With the 51st Super Bowl rapidly approaching, FOX Sports looks back at the 51 greatest plays in the game's history.
Kirby LeeUSA TODAY Sports
Butler's interception (Super Bowl XLIX)
With Seattle 1 yard away from a Super Bowl-winning touchdown, Russell Wilson opted to throw a quick strike to Ricardo Lockette rather than hand the ball to the game's best short-yardage back. New England's Malcolm Butler stepped in front of the pass, made an interception that's underrated for its difficultly and became the biggest play in Super Bowl history and, frankly, it's not even close.
Getty ImagesFocus On Sport
Montana-to-Taylor (Super Bowl XXIII)
Capping an 11-play, 98-yard drive that lasted just 2:30, Joe Montana hit a wide open John Taylor in stride to score the go-ahead touchdown with 34 seconds left against the Bengals. And to think, it was all inspired by Uncle Buck.
When Ben Roehtlisberger threw into the corner of the end zone for Santonio Holmes, who'd already had 67 yards on Pittsburgh's would-be, go-ahead touchdown drive, you thought there was no way Holmes had caught it. He had to extend too high to get the ball, leaving his feet vulnerable to slipping out of bounds. It wasn't until replay when you saw the 5-foot-11 Holmes stretch out to about 6-foot-3 to get a touchdown in the most entertaining Super Bowl of all.
The helmet catch (Super Bowl XLII)
The most famous play in the NFL history? After Eli Manning survived a sack, he heaved across the field to little-used David Tyree, who was smothered by Rodney Harrison and figured to have no chance to catch the desperation third-down heave. Somehow, Tyree pinned the ball to the top of his helmet and came down with the catch. Four plays later, Manning would hit Plaxico Buress for what would be the game-winning score.
70 Chip (Super Bowl XVII)
Here comes the Diesel. On fourth-and-1, Joe Gibbs called the play everybody knew he would. 70 chip. John Riggins took the handoff, was met by Miami's Don McNeal who went at Riggo and was thrown off like a kid at a bouncy house en route to the go-ahead, game-winning score.
James Harrison's 100-yard dash (Super Bowl XLIII)
The biggset momentum shift in Super Bowl history? Arizona had first-and-goal from the Steelers 1-yard line late in the second quarter, looking for a touchdown that would give it a 14-10 halftime lead. Instead, Kurt Warner threw a pick that was somehow returned for 100 yards by James Harrison, who staggered to the other end zone like an Ironman competitor on his last legs. What would have been, at worst, a 10-10 tie, at best a 14-10 lead, instead turned into a disastrous 17-7 deficit. According to Pro Football Reference, Arizona's win probability went from 52.8% to 8.3% in those 100 yards.
Porter picks Peyton (Super Bowl XLIV)
Peyton Manning had the ball down seven, inside his opponent's territory with 3:30 left in the Super Bowl. It's just what every young quarterback dreams about. Maybe not Peyton, though. Living down to expectations, he took a shotgun, almost burned a hole in Reggie Wayne by staring at him so hard and then floated a ball that Tracy Porter stepped in front of and ran in for the game-clinching touchdown.
Vinatieri FTW (Super Bowl XXXVI)
After two kicks in snow during the Tuck Rule Game, did you really think Adam Vinatieri was going to miss a 48-yarder in a dome? One beef though: Vinatieri kicked the ball with 7 seconds left. You go and time a 48-yard field goal. Four seconds, max. There was 3 seconds when the ball went through the upright, meaning New England should have had to kick off to the Rams to give The Greatest Show on Turf one last performance.
