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Ranking the best plays of Super Bowl history

BTSC determines the best of the Top-12 plays in Super Bowl lore.

Super Bowl XLIII Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Super Bowl is full of memorable plays like Willie Parker's record run, the Saints surprise onside-kick, Scott Norwood's miss and Jermaine Kearse's on-his-back, bobble grab. Many have debated the greatest plays of all time, but here’s a compilation of the Super Bowl's very best in chronological order. At the end, vote your choice for the best-of-the-best.

1) Super Bowl XLynn Swann's Juggling Act

January 18, 1976 - Swann's balletic bobble and grab late in the second quarter of a close Super Bowl has been immortalized by NFL Films for more than 40 years now. The Steelers didn't score on the drive, but Swann's majestic grab helped flip the field and lead the Steelers to victories in consecutive years. Swann ended with four catches for 161 yards and became the first receiver to be named Super Bowl MVP.

2) Super Bowl XVII Riggins run on 4th-and-1

January 30,1983 - With his Redskins losing 17-13 in the fourth quarter, Riggins more than converted a 4th-and-1 from the Dolphins 43 for a game-changing score.

3) Super Bowl XVIIIMarcus Allen's "Which Way Should I Go?"

January 22, 1984 - This was far from a game-changer because the game was well in hand, but Marcus Allen reversed field and turned a broken sweep into a cutback and one of the prettiest TD runs of all time. I was rooting against the Raiders, but this play mesmerized me.

4) Super Bowl XXIII -- Joe Cool and the Taylor-made catch

January 22, 1989 - Calming his team by pointing out John Candy in the stands, Joe Montana found John Taylor with 35 seconds left after leading his team 92 yards to victory. This dramatic catch crushed Cincinnati, along with the souls of Who-Dey Nation.

5) Super Bowl XXXIIThe Elway-copter

John Elway and the Broncos were 0-3 in the Super Bowl and were serious underdogs to Green Bay in this contest. On 3rd-and-6 from the Packers’ 12, Elway scrambled away from Green Bay attackers and, with no regard for his body or welfare, No. 7 dove head-first and got cracked and spun like helicopter blades in the air. Terrell Davis then scored to put Denver ahead in a game they won 31-24. It became the iconic Elway moment of his Hall of Fame career.

6) Super Bowl XXXIVRams Vacuum up Dyson inside the one

January 30, 2000 - Down seven with six seconds left, Steve McNair had already driven his Titans 78 yards. With ten more to go, McNair found Kevin Dyson on a slant to possibly send the game into overtime. But LB Mike Jones dropped Dyson inches from the goal line, preserving the title for the Rams.

7) Super Bowl XLIIDavid Tyree's "Giant helmet-catch"

February 3, 2008 - A perfect example of David vs. Goliath occurred after the 2007 season when the 18-0 Patriots were poised to make history against the 13-6 underdogs. Down 14-10 late in the fourth quarter, a scrambling Eli Manning launched a prayer of a 3rd-and-20 pass 32-yards downfield in the direction of David Tyree. The rarely-used and tightly-covered Tyree made a leaping grab, pinning the ball against his helmet. Instead of 4th-and-forever, the catch allowed the Giants to move the chains and eventually score with 18 seconds left. The Giants stunned the Pats 17-14 in one of the big game's biggest upsets.

8) Super Bowl XLIII -- James Harrison's 100-yard halftime stroll

February 1, 2009 - Seconds before halftime, Kurt Warner was riding momentum and closing in on a 14-10 lead when he dropped back to pass. However, James Harrison dropped into coverage and picked off Warner. His adventurous 100-yard rumble resulted in a 14-point swing and a 17-7 lead for the Steelers.

9) Super Bowl XLIIIBig Ben phones Holmes

February 1, 2009 - Two plays on this list from the same game emphasize how great this Super Bowl was. With 35 ticks left on the clock, and the Steelers down 23-20 to the Cardinals, Roethlisberger fired a ball through three defenders as Santonio Holmes touched two feet down for a thrilling victory and the team's sixth Lombardi.

10) Super Bowl XLIXSeahawks almost super again

February 1, 2005 - After the Patriots rallied from 10 points down to take a 28-24 lead, Jermaine Kearse made a masterful and awe-inspiring catch of 33 yards that’s worthy of inclusion on this list. The catch was initially batted by Malcolm Butler and hit Kearse's hands four times while he came down on his back and reeled it in.

11) Super Bowl XLIXThe Butler did it

With :26 remaining in that same game, the Seahawks defied conventional wisdom and passed on the 1-yard line instead of handing off to Marshawn Lynch. When Russell Wilson slung the short pass toward the end zone, the rookie Butler sprang up and made the game-saving pick.

12) Super Bowl LIJulian's Gem

February 6, 2017 - Julian Edelman was worried that he dropped the ball and failed to execute one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl History. With 2:28 to play in the fourth quarter and the Pats down 28-20, Tom Brady threw a 23-yard pass from his own 36 that was tipped by Falcon Robert Alford into a trio of Atlanta defenders and Edelman. The Pats receiver tipped the ball up inches from the ground and pulled it in for an improbable first down. This play led to a Pats’ score and two-point conversion to send the game to the Super Bowl's first-ever OT, where the Pats triumphed 34-28.


What do you consider the greatest play in Super Bowl history?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Super Bowl X-Lynn Swann's Catch
    (42 votes)
  • 0%
    Suoer Bowl XVIi-Riggins' 4th and 1
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Super Bowl XVIII-Marcus Allen Reverses Field
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Super Bowl XXIII-John Candy, Joe Montana and John Taylor
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Super Bowl XXXII-The Elway-Copter
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Super Bowl XXXIV-Rams Stop Titans on the Goal Line
    (3 votes)
  • 4%
    Super Bowl XLII-Tyree's Helmet Catch
    (37 votes)
  • 54%
    Super Bowl XLIII-Harrison's 100 Yard Pick-Six
    (407 votes)
  • 29%
    Super Bowl XLIII-Santonio's Catch
    (221 votes)
  • 0%
    Super Bowl XLIX-Kearse's Bobbling Grab
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    Super Bowl XLIX-Malcolm Butler's End Zone INT
    (16 votes)
  • 1%
    Super Bowl XLI-Edelman's Desperate Catch
    (8 votes)
746 votes total Vote Now