The 50 Greatest Football Catches of All Time

Todd BoldizsarAnalyst ISeptember 30, 2010

The 50 Greatest Football Catches of All Time

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    Here it is, the highly anticipated and always debated top 50 catches in football history.

    There's few better ways to electrify a crowd, make believers out of doubters, and change the outcome of a game than to make a spectacular catch, then watch it on the jumbo screen as they replay it over and over and over.

    There are thousands of possible entries, and these are just 50 of them that rank above the rest.

     

    Also check out: The BCS and 50 Things We Hate About Sports

50. Randy Moss, New England Patriots

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    The Patriots went to a hurry up offense and caught the New York Jets defense completely by surprise.

    Moss beat one of the best cornerbacks in the game (Darrelle Revis) and made a one-handed catch in the end zone, never using his body nor his other hand to secure the ball.

49. Dennis Morris, Louisiana Tech

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    Facing the heavily-favored No. 7 Boise State Broncos, Louisiana Tech's Dennis Brown put on a show against his team's WAC foe, beating NFL-bound Kyle Wilson by going over the top to pull in the touchdown. 

48. Eddie Brown, Edmonton Eskimos of The CFL

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    It had snowed so much before this game in Canada it was difficult to even see most of the lines on the field. Despite having freezing hands, Eddie Brown was able to display tremendous coordination, pulling this ball in off the deflection from his knees.

47. Oronde Gadsden, Miami Dolphins

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    Listen to the commentary as Gadsden pulls in a high pass with one hand while crashing to the grass. The best part about this video? Look at the score of the game. The Raiders were shutting out the Dolphins! Now THAT'S amazing!

    Pass is......caught!?

46. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts

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    Reggie Wayne just might be one of the most underrated wide receivers in the the NFL. Possibly overshadowed by former teammate Marvin Harrison, who makes this list, Wayne has made some spectacular catches while displaying tremendous mid-air body control.

    Here is a slow-mo of a one-handed catch he makes while falling out of bounds. Watch closely as he drags his right foot to make the catch NFL-legit.

45. Dwight Clark, San Francisco 49ers

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    A young Joe Montana could connect on a pass in the back of the endzone with Dwight Clark, in a legendary NFL moment known simply as "The Catch." Down by a touchdown to the rival Dallas Cowboys with under a minute to play, Montana drove his team down the field and connected with Clark to complete a comeback that would go down in sports history as one of the best ever. 

44. D.J. Hall, University of Alabama

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    Against conference rival Tennessee, DJ Hall would go deep and jump up between two Volunteer defenders to haul in the catch off the facemask of the safety in front of him.

43. Brandon Lloyd, San Francisco 49ers

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    Brandon Lloyd made one of the most difficult one-handed catches you will ever see. Perhaps a precursor to Edwin Baptiste (Which we will see later in the countdown), Lloyd crossed the middle of the field against the New York Giants.

    Located at (2:01 in the video, No. 9 on Best Damn's list)

42. Carl Ehrlich of Harvard University

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    Most certainly the best catch on this countdown by someone NOT on the field, Ehrlich holds on to the pass like his hands are lined with Stick-Em. No mere mortal bench can disrupt his concentration!

41. Torry Holt, Rams

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    Why does it seem like the New York Giants are constantly victims of incredible feats of athleticism? Torry Holt makes it look easy as he falls down on his back in the endzone, only to find the deflection from the defensive back is falling in his lap. 

40. Hakeem Nicks, University of North Carolina

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    Hakeem Nicks would go behind-the-back and through-the-legs to make this catch against West Virginia during his college days. Nicks would go on to become....you guessed it: a New York Giant. Aww, sweet revenge!

39. Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Moeaki was a rookie when he flew out of the back of the end zone, catching this pass from Matt Cassel for the touchdown against the 49ers. He's so high in the air, he might be able to hit his head on the goalpost!

38. Ronald Curry, Oakland Raiders

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    Oakland Raiders QB Kerry Collins would hang a pass a little too high against the Denver Broncos. However, despite freezing temperatures and heavy snow at Mile High Stadium, Curry would gain enough altitude to pull it in one-handed, saving his quarterback's freezing bacon.

