A spectacular toe-dragging touchdown catch by Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left in regulation gave the Pittsburgh Steelers a 27-23 victory in Super Bowl XLIII and also brought to a conclusion an unforgettable two weeks in the Tampa Bay area in the winter of 2009.
Super Bowl XLIII was the fourth one played in Tampa and the second since the opening of Raymond James Stadium in 1998. Now it looks like more championship excitement, and everything that comes with it, could be coming to RJS and the Bay area.
On Thursday, the NFL confirmed that Tampa Bay and Glendale Arizona are the two remaining finalists to serve as the host for Super Bowl XLIX in February of 2015. Both areas were also in the running for Super Bowl XLVIII last year; after Arizona was eliminated, the final three were Tampa Bay, Miami and New York. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' home outlasted Miami but the final selection eventually went to New York, where a new stadium for the Giants and Jets opened last year.
"We're thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the Super Bowl back to the Tampa Bay area in 2015," said Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer. "A fifth Super Bowl would be another great opportunity to showcase our warm weather and beautiful beaches in addition to spurring economic development."
The next three Super Bowls will be played in Indianapolis, New Orleans and New York. After two dome games and a cold-weather outdoor contest, the NFL could return to sunny open skies in 2015 by selecting the Bay area. Glendale, where the Arizona Cardinals play in a domed stadium opened in 2006, was host to Super Bowl XLII in February of 2008.
As the only two finalists, Tampa Bay and Glendale will now submit formal bids to team owners next October at league meetings.
A year ago, the competition for the 2014 game was thought by many to be a formality, with the idea that history could be made with the first-ever Super Bowl in New York. And though New York did take it in the end, Tampa Bay's strong bid made it a much more difficult decision than expected. When the South Florida bid was eliminated in the final vote process, New York failed to get the 75% consensus that would have made it a simple selection. Instead, another vote was conducted between the last two teams and, while the tally was not made public, it was described at the time as "extremely, extremely close."
At the time, Glazer and the members of the Bay area bid committee were confident that their near-upset for the 2014 game gave them strong momentum in the competition for the following Super Bowl. That has obviously been proven true with Thursday's announcement, and now Tampa Bay is one step closer to its fifth Super Bowl.