The 55 greatest Super Bowl moments in NFL history
The Super Bowl has provided so many indelible memories. Here are 55 of my favorites as Super Bowl 55 between the Buccaneers and Chiefs nears:
1. Malcolm Butler's INT: Pivotal. Shocking. Unforgettable. The New England Patriots' undrafted rookie cornerback made the rarest of plays, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat by intercepting Russell Wilson at the goal line with 20 seconds left to preserve a 28-24 win in Super Bowl 49. In the process, Butler derailed the Seattle Seahawks' bid to become the league's latest dynasty and launched a lifetime of second guessing for the legions who skewered Seattle coach Pete Carroll for not directing Wilson to hand off to Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch, who'd already scored once this day. Last, yet certainly not least, Butler saved Patriots QB Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick from the narrative that they were "only" 3-3 in Super Bowls up to that point. Way to just “do your job," Malcolm Butler!
2. David Tyree's helmet catch: Most coaches would cringe if their quarterback threw into triple coverage in the middle of the field while scrambling amid a broken play. But that's what New York Giants star Eli Manning did, and Tyree famously managed to pin the pass against his helmet on the other end of the 32-yard hookup with 59 seconds to go. Four plays later, Manning hit Plaxico Burress for the game-winning TD as the Giants shocked the previously undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl 42.
3. Wide right: That's where Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood's 47-yard field-goal try (barely) missed with 4 seconds left in Super Bowl 25. The Giants hung on for a 20-19 win, and the Bills would never get any closer to a title despite reaching Super Sunday three more times.
4. Roethlisberger-to-Holmes: What was better, Ben Roethlisberger's precision strike to the back corner of the end zone – rifled through three Arizona Cardinals – or Santonio Holmes' ability to snatch it while keeping his toes down as he fell out of bounds with 35 seconds on the clock? Beautifully executed all the way around, and it gave the Pittsburgh Steelers a record sixth Lombardi Trophy as they rallied for a 27-23 victory in Super Bowl 43.
5. Montana-to-Taylor: The San Francisco 49ers' game-winning march began with Joe Montana surveying the stands and asking teammates in the huddle, "Isn't that John Candy?" Joe Cool indeed. Eleven plays and 92 yards later, John Taylor caught the decisive 10-yard pass from Montana with just 34 seconds to go as the Niners overcame the Cincinnati Bengals 20-16 in Super Bowl 23.
6. Mike Jones' tackle: With the Tennessee Titans 10 yards away from a potential game-tying touchdown with 5 seconds to play in Super Bowl 34, Jones, an unheralded St. Louis Rams linebacker, limited receiver Kevin Dyson to a 9-yard gain – just shy of the goal line – on the game-ending play.
7. Adam Vinatieri's Super Bowl 36 field goal: On the final snap, the Patriots kicker split the uprights from 48 yards – he was celebrating before the ball went through – literally kickstarting the New England dynasty and completing one of the Super Bowl's biggest upsets as the Pats knocked off the heavily favored Rams 20-17. Vinatieri would drill an only slightly less dramatic field goal in the final seconds two years later to beat the Carolina Panthers.
8. 70 chip: That was the play call by the Washington Redskins, who trailed the Miami Dolphins 17-13, on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 17. The ball went to John Riggins, who, running behind his "Hogs" offensive line, ran through the tackle of Don McNeal before busting down the left sideline for a 43-yard touchdown the Fins would never overcome.
9. Tracy Porter's pick-six: With Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 31 yards away from a game-tying touchdown with less than four minutes to go in Super Bowl 44, the New Orleans Saints corner swiped a pass intended for Reggie Wayne at his own 26 and set sail for a game-icing 74-yard TD.
10. James White in OT: The unheralded third-down back of the Patriots ran 2 yards to glory in the first (and still only) Super Sunday overtime, capping New England's epic comeback against the Atlanta Falcons while boosting his Super Bowl single-game record point total to 20.
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11. Doug Williams' comeback: The Redskins quarterback crumbled to the turf while being sacked in the first quarter, his surgically repaired left knee hyperextended with his team trailing the Denver Broncos 10-0. But Williams would miss just two plays before launching four TD passes in the next period on his way to becoming MVP and the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl as Washington cruised to a 42-10 rout in Super Bowl 22.
12. We're No. 1: Joe Namath's raised index finger as he jogged off the Orange Bowl field after the New York Jets' monumental upset of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3 said it all, especially after the MVP's famous pregame guarantee that the 18-point underdogs would prevail.
13. Terry Bradshaw KO'd: As he launched what would prove to be the decisive 64-yard TD pass to Lynn Swann in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 10, the chin of the Steelers quarterback was introduced to the helmet of Dallas Cowboys lineman Larry Cole. Bradshaw was out before he hit the ground and wouldn't play again in the game, but his throw earned Pittsburgh its second ring.