    More amazing than the catch was the Curry's footwork and eyesight: How he saw the back line under all that snow remains a mystery, but the touchdown was legit.

    Finally, check out the snow angel he makes in his celebration. 

37. Chris Carter, Minnesota Vikings

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    Chris Carter is arguably one of the best receivers to ever play the game and he shows why in this vintage footage against the Atlanta Falcons. While fending off a defender with one hand, he reaches out with his right hand and pulls in the ball as he tumbles.

36. Andrew Hall, Dartmouth

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    To match his brains, Dartmouth's Andrew Hall shows his receiving ability. Late in a tight game against fellow Ivy Leaguer Harvard, Hall juggles the ball while falling down, before finally hauling it on the 1-yard line. 

35. Todd Yoder, Washington Redskins

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    Yoder's version of the endzone tip-toe came at the end of an amazing effort by Jason Campbell to escape pressure and keep the play alive. The score would put the game out of reach and help the Redskins defeat the Falcons.

34. Johnathan Holland, Louisiana Tech

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    LTU hits the list again, this time at the hands of Johnathan Holland. Against a big program like the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Holland makes them look silly by pulling in a deep pass with his left hand while flying into the end zone.

    Tech would lost the game badly to a larger program, but his play was certainly the best of the day, and maybe the year.

33. Chad "Ocho Cinco", Oregon State University

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    Check out Chad's catch in this vintage trailer for Oregon State, it is located at :22 in the video. He goes high up over the UCLA Bruins defender, then falls on his back and holds onto the ball.

32. Torry Holt, Rams

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    This catch from Torry Holt has been on several highlight reels, and for good reason. The ball was tipped to him first, but that wasn't good enough. While in a dead sprint, Holt tipped the ball around a few more times before stabilizing the catch and scoring the touchdown.

31. Roy Williams, Detroit Lions

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    The only catch that could top Holt's juggling act is another juggling act from then-Detroit Lions receiver Roy Williams. Around two Chicago Bears defensive backs, Williams leaps, then knocks the ball back in the air to complete the catch.

30. Butch Johnson, Dallas Cowboys

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    In Super Bowl XII, the Cowboys faced a tough foe, the Denver Broncos. Led by Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Dallas dominated on offense. Johnson made this diving catch on his fingertips in the endzone, a 45-yard pass from Staubach. 

29. Braylon Edwards, New York Jets

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    Undaunted by the orange jerseys of the Miami Dolphins, Edwards made this insane catch for the Jets on Sunday Night Football. Edwards does a full 360 degree turn in mid air, landing on the pylon for the score. 

28. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

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    This is the best "non-catch" on the list. Johnson shows tremendous focus as he makes this catch, but it was overturned by a continuation rule in the NFL.

    When Johnson put the ball on the ground as he stood up, it cost him and the Lions a touchdown. However, it's still highlight-reel worthy, and it hits this list accordingly. 

27. Chad "Ocho Cinco", Cincinnati Bengals

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    "Ocho Cinco" makes this catch look easy, pulling in this pass over the shoulder. One has to wonder whether or not he could even see the ball as it passed over his head. He had the presence of mind to pull it in and secure it before sliding out of bounds. 

26. A.J. Green, Summerville HS (South Carolina)

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    A.J. Green has already begun making a name for himself as a Georgia Bulldog, but even in his high school days at Summerville, the wide receiver was making headlines and lunch-time conversations. Check out this catch as he turns 180 degrees to make a one-handed catch on the wrong side of his body. 

25. Terrell Owens, San Francisco 49ers

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    in what would become known as "The Catch II," a young Terrell Owens would make a difficult catch between a sea of Green Bay Packers defenders on a pass from Steve Young. The touchdown would cap a 49ers comeback as San Francisco won in the final seconds, 30-27. 

24. Michael Westbrook, Colorado Buffaloes

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    The "Miracle in Michigan" was a 70-some yard Hail Mary from Kordell Stewart as time expired against Michigan in 1994. The play was credited as 64 yards, but as you can clearly see, Stewart is standing well behind the line of scrimmage and the pass came down just before the end zone.