This content is subject to copyright.NFL
Touchdown or kneel? (Super Bowl XLVI)
"GO DOWN!" all of the Patriots-hating universe was saying as Ahmad Bradshaw scored the more uncertain touchdown in Super Bowl history. If Bradshaw had taken a knee, the Giants could have run out the clock and kicked a field goal to win, thus leaving no time for Tom Brady to mount one of his Tom Brady comebacks. Instead, Bradshaw gave the Pats 57 seconds to score a go-ahead touchdown. But for whatever reason -- maybe the balls were inflated properly or Bill Belichick didn't have videotape of the Giants' 2-minute defense -- the Pats didn't score so no harm, no foul. (I'm Team Ahmad on this one, by the way. Taking a knee when you're ahead -- Brian Westbrook stye -- is the right strategy. If you don't have a lead, you've gotta get this points when they're available. Seattle was going to win Super Bowl XLVIII too and then our No. 1 play happened.)
Getty ImagesFocus On Sport
Scott Norwood (Super Bowl XXV)
The drop (Super Bowl XIII)
"He must be the sickest man in America." Jackie Smith played 15 spectacular seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals and played exactly two playoff games, with no wins. At the end of his career, he went to Dallas for one season, where he mostly sat on the bench or blocked, not catching a single ball until the playoffs. With Dallas trailing the Steelers in the third quarter, Smith broke wide open into the end zone needed only to corral a Roger Staubach pass that was in the numbers to tie the game entering the fourth. Smith, his 16 years of experience wiped away in the pressure of the moment, jerked arrhythmically and the ball bounced away. The Cowboys would kick a field goal and then go on to lose by four points.
Squirek's pick-six (Super Bowl XVIII)
What were Joe Theismann and the Redskins thinking? Washington had survived a first-half Los Angeles onslaught and would have limped into the locker room down but not out, trailing 14-3 but getting the ball to start the second half. But Theismann inexplicably threw a backward screen pass from his own 12 with 12 seconds left. Jack Squirek jumped the route and started the rout -- going 5 yards for a touchdown.
Getty ImagesFocus On Sport
Isaac Bruce's game-winner (Super Bowl XXXIV)
Another forgotten gem: Issac Bruce took a Kurt Warner pass and went 73 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, setting up Tennessee for its final drive that would end 3 feet short.
The first game-winner (Super Bowl V)
Jim O'Brien's game-winning field goal in Super Bowl V wouldn't be matched until Adam Vinatieri three decades later.
The beautiful bomb (Super Bowl XIV)
Down two points and facing third-and-8 from his own 27, Terry Bradshaw unleased a missile to John Stallworth, hitting him perfectly in stride, for the go-ahead touchdown that would cap Pittsburgh's perfect 4-0 Super Bowl run in the 1970s.
Andy HaytGetty Images
Dyson misses by a yard (Super Bowl XXXIV)
You have to throw the ball into the end zone. You have to. It's like a birdie putt. It can't go in if you leave it short.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Hero Ricky Proehl? (Super Bowl XXXVI)
TOO SOON! The Rams took exactly 14 seconds off the clock to tie Super Bowl XXXVI in the final two minutes. But without the Kurt Warner-to-Ricky Proehl touchdown, Adam Vinatieri never would have had the chance to become a hero.
This content is subject to copyright.Sporting News via Getty Images
Pittsburgh's block (Super Bowl X)
Those Pittsburgh teams of the '70s didn't need any late heroics to win those four titles but they didn't dominate en route to the wins either. In their second championship game, the Steelers trailed 10-7 entering the fourth quarter but blocked a punt and earned a safety that turned around the game. (This isn't a picture of that punt, but another. It's like history wants to forget.)
Diamond ImagesDiamond Images
Super Mario (Super Bowl XLVI)
The catch was better than David Tyree's. Without Mario Manningham's 38-yard tightrope catch that put the Giants at midfield late in their Super rematch with the Patriots, Ahmad Bradshaw might have never scored his "will he or won't he" touchdown. Tyree's catch was lucky. You'll never convince me otherwise. Manningham's catch was brilliant. He caught the ball over his shoulder, got pushed out of bounds the instant the ball made contact and while his upper body responded to the push, his lower body stayed oddly still, allowing him to tap his toes in bounds for the catch. Lost in all of the hype about these Giants receptions is that New England was playing great defense on both.
