Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Dozen of the Super Bowl's Greatest Hits

With Super Bowl XLV just about upon us, I started thinking about great moments in the Super Bowl. Sure, there were some stinker, blow out games, but there have been some stupendous moments in the sport's biggest game. While I'm sure that hundreds if not thousands of other writers and other bloggers have compiled their own lists, here are my twelve cents, my twelve plays or moments that stand out. I'm sure I've missed some and will put a burr under the saddle of Cowboys fans or Ravens fans or something, but these are moments that resonate for me.

12. SB XXXI: Desmond Howard's 99 yard touchdown return. New England had crept back into the game, cutting the Pack's lead to just six points. On the ensuing kickoff, Howard rambled 99 yards for the score that put the Pats away for good. Video here. (the return comes around 0:35).

11. SB XXII -- Doug Williams to Ricky Sanders. Based on my sheer fondness for Doug Williams, I could move this into the top five. I always had a soft spot for the guy. This Super Bowl just captivated me and I have no idea why. Also, I can remember it like it was yesterday. Strangely (and pathetically) enough, I remember that I skipped socializing that night and I was home folding laundry when Doug Williams starting raining touchdowns down on the Broncos defense in the single most dominant quarter in Super Bowl history (the Redskins scored 35 points. For reals). It all started with Williams lofting a nice, soft pass into Sanders around midfield. Video here.

10. SB XVI -- Dan Bunz and the Niners goal-line stand. The 49ers were up on the Bengals by the score of 20-7 late in third quarter when the Bengals drove to the San Fran 3, but the Niners defense denied them four times, highlighted by Bunz' fantastic tackle on a pass to Charles Alexander on third down. How many things in life are as satisfying as a great goal-line stand? Video here.

9. SB XXXVI -- Patriots Final Drive. Yeah, yeah, I know. I hate the Patriots, but ... this was a great, gutsy drive and if I'm being fair, I have to list it. The Rams had all the momentum. They scored two touchdowns in the 4th quarter, including one with just 90 seconds left in the game to tie it up. John Madden was blabbering on the TV feed about how and why the Patriots had to play for overtime. Not so quick there, bub. We didn't know it at the time, but Tom Brady was simply showing us who he would be for most of his career in the last 81 seconds of his first Super Bowl -- dumping the ball off to J.R. Redmond (J.R. Redmond?), hitting Troy Brown and calmly managing the clock to set up Adam Vinatieri's game winning kick. Video here.

8. SB X -- Lynn Swann's gravity-defying, floating catch. I know, the list is a little Steelers heavy, but you cannot deny the sheer artistry of this magnificent grab. If you have ever watched NFL films in your life, I'm sure you've seen this catch. It's like a magic trick and words don't do it justice. Video here.

7. Super Bowl XXIII -- Joe Montana's touchdown pass to John Taylor. Despite having the magnificent, chicken-legged Joe Montana at the helm, the Niners had scored just one touchdown all game and were trailing the Bengals by the score of 16-13. Then with about three minute left in the 4th quarter, Montana put together an amazing drive from the San Fran 9 yard line to the Bengals' 10. With 39 seconds on the clock, Jerry Rice goes in motion, Montana drops back, looks in one spot, and then hits Taylor streaking to the back of the endzone. Sorry, Boomer, you don't get to go to Disneyland. Video here.

6. SB XLIII -- Santonio Holmes TipToe Catch. It took 20 years for somebody to top the Montana-Taylor hook up above, but this is the most dramatic score I can think of -- given the time, the length of the drive, Ben's ability to shake free, the pass into a ridiculous spot, and Holmes ability to simultaneously control the ball and tap his toes at the edge of the endzone. It wows me. Every time. Video here.

5. SB I -- Max McGhee's one handed catch. Legend has it that McGee was miserably hungover for this game. And I'd like to believe that. In a game the Packers really had to win, McGee made a spectacular grab of Bart Starr's pass, then took it for a touchdown, the first in Super Bowl history. I'm pretty sure I've seen video of him surreptitiously smoking a cigarette on the sidelines after this catch, which, again, makes me like him more. Funny thing is that McGee caught four passes all season. It's not as lovely as Tone's catch above, but it's pretty darned nice and, given the historical impact of this game, I have to put it in the Top 5. Video here.

4. SB XVII -- John Riggins' rips 4th and 1 run for 43 yard touchdown. I can picture exactly where I was sitting for this. It's strange, but this particular run just burned itself into my brain. Washingon trails the Fins 17-13 with 10:10 remaining. They are faced with 4th down and 1 yard to go at the Miami 43 yard line. Out of the I formation, the handoff goes to Riggins, who bounces outside behind one of the Hogs (don't remember which one), sheds a tackler and then runs the length of the field for the TD. Even without the video, I can picture Riggo just chugging down the sidelines. It was beautiful. Fortune favors the bold, indeed. Video here. (The Riggins run comes up around 1:35.)

3. SB XVIII -- Marcus Allen's 74 yard touchdown run. God, this seems like a long time ago, and I know for pure yardage, it has been surpassed by Willie Parker's 75 yard dash in XL. But for drama, for artistry, there's nothing like Allen's reversal of direction and run up the gut. Video here.(Just ignore Todd Christensen's blubbering.)

2. SB XLII -- David Tyree's helmet catch. Is there a bigger catch in Super Bowl history? Sure, Santonio Holmes' catch is more elegant, but none was more clutch, than Tyree clutching the ball to his helmet. While I'm no huge Eli Manning fan, his ability to pull away, with a Patriot hanging on his jersey, moving around in the pocket, ducking tacklers, and all of this against the unbeaten, unbeatable New England Patriots? This could easily be number one on the list. Video here.

1. SB XLIII -- James Harrison's 100 yard interception touchdown return. Talk about high drama. I am not alone in ranking this first and it's not because Harrison is a Steeler. It's because, holy hell, a pass rushing linebacker intercepted a pass, and ran 100 yards for a touchdown, with no time left in the half and his teammates blocking out 10 would be Arizona tacklers. Take that play away, and the Cardinals have one Lombardi trophy on display. It just doesn't get any better than this. Video here.

BONUS MOMENT: SB IX -- Dwight White's Safety Dance. Okay, this is a special, childhood favorite, on for sentimental reasons here because I'm a Steelers fan and Dwight White was the first player I recall thinking, "that's my guy." On a team of superstars, I just loved me some Mad Dog. It's personal and, I'm sure if I were a Broncos fan, John Elway's 'helicopter run' in XXXII would be in this spot. Point is, your mileage may vary. In SB IX, the whole backstory of White battling the flu and a raging fever spilled into the confluence of the Steelers defensive domination and the franchise's history of futility. Plus, I love safeties. For a person who loves defense, as I do, they are so very satisfying. The tall guy on the right is White celebrating and, if I close my eyes, I can see him making the safety signal in my head. This one play summed up the complete and total dominance of the Steelers D in their very first trip to the Super Bowl.


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