NFL History Timeline
How It All Went Down
Professional Football Begins
Representatives of four Ohio football teams—the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, and Dayton Triangles—meet in a Canton automobile showroom to form a new professional football league. Initially called the American Professional Football Association, the organization will eventually be renamed the National Football League.
Great Lakes Join
Several additional teams, all from the Great Lakes region, join the original four Ohio clubs in the new NFL. When league play begins in September, member teams will include the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, Columbus Panhandles, Dayton Triangles, Hammond Pros, Muncie Flyers, Rochester Jeffersons, Buffalo All-Americans, Rock Island Independents, Decatur Staleys, Racine Cardinals, Chicago Tigers, and Detroit Heralds.
In the NFL's first dozen years of existence, more than 40 different teams will join the league, only to quickly drop out or go out of business entirely.
Flyers Over Panhandles
In the first matchup between NFL teams, the Dayton Flyers defeat the Columbus Panhandles by the score of 14-0.
The undefeated Akron Pros—led by star running back Fritz Pollard, one of the league's two black players—are named champions of the NFL's inaugural season. Only four of the fourteen teams that began the season are still playing by season's end.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers join the NFL. In a league with high franchise turnover, the Packers will eventually become the oldest surviving franchise.
First Black Head Coach
Akron Pros star Fritz Pollard adds coaching responsibilities to his on-field duties, becoming the NFL's first black head coach.
Player-coach George Halas buys his team, the Decatur Staleys, moving them to Chicago where the franchise is reborn as the Chicago Bears.
The American Professional Football Association officially renames itself the National Football League.
Strongest Franchises Survive
The NFL, hoping to eliminate rampant turnover in financially weak franchises, decides to eliminate all but its most economically stable teams. The move cuts the number of franchises from 22 to 12, and permanently moves the league's center of gravity from small Midwestern towns to large Eastern cities.
At the insistence of Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, the NFL imposes a new de facto policy of total racial segregation. No more black athletes will play in the NFL until after World War II.
The NFL holds its first annual draft of college players. The first player selected, Heisman Trophy winner Jay Berwanger, chooses to pursue a career in plastics manufacturing instead of pro football and never plays a down in the NFL.
First Televised Game
An NFL game airs on television for the first time, with NBC producing a local broadcast of a game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Eagles. Since fewer than 1,000 TV sets are known to exist in New York at the time, it is unclear whether anyone actually watches the broadcast.
War Takes Players
With many of the NFL's players and fans overseas in military service, the league struggles to survive through World War II. Pennsylvania rivals Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, both unable to field a complete team, temporarily join forces to play one season as the Phil-Pitt Steagles.
West Coast Team
The Cleveland Rams move to Los Angeles, bringing the NFL to the West Coast for the first time.
The Los Angeles Rams sign former UCLA stars Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, who will become the first African-Americans to play in the NFL in the modern era, ending 13 years of whites-only football in the league.
First Helmet Logo
The Los Angeles Rams become the first NFL team to wear a helmet logo, painting rams' horns onto their leather hats.
NFL Championship Televised
For the first time, the NFL Championship Game is televised nationwide.
In a game against the New York Yanks, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Norm Van Brocklin sets an NFL passing record that will last for more than half a century by throwing for a staggering 554 yards.
First Black Quarterback
The Chicago Bears' Willie Thrower becomes the first black player to throw a pass as quarterback in the modern NFL.
Greatest Game Ever Played
The Baltimore Colts defeat the New York Giants 23-17 in overtime to win the NFL Championship in the so-called "Greatest Game Ever Played."
Vince Lombardi with Packers
Vince Lombardi is named head coach of the Green Bay Packers, who won just one game the previous season.
Texas oilmen Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams, rebuffed in their attempts to acquire NFL franchises for Houston and Dallas, announce plans to form a new football league to rival the NFL. Their new league, called the American Football League (AFL), will begin play in 1960 with eight teams.
Pete Rozelle Named Commissioner
After 23 rounds of inconclusive balloting, the NFL's owners elect young Rams executive Pete Rozelle to serve as NFL Commissioner. Rozelle will hold the post for 29 years.
Corporate Headquarter Moved to New York
Hoping to establish better links to the television and advertising industries, new NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle moves the league's corporate offices from the small Philadelphia suburb of Bala-Cynwyd, Pennsylvania to New York's Rockefeller Center.