14. John Elway's helicopter: The 37-year-old Broncos quarterback, in desperate pursuit of his first title after being blown out in his first three Super Sunday starts, famously went airborne and was spun around by Green Bay Packers defenders on an 8-yard third-quarter run that gave Denver a first-and-goal. It set up Terrell Davis' go-ahead TD run in Super Bowl 32, which the Broncos eventually won 31-24.
15. Isaac Bruce's TD: It gets overshadowed by Jones' tackle, but the Rams don't win without Kurt Warner's 73-yard TD pass to Bruce with 1:54 to go on St. Louis' first play after the Titans had erased a 16-0 deficit.
16. Jim O'Brien's kick: The Baltimore Colts rookie saw his first extra-point try blocked and missed his initial field-goal attempt in a mistake-laden Super Bowl 5. But his 32-yard field goal with 5 seconds left gave the Colts a 16-13 defeat of the Cowboys in the Super Bowl's first truly dramatic moment.
17. James Harrison's INT return: The Steelers pass-rushing linebacker dropped into coverage on a hunch and picked off Warner at the goal line before a 100-yard tightrope sprint up the sideline for a TD completed what was at least a 10-point swing in Super Bowl 43, which Pittsburgh won by four points.
18. Mario Manningham's catch: Four years after being victimized by Tyree, the Patriots fell prey to an amazing 38-yard completion from Manning to Manningham with 3:39 to go on the Giants' game-winning drive of Super Bowl 46. Manningham barely got his feet down at midfield, a play the Patriots unsuccessfully challenged.
19. Jackie Smith's drop: The Hall of Fame tight end, wide open in the end zone, dropped a surefire TD pass from Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach in Super Bowl 13 that would have knotted the game 21-21, prompting broadcaster Verne Lundquist to exclaim, "Bless his heart, he's got to be the sickest man in America." Yep. The Cowboys would eventually lose to the Steelers 35-31.
20. 2-3 Jet Chip Wasp: Trailing by 10 with more than half the fourth quarter expired and facing a third-and-15 from his own 35-yard line in Super Bowl 54, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes knew his team was backed into a deep corner. But he suggested this play call, which required Tyreek Hill to run a late-developing route deep into San Francisco's zone coverage. Mahomes took the snap and had to drop 14 yards into the pocket in order to evade the 49ers' relentless pass rush, then heaved the ball downfield toward Hill, who'd cut toward the sideline to find a soft spot in the zone. The result was a 44-yard completion that set up a Mahomes TD pass three plays later and opened the floodgates for K.C.'s belated 21-point outburst and first championship in 50 years.
21. Julian Edelman’s shoestring snatch: The Patriots' slot man extraordinaire snared a ball that was deflected (and nearly intercepted) by Falcons corner Robert Alford microns above the turf, extending New England's game-tying drive after the team had fallen behind 28-3 in the second half of Super Bowl 51. It was also a welcome turn of events to Pats fans, who'd suffered through script-flipping catches by Tyree and Manningham.
22. John Kasay's errant kickoff: The Panthers had just tied Super Bowl 38 29-29 with 73 seconds to go. Then Kasay booted the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, putting Brady and the Patriots at their own 40-yard line. Six plays and just 37 yards was all they needed to set up Vinatieri for the kill shot.
23. Favre-to-Rison: Vintage Brett Favre. On the Packers' second play of Super Bowl 31, the MVP quarterback called an audible before launching a 54-yard touchdown to Andre Rison streaking down the middle of the field. Favre sprinted after his receiver, his helmet held aloft, and Green Bay was on its way to its first title in 29 years.
24. 'Philly Special': It's already earned its spot in Super Bowl lore as the enduring moment of the Philadelphia Eagles' long-awaited Super Bowl 52 victory. However quarterback Nick Foles' 1-yard TD grab from tight end Trey Burton off a reverse, on fourth-and-goal just before halftime, was really more gutsy than conclusive given the Patriots eventually overcame the 22-12 hole they fell into on the play.
25. The lights go out in New Orleans: With the 49ers trailing the Baltimore Ravens 28-6 in the third quarter of Super Bowl 47, half of the Superdome's lights lost power, causing a 34-minute delay. The Niners surged back, eventually cutting the lead to two, before ultimately succumbing.
26. 49ers' goal-line stand: Up 20-7 in the third quarter of Super Bowl 16, San Francisco turned the Bengals away three times from the 1-yard line, including linebacker Dan Bunz's open-field tackle of Charles Alexander on a third-down swing pass. The 49ers would eventually hang on 26-21 for their first title.