Getty ImagesRob Carr
Vinatieri II (Super Bowl XXXVIII)
Forget his 21-year career and kicking well into his mid-40s. Vinatieri should make the Hall of Fame based on his two Super Bowl kicks alone. (As it is, those plus his tremendous career should get him in.)
This content is subject to copyright.Boston Globe via Getty Images
Maybe this time? (Super Bowl XXXVIII)
Vinatieri's sequel wouldn't have been necessary if Ricky Proehl (again?) hadn't gotten open on third-and-8 with 1:13 to tie the game.
Larry Brown's clincher (Super Bowl XXX)
Forget a trained seal. An untrained seal should have been able to coach this Cowboys team to a Super Bowl, especially over a mediocre Steelers team led by Neil O'Donnell. But there they were, up three with 4 minutes left and tasked with keeping the Steelers from getting into field-goal range or, worse, the end zone. Out stepped Larry Brown, who caught an O'Donnell interception that wasn't within yards of anyone in a black jersey.
Sports IllustratedSports Illustrated/Getty Images
TD's TD (Super Bowl XXXII)
No one said "boo" when the Pats let Ahmad Bradshaw score his touchdown because, by then, the NFL had evolved into a league where the conventional wisdom had been frequently upended. But when Mike Holmgren's Packers let Terrell Davis score a touchdown -- with the same idea that getting the ball back with some time is better than no time at all -- he was roasted for it. Everybody likes to think these so-called hot takes are a product of the Internet age. Google "Mike Holmgren lets Broncos score Super Bowl" and you'll find otherwise. The dumbest part of the criticism is that it almost worked. Brett Favre got Green Bay to first-and-10 on Denver's 35-yard line with 1:04 left but couldn't complete quick passes on second, third or fourth down.
Ty sets the tone (Super Bowl XXXVI)
Don't undervalue tone setters. When Ty Law picked off Kurt Warner and brought it to the house in the first quarter of what was supposed to be a Super Blowout, New England sent a message that it wasn't going to lay down because of a two-touchdown point spread and put St. Louis in the unfamiliar territory of playing from behind.
A virtuoso performance (Super Bowl XXII)
Any of the five touchdowns in Washington's record-setting second quarter could have made this list, but the first -- an 80-yard bomb from Doug Williams to Ricky Sanders that featured the most beautiful spiral in NFL history and didn't force Sanders to slow down or speed up his gait -- was the one that announced the Broncos, who led 10-0 at the time (no team had ever come back from such a deficit in Super Bowl history), that Wahington was right back in it.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
A Steelers strike (Super Bowl X)
With 3:31 left and Pittsburgh facing third-and-4, Terry Bradshaw went deep to Lynn Swann for a 64-yard touchdown that was a Dallas backbreaker.
Larry Fitzgerald's go-ahead streak (Super Bowl XLIII)
Man, this was an awesome game. Kurt Warner threw underneath to Larry Fitzgerald, who then sprinted 60 yards, leaving three defenders in his wake like he was Carl Lewis at those boycotted Olympics. The touchdown gave Arizona the lead -- briefly.
Out of bounds (Super Bowl XXXVIII)
The forgotten play from the Patriots' Super Bowl victories: After Ricky Proehl's touchdown for Carolina tied the game, surefooted kicker John Kasay knocked the kickoff out of bounds, giving Tom Brady a short field with which to set up Adam Vinatieri.