AFL Signs with ABC
The fledgling AFL signs a five-year TV contract with the ABC network.
First AFL Championship
The Houston Oilers defeat the San Diego Chargers to win the first AFL Championship.
Jim Brown Sets Running Record
The Cleveland Browns' powerful running back Jim Brown leads the NFL in rushing yardage for the fifth straight season, setting a record that will last for half a century.
The NFL wins a special antitrust exemption from Congress, authorizing the sale of league-wide television broadcast rights and the distribution of resulting revenues in equal shares to all league teams. Almost immediately, Commissioner Pete Rozelle negotiates the NFL's first national TV deal, in which CBS agrees to pay the league $4.65 million a year for exclusive broadcast rights.
Packers Win Championship
Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers win their first of five titles in the 1960s, crushing the New York Giants 37-0 in the 1961 NFL Championship Game.
Helmet Logos Spread
Old-time teams like the Packers, Bears, and Giants begin using helmet logos for the first time.
Receiver Bobby Mitchell signs with the Washington Redskins, becoming the first black player on the last all-white team in the NFL. The league's segregationist era is over.
NFL Properties Created
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle creates NFL Properties, Inc. to manage the licensing of league logos and insignias. NFL Properties will eventually become a billion-dollar business in its own right.
Money in TV
The NFL and AFL both negotiate lucrative new television deals. NBC offers the AFL $36 million for five years, while CBS gives the NFL $28.2 million for two years.
College Player Competition
Ferocious competition between the NFL and AFL to sign the best players coming out of college football results in out-of-control bidding wars for top talent. Highly coveted University of Alabama quarterback Joe Namath, chosen in both leagues' drafts, opts to join the AFL's New York Jets after being offered the largest contract to date in pro football history.
Football Beats Baseball as Favorite Sport
For the first time, more people polled in a national survey choose pro football than baseball as their favorite sport.
AFL-NFL Merger Negotiations Secret
Concerned about the financially ruinous effects of the AFL-NFL rivalry, owners from both leagues hold secret meetings to negotiate a merger.
AFL-NFL Merger Agreed
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle announces that the NFL and AFL have reached an agreement to merge into a single league by 1970. In the meantime, the two leagues' champions will meet each January in a new AFL-NFL World Championship Game. That game quickly becomes known as the Super Bowl.
First Super Bowl
The NFL's Green Bay Packers easily defeat the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs to win the first Super Bowl. More than 32,000 tickets go unsold for the game, held in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but the game draws more television viewers than any previous sporting event.
In the famous "Ice Bowl" game, held on the frozen tundra of Green Bay's Lambeau Field, the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 on a last-minute touchdown to win a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl II
The Packers thrash the Oakland Raiders by a score of 33-14 to win Super Bowl II. Legendary Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi will retire following the game, capping a run of five championships in eight seasons.
Football fans from coast to coast are incensed when NBC cuts away from the final minute of an intense matchup between the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders to begin airing the made-for-TV kids' movie Heidi. After the network leaves the game, the Raiders score two touchdowns in a 42-second span to win 43-32. The contest will forever be known as "the Heidi game." In the future, the NFL will always include a clause in its TV contracts that requires broadcasters not to cut away from games still in progress under any circumstances.
Jets Upset Colts
In the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, the AFL's New York Jets defeat the NFL's Baltimore Colts—who enter the game as 18-point favorites—by a shocking final score of 16-7. The Jets' victory alleviates fears that AFL teams cannot compete with NFL franchises on the field.
NFC and AFC
The AFL-NFL merger takes full effect as the AFL formally goes out of existence and the NFL assumes its modern two-conference structure. Most old NFL teams form the National Football Conference (NFC), while the old AFL clubs (plus a few NFL teams moved over to maintain numerical balance) form the American Football Conference (AFC).
Super Bowl IV
The Kansas City Chiefs, led by quarterback Len Dawson, defeat the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 to win Super Bowl IV before a record crowd of 80,562 in New Orleans.
Super Bowl V
A last-second field goal by rookie placekicker Jim O'Brien gives the Baltimore Colts a narrow 16-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V. Baltimore's legendary but aging quarterback Johnny Unitas throws the Colts' only touchdown pass but has to leave the game with an injury before halftime; backup Earl Morrall—who presided over the Colts' defeat to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III two years earlier—takes over to Baltimore to victory.
