Super Bowl Power Rankings: The 10 Biggest Plays In History

Michael PerchickCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2011

Super Bowl Power Rankings: The 10 Biggest Plays In History

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    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    The Packers and Steelers are two of the most storied franchises in the NFL.  

    Between them they have nine Super Bowl victories, which should make this year's matchup one of the best of all-time.  

    We take a look back at the ten "biggest"—or most important/memorable—plays in Super Bowl history. 

No. 10: James Harrison Rumbles and Stumbles For 100 Yards: Super Bowl XLIII

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    Don't get me wrong—this play is amazing.  Most interceptions of this length usually feature a good return.  Few feature this important or amazing of a return.  Harrison somehow eludes Cardinal after Cardinal, and has the stamina of running 100-yards after playing defense for a long drive.  

    At the time of the interception, the Cardinals were inside the two-yard line, and had a first and goal.  Down 10-7, they seemed primed to take the lead, or at the worst, kick a field goal to tie it up.  Instead, Harrison's pick six and incredible return signaled a 14-point swing, as the Steelers went into the half up 10, instead of down four.

    The only reason it's not higher is because the Steelers actually blew the lead and would need another memorable play (more on this later in the list) to escape with a Super Bowl victory. 

No. 9: Adam Viniatieri Kicks Off Patriots Dynasty: Super Bowl XXXVI

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    This one kick began the folktale of Adam Vinatieri, and started the Patriots dynasty.  As 14-point underdogs, they pulled off the biggest upset (according to Vegas that is) in Super Bowl history when they stunned the Greatest Show on Turf.

    Vinatieri repeated his success two years later, when he kicked another game-winning field goal as time expired in Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers.

    Years later, the "Spygate" revelations have put a damper on the Pats' dynasty.  Still, Vinatieri's boot lives on as one of the most clutch field goals of all-time.  

    Unfortunately for our next video, his kick wasn't as lucky....

No. 8: Scott Norwood Symbolizes Bills Futility: Super Bowl XXV

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    It's not fair to blame the four straight Super Bowl losses all on one kick.  But this was the only Super Bowl the Bills were competitive in (they lost the next three by a combined 65 points).  "WIDE RIGHT" will forever live in the minds of football fans, and characterize the Buffalo Bills. 

No. 7: The Lynn Swann Leap: Super Bowl X

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    This is one of the most spectacular and memorable catches in NFL history.  It is a highlight that still, 35 years later, is amazing.  It was one of the key reasons Swann won MVP and got the Steelers out of terrible field position. 

    But this catch was in the second quarter.  It wasn't a touchdown catch.  While it may have been an incredible and memorable catch, there was still a lot of game to be played, keeping it just outside the top five. 

No. 6: Marcus Allen Jukes His Way To Six: Super Bowl XVIII

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    "Marcus Allen running with the night," is the only way to really describe the play.  Perfectly called by John Facenda.

    Allen showed his incredible speed, agility, and field vision in the play.  Allen turned what could have been a five or six-yard loss into a 74-yard touchdown run.

    The Raiders would win the game in blowout fashion (38-9), and Allen would deservedly win MVP.  Contrary to popular belief, as President Ronald Reagan notes, Allen is not any sort of "secret weapon."  

    Or at least not anymore.

No. 5: John Riggins Leads Redskins to Super Bowl Glory: Super Bowl XVII

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    With a little over ten minutes left in the game.  Redskins down 17-13.  Fourth and one from the Dolphins' 43.  Boy, is it great to have John Riggins at this point.  Riggins takes the hand off, breaks a Don McNeal tackle with a little "get off me" attitude, and sprints his way to the end zone, giving the Redskins a 20-17 fourth quarter lead.  The Redskins wouldn't look back and ended up beating the Dolphins 27-17.

    To nobody's surprise, Riggins big play (and big day) led to him winning Super Bowl MVP. 

No. 4: Montana To Taylor, 49ers to The Podium Stand: Super Bowl XXIII

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    The 49ers dynasty is defined by "The Catch," a touchdown connection between Joe Montana and Dwight Clark.  And while "The Catch" helped the 49ers beat the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game in 1982, the Montana-Taylor connection helped the 49ers knock off the Bengals in the Super Bowl in 1989. 

    With only 39 seconds left, and the Bengals clinging to a 16-13 lead, Montana found Taylor over the middle for the touchdown.  Taylor was actually better known for his exploits on special teams, as he was a Pro Bowl punt returner that season.  But like another player on this list (more on him later), while he made his career on special teams, he made the play of his career on offense.  

    The 49ers held on to win 20-16 .

No. 3: One Yard Short..Titans Lose Super Bowl By This Much: Super Bowl XXXIV

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    So close, yet so far.  "The Rams Win By A Yard."  In one of the greatest Super Bowls of All-Time, the Greatest Show on Turf took on the same team that needed the "Music City Miracle" only weeks earlier to stay alive. 

    While the Titans were on the right side of the Music City Miracle, they fell a yard short in sending the Super Bowl into overtime for the first time in history.  Mike Jones was able to hold onto Kevin Dyson, and help the Rams hold onto the game, with a 23-16 victory. 

No. 2: Santonio Holmes With Spectacular Catch: Super Bowl XLIII

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    Must be tough to be Lynn Swann.  Though he made one of the greatest catches in NFL history, it wasn't even the most important catch in Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl history.  This one is.

    After the Cardinals shocked the Steelers with a huge second half comeback, the Steelers put together one last drive that culminated with the acrobatics of Holmes in the corner of the end zone with 35 seconds left.

    The connection gave the Steelers a 27-23 lead, and the defense held on to the victory.  For his catch, Holmes was awarded the Super Bowl MVP—and a ticket out of town a year later.

    While Holmes catch was magnificent, it just missed out on No. 1 too...

No. 1: David Tyree Catches Ball On Helmet: Super Bowl XLII

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    There are just so many incredible aspects of this play.  As a Giants fan, it still gives me the chills.  It is simply the greatest play in Super Bowl history.


    First off, the stakes.  Yes, this being a Super Bowl list, the stakes are as high as possible.  But Tyree made the catch on their final drive in the fourth quarter, down 14-10, with only 59 seconds remaining.

    It was a third-and-five, so an incomplete pass leads to a fourth down and puts the Giants in a very difficult situation.  But as the play began to unfold, the Giants would have taken an incompletion, as Eli Manning looked like he was certainly going to be sacked, forcing the Giants into a fourth and long.  

    But Eli somehow escaped the grasp of defensive end Jarvis Green and a collapsing pocket, scrambled out of the pocket, and fired a rocket down field to David Tyree.

    Now onto the catch.  

    Coming into the game, Tyree had four catches for 35 yards all season.  He was known primarily as the Giants' best gunner on special teams, but never as a receiving threat. 

    In the Super Bowl alone, he had three catches for 43 yards and the Giants first touchdown (which gave them a 10-7 lead in the fourth quarter).

    But Tyree saved his heroics for the final minute when he jumped up, pinned the ball to his helmet (all while being hit by future Hall-of-Fame safety Rodney Harrison), and kept possession. 

    The Patriots came into the game 18-0, seeking to become the second team in NFL history to go through an entire season undefeated.  

    They left 18-1, thanks to the greatest play in Super Bowl history.