McNair magic (Super Bowl XXXIV)
Kevin Dyson doesn't have a chance to tie the Super Bowl if not for Steve McNair. On the play before the final play, McNair was set up in the shotgun, dropped back, scrambled foreward, saw the defense closing the gap, stopped on a dime, did a 180, rolled left, saw an incoming defender, cut right, saw another incoming defender, sprinted right, stiff-armed the second defender, got pulled down by both, somehow stayed on his feet to avoid the sack that would have essentially ended the game, put his hand on the ground to push himself back up, wiggled away from the defenders and, with open field in front of him, got a running start to rifle 27-yard pass to Dyson with 6 seconds left that set up Tennessee's last-gasp effort.
Hair of the dog (Super Bowl I)
Max McGee was a 34-year-old veteran on his way to retirement. He was a backup to receiver Boyd Dowler and figured to see little, if any, time in Super Bowl I. So he went to a bar, met up with some stewardesses, spent the night with them, woke up with a headache, got the locker room and found out Dowler was out and he'd be playing. In the first quarter he scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl history, grabbing behind his back to bring in a Bart Starr pass. In the third, he added another. McGee should have won MVP. Of the game, not the bar, though maybe both.
Desmond's return (Super Bowl XXXI)
The Patriots scored to make it a six-point game late in the third quarter. It remained that way for about 17 seconds and 99 yards. Neither team would score again and Howard took home the MVP.
AFP/Getty ImagesRHONA WISE
Shotgun safety (Super Bowl XLVIII)
What did we say about tone setters? This was supposed to be a titanic clash of the No. 1 offense and the No. 1 defense. But when the first snap of the game sailed over Peyton Manning's head and scooted into the end zone for a safety, the blowout that came next was suddenly less surprising.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Ambush (Super Bowl XLIV)
Ambush. A great name for a play, especially one executed so well. New Orleans was down 10-6 at halftime and kicked off to start the second half. But kicker Thomas Morstead, a rookie, snuck an onside kick that fooled the Colts and the 110 million people watching. It's brilliance was that it was so unnecessary. New Orleans scored on the drive.
29-yard sack (Super Bowl VI)
In what's still an NFL (not just Super Bowl) record, Bob Griese ran 29 yards backward to get sacked by Bob Lilly. It was tied in recent years though by one Timothy Tebow.
Beebe beats Leon (Super Bowl XXVII)
If this were a list of the most memorable plays, Don Beebe and Leon Lett would be in the top five. This is hardly a unqiue comment, but I still can't get over how Leon Lett is involved in two of the five biggest blunders in NFL history.
Getty ImagesRick Stewart
Receiver-to-receiver (Super Bowl XL)
Odd that a college quarterback got a chance to throw the ball on a gadget play, isn't it Seattle? Although I guess when these things are executed perfectly - like, say, when you have a former college quarterback playing receiver - they're hard to stop.
Old Man Willie (Super Bowl XI)
"Old Man Willie." If you were like me, you grew up watching old NFL Films video cassettes and probably saw Willie Brown's 75-yard interception return 100 times. It didn't have much meaning in the game but provides an indelible memory for fans of a certain age.
Hank Stram's touchdown call (Super Bowl IV)
"65 toss power trap." Those who watched the videos know what I'm talking about.
Kearse's forgotten catch (Super Bowl XLIX)
Remember Marcus Paige's circus three-pointer that tied the NCAA championship game last April? Maybe, but it's hazy because Kris Jenkins made it moot when he drained a three of his own at the buzzer, just seconds later. The Jermaine Kearse catch, the one he made after falling to the ground and bringing in to his body, would have been the most memorable thing about Super Bowl XLVIII until Russell Wilson decided to throw that interpcetion a few plays later.
APDavid J. Phillip
Marcus to the house (Super Bowl XVIII)
Marcus Allen's 74-yard run defined the Raiders' dominance of the Redskins in and was, for more than 20 years, the longest in the game's history. It's still only been surpassed once, by 1 yard, when Willie Parker took it 75 yards in Super Bowl XL.