27. Seahawks safety: On the first play from scrimmage in Super Bowl 48, Broncos center Manny Ramirez's snap sailed over the head of Peyton Manning and into the end zone, giving Seattle a 2-0 lead. No one knew it then, but the game was essentially over as the Seahawks would score the first 36 points in a 43-8 laugher.
28. Garo's gaffe: The Dolphins' Cyprus-born kicker made the team's bid for a 17-0 season too close for comfort in Super Bowl 7. Trying to give Miami a 17-0 lead with less than three minutes to go, Yepremian's 42-yard field-goal attempt was blocked. He unwisely tried to pass the ball after collecting the rebound, and it ended up in the hands of Washington's Mike Bass, who took it 49 yards for the Redskins' only score.
29. Graham cracker: The play didn't garner the cachet of the "Philly Special," but Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham's strip sack of Brady with 2:09 remaining in Super Bowl 52 was the key (only?) defensive play on a day when the teams combined for an NFL record 1,151 yards of offense. Brady's fumble occurred with New England trailing 38-33 and led to Philly's game-icing field goal.
30. Ahmad Bradshaw's TD mistake: The Giants tailback scored what proved to be a game-winning 6-yard TD with 57 seconds left in Super Bowl 46, which New York would win 21-17. However the Patriots let Bradshaw into the end zone in order to get the ball back to Brady – New York could have milked the clock before a chip-shot field goal – which he realized too late as he awkwardly fell into the paint. (The Packers used a similar tactic 14 years before, also unsuccessfully.) Ultimately, no harm, no foul for Bradshaw.
31. John Stallworth's big catch: He's often overshadowed by Steelers teammate Swann, but Stallworth's 73-yard TD grab from Bradshaw in the fourth quarter finally put the Steelers ahead for good in what had been a nip-and-tuck Super Bowl 14 against the Los Angeles Rams.
32. Ambush: This was the play call of the Saints' surprise onside kick by Thomas Morstead to start the second half of Super Bowl 44. New Orleans recovered and soon scored a go-ahead TD.
33. Vince Lombardi carried off: The iconic Packers coach, reviled by many of his players a decade earlier but eventually beloved, rode off the field on the shoulders of his charges, including guard Jerry Kramer, as Green Bay won its fifth and final title of the 1960s by winning Super Bowl 2. It was Lombardi’s final game as the Packers coach.
34. Buddy Ryan carried off: The defensive coordinator of the famed 1985 Chicago Bears defense got the same treatment as head coach Mike Ditka after a 46-10 blowout of the Patriots in Super Bowl 20. It was emblematic of divided loyalties on a team that wouldn't win another title after Ryan left to coach the Eagles.
35. Super Bowl's first TD: It was scored by Packers receiver Max McGee, who was only playing because of an injury to teammate Boyd Dowler. McGee was at less than 100% after a long night of partying, but you'd never know as he reached behind his back for an underthrown pass from Bart Starr on a 37-yard score that got Green Bay on course for a 35-10 win over the Chiefs.
36. Jacoby Jones' heroics: Few had heard of him before he ended the Ravens' final drive in the first half of Super Bowl 47 with a 56-yard TD catch. Jones then opened the second half with a record 108-yard kickoff return for a TD that gave Baltimore a 28-6 lead that proved too much for the 49ers to erase ... even with help from that power outage.
37. Jerome Bettis leaves tunnel alone: The Hall of Fame running back was playing his final game in his hometown, Detroit, for Super Bowl 40. Bettis charged out of the tunnel for pregame introductions and, unbeknownst to him, linebacker Joey Porter held the rest of the Steelers back to give his teammate a special moment. Eventually realizing he was by himself on the field, a beaming Bettis beckoned his teammates to join him in a game they would win 21-10.
38. Marcus Allen's 74-yard TD: It was really icing on the cake as the Los Angeles Raiders took a 35-9 third-quarter lead over Washington in Super Bowl 18. But the MVP's ability to find daylight after reversing his field on what looked like a doomed play had President Ronald Reagan quipping after the game: "I have already got a call from Moscow. They think Marcus Allen is a new secret weapon and they insist that we dismantle him."
39. Whoops, Leon Lett: The mishaps of the Cowboys defensive tackle have overshadowed a sterling career. But we can't forget that his showboating on a 64-yard fumble return in Super Bowl 27 enabled Bills receiver Don Beebe to swat the ball out of Lett's paw for a touchback just short of another Dallas touchdown. It prevented the triumphant Cowboys from scoring a game record 59 points.
40. 65 Toss Power Trap: Chiefs coach Hank Stram, famously mic'd up as NFL Films tried a new technique, gleefully called the play that would result in a 5-yard Mike Garrett touchdown and a 16-0 lead in Super Bowl 4, which Kansas City would go on to win 23-7.
