The Super Bowl is about many things, including the national anthem, halftime entertainment, commercials, and, of course, food. As for the game itself, big games played a vital role in making the Super Bowl the massive event it is today.
There were many important actions taken during the Super Bowl that helped change the course of history. These actions included Max McGee’s one-handed catch in Super Bowl I, Jim O’Brien’s game-winning field goal in Super Bowl V, Lynn Swann’s levitating jump in Super Bowl by Dont’a Hightower. sack that helped launch the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
As great as each of these plays were, they didn’t make my list of the top 10 plays in Super Bowl history. Below are the pieces that did this, but first, here’s a look at the criteria I used when making this list.
- Actual size of the room
- Impact on game outcome
- A lasting legacy
Honorable Mention: Mark Ingram, Super Bowl XXV
Ingram’s herculean effort has been largely forgotten, but not here. This happened in a game that was decided by one point, so it’s safe to say the Giants would have lost this game without Ingram’s 14-yard gain on a third-and-13 play midway through the third quarter .
Ingram caught the ball a good 7 yards from the marker. He broke four tackles before launching over the sticks to give the Giants a huge first down. Ottis Anderson gave Big Blue the lead five plays later.
Buffalo regained the lead in the fourth quarter, but the Giants responded with what proved to be the game-winning field goal. New York then expired when Buffalo missed its game-winning 47-yard field goal attempt with seconds left.
9. John Stallworth, Super Bowl XIV
Champions three of the last five years, the Pittsburgh Steelers were in serious danger of being upset by a Rams team early in the fourth quarter. They were down 19-17. Lynn Swann was injured and is no longer in the game. Pittsburgh’s formidable running game was nowhere to be found and Terry Bradshaw had already thrown three interceptions.
But a play changed everything. Facing a third-and-8 from his own 27, Steelers coach Chuck Noll asked Bradshaw to throw a deep pass to Stallworth that Bradshaw had failed to complete in practice that week. Undaunted, Bradshaw called the play, then executed it to perfection. He threw a perfectly thrown pass to Stallworth, who caught it over the outstretched hands of Rod Perry before running the remaining distance to pay dirt.
The 73-yard score gave Pittsburgh the lead for good.
Of course, the Patriots had already begun their comeback when Edelman caught the tip of the finger. The problem, however, was when I and probably millions of others came to the conclusion that New England was going to do the impossible.
Trailing 28-3 earlier in the half, the Patriots had cut their deficit to 28-20 when Brady lofted his pass to Edelman with 2:28 remaining. The pass was deflected before Edelman managed to recover the ball just before it had a chance to hit the turf.
Edelman’s incredible catch gave the Patriots a touchdown. New England completed its historic comeback in the first Super Bowl which was decided in overtime.
7. John Riggins, XVII
There have been longer, flashier runs in Super Bowls. But none had the impact as Riggins’ 43-yard touchdown run that gave Washington the lead over Miami for good.
Locked in a defensive battle, Joe Gibbs decided to go for it when his team was down 17-13 and facing a fourth-and-1 with 10:28 to play. Because of the design of the game, Riggins knew he would have a one-on-one matchup with a defensive back, who would be the only man standing between him and a first down.
As you can see below, Riggins won the game against Dolphins cornerback Don McNeil, who then watched helplessly as Riggins sprinted to the end zone and into the history books. The touchdown (which at the time was the longest touchdown in Super Bowl history) punctuated an MVP performance for Riggins, whose 38 carries that day remains a Super Bowl record.
6. Mike Jones, Super Bowl XXXIV
Jones made the game-saving tackle in one of the most intense moments in Super Bowl history. Trailing 16-0 at one point, the Titans rallied to tie the score, only to see Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce put the Rams ahead again on a 73-yard touchdown run.
Tennessee, led by the indomitable will of quarterback Steve McNair, drove furiously toward the Rams’ 10-yard line as the game clock ticked down. On the final play of regulation, McNair fired a dart at Kevin Dyson, who would have had an easy path to the end zone if Jones had taken the bait and followed tight end Frank Wycheck, who passed him for an attempt to clear the middle of the area. the land for Dyson.
