Flash back about 15 years.
That was a time before my children had single-handedly decimated my social life. I was out at a bar with several buddies, when one of my cronies boasted “I am going to make over $500,000 this year. That puts me in the top 2/10 of 1% of earners in the United States. That makes me truly elite.”
I came to two conclusions that night. First, this guy is a tool. And second, I now define “truly elite” as the top 2/10 of 1%.
With that in mind…
The Best, “Truly Elite” Plays in Super Bowl History
I am guessing – and please, if your Google skills are better than mine, tell me the exact number in the comments section below – that the Super Bowls, all 45 of them (I feel like I should say “all XLV of them”), have had about 5,500 total plays.
So, to be considered a “truly elite” play, you are talking about the top 2/10 of 1% of all plays ever run in a Super Bowl. The cream of the crop, the top of the heap, the best 13 plays in the history of the Super Bowl. (Note: best does not always mean good, in fact it could be the opposite, at least in the world through my goggles.)
You may disagree with some of these, so let the banter begin. I think these are the 11 best Super Bowl plays ever, the ones that changed history…
#13. Lynn Swann’s Catch in Super Bowl X
Lynn Swann’s 53-yard catch from Terry Bradshaw.
This play probably shouldn’t be on this list because it had no ultimate effect on the game and was not even part of a drive that resulted in points. But, man, that was one of the prettiest catches you will ever see.
First catch in the video below, with bonus John Facenda on audio:
#12. Unitas (to Hinton) to Mackey in Super Bowl V
Johnny Unitas’ 75-yard TD pass to John Mackey.
The Cowboys had a 6-0 lead and all the momentum in this one when Unitas’ passed deflected off his intended receiver Eddien Hinton and ended up in the arms of his stud TE, who rumbled 75 yards for the score.
Interestingly, the PAT was blocked, meaning that Jim O’Brien, the Colt kicker, had to redeem himself with a game winning field goal in the final seconds.
#11. Scott Norwood in Super Bowl XXV
Scott Norwood misses a 47-yard game winning field goal.
Yes, I put this play on the list over either of the Adam Vinitieri game winning field goals. Why? Because those kicks were the difference between winning and overtime. This was the difference between winning and losing.
One play. All the marbles. All on Scott Norwood’s right foot. Wide right (a saying that Bobby Bowden then went on to immortalize).
I still feel bad for him.
#10 (3-way Tie). Garo Yepremian, Jackie Smith, Leon Lett
All of these just had to be included. Classic. Priceless.
#7. Marcus Allen in Super Bowl XVIII
74-yard touchdown run by Marcus Allen in which he starts left and then cuts back and runs by the entire defense.
This is simply one of the prettiest runs you will ever see.
I would have been raked higher on this list except the fact that the Raiders won 38-9, and the score was already 28-9 when this happened in the 3rd quarter.
#6. 49ers’ Goalline Stand in Super Bowl XVI
It is almost unfair to include this as a single play, because, really, the entire 4-play, goal-to-go stand was remarkable. But the 3rd down swing pass to Charles Alexander, who was stopped a foot short of the goal line by Dan Bunz out in the flat in isolation, is one of the most memorable and important plays in Super Bowl history.
This video chronicles the entire four-down sequence, with John Facenda as a bonus narrator:
#5. David Tyree’s Catch in Super Bowl XLII
Eli Manning’s 32-yard pass to David Tyree. Facing 3rd and 5 from their own 43 with time running down on the Giants’ Super Bowl hopes, Manning escapes a near certain sack, then throws the ball up to David Tyree (who had 4 catches all season long, AND NONE EVER AGAIN IN HIS CAREER), who somehow secured the ball against his helmet.
Of course, The G-Men went on to win on a Plaxico Burress (pre-gunshot wound) TD, but this is the play everyone remembers:
#4. Kevin Dyson Stopped At The One in Super Bowl XXXIV
What a magical season.
St. Louis came out of nowhere to shock the world in still must be regarded as the most surprising rise from ashes in NFL history.
When they played the Titans for the championship of the world, many people point to Kurt Warner’s 73-yard TD pass to Isaac Bruce in the game’s last two minutes as the highlight of the game, but the “elite” play came from less heralded LB Mike Jones, who stopped Kevin Dyson from scoring on a slant pass as time expired, stopping him one yard short of the end zone and overtime.
Never before, and perhaps never again, has a Super Bowl ended so close to the end zone:
#3. James Harrison’s Pick-6 in Super Bowl XLIII
As with #4, many people would have the game winning TD as the play they point to when remembering Pittsburgh defeating Arizona just three years ago. And Roethlisberger’s pass to Santonio Holmes (and the entire two-minute drive) were tremendous, but none of it may have been possible without the game changing effort of James Harrison on the last play of the 1st half.
Sitting on the Pittsburgh 2-yard line with a 1st and goal with 18-seconds left in the first half, Arizona was poised to take a 14-10 halftime lead when Kurt Warner was picked off by James Harrison. It took him a while to get there, but Harrison made it past the entire Cardinals team to just get over the goal line for a 14-point swing
#2. Montana to Taylor in Super Bowl XXIII
The greatest #2 receiver in the history of NFL football, John Taylor, finally got his due, scoring the game-winning touchdown with only :34 seconds to play.
Joe Montana marched the team 92 yards on the game winning drive, after famously walking into the huddle, pointed at the crowd, and asking “Hey, isn’t that John Candy?”). Of course, Rice was still named the game’s MVP, but this is the play everyone remembers.
#1. John Riggins in Super Bowl XVII
With the Redskins facing 4th & 1 in the 4th quarter, trailing the Dolphins 17-13, Joe Gibbs went for it and handed the ball to his horse, John Riggins, who broke a tackle at the line and rumbled 43 yards for the go-ahead (and ultimately winning) score.
Nothing fancy. Just your typical dive play that decides the Super Bowl.
So, what do you think? What did I miss? What did I get right?
Let the debates begin….
Follow Brian Dilsheimer on Twitter @Dils_Ignite