The NFL playoffs are winding down and the spectre of the Super Bowl looms large. On February 2nd, the winners of the AFC Champions and NFC Champions will meet in New Jersey for the most anticipated clash in North American sports. After a long season, fans of the NFL will tune in en masse to see who walks away with the Vince Lombardi trophy, and who walks away empty-handed. The story of last year’s Super Bowl clash reads like the script of a sports movie; the final season of the winning team’s star (Ray Lewis), the opposing teams being coached by 2 brothers (Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh), and the dramatic, unprecedented power failure that allowed one team to rally back from the brink of defeat. Unfortunately for the 49ers, who fell short of completing what could have been one of the most magical comebacks in sports history, it wasn’t enough. Baltimore signed their name in the history books and became Super Bowl XLVII champions.
This year, the defending champions have already been eliminated, so fans of the NFL are guaranteed to see a new team lifting the trophy at Super Bowl XLVIII. The only certainty is that the teams still left in the running have clawed their way into contention through grit, determination and the support of tens of thousands of fans in their home cities and around the country. The Super Bowl doesn’t attract an inherently friendly or hostile crowd though, as thousands of different people (who can afford the $3,000+ tickets) will fly in from around the country to fill New Jersey’s Metlife Stadium with a huge crowd that wants to be a part of the spectacle rather than support a particular team. Final attendance figures for the upcoming Super Bowl won’t be released until after the fact, but to get an idea of the kind of crowds the game can draw we can look back at the attendance records for previous years, which are dominated by the Golden State.
10 Super Bowl VI – Attendance: 81,023
New Orleans, Louisiana played host to Super Bowl VI back in 1972, when 81,023 people packed into Tulane Stadium to watch the Dallas Cowboys go head-to-head with the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys were ruthless in their offensive and defensive endeavours. They won the game 24-3, with quarterback Roger Staubach taking the award for Super Bowl MVP. The Cowboys remain the only team in Super Bowl history to prevent the opposition from scoring a single touchdown.
9 Super Bowl XVI – Attendance: 81,270
Super Bowl XVI was the first time in 13 years that both teams were making their first Super Bowl appearance. In 1982, Pontiac, Michigan welcomed the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals to the Pontiac Silverdome with a crowd of 81,270 people. The 49ers led 20-0 by halftime thanks to an offensive blitz orchestrated by quarterback and football legend Joe Montana. The Bengals responded valiantly in the second half, but couldn’t overcome the gap. The 49ers won 26-21 and took home their first Vince Lombardi trophy, while Montana was named Super Bowl MVP.
8 Super Bowl XIX – Attendance: 84,059
Joe Montana’s 49ers weren’t satisfied with just one Super Bowl victory. This time the year was 1985, and the battleground was Stanford Stadium in Stanford, California, but the results would be the same. The Miami Dolphins, led by star quarterback Dan Marino, couldn’t withstand the offensive power of Montana and the 49ers. San Fran crushed the Dolphins 38-16 in a game that saw Montana break the Super Bowl records for both passing yards and rushing yards. 84,059 people watched San Francisco and Joe Montana win their second Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP, respectively.
7 Super Bowl VII – Attendance: 90,182
Super Bowl VII took place in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, in Los Angeles, California. 90,182 fans in attendance came to watch the Miami Dolphins and the Washington Redskins duke it out for football supremacy in 1973. Miami headed into the playoffs with a 14-0 record, a perfect season. They capped it off by winning the Super Bowl 14-7 and finalizing their legacy as one of the most dominant teams in NFL history.
6 Super Bowl XXVII – Attendance: 98,374
The Californian connection continues with Super Bowl XXVII, which took place in 1993 at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. The Buffalo Bills made it to their third consecutive Super Bowl and faced the Dallas Cowboys. They had failed in their previous two attempts, and sadly would fail again. The Cowboys annihilated the Bills 52-17 in front of 98,374 spectators.
5 Super Bowl XXI – Attendance: 101,063
We return to the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California for Super Bowl XXI’s entry on our list. The year was 1987 and 101,063 fans were witness to the New York Giants vs. the Denver Broncos in the big game. The Giants were the favorites going in and they didn’t disappoint, defeating the Broncos 39-20 while scoring an incredible 30 points in the second half.
4 Super Bowl XLV – Attendance: 103,219
In 2011, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas was the stage for a clash between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers, who already held the record for NFL Championships, were searching for their 13th title in front of a crowd of 103,219. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers led them into the history books when they defeated the Steelers 31-25, in a performance that earned Rodgers the Super Bowl MVP award.
3 Super Bowl XI – 103,438
As you may have noticed, the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California is where Super Bowl attendance records are made. In addition to all the aforementioned listings, our final 3 entries all take place in Pasadena. The year was 1977, and Super Bowl XI set the attendance record at the time with 103,438 people. The Oakland Raiders had the opportunity to win the Super Bowl in their home state of California, but to do that they had to get through the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings put up a good fight, but in the end were overcome by the Raiders who won the game 32-14.
2 Super Bowl XVII – Attendance: 103,667
103,667 fans filled the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California in 1983 to watch the Miami Dolphins take on the Washington Redskins for football supremacy. The game was a rematch from Super Bowl VII, which Miami won, and Washington was looking for revenge. Their wish was granted by an explosive second-half performance. After entering half time trailing 17-10, the Redskins were able to score 17 unanswered points to bring the final tally to 27-17. The Washington Redskins won that year’s Super Bowl, and their fans were able to erase the memory of Super Bowl VII.
1 Super Bowl XIV – 103,985
By now you know exactly where the most attended Super Bowl in history took place. This time the showdown in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl was between defending Super Bowl XIII champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams had the distinction of being the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home market, as they were based in nearby Los Angeles. The home field advantage wasn’t enough to stop the Steelers from securing their second consecutive Super Bowl when they brought down the Rams 31-19. 103,985 people watched the Rams fail to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy in front of their fans, but were still the largest crowd to ever watch a Super Bowl live.
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