Super Bowl VI
The Dallas Cowboys, led by quarterback Roger Staubach and a dominant rushing game, crush the Miami Dolphins to win Super Bowl VI by a score of 24-3.
Franco Harris's "Immaculate Reception" gives the Pittsburgh Steelers an implausible last-second victory over the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Playoffs.
Super Bowl VII
The Miami Dolphins defeat the Washington Redskins 14-7 to win Super Bowl VII and cap a perfect 17-0 season—the only undefeated season in modern NFL history.
Super Bowl VIII
Playing in their third consecutive Super Bowl, the Miami Dolphins crush the Minnesota Vikings to win their second of back-to-back championships. Miami wins 24-7 behind the dominant play of MVP running back Larry Czonka, who rushes for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Super Bowl IX
The Pittsburgh Steelers win their first championship since joining the NFL in 1933, defeating Minnesota in Super Bowl IX. The Steelers defense absolutely throttles the Minnesota attack, holding the Vikings to just 119 yards total offense; Minnesota's only points come from a blocked kick. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh running back Franco Harris rushes for a Super Bowl record 158 yards and one touchdown. The victory marks the beginning of a late-'70s Steelers dynasty that will yield an unprecedented four Super Bowl wins.
Super Bowl X
In one of the more exciting Super Bowls of all time, the Pittsburgh Steelers win their second consecutive championship by holding on to defeat the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 21-17. Steelers wideout Lynn Swann wins game MVP honors after amassing 161 receiving yards on just four catches, which include a pair of acrobatic highlight-reel plays as well as a game-clinching 64-yard bomb in the fourth quarter.
Super Bowl XI
Heartbroken Minnesota Vikings fans watch their team lose the Super Bowl for the fourth time in eight years, 32-14 to the Oakland Raiders. Oakland wins its first NFL championship by rolling up a record-breaking 429 yards of total offense against the Vikings' overmatched defense.
Walter Payton Breaks Rushing Record
Flu-ridden Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton punishes the Minnesota Vikings' defense while rushing for an NFL single-game record of 275 yards. Payton's record will stand for 23 years.
Super Bowl XII
The Dallas Cowboys defeat the Denver Broncos 27-10 to win their second NFL championship in Super Bowl XII. The Cowboys' defense, led by co-MVP linemen Harvey Martin and Randy White, forces a record-breaking eight Denver turnovers en route to Dallas's easy victory.
Super Bowl XIII
Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw throws for 318 yards and a record-setting four touchdowns to lead the Steelers to a 35-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII. The Steelers become the first NFL team to win three Super Bowls.
During the broadcast of Super Bowl XIII, Coca-Cola airs one of the most popular Super Bowl ads of all time, showing fearsome Pittsburgh linebacker "Mean" Joe Greene and a young fan "having a Coke and a smile" in a stadium tunnel after a game.
Super Bowl XIV
The Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL's dominant team in the 1970s, cap a remarkable run of Super Bowl success by defeating the Los Angeles Rams 31-19 to win their fourth championship. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw becomes the first player to earn back-to-back Super Bowl MVP honors, throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
Super Bowl XV
Quarterback Jim Plunkett throws for three touchdowns—including the longest completion in Super Bowl history, an 80-yard first-quarter bomb to Kenny King—as the Oakland Raiders defeat Philadelphia 27-10 to win their second Super Bowl championship.
Super Bowl XVI
The San Francisco 49ers win their first NFL championship in the highest-rated Super Bowl broadcast of all time. 49.1% of all American households with televisions watch the game, in which MVP quarterback Joe Montana leads San Francisco to a 26-21 win over Cincinnati.
First Halftime Concert
Super Bowl XVI, held just outside Detroit in Pontiac, Michigan, includes the first Super Bowl musical performance by a major recording industry superstar: Motown's own Diana Ross. Ross's performance will kick off a new era in elaborately produced pregame and halftime entertainment.
Super Bowl XVII
Led by fullback John Riggins's fourth straight playoff game of more than 100 rushing yards, the Washington Redskins beat Miami 27-17 to win their first Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XVIII
The Los Angeles Raiders overwhelm the defending-champion Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII, romping to a lopsided 38-9 victory. Oakland running back Marcus Allen wins MVP honors after setting new Super Bowl records with 191 rushing yards and a 74-yard touchdown carry.
