The “Greatest Catch in Super Bowl History” occurred in the second quarter with the Dallas Cowboys leading the Pittsburgh Steelers 10-7. Terry Bradshaw heaved the underthrown ball on 3rd down and six, when Cowboys defensive back Mark Washington had the opportunity to tip the ball, as Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann was behind him finishing his “Fly-Route.” Swann turned back and over Washington to grab the ball and juggle it while catching it as he fell to the field.
The play extended the Pittsburgh drive and put them in proper position to finish the comeback.
9. Desmond Howard kickoff return TD (Super Bowl XXXI: Green Bay Packers 35, New England Patriots 21)
The Green Bay lead over the New England Patriots was cut to 27-21 after running back Curtis Martin’s 18 yard scamper for a touchdown. Kicker Adam Vinatieri blasted the kickoff to the Green Bay one-yard line where kick returner Desmond Howard caught it. Slipping and sliding and displaying Baryshnikov-like balance, Howard bolted upfield for a 99-yard kick-off return TD to increase the lead and secure the win.
8. John Elway’s helicopter run (Super Bowl XXXII: Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24)
At 37 years old, and ringless after three previous Super Bowl appearances, quarterback John Elway had the Denver Broncos marching on Green Bay’s 12 yard line, with the score 17-17 in the fourth quarter. Elway sprinted and headed towards the six yard line for a first down to prolong the drive and avoid having to give it the ball back to the Green Bay Packers.
Upon Elway’s sprint he leaped head first to avoid making contact with defensive back Leroy Butler, still taking a hit. While in the air, he took jarring contact from incoming defensive back Mike Pryor and spun like a helicopter, before falling to the four-yard line. This play led to the Terrell Davis touchdown and the team’s first Super Bowl victory 31-24.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter in last year’s Super Bowl, the Green Bay Packers’ defence was on the field to defend their 21-17 lead with the Steelers working to score. It was second down and two to go on the Packers’ 33 yard line. Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall took the handoff from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and ran to his left where he met defensive lineman Ryan Pickett whose penetration caused him to hesitate. Linebacker Clay Matthews then delivered the shot to pop the ball out of Mendenhall’s right hand.
Linebacker Desmond Bishop recovered the fumble and was tackled at Packers’ 44 yard line. Swinging the momentum back to quarterback Aaron Rodgers to secure the win and the Super Bowl.
6. Montana to Taylor (Super Bowl XXIII: San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16)
Quarterback Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers trailed the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13, starting their final drive on their eight yard line with 3:10 remaining in the game. Montana drove the team to the Cincinnati 10-yard line in ten plays.
It was second down and two yards to go where Montana had wide receiver John Taylor who streaked up the middle of the end zone and hit his target with 34 seconds remaining, leading to a 20-16 win and the third Super Bowl victory for Montana and the 49ers.
5. Dan Bunz’ goal line Tackle (Super Bowl XVI: San Francisco 49ers 26, Cincinnati Bengals 21)
Coming of a 20-0 halftime deficit, the Cincinnati Bengals needed one yard to get inside the end-zone and an opportunity to make it a one score game. Ramming the ball closer towards the goal line with numerous runs up the middle, it was now third and goal on the San Francisco one-yard line.
Quarterback Ken Anderson took a play action pass and hit running back Charles Alexander who caught the ball on the third yard line and headed up towards the endzone. Niners linebacker Dan Bunz found himself one-on-one in open space with Alexander and made the deflating tackle, stopping the Bengals from getting a TD. Leading into the fourth down stop by safety Ronnie Lott and linebacker Jack Reynolds made the fourth and goal tackle to kill the drive, changing the momentum leading to a 26-21 49ers victory.
With their backs against the wall going into halftime, the Pittsburgh Steelers led the driving Arizona Cardinals 10-7 with 18 seconds to go. Quarterback Kurt Warner faced a stifling Steelers blitz which caused him to force a throw towards wide receiver Anquan Boldin, what he didn’t see was linebacker James Harrison who showed blitz formation dropped back and the ball was intercepted on the goal line.
Harrison’s return was memorable as he sprinted straight towards the sideline with a convoy of Steeler defenders serving as blockers. He appeared to be knocked out of bounds, but kept it inbounds. Harrison showed running back-like footwork and balance and carried Cardinals receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston on his back into the endzone.
The 100-yard return was incredible especially due to the fact that the clock read zero, meaning that if Harrison was taken down any moment earlier the Steelers would probably not have walked into the locker room with the 17-7 lead on their way to the Super Bowl win.
3. Saints’ ambush onside kick (Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17)
Coming off halftime ahead 10-6, quarterback Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts appeared ready to take control of the game. Head coach Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints came out ready to kick off the ball and it appeared as status quo until Saints kicker Thomas Morstead took a slight turn to his left and chipped it for an onside kick.
It appeared as if receiver Hank Baskett of the Colts had it in his possession but he dropped it, and after the longest scrum in Super Bowl history, it was ruled Saints’ football.
The play called “ambush” was devised by Payton as the perfect way to keep the trailing Saints in the game, very risky as it could have placed the Colts in great position to extend their lead, but the execution of the kick and the recovery was the catalyst that carried the Saints to the Super Bowl upset over the Colts
2. Mike Jones tackles Kevin Dyson (Super Bowl XXXIV: St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair was on the cusp of finishing an unbelievable comeback after trailing to the “Best Show on Turf” St Louis Rams 16-0. In the final drive of the game and six seconds remaining, McNair had one play to send the game into overtime.
McNair took his drop-back, while tight end Frank Wycheck streaked upfield causing linebacker Mike Jones to trail him, while McNair hit wide receiver Kevin Dyson in stride at the four-yard line as he ran a quick slant pattern. Jones made a break towards Dyson and launched towards his feet and brought him down as Dyson extended his arm with the ball to the end zone, but was short only by a yard, finishing the dramatic win for the St Louis Rams.
1. David Tyree’s catch (Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14)
With the ball on their own 44-yard line, it was third down with five yards to go down. The score was 14-10 with under 90 seconds remaining. Quarterback Eli Manning dropped back and was met by a tremendous New England Patriots blitz, causing him to do the best magic trick of his career, bobbing and weaving his way out of the pile of humanity on which looked to be a sure sack.
Upon escaping the aggressive pass rush, Manning heaved up a pass to a seemingly perfectly covered wide receiver David Tyree, smothered by safety Rodney Harrsion. Harrison’s bat down attempt was countered by Tyree clinching the ball with one hand and gripping it to the side of his helmet resulting in a 32-yard gain. This seemingly broken play was the momentum swinger that led to wide receiver Plaxico Burress’ game winning TD catch four plays later and caused the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.