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Opening Drives in the Super Bowl

Posted by Andrew McKillop on February 4, 2011

Updated: 2/7/2011

A team’s opening drive in the Super Bowl is often an emotional ride for players and fans.  However a bad start in the Super Bowl doesn’t necessarily ensure a loss.  Likewise a great start in the Super Bowl doesn’t ensure victory.

Take for example the Colts in Super Bowl 41.  On the opening kickoff the Colts gave up a touchdown to the Bears Devin Hester.  On their following drive QB Peyton Manning threw an interception.   But the Colts didn’t lose their cool, and they wound up winning the game.

In Super Bowl 22 the Denver Broncos opened up the game by forcing the Redskins into a 3 and out drive.  Then on the Broncos first offensive play, QB John Elway threw a 56-yard touchdown pass.  Despite the great start the Broncos wound up losing the game by 32 points.

Listed below is a complete breakdown of opening drives in the Super Bowl.

Legend: Abbreviations, SB (Super Bowl), St (Team That Received First Kickoff),  Pl (Plays), Yds (Yards), FD (First Downs), OP (Offensive Penalties), DP (Defensive Penalties), End (Where the Drive Ended), How End (How the Drive Ended)

Note: Special team plays weren’t tallied in the “plays” section of the table below.

SB Tm St Pl Yds FD OP DP End Ended How
1 GB W St 6 -3 1 0 0 Own 22 Punt of 41 net yds
1 KC 6 16 1 5 0 Own 48 Punt of 32 net yds
2 OAK St 3 0 0 0 0 Own 28 Punt of 38 net yds
2 GB W 9 34 3 0 5 Opp 32 39-yd FG
3 NYJ W St 5 20 1 0 5 Own 43 Punt of 30 net yds
3 BALC 11 54 4 0 0 Opp 19 Missed 27-yd FG
4 MIN St 7 41 2 0 0 Opp 39 Punt of 22 net yds
4 KC W 8 42 2 0 0 Opp 41 48-yd FG
5 DAL St 3 8 0 0 0 Own 32 Punt of 42 net yds
5 BALC W 3 4 0 0 0 Own 30 Punt of 33 net yds
6 MIA St 3 7 0 0 0 Own 33 Punt of 46 net yds
6 DAL W 5 8 1 0 0 Own 29 Punt of 29 net yds
7 MIA W St 3 8 0 0 5 Own 32 Punt of 43 net yds
7 WAS 6 15 1 0 0 Own 40 Punt of 28 net yds
8 MIA W St 10 62 4 0 0 TD 5-yd TD run
8 MIN 3 9 0 0 0 Own 23 Punt of 33 net yds
9 PIT W St 3 -2 0 0 0 Own 35 Punt of 47 net yds
9 MIN 4 17 1 0 0 Own 35 Punt of 23 net yds
SB Tm St Pl Yds FD OP DP End Ended How
10 DAL St 3 -3 0 0 0 Opp 47 Punt of 30 net yds
10 PIT W 5 23 1 0 0 Own 40 Fumbled punt snap, -11-yds
11 OAK W St 8 55 2 0 0 Opp 11 Missed 29-yd FG
11 MIN 3 6 0 0 0 Own 26 Punt of 40 net yds +OAK-15 yd PEN
12 DAL W St 3 -1 0 0 0 Own 28 Punt of 40 net yds -DAL-15 yd PEN
12 DEN 6 9 1 0 0 Opp 44 Punt of 43 net yds
13 DAL St 5 25 2 0 0 Opp 34 Fumble, PIT REC at own 47
13 PIT W 7 53 2 0 0 TD 28-yd TD pass
14 LARM St 3 5 0 0 0 Own 34 Punt of 30 net yds+PIT 15-yd PEN
14 PIT W 10 55 3 0 0 Opp 24 41-yd FG
15 PHI St 3 11 1 0 0 Own 35 Interception at own 47, OAK 17-yd RET
15 OAK W 7 30 2 0 5 TD 2-yd TD pass
16 SF W St 0 0 0 0 0 Own 26 Fumble on KR, CIN REC at Opp 26
16 CIN 6 15 2 0 0 Opp 11 Interception at opp 5, SF 27-yd RET
17 MIA St 3 9 0 0 0 Own 34 Punt of 37 net yds
17 WAS W 7 17 2 0 0 Own 46 Punt of 34 net yds
18 LARD W St 5 14 1 0 0 Own 34 Punt of 47 net yds
18 WAS 6 11 1 0 0 Own 30 Blocked punt, OAK REC for TD
19 SF W St 8 35 2 0 0 Own 41 Punt of 23 net yds
19 MIA 6 45 2 0 0 Opp 19 37-yd FG
SB Tm St Pl Yds FD OP DP End Ended How
20 CHI W St 2 2 0 0 0 Own 25 Fumble, NE REC at opp 19
20 NE 3 0 0 0 0 Opp 19 36-yd FG