41. Jack Lambert sticks up for teammate: Steelers kicker Roy Gerela had a rough Super Bowl 10, missing two field goals and an extra point. But when Cowboys safety Cliff Harris patted Gerela on the helmet after his 33-yard misfire in the third quarter, Lambert – Pittsburgh's menacing middle linebacker – flung Harris to the turf and stood over him. Dallas players later admitted Harris' taunt infuriated the Steelers, who trailed 10-7 at the time but outscored Dallas 14-7 in the fourth quarter to prevail.
42. Wardrobe Malfunction: Admit it, Janet Jackson's halftime "slip" provided your most vivid memory of Super Bowl 38.
43. 'Somebody take the monkey off my back!': After throwing a Super Bowl record six TD passes (and finally escaping Montana's considerable shadow), MVP Steve Young couldn't contain his relief with this statement near the end of the 49ers' 49-26 blowout of the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl 29.
44. Jermaine Kearse's catch: His miraculous, tumbling 33-yard grab at the Patriots 10-yard line with 76 seconds to go seemed destined for a spot alongside Tyree and Manningham as surreal completions that would help vanquish New England. Sadly for Kearse and the Seahawks, Wilson's next pass wasn't nearly as effective.
45. John Mackey's TD: The tight end got the Baltimore Colts back into Super Bowl 5 with a game-tying 75-yard TD from fellow Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas in the second quarter. The catch was memorable because it deflected off the fingertips of Colts receiver Ed Hinton and Dallas cornerback Mel Renfro before settling into Mackey's hands. The play would have been illegal at the time if Renfro had not touched it, and the Cowboys vehemently argued he didn’t in a game they would lose by three points.
46. Swann's juggling catch: The 53-yard reception over Dallas' Mark Washington was the prettiest of Swann's four receptions in Super Bowl 10, when he earned MVP honors. However as aesthetically pleasing as it was, the catch didn't lead to any Pittsburgh points.
47. Gatorade shower: Still a novel celebration in 1987, it was first seen on Super Sunday when Giants linebacker Harry Carson, disguised in a security guard’s jacket, dumped the drink on coach Bill Parcells at the end of New York's 39-20 Super Bowl 21 win.
48. Fridge scores: The '85 Bears' coronation in Super Bowl 20 was never in doubt, and defensive tackle William "The Refrigerator" Perry's 1-yard TD run for a 44-3 lead in the third quarter may have been the crowning moment. Sadly, Ditka belatedly realized it came at the cost of providing legendary Walter Payton the Super Bowl score he had long dreamed of but wouldn't realize.
49. Desmond Howard's TD: His 99-yard kickoff return provided the final score in Green Bay's 35-21 win in Super Bowl 31 and made him the only special teamer to win MVP honors.
50. Run, Willie, run: On the second play after halftime in Super Bowl 40, Steelers tailback "Fast Willie" Parker broke a 75-yard TD run, the longest in Super Bowl history, that would give Pittsburgh an insurmountable 14-3 lead over the Seahawks.
51. Devin Hester's kickoff: Few thought the Indianapolis Colts would kick to the Bears special teams ace, who had six TD returns in the 2006 regular season. But Hester took Vinatieri's game-opening kickoff 92 yards to the house with the kicker flailing to stop him at the end of it. Unfortunately for Hester, he didn't get another opportunity in a game Chicago would lose 29-17.
52. Larry Fitzgerald's TD: It seemed the Cardinals star had capped an unforgettable postseason – he had 30 catches for 546 yards in four games – in style when his 64-yard catch-and-run TD with 2:37 to go in Super Bowl 43 gave Arizona its first lead. Unfortunately for Fitzgerald, he left Roethlisberger and Holmes too much time.
53. T.O.'s big day: Seven weeks after breaking his leg, Eagles wideout Terrell Owens caught nine passes for 122 yards in Super Bowl 39. His courageous effort wasn't quite enough in a three-point loss to the Patriots, but Jack Youngblood was still proud.
54. Bitter Brady: Believing the Patriots would lose Super Bowl 51, The Boston Globe ran early editions with the headline “A BITTER END,” showing Brady crumpled to the turf as Atlanta’s Alford set sail on an 82-yard pick six that gave the Falcons a 21-0 lead just before halftime. Oops.
55. Brady can't catch: Before the Eagles attempted the "Philly Special," the Patriots tried some trickery of their own in Super Bowl 52 as receiver Danny Amendola threw to a wide-open Brady in the flat early in the second quarter for what would have been a massive gain on third-and-5. Except Brady dropped the pass ... six years after his wife, Gisele Bündchen, notoriously complained "My husband can not (expletive) throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time" after some infamous New England drops, including Wes Welker's, in Super Bowl 46.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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