The Giants won 21-17 to win their fourth ever Super Bowl in what was the fifth most watched of all time.

The Giants ended the regular season with a 9-7 record, giving them the lowest winning percentage of any Super Bowl champion ever. In contrast, the Patriots finished 13-3, and came into the game as favourites, looking for their fourth Super Bowl win.

This game was also a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, in which the Giants also won, 17-14, a result which ended the Patriots’ attempts at a perfect 2007 season. Both pairs of head coaches (Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin) and quarterbacks (Tom Brady and Eli Manning) were involved in the two games.

Eli Manning was named Super Bowl MVP, the second of his career, after he threw for 296 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. He completed 30 of his 40 attempted passes. His counterpart Tom Brady threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

It was Manning’s side who got off to a quick start, jumping into a 9-0 lead in the first quarter. The Patriots then scored 17 unanswered points and took control. However, New York kept themselves in it and chipped away at the lead scoring a couple of field goals before capping off an 88-yard drive with a game winning touchdown with 57 seconds remaining. The two-point conversion was no good, but they managed to hold on for the win.