    Westbrook slipped behind the pack, and cradled the deflected pass in front of his facemask. The Buffaloes stunned the Wolverines 27-26, and Stewart would earn the school record for touchdowns thrown on the play.

23. Devery Henderson, LSU

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    A late fourth-quarter field goal from the Kentucky Wildcats gave them the lead. Kentucky thought it was over so decisively, they poured Gatorade on their coach's head. However, LSU took advantage of eight remaining seconds in the game, and a hail mary batted around found the hands of Devery Henderson (Now with the New Orleans Saints) and he would take it for the score. The play is infamously known as the "Bluegrass Miracle" and certainly belongs on any countdown. 

22. Antonio Cromartie, San Diego Chargers

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    On a list of catches, interceptions by defensive backs have to be extraordinary to hit the list, and that's exactly what Cromartie achieved against the Indianapolis Colts. Intercepting Peyton Manning is enough to brag about as is, but Cromartie took it one step further. Leaping backwards into the air, Cromartie tipped the pass with one hand, and brought it in while hitting the turf with his other hand. Amazing!

21. Drew Pearson, Dallas Cowboys

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    Roger Staubach's legacy would have been large enough without this pass to Drew Pearson, but this play is part of what makes him a legend. 

    Trailing with under a minute left in the 1975 NFC Championship against the Minnesota Vikings, Roger Staubach heaved a long pass down the sidelines, connecting with Pearson as he fought off a Vikings defender.

    The term "Hail Mary" was born as Staubach coined the phrase in a post-game interview, saying he "threw up a prayer."

20. Joe Jurevicius, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    While Jurevicius is famous for a catch he made, snatching a tipped pass from the hands of a defender, check out this catch in the corner of the endzone, located at :31 on the highlight tape.

19. Larry Fitzgerald, University of Pittsburgh

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    In the first of two matchups between the Beavers of Oregon State and the Pittsburgh Panthers in the Sun Bowl, future NFL star Larry Fitzgerald lays out to make a tremendous catch. The game had just gotten underway when the then-true freshman wide receiver decided to make a highlight play.

17. D.J. Flick, Saskatchewan Roughriders of The CFL

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    That's what I'm talkin' aboot! Flick represents the Saskatchewan Roughriders well with this tremendous catch around the defender in the CFL. 

16. Matt Davison, Nebraska

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    This catch is almost too infamous to be this far back, but Davison gets the benefit of "right place, right time" added to his tremendous effort. A millisecond later would have been too late to make this catch before the nose of the ball hits the turf. 

    The reception from Eric Crouch would propel the Cornhuskers past Missouri and into a national title game.

18. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech

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    Calvin Johnson is nearly parallel to the ground when he makes this tremendous catch for Georgia Tech. Johnson was a freshman at the time, and this one-handed catch against North Carolina State put him on the map to stay.

15. Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts

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    It almost looks like the Patriots gave up on this pass, seeing it bounce off Harrison and head directly toward the sidelines. However, Harrison brought it back from the dead, pulling it in before falling out of bounds. 

14. Charles Woodson, University of Michigan

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    There are so many elements to this video that are entertaining. The description of the play from the commentators is priceless and completely on the money. The Michigan State quarterback was trying to throw the ball away, giving up on the down. However, Woodson looks like a scared cat, leaping into the air and pulling down the interception one-handed. 

    Finally, watch the ref. as he vigorously declares the change of possession.

13. Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff game would host what would be known as the "Immaculate Reception." Pittsburgh running back Franco Harris caught a swift deflection off teammate Frenchy Fuqua as Fuqua collided with Raiders safety Jack Tatum. The catch caught the Raiders defense off guard and Harris ran it in for the game-winning touchdown.

12. Rodney Woods, University of Oregon

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    The Oregon Ducks were coasting, and the University of Houston was going for it on fourth down and long. Houston's quarterback gave up on the play, heaving it downfield in frustration. However, the Ducks had a man there, and he wasn't thinking about field position. 

