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Super Bowl LI, By The Numbers ... And One Notable Numeral

Tom Pennington
Getty Images
Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons — depicted here with one finger raised in the NFC Championship Game — helpfully illustrates an important number: the total Super Bowls the Falcons organization will have won, if they win Sunday.

In case you haven't heard, a few dozen guys are planning to play a football game in Houston on Sunday. It's kind of a big deal.

Such a big deal, in fact, that by the time the Atlanta Falcons line up opposite the New England Patriots for Super Bowl LI, you may already have Tom Brady's name seared into your psyche — not to mention a fair share of big-budget commercials. Between the story lines, the betting lines and even the lines of scrimmage, it's easy to see why the big game might leave your head spinning.

That's why we're here.

Check out a few numbers — I swear it's just a few! — that may give you a better sense of what's at stake Sunday. They may also give you some plum trivia to toss around with a knowing smirk among friends at a viewing party.

At any rate, all this counting will be excellent practice for the seven-layer bean dip you may be downing later in the day.


The number of Super Bowls the Atlanta Falcons have won in the more than 50 years the organization has been around. In fact, it has been nearly two decades since the Falcons even made an appearance in the championship. Back in 1999, Denver Broncos great John Elway was still playing — though he would retire after beating the Falcons for his second, and final, championship ring as a player.

For context, ABC News also helpfully reminds us that the last time the Falcons were in the Super Bowl, fears of Y2K were still a thing.


When coach Bill Belichick and co. step onto the field Sunday night, their organization will be breaking a record: New England has appeared in nine Super Bowls, the most for a single team in NFL history.

They've still got a little ways to go before they match the record for most Super Bowls won, however. The Pittsburgh Steelers own those heights, with six wins all-time. Belichick and his future Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady, have appeared in a breathtaking seven Super Bowls together since 2002, so perhaps they're not as far off as it appears.

But there's a downside to all of those appearances: If they lose on Sunday, they'll be tied with the Broncos for most losses in Super Bowl history, at five.


That's the over/under set by SpotsLine on how many points both teams will score, combined. CBS Sports points out that number is the highest ever for a Super Bowl.

Ladies and gentlemen, strap in: This means we may very well be in for a shootout.


This is a weird one, dredged up by ESPN Stats & Information. It's the number of games that Patriots running back Dion Lewis has played with the team in the past two seasons. They didn't lose any of them.


OK, this one may be cheating — but it's still worth noting.

As you may recall, the NFL had a little fling with good old-fashioned Arabic numerals at the big game last year, dubbing it Super Bowl 50. It was the first time since the NFL began using Roman numerals in 1971 that the league decided to dabble in Arabic digits.

But why, exactly?

Turns out the league wasn't all that comfortable leaving that L all alone — and they realized that discomfort 10 years earlier.

"When we developed the Super Bowl XL logo, that was the first time we looked at the letter 'L,' " Jaime Weston, the leagues vice president of brand and creative, told ESPN last year. "Up until that point, we had only worked with X's, V's and I's. And, at that moment, that's when we started to wonder what will happen when we get to 50?"

Add an I, though, and all is well once more with Roman numerals.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.