Apple 1984 Ad
The broadcast for Super Bowl XVIII includes the debut of one of the most famous television commercials ever: Apple Computer's "1984" ad. Inspired by George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, the spot's impact on thegame's massive audience inaugurates a new era of sophisticated Super Bowl advertising. On the field, the Los Angeles Raiders crush the Washington Redskins to win their third NFL championship.
Super Bowl XIX
Joe Montana's San Francisco 49ers put on an offensive clinic in Super Bowl XIX, racking up a record-shattering 537 yards of total offense in a blowout 38-16 win over young Dan Marino's Miami Dolphins. Montana becomes a two-time Super Bowl MVP after throwing for 331 yards and three touchdowns and running for another 59 yards and a score. San Francisco running back Roger Craig also becomes the first player to score three touchdowns in a Super Bowl game.
Super Bowl XX
The Chicago Bears cap one of the most dominant seasons in modern NFL history by shellacking the New England Patriots by a score of 46-10 in Super Bowl XX. The Bears' fearsome defense—led by linebacker Mike Singletary and linemen Richard Dent and William "The Refrigerator" Perry—racks up seven sacks and holds the Pats to just seven rushing yards. The Bears' final touchdown comes on a memorable short-yardage lunge by the 400-pound fan favorite known as "The Fridge," who normally plays only defense but is given the opportunity to tumble through the line for a 1-yard score late in the third quarter.
Super Bowl XXI
The New York Giants capture their first NFL championship in more than 30 years by defeating the Denver Broncos 39-20 to win Super Bowl XXI. The Giants, led by laser-sharp quarterback Phil Simms—who completes a record-setting 88% of his pass attempts—break open a close game after halftime by scoring 24 straight points after intermission.
The NFL Players Association—the union representing pro football players—goes out on strike, hoping to force the NFL into allowing free agency and guaranteeing players a higher proportion of league revenues. The strike will last nearly a month, during which the league will play three weeks' worth of games, as scheduled, with teams made up of amateur "replacement players" while the regular pros march picket lines outside half-full stadiums. By the third week of the strike, solidarity within the players' union will crumble, with dozens of players—including superstars like Lawrence Taylor and Steve Largent—opting to break ranks and play football. On 15 October 1987, the defeated players will return to work without a new contract, their union shattered. The NFL and its players will not agree to a new collective bargaining agreement until 1993.
Super Bowl XXII
Washington's Doug Williams becomes the first black quarterback to play in the Super Bowl, delivering an MVP performance while throwing for 340 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Redskins to a blowout 42-10 win over the Denver Broncos. The Broncos, led by quarterback John Elway, suffer their second straight crushing Super Bowl defeat.
Super Bowl XXIII
In a thrilling game, the San Francisco 49ers win their third Super Bowl of the 1980s, defeating the Cincinnati Bengals on the strength of a last-minute drive engineered by storied quarterback Joe Montana. Wide receiver Jerry Rice wins game MVP honors after hauling in 11 catches for a record 215 receiving yards.
Willie Flipper Anderson
Speedy Los Angeles Rams wideout Willie "Flipper" Anderson sets an all-time NFL record by racking up 336 receiving yards in a game against the New Orleans Saints.
Paul Tagliabue Named Commissioner
After 29 years in office, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle announces his retirement. Rozelle's successor, Paul Tagliabue, will serve until 2006.
Super Bowl XXIV
San Francisco crushes Denver 55-10 to join Pittsburgh as the only NFL franchises to win four Super Bowls. For Denver, the game marks a third crushing Super Bowl defeat in a four-year span. For San Francisco, the win caps a 1980s dynasty and gives quarterback Joe Montana a record-setting third Super Bowl MVP trophy. 49ers coach Bill Walsh, whose innovative passing game revolutionized NFL offenses in the 1980s, announces his retirement following the game.
Super Bowl XXV
The New York Giants defeat the Buffalo Bills 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV after Bills' kicker Scott Norwood's potential game-winning field goal try sails wide right as the clock expires. For the Bills, it will be the first of four consecutive heartbreaking Super Bowl losses.
