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SB # XXXI — Packers 35, Patriots 21

Super Bowl 31

Super Bowl XXXI was played between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion New England Patriots and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Green Bay Packers to decide the National Football League(NFL) champion for the 1996 season. The Packers defeated the Patriots by the score of 35–21, earning their third overall Super Bowl victory, and their first since Super Bowl II. The Packers also extended their league record for the most overall NFL championships to 12. It was also the last in a run of 13 straight Super Bowl victories by the NFC over the AFC. The game was played on January 26, 1997 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.

This Super Bowl featured two clubs that were considered losing teams for much of the late 1980s. The Packers' fortunes turned after head coach Mike Holmgren and quarterback Brett Favrejoined the team in 1992. The Patriots' rise began in 1993 when Bill Parcells was hired as head coach, and the team drafted quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Under their respective head coaches and quarterbacks, Green Bay posted an NFC-best 13–3 regular season record in 1996, while New England advanced to their second Super Bowl after recording an 11–5 record.

The game began with the teams combining for a total of 24 1st-quarter points, the most in Super Bowl history. The Packers then scored 17 unanswered points in the 2nd quarter, including Favre's Super Bowl record 81-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Antonio Freeman (this record was broken later, by Jake Delhomme andMuhsin Muhammad in Super Bowl XXXVIII). In the 3rd quarter, the Patriots cut the lead to 27–21 off of running back Curtis Martin's 18-yard rushing touchdown. But on the ensuing kickoff, Desmond Howard returned the ball a then-Super Bowl record 99 yards for a touchdown. The score proved to be the last one, as both defenses took over the rest of the game. Howard became the firstspecial teams player ever to be named Super Bowl MVP. He had a total 154 kickoff return yards, and also recorded a Super Bowl record 90 punt return yards, thus tying the Super Bowl records of total return yards (244) and combined net yards gained (244).

This was the first Super Bowl broadcast by Fox and ended up being the highest-rated program in the history of the then ten-year-old network.