21 DEN St 7 45 2 0 0 Opp 31 48-yd FG
21 NYG W 9 78 4 10 0 TD 6-yd TD pass
22 WAS W St 3 4 0 0 0 Own 22 Punt of 34 net yds
22 DEN 1 56 0 0 0 TD 56-yd TD pass
23 SF W St 6 13 1 0 0 Own 40 Punt of 34 net yds
23 CIN 7 35 2 0 0 Opp 39 Punt of 36 net yds
24 DEN St 3 2 0 0 0 Own 25 Punt of 41 net yds
24 SF W 10 66 3 0 0 TD 20-yd TD pass
25 BUF St 3 9 0 0 0 Own 43 Punt of 26 net yds
25 NYG W 10 58 4 0 5 Opp 11 28-yd FG
26 WAS W St 3 6 0 0 0 Own 26 Punt of 33 net yds
26 BUF 3 -5 0 0 0 Own 36 Punt of 53 net yds
27 BUF St 4 21 1 0 0 Own 41 Punt of 44 net yds
27 DAL W 3 1 0 0 0 Own 16 Blocked Punt, 0 yds
28 DAL W St 4 24 1 0 0 Opp 24 41-yd FG
28 BUF 7 43 2 0 0 Opp 36 54-yd FG
29 SF W St 3 59 1 0 0 TD 44-yd TD pass
29 SD 3 9 0 0 0 Own 24 Punt of 55 net yds
SB Tm St Pl Yds FD OP DP End Ended How
30 DAL W St 6 47 2 0 0 Opp 24 42-yd FG
30 PIT 3 9 0 0 0 Own 34 Punt of 41 net yds
31 NE St 5 15 1 0 0 Own 36 Punt of 19 net yds
31 GB W 2 55 0 0 0 TD 54-yd TD pass
32 GB St 8 76 4 0 0 TD 22-yd TD pass
32 DEN W 10 58 4 0 5 TD 1-yd TD run
33 ATL St 10 55 3 0 25 Opp 15 32-yd FG
33 DEN W 10 80 4 0 0 TD 1-yd TD run
34 STL W St 11 52 3 0 0 Opp 17 Aborted FG, Fumble, TEN REC Own 29
34 TEN 7 42 2 5 5 Opp 29 Missed 47-yd FG
35 NYG St 3 5 0 0 5 Own 26 Punt of 37 net yds
35 BAL W 3 4 0 0 0 Own 41 Punt of 46 net yds
36 STL St 6 21 1 10 0 Opp 40 Punt of 37 net yds
36 NE W 6 45 2 0 0 Own 48 Punt of 32 net yds
37 TB W St 3 5 0 0 0 Own 31 Interception at Opp 48, OAK 12-yd RET
37 OAK 7 14 1 0 0 Opp 22 40-yd FG
38 CAR St 3 7 0 0 0 Own 30 Punt of 17 net yds
38 NE W 6 34 2 5 5 Opp 13 Missed 31-yd FG
39 PHI St 3 -3 0 0 0 Own 36 Punt of 36 net yds
39 NE W 4 22 1 5 0 Own 45 Punt of 48 net yds
SB Tm St Pl Yds FD OP DP End Ended How
40 SEA St 7 25 2 0 0 Own 43 Punt of 37 net yds
40 PIT W 3 1 0 10 0 Own 21 Punt of 43 net yds
41 CHI St 0 0 0 0 0 TD KR TD of 92 Yds
41 IND W 5 11 1 10 0 Own 41 Interception at Opp 29, CHI 6-yd RET
42 NYG W St 15 63 5 0 0 Opp 14 32-yd FG
42 NE 12 56 4 0 16 TD 1-yd TD run
43 PIT W St 8 71 3 0 0 Opp 1 18-yd FG
43 ARZ 5 3 1 10 0 Own 30 Punt of 39 net yds
44 NO W St 3 8 0 0 0 Own 31 Punt of 42 net yds
44 IND 10 53 3 5 0 Opp 20 38-yd FG
45 PIT St 3 0 0 0 0 Own 36 Punt of 43 net yds
45 GB W 6 28 1 0 0 Own 49 Punt of 31 net yds

 

Interesting Statistics:

Teams that have scored touchdowns on their first Super Bowl drive are 9-4.

Teams that pick up three or more first downs on their opening drives in the Super Bowl are 11-5.

In Super Bowl 42, the Giants (15 offensive plays) drive, and the Patriots (12 offensive plays) drive, ranks 1-2 respectively in regards to longest opening drives in Super Bowl history.

Out of 90 teams that have made it to the Super Bowl, only 10 of them have ever committed an offensive penalty on their first drive of the game.  I would have thought this number would have been much higher (more false starts) due to jittery nerves at the start of the game.  From Super Bowl 2 to Super Bowl 20, no team committed an offensive penalty in their first drive of the game.

The most common Super Bowl drive is the three and out (29 times).

 

References: USA Today Super Bowl Play-by-Plays, Professional Football Researchers Association, NFL.com Game Center: Super Bowl 44, NFL.com Game Center: Super Bowl 45

 

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