Super Bowl XXVI
The Washington Redskins roll to an easy 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI. Washington's defense stymies Buffalo's offensive stars, holding running back Thurman Thomas to just 13 yards on 10 carries and pressuring quarterback Jim Kelly into throwing four interceptions.
Super Bowl XXVII
The Dallas Cowboys win their first of three Super Bowls in four years, crushing the Buffalo Bills by a score of 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII. Dallas's defense forces nine turnovers and Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman throws for four touchdowns to lead his club to a comprehensive victory.
Super Bowl XXVIII
Dallas defeats Buffalo in the Super Bowl for the second straight year to become just the third team in NFL history to win four Super Bowls, rallying from a 13-6 halftime deficit to win by a final score of 30-13. Running back Emmitt Smith wins MVP honors after rushing for 102 yards and two touchdowns. The Bills, meanwhile, set a record they don't want by losing their fourth Super Bowl in four years.
Big Cities Lose Teams
In a two month-span, both of Los Angeles's NFL teams flee the nation's second largest city for new locations. The Rams move to St. Louis, while the Raiders return to their original home of Oakland.
Super Bowl XXIX
The San Francisco 49ers become the first franchise to win five Super Bowls by routing the San Diego Chargers, 49-26. San Francisco quarterback Steve Young—who served as Joe Montana's backup for several seasons in the early 1990s—breaks Montana's Super Bowl record by throwing six touchdown passes.
Super Bowl XXX
The Dallas Cowboys defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 to win their fifth Super Bowl championship, matching the franchise mark set by the rival San Francisco 49ers just one year earlier. Cowboys cornerback Larry Brown wins game MVP honors after making two game-changing interceptions of Pittsburgh quarterback Neil O'Donnell in the second half; both of Brown's picks kill promising Steelers drives and lead directly to Dallas touchdowns.
Super Bowl XXXI
Led by quarterback Brett Favre, the Green Bay Packers win their first Super Bowl since their Lombardi-era heyday, defeating the New England Patriots 35-21. Green Bay's Desmond Howard becomes the first special teams player to be named Super Bowl MVP after racking up 244 return yards, including a 99-yard kickoff return for a game-sealing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Super Bowl XXXII
An AFC team wins the Super Bowl for the first time in 14 years when the Denver Broncos defeat the defending champion Green Bay Packers 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII. The victory comes as a huge relief for Broncos quarterback John Elway, who led his team through three blowout Super Bowl defeats in the late 1980s. In this game, Elway is outplayed by his Green Bay counterpart Brett Favre, but the Packers have no answer for Denver running back Terrell Davis, who rushes for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
Super Bowl XXXIII
Playing in his final game before retirement, quarterback John Elway wins MVP honors after leading his Denver Broncos to a 34-19 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Super Bowl XXXIII. Behind the strong play of Elway and running back Terrell Davis, Denver builds up a 31-6 lead early in the fourth quarter before Atlanta scores twice late to make the score respectable.
Super Bowl XXXIV
The St. Louis Rams hold on to win one of the most thrilling Super Bowls in recent memory, 23-16 over the Tennessee Titans. On the game's final play, Rams linebacker Mike Jones makes a brilliant open-field tackle to bring down Tennessee receiver Kevin Dyson just one yard short of a potential game-tying touchdown. Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, whose career began in the less-than-prestigious Arena Football League, wins MVP honors by throwing for a Super Bowl record 414 yards and two touchdowns.
Super Bowl XXXV
The dominant defense of the Baltimore Ravens throttles an anemic New York Giants offense as the Ravens roll to a 34-7 victory in Super Bowl XXXV. Baltimore's D, led by ferocious linebacker Ray Lewis, tallies four sacks and five turnovers while holding the Giants to just 152 yards of offense.
Super Bowl XXXVI
The New England Patriots win their first of three Super Bowls in the early 2000s, defeating the St. Louis Rams on a last-second 48-yard field goal by kicker Adam Vinatieri. The Rams' high-octane offense outgains the Pats in total yardage, 427-267, but three untimely St. Louis turnovers lead to 17 of New England 20 points in the Patriots' narrow 20-17 victory.
Emmit Smith Breaks Walter Payton's Record
In the fourth quarter of a game against the Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith breaks off an 11-yard run that allows him to surpass the legendary Walter Payton to become the NFL's all-time leading rusher. Smith finishes the game with 109 yards on 24 carries, running his career total up to a staggering 16,728 yards from scrimmage. (That's almost ten miles!)
