Super Bowl 2012: A Look Back at the 12 Most Epic Super Bowl Catches of All Time

James ReaganCorrespondent IIFebruary 1, 2012

Super Bowl 2012: A Look Back at the 12 Most Epic Super Bowl Catches of All Time

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    In just a few days the world will get to see the rematch of Super Bowl XLII. The New England Patriots and the New York Giants will again square off to see who is the best team in the NFL this season. 

    Although it should be a great game, it will be hard to top Super Bowl XLII. The Giants had a stunning upset thanks to The Helmet Catch by backup receiver David Tyree. This catch by Tyree helped keep the Giants final drive alive as only a few plays later they scored the game-winning touchdown.

    As Super Bowl XLVI draws near, it's a good time to look back at The Helmet Catch and lots of the other great Super Bowl catches. Where does The Helmet Catch rank all time? And what is the greatest Super Bowl catch ever made?

    Read on to find out.

12. Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress, Super Bowl XLII

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    In the same game as The Helmet Catch, this one often gets overshadowed. However ultimately this play was more important as it was the game winner. 

    Deep in Patriots territory with less than a minute left, Eli Manning looked for his reliable redzone target Plaxico Burress. Burress was able to fake out Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs on a slant-and-go route leaving him wide open in the end zone. Manning tossed it up to him and Burress easily caught the game-winning touchdown.

    While not a particularly special catch, this one makes the list due to significance. This catch was the deciding factor in a game where the Giants were huge underdogs. Thanks to Manning and Burress, the Giants were able to beat the undefeated Patriots in one of the greatest upsets in all of sports history.

11. Steve Young to Jerry Rice, Super Bowl XXIX

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    Jerry Rice is without a doubt one of the greatest wide receivers of all time. Part of his greatness was the fact that he showed up on the game's biggest stage. Having played in four of them, Rice owns many of the Super Bowl's receiving records. 

    One play that demonstrates his dominance the best happened in Super Bowl XXIX. On only the third play of their opening drive, Steve Young threw a deep pass to Rice. Rice then went on to burn the San Diego Chargers safeties as he took the pass 44 yards for a touchdown. 

    The game was never close as the San Francisco 49ers dominated the Chargers 49-26. Young threw a Super Bowl record six touchdown passes, three of which were caught by Rice. Although this play was not in a close game, it deserves to be on this list as it represents probably the best Super Bowl play by the best wide receiver to play the game.

10. Kurt Warner to Larry Fitzgerald, Super Bowl XLIII

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    A huge reason why the surprising Arizona Cardinals made it to Super Bowl XLIII, was the outstanding play of Larry Fitzgerald. During their run through the NFC playoffs, no one could stop Fitzgerald as he caught 23 passes for a postseason record 419 yards and five touchdowns. 

    The Pittsburgh Steelers made it a priority to stop Fitzgerald in the Super Bowl and early on they did that very well as Fitzgerald had a quiet first half. However, that changed in the fourth quarter when Fitzgerald caught two touchdowns, the second of which gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game. Kurt Warner threw a post route to Fitzgerald who took it 64 yards for a touchdown, as he burnt the entirety of the Steelers' secondary.

    The play was a shocker as for most of the game the Steelers had been dominant. Although the Steelers still went on to win the game, this catch helped the Cardinals come back from a 13 point deficit. It also shows how unstoppable Fitzgerald is as he shredded the NFL's top pass defense from the 2008 season.

9. Kurt Warner to Isaac Bruce, Super Bowl XXXIV

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    Kurt Warner's second pass on this list comes in at number nine. Like the #12 catch on this list, this one also was a game-winning play. It also happened in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever.

    Although the St. Louis Rams had initially led 16-0, they let the Tennessee Titans come back and score two touchdowns and a field goal to tie the game. However the Rams did not let the game stay tied for long. On the very first play of their drive, Warner threw a long pass that was caught by Isaac Bruce who then ran it 73 yards for a touchdown, breaking several tackles along the way.

    The Titans famously came one yard short of tying the game and going to overtime. So the Greatest Show on Turf won the Super Bowl fittingly with the help of Bruce, one of their best receivers. It still remains the only Super Bowl victory for the Rams. 

8. Joe Montana to John Taylor, Super Bowl XXIII

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    There have been lots of great game-winning drives in Super Bowl history. However this 11 play, 92 drive orchestrated by Joe Montana just might be the greatest.

    Late in the 4th quarter, the Cincinnati Bengals had taken a 16-13 lead thanks to a field goal. Although he only had 3:10 left in the game, Montana still appeared to be ridiculously calm. So calm that he pointed out into the crowd and asked his teammates if they could see actor John Candy.

    The calmness worked as Montana masterfully drove the San Francisco 49ers down the field, ending the drive with a 10 yard touchdown pass to John Taylor with 39 seconds left. This catch is the second shortest one on the list which hurts its positioning a little. However it was a game-winning pass during an epic comeback which solidifies its place as one of the all-time greatest Super Bowl catches.

7. Jake Delhomme to Muhsin Muhammed, Super Bowl XXXVIII

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    Super Bowl XXXVIII was a shootout between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots. Strangely however both the first and third quarter saw no points scored. During the other two quarters, both teams seemed to score at will particularly in the 4th quarter where they combined to score 37 points.

