One of the biggest draws of the Super Bowl for the general sports fan is the hope that they will witness one of the 10 greatest Super Bowl moments. Everyone wants to be part of something special and this game provides a canvas for some of the greatest moments in all of sports.
Everyone likely has their own personal list of 10 greatest Super Bowl moments. I know that about eight of mine involve the Chicago Bears and my No. 1 moment of all time is clearly Devin Hester’s opening kickoff return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLI. (Seriously, what is better than all the build up and then your team taking the opening kick to the house? Too bad it was all downhill from there, but fortunately I was so drunk by halftime that I don’t remember anything – other than an INT returned for a touchdown – about the second half of that game. But I digress.)
However, I tried to come up with a collective list of the 10 greatest Super Bowl moments. Now, there is a difference between a great play and a great moment. Lynn Swann’s three catches in Super Bowl X would each get a spot if this were a list of the greatest plays. But the 10 greatest Super Bowl moments are instances that have become part of the myth and the lore of The Big Game
Here is a list of the 10 greatest Super Bowl moments:
10. Warner vs. Roethlisberger: The Three-Minute Duel, Super Bowl XLIII
The Recession Bowl gave us one of the best endings of any Super Bowl, ever, and it was all set up by a furious final three minutes. And a Justin Hartwig holding call really set it all up. The Pittsburgh center was flagged for holding in the end zone, giving Arizona two points and the ball back with 2:58 to play. Pittsburgh had dominated the game through the first three-and-a-half quarters, holding a 20-7 lead until Arizona scored to make it 20-14 with 7:33 to play. Hartwig’s hold actually opened up the possibility of Arizona winning the Super Bowl – which, about five years ago would have seemed like a practical joke. Arizona took advantage just 21 seconds after the holding call when Kurt Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald for a 64-yard touchdown pass. But Big Ben wouldn’t be denied. He led the Steelers on an eight-play, 78-yard drive, capped by an incredible Roethlisberger-to-Santonio Holmes touchdown pass, which gave Pittsburgh’s its sixth world championship. This game was one of the only times where teams traded the lead in the final three minutes of the Super Bowl.
9. Don Beebe Tracks Down Leon Lett, Super Bowl XXVII
The Bills set the standard for futility by dropping four consecutive Super Bowls. But somehow this play transcends the losses and sums up the character of that team, city, and franchise. The Bills were that skinny kid that was always getting into a fight with a much larger guy. And no matter how badly he was beaten down he always got back up.
Leon Lett had picked up a fumble and started rumbling towards the end zone. However, during his pre-end zone celebration, Beebe ran him down from about 65 yards away, knocked the ball out of Lett’s hands and through the end zone for a touchback. Dallas won 52-17 but there is no one play from that game than anyone remembers more.
8. John Riggins Rumbles To A Win, Super Bowl XVII
It’s fourth-and-one. Fourth quarter. Just over 10 minutes to play. You are down 17-13. What do you do – play it safe and punt or do you put the game on the line and go for it? Joe Gibbs was going for it and handed it off to his gorilla-back, Riggins. Not only did Riggins pick up the yard but he also freight-trained helpless Don McNeal on his way to a 43-yard touchdown run. Ball game. Washington wins 27-17.
7. Adam Vinatieri’s Clutch Kick, Part I, Super Bowl XXXVI
I didn't want to watch this game because I figured it would be a blowout. It ended up being one of the most exciting upsets in football history. New England, 14-point dogs, were tied 17-17 with just seven seconds left when Vinatieri lined up for a 48-yarder. If this game had gone to overtime, there's no way the Patriots win. Fortunately for them, it didn't come to that. Vinatieri – the anti-Norwood - split the uprights, turning Bill Belichick into a genius and Tom Brady into an Internet-porn loving cult hero.
6. One Yard Short, Super Bowl XXXIV
After three-and-a-half hours of boring football and dreadful commercials, Kevin Dyson gave us a reason to remember that Kurt and Brenda Warner do, in fact, own a Super Bowl ring. Down by seven. Ten yards to pay dirt. Six seconds left. This is the dream scenario from the sand lot. Steve McNair hit Dyson on a slant at the three, but Rams linebacker Mike Jones wraps up and made a textbook tackle. Dyson's futile attempt to reach the end zone remains a great metaphor for what the Super Bowl is all about: so close, yet so far, and the different between winning and losing is a matter of inches.
5. John Elway’s Propeller Run, Super Bowl XXXII
It was a moment of sheer will for a man that had suffered humiliation upon humiliation upon humiliation in three previous Super Bowls. As double-digit underdogs, Denver was hanging around with Green Bay, tied 17-17 and facing a crucial third-and-six from the Packers 12. Elway dropped back to pass, couldn’t find anyone, and then harkening back to his younger years he took off on a scramble. He could have avoided the hit, but he wouldn’t have gotten the first down. Instead he dove headfirst, absorbed a savage blow from three Packers, spun in the air, and picked up the first down by the skin of his ample teeth. Denver went on to win 31-24.
4. Montana To Taylor, Super Bowl XXIII
“Hey, isn’t that John Candy.” Those were the words of Joe Cool right before leading the 49ers on an iconic 11-play, 92-yard drive to score the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXIII. Montana went 8-for-9 on the drive and worked out a second-and-20 with just over a minute to play. No sweat. The pass to Taylor, an absolute dart of a 10-yard slant, capped the drive and gave the Niners the lead with less than 40 seconds to play. It was one of the signature moments for one of the greatest dynasties in sports history.
3. Scott Norwood Misses Wide Right, Super Bowl XXV
It could have all been different for the Bills if Norwood – the AFC’s Pro Bowl kicker – can just make that 47-yard field goal to beat the Giants in Super Bowl XXV. Maybe the Bills use that confidence to go on and win four straight Super Bowls? But it wasn’t to be. Again, that was a huge upset at the time and in another of the greatest Super Bowls ever to be played. And to date it is still the only Super Bowl to end on a missed kick.
2. Namath Run To The Tunnel, Super Bowl III
It’s one of the most iconic images in all of sports: Broadway Joe Namath running off the field following Super Bowl III with his finger in the air. Not only was that game still the biggest upset in Super Bowl history but that game is also credited in legitimizing the AFL-NFL merger and solidifying the league into the entity that it is today. Namath made the original Guarantee and any other two-bit wannabe “guaranteed” win in any sport after that is just a cheap imitation.
1. David Tyree’s Incredible Catch, Super Bowl XLII
The Patriots were just 1:15 away from perfection. The Giants were down 14-10 with just over a minute left and facing a third-and-5 in their own territory. Eli Manning managed to wriggle his way out of the clutches of not one, not two, but three defenders and just heaves a pass down the field. Tyree – a special teams ace by trade – somehow snatches it, pins it against his helmet, and wins a battle for the ball with All Pro-safety Rodney Harrison. He keeps the ball inches off the ground, symbolic not only of the never-say-die effort that led to one of the greatest games and biggest upsets in Super Bowl history but also just how close the Patriots came to the ultimate season.
If you are enjoying this article be sure to check out our NFL Betting tips for Preseason Football page. Doc's Sports NFL preseason betting page is and excellent NFL resource as well. Doc's Bet Football Conference winners resource is a must read for NFL wagering. For 35+ years the team at Doc's Sports Service has provided and insight on NFL handicapping.
Honorable Mention: Garo Yepremian’s Botched Pass, The Fridge Gets In The End Zone, Marcus Allen’s Amazing Run, San Fran’s Goal Line Stand, James Harrison’s 100-Yard TD Return.