Super Bowl LVII will occur at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, marking the fourth time the event will happen in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Although the Arizona Cardinals have never played in the Super Bowl, they have been accommodating hosts with games in 1996 (Tempe, AZ), 2008 (Glendale), and 2015.
A million different storylines lead up to the Super Bowl, with an entire two-week break building up to the kick-off. Instead of talking more about statistics, matchups, and players’ dreams of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, this article will look at the history of the Super Bowl games held in Arizona.
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NFC East remains undefeated at Super Bowls played in Arizona
In 1996, the Dallas Cowboys (NFC East) beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC Central) 27-17 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, AZ, to win their fifth Super Bowl title. Interestingly, eight years later, at State Farm Stadium (formerly known as the University of Phoenix Stadium), the New York Giants (NFC East) would shock the football world with a 17-14 upset over the then-unbeaten 16-0 New England Patriots (AFC East).
At the time, the NFC East was 2-0 in Arizona, a streak that ended in 2015 when those same Patriots, led by Tom Brady, secured a last-second victory over the defending champion Seattle Seahawks (NFC West) 28-24. Consequently, thanks to a Malcolm Butler interception on the goal line in the dying seconds, the Patriots became the first AFC team to win the big game in the desert.
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Average Super Bowl attendance in Arizona is 72,578
During the 2022 season, the Cardinals’ total attendance figures for their nine home games was 586,830, an average of 65,203 per game. Surprisingly, that is an increase of 85,849 from the previous year, when they finished the campaign with 500,981 fans in attendance.
Thus far, the 1996 Super Bowl was the largest attended game in Arizona, with 76,347 people in the stands. Furthermore, the two games in Glendale have had 70,288 (2008) and 71,101 (2015) fans, meaning that when the game is in the Phoenix area, fans flock to the stadium at a rate of 72,578.
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Quarterbacks dominate the Super Bowl in Arizona
It wouldn’t surprise anyone that Brady holds the Super Bowl record with 505 passing yards, set in 2018. Moreover, although his 328 yards in the 2015 game is not a record, it is the most passing yards in a Super Bowl held in Arizona.
Historically, quarterbacks have won two out of three MVP awards (Eli Manning & Brady) at these games and have thrown an average of 257 yards a game. As mentioned, Brady is the leader in the category, breaking the previous mark (266) he set in 2008. Interestingly, in 1996, Neil O’Donnell (Steelers) outdueled Troy Aikman (Cowboys) by 30 yards to set the original record with 239 passing yards, despite losing by 27-17.
Moreover, Russell Wilson (2015) has the highest quarterback rating at 110.6, better than Brady (101.1 – 2015) and Troy Aikman (108.8 – 1996). Altogether, the six quarterbacks have produced an average rating of 90.26 with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
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Super Bowl games tend to be low scoring in the desert
In 2015 the Patriots scored 28 points to win the Lombardi Trophy, the highest total achieved in a desert Super Bowl. So far, the winners have scored an average of 24 points, while their opponents scored just 18. Moreover, those figures are much lower than the average Super Bowl scores of 30 points for the victor and 16 for the loser.
Outside of the Cowboys’ ten-point victory over the Steelers in 1996, the other two contests were extraordinarily close and down to the wire. Conversely, the final scores of those games, 17-14 and 28-24 equal a difference of seven points. So far, the Patriots and Giants game in 2008 was the eighth-lowest-scoring (31 points) in Super Bowl history.
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Fans can expect an offensive outburst in the second and fourth quarters
In 12 quarters of Super Bowl play in Arizona, teams have combined for 127 points. As previously mentioned, these games tend to be low scoring, and the numbers breakdown doesn’t lie. However, there is a silver lining: expect lots of scoring in the second and fourth quarters.
Collectively, the teams have combined for 13 total points in the first quarter for an average of 4.3 points in the opening 15 minutes of action. Eventually, after the feeling out process is completed in the second quarter, teams have exploded for 45 points before halftime (15-point average).
Eventually, when teams return to the field after the halftime show, they ramp up their defensive effort with a combined 17 points (5.7) in the third quarter. However, things pick up in the final quarter, with teams scoring a combined 52 points (17.3).
For further perspective, only the Giants (2008) failed to score any points in the second quarter, while the Seahawks (2015) are the only team who failed to put up points in the fourth quarter. Interestingly, out of the six previous participants, not a single team has scored more than 14 points in any quarter, and the Cowboys (1996) are the only team to put up points every quarter.
The majority of the sports world loves to watch the Super Bowl; whether it is for the commercials, the halftime show, or the game itself, there is a lot to enjoy for the die-hards and casual fans. This year will be no different, with the talented Patrick Mahomes leading the Kansas City Chiefs back to the big game for the third time after winning in (2019) and losing in (2020).
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles will try to keep the NFC East win streak alive in the desert, with Jalen Hurts leading the birds to town for another title after the franchise’s win in 2018.
Although every game is different, and certain players play better under the bright lights of primetime, this year’s Super Bowl allows us to look back at past games. Overall, the Phoenix metropolitan area has been an extraordinary host and will continue to serve as a go-to community for selecting future events based on the magic captured in previous years.
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