The Greatest Moments In Super Bowl History
It's tough to put together a list of the Greatest Plays in Super Bowl history. Do you choose the moments that everyone remembers most clearly? Do you choose the moments that had the biggest impact that specific game? Or do you try to find the moments that helped elevate The Game to its mythic stature by creating an assemblage of shared experiences?
It's a tough call, but I've tried to compile a list here that meets all three of the criteria. And I tried to do so while avoiding a bias toward events that happened recently. Instead, my determining factor was whether or not I could stop a guy in a random sports bar and have him recognize what I was talking about.
Here are 15 greatest moments in Super Bowl History:
15. The Philly Special (Super Bowl LII)
The Eagles were underdogs in all three playoff games en route to their first title in 57 years. And they won that championship thanks to a devil-may-care attitude that was best exemplified by the Philly Special.
The Eagles were clinging to a 15-12 lead and facing fourth-and-goal from the New England two-yard line with just 34 seconds left in the half. The smart play would be to kick the field goal and take the points. Instead, the Eagles ran a reverse option pass with a direct snap to their backup running back, a pitch to their backup tight end, and a pass to their backup quarterback. The result was quarterback Nick Foles catching a touchdown pass that put the Eagles up 10 points at halftime and gave them momentum that they would carry on to the win.
14. Never Lett up (Super Bowl XXVII)
The Bills set the standard for futility by dropping four consecutive Super Bowls. But somehow this one play transcends the losses and sums up the character of that team, city, and franchise: no matter how badly they were beaten down they always got back up.
Leon Lett had picked up one a fumble and started strolling towards the end zone. However, during his pre-end zone celebration, Beebe ran him down from about 65 yards back. Beebe knocked the ball out of Lett's hands, through the end zone for a touchback. And even though Buffalo was losing 52-17 at the time, somehow the Cowboys were the ones who were humiliated.
13. Riggins' rumble (Super Bowl XVII)
It's fourth-and-one at the Miami 43. Washington is down 17-13 and there's a mere 10:10 left in the game. Joe Gibbs shows some huge sack by going for it. Gorilla-turned-running back John Riggins takes the handoff, bull-dozes a feeble Don McNeal, and rumbles in for the score. Washington went on to win 27-17.
12. Marcus makes them miss (Super Bowl XVIII)
Before he was kicked to the curb by Al Davis and ostracized by Raider fans, Marcus Allen gave us one of the great runs in Super Bowl history.
Jim Plunkett pitched it left to Allen, who ran into a swarm of Washington defenders. Looking like a mouse trapped in the garage, Allen reversed his field. He was again closed off by the D, but cut the run inside and glided to a 74-yard score.
11. Swann hits the trifecta (Super Bowl X)
Catch 1: A leaping, sneak-the-feet-inbounds, 32-yard snag to set up Pittsburgh's first score.
Catch 2: The soft-handed Swann cradles a 64-yard over-the-shoulder bomb from Terry Bradshaw for a touchdown, putting the Steelers up 21-10.
Catch 3: This was the coup-de-grace. With Pitt at its own 10, Bradshaw heaved another deep ball towards Swann near midfield. Swann out-leapt Mark Washington and made a juggling, bobbling, tumbling, graceful grab for a 53-yard gain.
10. V is for Victory, and Vinatieri (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 underdogs, were tied 17-17 with just seven seconds left when Vinatieri lined up for a 48-yard field goal. If this game had gone to overtime, there's no way the Patriots would have won. Fortunately for them, it didn't come to that. Vinatieri split the uprights, turning Bill Belichick into a genius and Tom Brady into a legend.
9. Elway's propeller dive (Super Bowl XXXII)
After three Super Bowl humiliations, John Elway wasn't going to be denied.
With the game tied 17-17, Elway faced a critical third-and-6 from the Packers 12-yard-line. He dropped back to pass, couldn't find anyone, and started chugging his 98-year-old legs toward the first down marker. He could have slid to avoid the hit - and the first down. Instead, he dove headfirst, absorbed a savage blow from Leroy Butler and two other Packers, and spun in the air. When he landed, Elway had managed the first down by the skin of his ample teeth. Denver went on to win 31-24.
8. Steelers close each half with amazing plays (Super Bowl XLIII)
With 18 seconds left in the first half the underdog Cardinals faced first-and-goal from the Pittsburgh one-yard line. Trailing just 10-7 the Cards looked poised to take the lead. Instead, Steelers linebacker James Harrison jumped a slant route intended for Anquan Boldin to make a crucial interception. But that wasn't all! Harrison took the ball and rumbled 101 yards to score a touchdown for the Steelers as time expired. It was the longest interception return in Super Bowl history and at the time the longest scoring play in title game history.
