Both Brett Favre and Terry Bradshaw have made their share of big plays in Super Bowls. But are any top 10 worthy all-time? Adrian Hasenmayer rates the greatest plays ever in pro football's greatest games as we roll towards Super Bowl XLVIII.
Super Bowl XLIV - Picking Peyton's pocket
Feb. 7, 2010 — The Saints weren't supposed to be in the Super Bowl, let alone win one against Peyton Manning and the Colts. But there they were, taking a fourth-quarter lead over Indy with just over five minutes remaining. Surely Manning would tie the game, right? After driving the Colts within scoring range, "the Oreo kid" hit the guy in the wrong jersey. Saints cornerback Tracy Porter (pictured) picked off a key third-down pass and raced 74 yards to ice New Orleans' first Super Bowl ever.
Super Bowl XXV - The 'broken' play
Jan. 27, 1991 — If the New York Giants were to beat the high-powered Buffalo Bills, it would have to be with "small ball" — patient offense, lots of running and no wasted opportunities. One third-quarter drive, and play, symbolized the perfect blueprint for the upset. As the Giants ground out a then-record 9-minute, 29-second drive, WR Mark Ingram converted a critical 3rd-and-13 by breaking five different tackles and relentlessly clawing to a 14-yard gain (one of four third-down conversions on the drive) to help set up the go-ahead TD in what became a 20-19 classic win for New York.
Super Bowl XVIII - Marcus Allen's cutback
Jan. 22, 1984 — The defending champion 14-2 Washington Redskins may have entered as the favorites, but this Super Bowl was one-sided in the other direction. The biggest reason: Super Bowl MVP Marcus Allen, who stole the stage with a scintillating 191-yard rushing effort. His best move was saved for the final snap of the third quarter, as Allen turned a doomed sweep left into the best cutback run in Super Bowl history and a 74-yard TD run to give the Raiders a 35-9 lead en route to the trophy.
Super Bowl XVII - 4th-and-destiny
Jan. 30, 1983 — The Washington Redskins had lost just one game all season — albeit in a strike-shortened regular season. But the 'Skins trailed the Miami Dolphins 17-13 in the fourth quarter when they faced a decision: 4th-and-1 at the Dolphins 43. Too far for a field goal, but why punt when down late? So the Redskins went to their horse, 240-pound RB John Riggins, who got their first down, broke a tackle attempt by Don McNeal (pictured) and scored the game-winning TD in an eventual 27-17 win.
Super Bowl X - Super Sunday ballet
Jan. 18, 1976 — The list of key contributors to the Steelers' Super era in the '70s is long, but WR Lynn Swann secured a prominent place on it with his performance in the club's 21-17 victory over the Cowboys. He had just four catches, but for 161 yards, including a majestic, awe-inspiring 64-yard grab in the fourth quarter. He became the first wide receiver to be named the Super Bowl's most valuable player, and is remembered always in NFL Films lore.
Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII - Mr. Clutch
Feb. 3, 2002 & Feb. 1, 2004 — How many get the chance to win a Super Bowl in the final seconds, not once, but twice? Adam Vinatieri, step right up. In Super Bowl XXXVI, the New England kicker became the first man to score the ultimate game's winning points on the final play as his 48-yard field goal gave the Patriots an emotional 20-17 win over the Rams. Two years later, Vinatieri struck again vs. the Carolina Panthers with a 41-yard walkoff to win 32-29. That's clutch.
Super Bowl XXXIV - The Tackle
Jan. 30, 2000 — If you like drama, it's hard to beat the ending the Rams and Titans gave the stunned audience. The Rams, known as "The Greatest Show on Turf" because of a record-setting offense, built a 16-0 third-quarter lead before Titans QB Steve McNair led a resilient comeback, tying the game at 16-16 with 2:12 left. But on St. Louis' next play, Kurt Warner found Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard TD pass. The Titans weren't giving up, starting from their 12-yard line, McNair rallied to the Rams' 10 with six seconds left — time for one last play. McNair found Kevin Dyson on a slant, but Rams LB Mike Jones saved the Super Bowl with a title-saving tackle just one yard from the end zone.
Super Bowl XXIII - Montana to Taylor
Jan. 22, 1989 — The Cincinnati Bengals (yes, THOSE Bengals!) were just over three minutes from winning their first Super Bowl ever. But after taking the lead against the two-time champion 49ers with 3:20 left, even Cincy WR Cris Collinsworth admitted later that there was just too much time left for Joe Montana. Sure enough, "Joe Cool" led the Niners on a title-winning 92-yard drive, culminating with a classic clinching TD pass to John Taylor (pictured) with 35 seconds remaining — giving San Fran its third Super Bowl win.
Super Bowl XLIII - Nice catch, Holmes!
Feb. 1, 2009 — Two plays — one at the end of each half — defined this classic, preventing the Cinderella Cardinals from beating the Steelers and their five previous Lombardi trophies. On what turned out to be the last play of the first half, Steelers LB James Harrison picked off Cardinals QB Kurt Warner and rumbled for a record 100-yard interception return, giving the Steelers a 17-7 halftime lead. That saved the lead, and Santonio Holmes (pictured) won it all with an incredibly athletic grab on a pinpoint toss from Ben Roethlisberger with 35 seconds left to give Pittsburgh the thrilling 27-23 win.
Super Bowl XLII - The Helmet Catch
Feb. 3, 2008 — This Super Bowl upset is celebrated for the most amazing, game-changing play in the title game's history. Down 14-10 late vs. the 18-0 Patriots, Giants QB Eli Manning scrambled for what seemed like an eternity and heaved a prayer downfield toward no-name WR David Tyree (No. 85), blanketed by safety Rodney Harrison. In an insult to physics and Albert Einstein, Tyree secured the 32-yard catch by wedging the back half of the ball against his helmet — while fighting off Harrison defending. Instead of 4th-and-20, the Giants had first down and eventually scored to make history vs. New England. — Adrian Hasenmayer