With all the pomp and circumstance that goes into a Super Bowl broadcast, the actual football game itself takes a bit of a backseat. Sure, the football faithful can tell you exactly whose living room they were standing in when, say, the New Orleans Saints’ onside kick changed the course of Super Bowl XLIV. But when many viewers look back on Super Bowls past, they tend to think less about what happened on the gridiron and more about all the bells and whistles — the confetti, the commercials, and most of all, the halftime show.
So much focus goes into a Super Bowl halftime show that it tends to stick in your head more than where the game stands when both teams run into the locker rooms. Take last year’s Super Bowl 50, for example. When that game reached the halfway mark, the Denver Broncos had the upper hand on the Carolina Panthers 13-7, despite both running into turnover trouble in the first two quarters.
But what do people remember? Coldplay looking like the awkward guest at Beyonce and Bruno Mars’ kick–ass dance party.
It’s nice, for a change of pace, to look back on the actual football game that took place on the field. And not just on the stage that gets resurrected at the halfway point to keep viewing audiences glued to the tube. Here is a more sports-centric look at every Super Bowl halftime show since 2006.
2006: Super Bowl XL Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks
Our journey starts just two years removed from the Super Bowl halftime show where Justin Timberlake, um, overexposed Janet Jackson. Said incident launched a trend where only fully-clothed classic rock outfits played at halftime. In 2006, putting the Rolling Stones on a lip-and-tongue-shaped stage to play some of their most-loved hits fit that “play it safe” bill.
But before viewing audiences could marvel at Keith Richards still being alive, they marveled at Pittsburgh holding Seattle — who had the league’s best offense at the time — to just three points in the first half. While a 7-3 lead at the half seems modest, it was the platform for Bill Cowher’s Steelers to run away with the game after Mick and The Boy left the stage for the night.
2007: Super Bowl XLI Chicago Bears vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Bears started off strong with Devin Hester returning the opening kick for a touchdown. But when the first keys for “Let’s Go Crazy” sounded, Chicago trailed then-Indy QB Peyton Manning and the Colts 16-14.
Following Prince’s performance, Indy notched a couple field goals and made good on a Rex Grossman interception and win 29-17.
2008: Super Bowl XLII New England Patriots vs. New York Giants
In all honesty, the first half of the first Pats-Giants Super Bowl matchup bored us. New England did not steamroll the competition the way many expected. So, it was no wonder that Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers performing a seamless set pepped things up.
New England entered the big game with a spotless record on the season, and most expected them to dominate Eli Manning and the Giants before Petty took the stage to belt out “American Girl.” In fact, they only had a one-touchdown, 7-3 lead after two quarters. Sadly for New England, they were just an intermission show away from what is considered by some to be one of the biggest upsets in American sports history.
2009: Super Bowl XLIII Arizona Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The organizing committee continued the trend of putting your dad’s favorite band in the Super Bowl halftime show slot when they booked Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. Meanwhile, the Steelers held onto a 17-7 thanks to a run game that seemed to be countering the Cardinals’ aerial attack.
Arizona’s Kurt Warner/Larry Fitzgerald combo did most of the heavy lifting after The Boss made his halftime show exit. In the end the Steelers sang “Glory Days” thanks to late-game heroics that put them over the edge for a 27-23 win.
2010: Super Bowl XLIV Indianapolis Colts vs. New Orleans Saints
When The Who took the stage to open up with “Pinball Wizard,” Drew Brees and the Saints trailed Peyton Manning and the Colts 10-6.
But after The Who wrapped up “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” New Orleans’ coach Sean Payton pulled a fast one on Indy, calling for an onside kick resulting in the go-ahead touchdown. Payton took the first step toward the first Super Bowl victory in the franchise’s history.
2011: Super Bowl XLV Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The halftime planning committee decided to get a hip act to draw in the kids, but still be friendly to the older viewing public. So they invited the Black Eyed Peas to head the festivities with a couple surprise guests. Prior to Fergie teaming up with Slash to tear up a cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” — one heck of a duet — the Packers already had a convincing 21-10 lead over the Steelers.
Aaron Rodgers, the new face of State Farm’s “Discount Double Check,” registered two touchdowns to Ben Roethlisberger’s one. At the half, Rodgers was a couple Top-40 songs away from leading Green Bay to a 31-25 victory. Perhaps B.E.P. sang “I Got A Feeling” for all the cheeseheads that evening.
2012: Super Bowl XLI New England Patriots vs. New York Giants
You have to hand it to Madonna, she still knows how to put on a show. It’s no wonder her duet with Cee-Lo Green for “Like A Prayer” was a talking point when recalling Giants versus Patriots Part 2.
Prior to M.I.A.’s controversial cameo at the half, the Patriots tried to rebound from a game-opening safety and add to the 10-9 lead they carried into the break. Tom Brady’s touchdown pass following the Super Bowl halftime show was the last of New England’s scoring for the evening as they fell to the Giants. Again.
2013: Super Bowl XLII Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers
How could a halftime show compete with the media circus surrounding the Harbaugh brothers facing off in a Super Bowl? It needed to be huge. So, who better than Beyonce to steal the show and give those split-screen shots of John and Jim Harbaugh a breather?
The surprise Destiny’s Child reunion was definitely newsworthy. But so was the Ravens’ Ray Lewis-led defense through two quarters, which had the answer to the 49ers’ newly-appointed starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. That gave Baltimore starting QB Joe Flacco room to man the offense and, later that evening, hand big brother John the championship.
2014: Super Bowl XLIII Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks
Oh yes, our introduction to the Bruno Mars halftime experience. The entertainer took the stage in his best James Brown getup and showed viewers that everyone should party with him.
At least Seahawks probably wanted to hit up a post-game party with him, given that their team was dominating the Broncos 22-0 after two quarters of play. Heck, Denver’s first drive resulted in a safety–not how any team wants to take the field at the Super Bowl.
Seattle’s defense put massive pressure on Denver’s Peyton Manning and halted what was supposed to be an offensively-savvy Broncos team. They would only get eight points on board following Bruno’s unexpectedly good team-up with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, falling 43-8 to Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch by the end of the evening.
2015: Super Bowl XLIX New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks
Katy Perry riding onto a football field on a giant tiger can put discussion of any game on hold. Well, that and her saucy duet with Lenny Kravitz. And the fact that Missy Elliott appeared out of nowhere to slay “Get Your Freak On.” Except that halftime was also a nail-biter with the Patriots and Seahawks knotted up 14-14.
Two quarters after Katy floated to the top of the stadium, an intercepted pass from Russell Wilson wiped the smug smile off Richard Sherman’s face; the Pats won by a 28-24 margin. Tom Brady became the Most Valuable Player. Although, let’s be real, Brady narrowly won the MVP honors over Left Shark.
2016: Super Bowl 50 Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos
Before Beyonce tripped mid-routine and Bruno Mars danced her under the table, the Panthers and Broncos both had issues turning the pigskin over. Carolina running back Mike Tolbert cut a Panthers’ drive short with his second fumble of the day, which was recovered by the Broncos. No sooner did Denver get the ball back then Peyton Manning threw an interception.
Manning, of course, came out on the right side of the ball two quarters after Chris Martin and Queen Bey helped Bruno sing “Uptown Funk.” With the MVP effort of Von Miller leading the charge, the Broncos took SB50 honors 24-10 and the QB retired from football so he could focus on his career as a Nationwide Insurance spokesperson.