    Rodney Woods goes full extension and makes the interception. While the commentators are discussing field position, Woods and his teammates are celebrating his accomplishment.

11. Greg Camarillo, Miami Dolphins

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    Watch as Camarillo mixes European futbol with American football while using his legs to keep the ball from touching the ground. The video does a great job of zooming in on the ball, showing it never hitting the turf. The Falcons were already pleading their case to avoid a pass interference penalty before realizing Camarillo was on his feet and heading to the house. 

    After review, the catch was upheld, but the ruling placed the ball where Camarillo made the catch. The Falcons would get the last laugh, collecting the win.

10. Randy Moss, Minnesota Vikings

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    Arguably the most famous Randy Moss catch, this one comes against the Dallas Cowboys, courtesy of a cannon on the right side of Daunte Culpepper, and amazing body control and awareness from Moss.

    The replay was shown over and over and over again but it is clear Moss got both feet in bounds, and the touchdown, like Moss, stuck.

9. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Like others on this countdown, this play appeared to be over before an eruption of action brought everyone back to life. This ball was down, the pass was incomplete, everyone was moving on....except Troy Polamalu. 

    The defensive specialist snared this one off the snow, then got to his feet and made some serious moves. Had he not slipped on the snow, Polamalu probably wouldn't have make it a pick-six.

8. Lynn Swann, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    While ailing from a concussion he suffered the week before, Swann made a catch that has become NFL legend.

    Swann stole the show in Super Bowl X, collecting four receptions for 161 yards, setting a Super Bowl record.

7. David Tyree, New York Giants

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    In what is becoming known as "The Drive," the New York Giants fueled a remarkable comeback in Super Bowl XLII, highlighted by a tremendous scramble, throw and catch. 

    With just over a minute left in the game, and the Giants trailing 14-10 to the undefeated New England Patriots, Eli Manning escapes a sure sack, fires it downfield, and Tyree fights off defenders while holding on to the ball over his head and crashing into the ground. 

    The catch would set up a Super Bowl-winning score for the Giants, and the game became an instant classic.

6. Tyrone Prothro, Alabama

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    Most of these catches have made the list because they were done with one hand, falling out of bounds, or scoring a touchdown with two feet inside the line. 

    This catch, however, breaks all the rules. Tyrone Prothro makes a stunning play by pinning the ball against the back of the defender while holding on as they both tumble. 

    As the title of the video suggests, many regard this catch as the best catch they've ever seen, but this list begs to differ...

5. Keenan McCardell, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    McCardell would score one of the toughest catches of his career with this catch against the Carolina Panthers, located at :18 in the Best Damn video. 

    Keenan lays out to pull in the pass one-handed while avoiding two colliding Panthers defenders and scoring the touchdown.

4. Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger would make a perfect pass to the back of the end zone, finding receiver Santonio Holmes for what would be the game-winning touchdown of Super Bowl XLIII. 

    Holmes' tremendous awareness and body control would be the subject of countless replays and reviews before being upheld with just 35 seconds on the clock. The Steelers would claim the Super Bowl victory.

3. Antonio Freeman, Green Bay Packers

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    He did what!!!???

    This infamous catch from Green Bay Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman would go down as one of the best catches ever, stunning the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. 

    Al Michaels provides the commentary as Freeman realizes the ball never touched the ground, and takes it for a touchdown before the Vikings really knew what was going on.

2. Edwin Baptiste, Morgan State

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    Few knew the name of Edwin Baptiste until ESPN aired a video of an unbelievable catch made by a Morgan State receiver. Instantly, the video was scrutinized for authenticity before viewers realized the catch was just simply amazing.

    Scrambling in the end zone, Morgan State's QB unloads, and Baptiste would turn just in time to leap backwards, parallel with the ground, to make a one-handed catch without the assistance of his body or other arm.

1. Chris Moore, Western Washington University

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    This catch was made in 1993, and still stands as, debatably, the best catch ever caught on camera.

    Chris Moore of WWU would go on to win the award for Best Catch at the inagural ESPY Awards. Watch as Moore used every part of his body to keep the ball off the ground before securing it as the sideline approaches.