Jones started to follow Wycheck, but he turned around at the last second and saw what was happening. He turned and tackled Dyson 1 yard from the end zone, preserving the Rams’ 23-16 victory.
5. John Elway, Super Bowl XXXII
After getting blown out in his previous three Super Bowls, Elway was just hoping that Super Bowl XXXII was still up for grabs deep in the second half. It was, and Elway took advantage by making the play that set up one of the all-time Super Bowl upsets.
With the score tied and facing a third-and-6 late in the third quarter, Elway dropped back and found no one open. As he had done hundreds of times before, Elway took off, but his running lane was quickly obstructed by several Packers defenders. Elway, however, was determined to get to the at-bats. He got there, but it required him to dive headfirst into the Packers defense.
Elway absorbed several blows that sent his body literally spinning through the air before returning to planet Earth. When he did, he was past the first down marker and the Broncos were in position to regain the lead over the favored Packers.
This jump not only helped give Denver the lead, but it also energized the Broncos while giving them momentum they wouldn’t relinquish. The Broncos ultimately won 31-24, dethroning the Packers while ending the NFC’s 13-game Super Bowl winning streak.
5. Patrick Mahomes, Super Bowl LVIII
OK, it wasn’t a crazy play, but it was significant in that it ended the longest Super Bowl of all time. It also put an exclamation point on the Chiefs’ dynasty while ending the NFL’s 19-year drought without a repeat champion.
The play showcased the brilliance of Mahomes, who froze Fred Warner before throwing the ball to Mecole Hardman, who slipped under the 49ers defense before scoring the historic touchdown.
4. David Tyree, Super Bowl XLII
It may be No. 4, but Tyree’s catch might be the most jaw-dropping play in Super Bowl history. His helmet catch came at a crucial time while helping the Giants topple the previously undefeated Patriots.
This was a great play by Tyree and Eli Manning. Manning somehow managed to avoid several Patriots passers before unloading the ball downfield while giving Tyree a chance to make a play. Tyree made the most of this opportunity.
The fact that it was a third-and-5 play added to the significance of the catch. If things had gone differently, the Super Bowl – and the Patriots’ date with destiny – would have come down to a fourth down.
Manning didn’t let Tyree’s catch go to waste. He hit Plaxico Burress for the winning score moments later, as New York won 17-14.
The first of two games this Super Bowl that broke into the list. Holmes capped his MVP performance by making a spectacular fingertip catch in the back of the end zone that gave the Steelers a 27-23 victory over the Cardinals. What makes Holmes’ catch even more impressive is that he somehow managed to keep both feet in bounds.
It was also a terrific play from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who showed off his always-dangerous pump fake before pointing Holmes’ way and throwing the ball to a spot where only Holmes could get it. The fact that Roethlisberger attempted such a risky throw is worth noting considering the Steelers were only down by three points at the time.
This play helped the Steelers become the first franchise to win six Super Bowls.
Harrison’s pick is epic for many reasons, one of them being that it is the longest pick six in Super Bowl history. Harrison’s 100-yard return is also special in that he needed help from all 10 of his teammates to reach the opposite end zone. The play embodies the selfless, determined attitude of one of the NFL’s all-time greatest defenses.
It was also a great individual play from Harrison, who dropped back into coverage before catching Kurt Warner’s pass and immediately heading downfield.
Harrison’s pick six didn’t determine the outcome, but it was a huge scoring swing just before halftime. Instead of trailing 14-10, the Steelers took a 17-7 lead into intermission.
1. Malcolm Butler, Super Bowl XLIX
I can already hear the boos from Pittsburgh. Yes, Harrison’s play was probably the greatest play in Super Bowl history. But Butler’s play decided the outcome, which is why he is in first place.
It was also an incredible play by Butler, whose perfect anticipation of Russell Wilson’s pass led him to jump the route and make the game-winning interception.
From a historical perspective, Butler’s choice kept the Seahawks from joining elite company of teams that have won back-to-back titles. However, this is the fourth Super Bowl won in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era and the first in 10 years.
It’s also the most controversial play in Super Bowl history. Seahawks fans are still wondering why Seattle didn’t just give the ball to Marshawn Lynch, who surely could have gotten the ground the Seahawks needed to repeat as champions.