Super Bowl XXXVII
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, long one of the NFL's most woebegone franchises, win their first Super Bowl by blowing out the Oakland Raiders, 48-21. After Oakland scores a field goal to open the scoring just four minutes into the game, Tamba Bay puts up 34 unanswered points to put the game far out of reach by the middle of the third quarter.
Jamal Lewis Sets Rushing Record
Bruising Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis sets an all-time NFL record by rushing for 295 yards in a game against the hapless defense of the Cleveland Browns.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
Super Bowl XXXVIII—a great game featuring an exciting 32-29 win by New England over Carolina—is largely overshadowed by its halftime show. A musical performance by Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson ends in an infamous so-called "wardrobe malfunction," exposing Jackson's naked breast to 144 million viewers watching on live television.
Super Bowl XXXIX
The New England Patriots hold off the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-21, to win their third Super Bowl title in four years.
Super Bowl XL
The Pittsburgh Steelers become the third franchise in NFL history to win five Super Bowls, defeating the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL. Steelers wideout Hines Ward follows in the footsteps of the legendary Lynn Swann by winning game MVP honors after racking up 123 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Paul Tagliabue Retires
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, only the second man to lead the NFL in its modern era, announces his intention to retire after 17 years in the office.
Roger Goodell Named Commissioner
The NFL selects Roger Goodell, its own Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer since 2001, to succeed Paul Tagliabue as NFL Commissioner. Goodell has worked for the NFL since 1982, when he talked his way into a job as an administrative intern at league headquarters. The early years of Goodell's reign will be marked by a strong crackdown by the league against various acts of off-field misconduct by its players.
Jerry Rice Retires
Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver in the history of the NFL, officially marks his retirement from football with a halftime celebration in San Francisco. Rice leaves the game as the NFL's all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
Super Bowl XLI
Playing on a waterlogged field in monsoon-like conditions in Miami's Dolphin Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts defeat the Chicago Bears, 29-17, to win Super Bowl XLI. Chicago's Devin Hester returns the game's opening kickoff for a 92-yard touchdown, but the Bears cannot hold onto their early advantage. Indy's Peyton Manning—long maligned as a player who can put up big stats but can't win the big game—takes home game MVP honors for quarterbacking the Colts to their first championship since moving from Baltimore in 1984.
Patriots Fail to Achieve Perfect Season
Leading one of the most potent offenses in NFL history, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady sets a new NFL record by throwing for 50 touchdown passes in the 2007 season. Brady's Pats storm to the NFL's first undefeated regular season since 1972, but fail to achieve perfection after stumbling to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XLII
The most dominant season by any team in recent NFL history ends in shocking fashion when the undefeated New England Patriots—the first team ever to make it through a 16-game regular season without suffering a single defeat—lose Super Bowl XLII to the unheralded New York Giants by a score of 17-14. The Giants ruin the Pats' dreams of perfection by scoring a dramatic touchdown with just 35 seconds left in the game. New York quarterback Eli Manning—the younger brother of 2007 Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning—wins this year's honors for his heroics in completing five passes, including a nearly miraculous 32-yarder to David Tyree, during the Giants' last-minute game-winning touchdown drive.
Brett Favre Retires
In a an emotional press conference, the Green Bay Packers' Brett Favre announces his retirement from football after 17 hard-fought seasons in which he started a remarkable 253 consecutive games at quarterback. Favre, the only three-time MVP in NFL history, leaves the game holding the league's all-time records in passing attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, and wins as a starting quarterback.
Brett Favre Unretires
Just months after retiring from the game, the NFL's all-time leading quarterback, Brett Favre, announces his intention to return to football. The Green Bay Packers, the team Favre led for 16 seasons, decide they don't want Favre back, having built their future plans around young quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The awkward standoff between Favre and the Packers only ends with the quarterback's shocking trade to the New York Jets.
Steelers Win Fifth Title
For the second straight year, the Super Bowl hosts a riveting football game. After Arizona nearly pulls off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, storming back from a 20-7 deficit to take the lead with only two minutes remaining in the game, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finds wideout Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone for a game-winning touchdown with only 35 seconds remaining on the clock. The Steelers become the first franchise in NFL history to win six Super Bowls.