A pre-blackout stunner (Super Bowl XLVII)
Jacoby Jones took the opening kickoff of the second half 108 yards for a touchdown that put Baltimore up 28-6. Then the blackout hit and the 49ers crawled their way back into the game. Without Jacoby's run, maybe they would have made it all the way back.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportCharles LeClaire
The helicopter (Super Bowl XXXII)
Like a lot of great plays in NFL history, John Elway's helicopter benefits from hype and fading memories. The play didn't happen in the fourth quarter. It didn't score a touchdown. It didn't clinch the game. What it did was convert a third-and-6 from inside the 10 to set up a Terrell Davis touchdown that gave Denver a 24-17 lead. It was also short-lived. Green Bay fumbled the subsequent kickoff, giving Denver a chance to blow open the game. But Elway threw a pick-six on his first throw of the series and it was back to 24-all, like the helicopter never happened. Great play? Yes. Important play? Not really.
This content is subject to copyright.Sporting News via Getty Images
Theismann's knockdown (Super Bowl XVII)
Late in the third quarter, with the Redskins trailing 17-13, Joe Theismann threw a pass that was tipped by Miami's giant linebacker Kim Bokamper. It looked like it'd fall right back into Bokamper's hands and bring on an easy 15-yard touchdown return, but Theismann alertly ran over, knocked down the deflection and Washington retained the ball, still down 17-13, which was better than 24-13.
Hester's opening heroics (Super Bowl XLI)
At least the Bears had one highlight of Super Bowl XLI.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Lambert protects his kicker (Super Bowl X)
Jack Lambert is one of the toughest guys to ever take the football field, and don't think it was just related to cracking receivers over the middle or pounding QBs into the turf. When rookie kicker Roy Gerela missed a big field goal in Super Bowl X, Dallas safety Cliff Harris started to talk a little trash. Lambert heard it, sprinted over and then threw Harris to the turf, Lambert style. He was threatened with ejection which doesn't seem like much of a deterrent, but whatever.
Eugene's rough weekend (Super Bowl XXXIII)
On the Saturday before the Super Bowl, Falcons star and leader Eugene Robinson was awarded the 1999 Bart Starr Award from the religious group Athletes in Action. On Saturday night he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute in a seedy section of Miami. On Sunday evening, Robinson was beaten by Rod Smith on an 80-yard touchdown that basically decided the game. All in all, pretty solid weekend.
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Garo (Super Bowl VII)
“I keek a touchdown!” At least that's what Garo Yepremien, the Cypriot soccer player who became an NFL placekicker, supposedly said after successful kicks early in his career. In Super Bowl VII, he tried to throw for one after a bad snap and it led to one of the greatest bloopers in the game's history. It also had another effect: As Don Shula noted, if Garo had made the kick it would have made the game 17-0 -- a 17-0 shutout win in a 17-0 perfect season. Alas, Mike Bass of the Redskins wrestled the ball from Yepremien and scored a touchdown to make it a more respectable 14-7 score.
Focus on SportGetty Images
The Fridge, for some reason (Super Bowl XX)
You're lookin' at The Fridge, he's the rookie, he may be large but he's no dumb cookie. You've seen him hit, you've seen him run, you've seen Mike Ditka ridiculously put him in the game for a garbage touchdown instead of giving Walter Payton the honor he deserved. That last part doesn't rhyme, but neither did a lot of The Super Bowl Shuffle.
Back-to-back (Super Bowl XXXV)
Back-to-back kick-return touchdowns is about as exciting as Super Bowl XXXV got.
This content is subject to copyright.AFP/Getty Images
Swann dive (Super Bowl X)
I wonder if Lynn Swann and John Stallworth also confuse their big catches? This one -- Swann's majestic, diving catch against the Cowboys -- didn't matter but it sure was pretty.
Thurman loses his head (Super Bowl XXVI)
NFL MVP Thurman Thomas couldn't find his helmet before Super Bowl XXVI and missed the first two plays because of it. He finished the game with 13 yards on 10 carries. Maybe it should have stayed hidden.