The best quarterback matchups in Super Bowl history

Profile Picture: Josh Powell

February 6th, 2021

This weekend we get to feast on one of the most epic QB matchups in Super Bowl history. Tom Brady, a man who has played in nine Super Bowls and won a record six rings, goes up against Patrick Mahomes, last year’s Super Bowl MVP.

Brady made the switch from the Patriots to the Buccaneers, and despite having no preseason and little practice with a new team and new offense, he racked up 4,663 passing yards and threw 40 touchdowns.

Mahomes tasted defeat just once this season as he guided the Chiefs to the AFC title. The star QB threw for 4,740 yards, 38 touchdowns and was picked off just six times.

With the mouth-watering prospect of Mahomes vs. Brady coming up on Sunday, here are five of the greatest QB matchups in Super Bowl history.

5. John Elway vs. Brett Favre (Super Bowl XXXII)

In 1997 TwinSpires ambassador Brett Favre collected his third consecutive NFL MVP award after throwing a league-high 35 passing touchdowns and a total of 3,867 yards on the season. At 37 years old, the Broncos John Elway was here after already losing Super Bowls and was out to prove he wasn’t past his prime. He threw for 3,645 yards and 27 touchdowns during the season, with just 11 interceptions.

Favre dominated the QB battle, but it was Elway who finally got his ring. Favre completed 25 of his 42 passing attempts for 256 yards and three touchdowns, while Elway completed just 12 passes for 123 yards, throwing an interception and no touchdowns. Luckily for the Broncos, running back Terrell Davis found the end zone three times and Denver won 31-24.

4. Tom Brady vs. Donovan McNabb (Super Bowl XXXIX)

Tom Brady was looking for back-to-back Super Bowls and had another Pro Bowl season, throwing for 3,692 yards and 28 touchdowns. Donovan McNabb was the perfect foil for Brady, as the Eagles QB had the best season of his life. He threw for 3,875 yards, 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions – becoming the first QB to throw for more than 30 touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions in a season.

Both men had outstanding games but Brady had the last laugh. McNabb threw for 357 yards and three touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions, including his first red zone interception of the season. Brady completed 23 of his 33 passes for 236 yards and a couple of touchdowns as he guided New England to yet another Super Bowl.

3. Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning (Super Bowl XLIV)

The Saints picked up Drew Brees as a free agent in the preseason, and what a move that turned out to be. Brees set an NFL record completing 70.6% of his passes, and racked up 4,338 yards and 34 touchdowns. He faced the legendary Peyton Manning, who threw for over 4,500 yards in the season and 33 touchdowns, helping him win a record fourth NFL MVP award.

The night belonged to Brees and New Orleans, as the Saints signal caller posted a passer rating of 114.5 and had an almost flawless game. He completed 32 of his 39 passes for 288 yards and two TDs, while Manning threw for 333 yards but chucked as many interceptions as he did TDs – including a pick six.

2. Joe Montana vs. Ken Anderson (Super Bowl XVI)

This was Montana’s breakout season and started him on the track to a legendary career. He completed 311 out of his 488 passes during the season for the 49ers – leading the league with a 63.7% completion rate. He also totalled 3,565 yards and 19 touchdowns.

He faced Ken Anderson who was the league’s top-rated passer and had had won the NFL MVP award and Comeback Player of the Year award. Anderson had thrown 29 touchdowns for the Bengals that season, and had racked up 3,754 passing yards and an additional 320 rushing yards – the highest rushing total among all QBs that season.

Both signal callers excelled under the bright lights, with Montana completing 14 of his 22 passes for 157 yards and a TD. Anderson racked up 300 yards through the air as the Bengals tried to overcome a 20-point deficit. Despite two passing TDs and another one with his legs, Anderson couldn’t claw it back and Montana claimed his first ring.

1. Joe Montana vs. Dan Marino (Super Bowl XIX)

Marino came into Super Bowl XIX on the back of breaking pretty much every NFL record in the books. He had the most completions in a season (362), most passing yards (5,084), most games throwing for at least 300 yards (nine), and 400 yards (four), as well as most passing touchdowns (48).

Montana, meanwhile, had just recorded his higher average passer rating for a season at 102.9, throwing for 3,630 yards with 28 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

It was "Joe Cool" who came out on top that night, throwing for 331 yards and three touchdowns as the 49ers beat the Dolphins 38-16. Marino put in a solid effort, throwing for 318 yards himself, but his two interceptions were costly, and he made just one touchdown pass.