But the magic didn't end there. After a wild Arizona comeback, thanks to a safety and ensuing 64-yard touchdown pass, the Steelers found themselves down 23-20 with under a minute to play. On second-and-goal Ben Roethlisberger threw a pinpoint pass that Santonio Holmes barely snagged, while barely getting his feet in bounds, for a game-winning touchdown.
7. James White's OT TD (Super Bowl LI)
The Falcons were up 28-3 with three minutes left in the third quarter and led by 17-points with 10 minutes left in the game! So you could argue that the most memorable moments in this game are the comedy of errors that Atlanta committed to let the Patriots back into it.
However, credit where credit is due, New England's offensive execution in the fourth quarter was incredible. They scored two touchdowns and executed a pair of two-point conversions in the final six minutes to send the Super Bowl into overtime for the first time ever. And when James White stretched the ball over the goal line in overtime he completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
And as an added bonus, everyone that bet on New England against the spread (-3.5) secured one of the most improbable cashes ever.
6. Wide right (Super Bowl XXV)
It is a cliché to say that football is a game of inches. But Scott Norwod showed just how fickle the game of football can be, with his life and legacy - and the legacy of his teammates - seemingly defined by a few inches on his potential game-winning kick.
Trailing 20-19, on the final play of the game, Norwood lined up for a 47-yard field goal that would have brought the title home to little old Buffalo. Norwood, a Pro Bowl kicker, pushed the ball about one foot to the right of the goal posts, sealing his fate as the author of one of pro football's all-time chokes.
5. Montana-to-Taylor (Super Bowl XXIII)
"Hey, it's John Candy". Apparently, that's how legendary drives begin. San Francisco trailed 16-13 with just 3:10 to play, when Joe Montana took them on a 92-yard joy ride. Then, with 39 seconds to play, Montana tossed a sweet strike to John Taylor. Touchdown. At that point it was also the latest game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl history. I'm sure Candy enjoyed it almost as much as he enjoyed eating himself to death.
4. 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 Mike Martz couldn't completely undermine The Greatest Show on Turf and that one of the best offenses of all-time did manage one Super Bowl ring.
Tennessee was down by seven points with six seconds left. Just six seconds stood between them and a chance to tie the game with an extra point. This is the dream scenario from the sand lot. Steve McNair hit Dyson on a slant at the Rams three-yard line. But linebacker Mike Jones wrapped Dyson up with a textbook form tackle. Dyson's futile attempt to reach the end zone remains a great metaphor for what the Super Bowl is all about.
3. Tyree's Helmet Catch (Super Bowl XLII)
One of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history wouldn't have taken place without one of the wildest plays in title game history.
New England was 18-0 on the season and was 1:15 away from completing the perfect season. The Giants faced 3rd-and-5 from their own 44-yard line, trailing 14-10. Eli Manning somehow escaped the grasp of three separate Patriots rushers and then, in a moment of pure desperation, heaved a jump ball some 30 yards downfield. Tyree - who was primarily a special teams player that caught four passes that season - went up among three Patriots defenders, pinned the ball to his head, and somehow kept control off the ball while being dragged to the turf. Four plays later the Giants scored the game-winning touchdown.
2. We're Number One (Super Bowl III)
Any time that some loudmouth "guarantees victory" before a meaningless Week 6 game, everyone immediately thinks back to Joe Willie Namath. Broadway Joe made the Original Guarantee. Sitting as a 20-point underdog to a juggernaut Colts squad, Namath let it all hang out - and then backed it up in a stunning 16-7 win. That type of bravado was like being the first in flight; everyone could do it after you, but it never quite meant as much.
The image of Namath trotting off the field, one finger wagging defiantly in the air, is as iconic as anything in sports. That game created the Hype. And the Super Bowl is what it is today because of because of that day.
1. One Yard Short - Part Deux (Super Bowl XLIX)
In my opinion this is the greatest moment in Super Bowl history because nothing else sums up the all-or-nothing, winner-take-all nature of this game. Because for all the hype, all the parties, all the hoopla and all the commercialism it is still a game. And every game has a winner and a loser.
Also, besides being just an incredible, game-ending play, I don't know if any one play in Super Bowl history is as controversial as this one.
The Patriots used a furious fourth quarter comeback to erase a 10-point deficit, with their final score, tallied at the two-minute warning, putting New England up 28-24. But the upstart Seahawks seemingly wouldn't be denied, driving 79 yards in six plays to set themselves up - thanks to an amazing catch by Jermaine Kearse - for first-and-goal from the Patriots 5-yard line with 1:04 to play. After Marshawn Lynch gained four yards on first down, Pete Carroll did something inexplicable: just one yard away from a Super Bowl title, and with one of the best running backs in football, the Seahawks tried to throw a quick slant pass.
Cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped the route and intercepted Russell Wilson to seal yet another championship for New England. It happened in an instant. But it will be remembered for a lifetime. And everyone that saw that play has an opinion on what Carroll should, or shouldn't have done on that one defining play.
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