    The Patriots had pulled away for a 21-16 lead midway through the 4th quarter. Deep in his own territory, Jake Delhomme threw deep to Muhsin Muhammed. Muhammed was wide open as Patriots defensive back Eugene Wilson blew the coverage allowing Muhammed to run 85 yards for the touchdown.

    Muhammed's touchdown was the longest offensive play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history. It also gave the Panthers their first and what would be their only lead of the game. The Patriots went on to win 32-29 thanks to a walk-off field goal by clutch placekicker Adam Vinatieri. 

6. Roger Staubach to Butch Johnson, Super Bowl XII

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    Super Bowl XII was a sloppy game with little excitement surrounding it. The Dallas Cowboys won fairly easily with a 27-10 final score over the Denver Broncos.

    The only highlight reel-worthy play took place in the third quarter. Roger Staubach threw the ball to Butch Johnson who made a fingertip catch as he fell into the end zone. Although Johnson dropped the ball when he hit the ground, the officials ruled that he had caught the ball for a touchdown. 

    It would be Staubach's only touchdown for the day as defense dominated. One of the oldest touchdowns on this list, this one has stood the test of time and still remains one of the all-time great Super Bowl plays.

5. Terry Bradshaw to John Stallworth, Super Bowl XIV

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    The end of the 1979 season saw the Pittsburgh Steelers playing in their fourth Super Bowl in six years. Already they were becoming one of the NFL's top dynasties and another win would have given them the most Super Bowl wins of all time. Although they were heavily favored against the Los Angeles Rams, the Steelers found themselves trailing 19-17. 

    On 3rd and eight, Terry Bradshaw faked a handoff and instead looked deep. He threw the ball to John Stallworth who was running a streak pattern down the middle of the field. Stallworth barely caught the ball beyond the hand of Rams defensive back Rod Perry and ran it all the way down for a 73-yard touchdown.

    The Steelers would go to win 31-19. However this play was clearly crucial as the game was considerably closer than the final score indicated. 

4. Johnny Unitas to John Mackey, Super Bowl V

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    The oldest play on this list comes all the way back from Super Bowl V. This was the only Super Bowl win for Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas, one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. In this game Unitas was helped by one of the most talented tight ends to play the game, the late John Mackey

    In Super Bowl V, the Colts and the Dallas Cowboys were locked in a close defensive battle. In one of Unitas's worst games as a pro, he got lucky when a ball got tipped by Cowboys defensive back Mel Renfro. The alert Mackey grabbed the ball off a tip and ran it 75 yards for a touchdown.

    The Colts would end up winning 16-13 with a last minute field goal. Like so many other good catches, this one really was very lucky. It is very likely though that without this play the Colts do not win Super Bowl V and Unitas would have never won a Super Bowl.

3. Terry Bradshaw to Lynn Swann, Super Bowl X

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys have met in three Super Bowls, creating one of the NFL's few intense interconference rivalries. It helps that both teams have combined for 11 Super Bowl titles and are tied for the most appearances at eight. However the main statistic that most matters in this rivalry is that the Steelers have won two of the three Super Bowl meetings between the teams. 

    Super Bowl X was the closest one in a game that was very low scoring until the fourth quarter. It was then that Terry Bradshaw tried throwing a deep post to Lynn Swann. Swann would make a diving catch and then still have the presence of mind to run the ball in for a 64-yard touchdown. 

    The Swann Dive catch is simply one of the most athletically impressive plays in history. Considering Bradshaw got drilled by Cowboys defensive lineman Larry Cole, yet still threw a pass that went nearly 70 yards. And Swann certainly did his part by making the acrobatic catch and getting in the end zone.

2. Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes, Super Bowl XLIII

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers have had some really great Super Bowl plays. It's not surprising when considering that this proud franchise leads the entire NFL with six Super Bowl rings. But having three catches inside the top five Super Bowl catches of all time is flat out ridiculous. 

    The Arizona Cardinals had just completed one of the greatest comebacks in Super Bowl history and now led 23-20. The Steelers only needed a field goal to tie however Ben Roethlisberger had driven them down to the Cardinals six-yard line thanks to some catches by Santonio Holmes. On second and goal Roethlisberger found Holmes in the corner of the end zone for a six yard strike that gave the Steelers the lead again.

    It was a questionable call as Holmes just barely reached out on his tiptoes to stay in bounds. The booth review ruled that the touchdown was good, solidifying its place in history. This play is very close to being the number one Super Bowl catch of all time although it just can't quite compare with the next one on the list.

1. Eli Manning to David Tyree, Super Bowl XLII

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    That's right, just days before the rematch, David Tyree's helmet catch is the greatest catch in Super Bowl history. So many things went right for the New York Giants on this play that it almost seems like an act of God. It ultimately has the edge over both Lynn Swann's and Santonio Holmes's catches due to the historical significance and the two miracles that happened on this play. 

    It was 3rd down and five with less than a minute in Super Bowl XLII. Three New England Patriots defensive linemen instantly blitzed Manning yet somehow he was able to scramble away and run backwards. Manning then threw the ball down-field where Tyree grabbed the 32 yard pass against his helmet with Patriots safety Rodney Harrison draped all over him. 

    Amazingly, that was Tyree's final catch in the NFL. He was primarily a special teamer who never had more than 19 catches in an NFL season. Yet somehow Tyree helped make the greatest catch in Super Bowl history en route to defeating an undefeated team.