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The 25 Greatest Single Game Performances in Super Bowl History

Matt ParkerContributor IIIJanuary 26, 2011

The 25 Greatest Single Game Performances in Super Bowl History

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    When in Rom(an numerals)Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    With Super Bowl XLV less than two weeks away, I rate those final game performances that still carry legends and inspire memories.

    Some of these guys are household names.

    Some of these guys were one hit wonders.

    Some of these players are who they are because of these performances.

    Statistics can both enhance and affirm a great performance.

    These may be on the strength of numbers, but mostly they captured our attention and reminded us why we watch sports.

    From last-second drives to records that still stand today, these performances highlight some of the best we've ever seen in the NFL's championship game.

No. 25: Max McGee and Bart Starr, Super Bowl I

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    QB Bart Starr (right) led the Packers to victory in Super Bowl I.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    In the League's initial Super Bowl, Green Bay defeated Kansas City behind the performances of game MVP Bart Starr and receiver Max McGee.

    Starr and McGee hooked up for 138 yards and two scores in a 35-10 route.

    Starr's passer rating of 116.2 is highest in Packer history.

No. 24: Tom Brady, Super Bowl XXXVIII

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    Brady' led the Pats to their second Super Bowl victory in three years.Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns as he out-gunned Carolina play-caller Jake Delhomme. 

    His record 32 completions endured for six years.

    New England once again won behind the foot of Adam Vinatieri, 32-29. 

No. 23: Jim Plunkett, Super Bowl XV

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    Plunkett led the Raiders to victories in Super Bowl XV and XVIII.George Rose/Getty Images

    Quarterback Jim Plunkett turned in one of the better performances of the era, throwing for three scores, 261 yards and posting a 145.0 passer rating (third-best all-time) in staking his Raiders to an early 14-0 lead they would never surrender.

No. 22: Santonio Holmes, Super Bowl XLIII

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    This catch earned Pittsburgh its sixth Super Bowl win.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Holmes garnered Super Bowl MVP by virtue of his nine catches for 131 yards and this game-winning tip-toeing touchdown catch (see above) with just 35 seconds remaining.

No. 21: Roger Staubach, Super Bowl VI

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    Staubach helped make Dallas a winner in the 1970s.Getty Images/Getty Images

    Staubach earned game MVP honors in Super Bowl VI against the Dolphins, going 12-18 for 119 yards, two touchdowns and a 122.2 passer rating (eighth all-time).

No. 20: Rod Martin, Super Bowl XV

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    Rod Martin led the Raiders D in Super Bowl XV.George Rose/Getty Images

    Linebacker Rob Martin controlled the game on defense, picking off three Ron Jaworski passes, a Super Bowl record.

No. 19: Terry Bradshaw, Super Bowl XIII

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    Bradshaw won three Super Bowl rings with Pittsburgh.Getty Images/Getty Images

    Bradshaw threw four touchdowns and 318 yards as the Steelers held on for a 35-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

    His 119.2 passer rating is ninth all-time.

No. 18: Emmitt Smith, Super Bowl XXVIII

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    Smith barrel into the end zone in Super Bowl XXVIII.George Rose/Getty Images

    You know you're doing something right when Sports Illustrated calls you Superman on its front cover.

    Smith ran for 91 of his 132 yards in the second half, leading the Cowboys over the Bills for the second straight year after trailing 13-6 at halftime.

No. 17: Drew Brees, Super Bowl XLIV

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    They ain't the 'Ain'ts no more.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Brees completed a record 33 passes while compiling the second highest completion percentage in the game's 44-year history.

    New Orleans trailed by one entering the fourth quarter before Brees led the Saints on an eight-point drive and control of the game.

    He was named Super Bowl XLIV MVP.

No. 16: Terrell Davis, Super Bowl XXXII

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    TD took to the air to help the Broncos win Super Bowl XXXII.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Davis carried the ball 30 times for 157 yards against the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII.

    He had three one-yard touchdown runs, the final one giving Denver the win, 31-24.

No. 15: John Riggins, Super Bowl XVII

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    Riggins carried the ball a record 38 times against Miami.Getty Images/Getty Images

    Washington controlled the game behind Riggins, who rushed for 166 yards including a 34-yard score on fourth and one that put the Skins up for good.

No. 14: Troy Aikman, Super Bowl XXVII

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    Aikman's passer rating in Super Bowl XXVII was a gaudy 140.7.George Rose/Getty Images

    Troy Aikman led the 52-17 route of Buffalo by throwing for 273 yards and four touchdowns.

    His 140.7 passer rating helped him earn the game's MVP.

No. 13: Joe Montana, Super Bowl XIX

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    Montana accounted for four touchdowns against the Dolphins.George Rose/Getty Images

    Joe Montana's performance in Super Bowl XIX was nothing short of spectacular.

    He registered 331 yards in the air and 59 more on the ground in a blowout of Dan Marino's Miami Dolphins.

No. 12: Joe Namath, Super Bowl III

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    Broadway Joe Namath in 2008.Jarrett Baker/Getty Images

    The New York Jets were huge underdogs against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

    Joe Namath didn't see it that way so he guaranteed a Jets victory.

    While Broadway Joe didn't have an amazing performance, he inspired his team with his bold prediction as New York went on to win 16-7, with Namath being named MVP.

No. 11: Kurt Warner, Super Bowl XXXIV

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    Warner threw for a record 414 yards against Tennessee.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Kurt Warner's road to the Super Bowl was as unique as the way he excelled on the sports biggest stage.

    Working at a supermarket just a few years before, Warner shined on his way to earning MVP honors.

    His record 414 passing yards led the Rams to a 23-16 victory over the Titans.

No. 10: Doug Williams, Super Bowl XXII

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    Williams brought the Redskins back from a 10-0 deficit.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Doug Williams' second quarter alone would have earned him a spot on this list.

    He threw four touchdowns in the period as Washington turned a 10-0 deficit into a 35-10 lead at halftime.

    His 127.9 passer rating is sixth all-time.

No. 9: Marcus Allen, Super Bowl XVIII

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    Allen led the Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XVIII.George Rose/Getty Images

    Allen rushed for a then-record 191 yards on just 20 carries, including a 74-yard touchdown run.

    His Los Angeles Raiders would go on to win Super Bowl XVIII, 38-9, with Allen being named MVP.

No. 8: Eli Manning and David Tyree, Super Bowl XLII

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    This catch extended the game-winning drive.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    In a classic game in which the lead changed hands three times in the fourth quarter, Eli Manning and David Tyree made the difference.

    They hooked up for a score early in the period and once again on this miraculous play.

    On 3rd and 5, Manning eluded a tackle and found Tyree over the middle with just 1:15 left in the game.

    His 32-yard catch extended the drive and set up the victory a few plays later.

No. 7: Joe Montana, Super Bowl XXIV

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    Montana threw five touchdowns in the first three quarters.Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Montana was brilliant in Super Bowl XXIV, throwing for 297 yards and five scores.

    His 147.6 passer rating is second-best all-time.

No. 6: Phil Simms, Super Bowl XXI

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    Simms was near-perfect in Super Bowl XXI.George Rose/Getty Images

    Phil Simms saved the best game of his life for the most important.

    He completed an astounding 22 of 25 passes for a record 88 percent and his 150.9 passer rating is tops in Super Bowl history.

    He threw for three scores as the Giants pummeled Denver 39-20.

No. 5: Timmy Smith, Super Bowl XXII

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    Timmy!George Rose/Getty Images

    Timmy Smith rushed for 126 yards during the 1987 season and just 602 in his career.

    However, he ran for a record 204 in Super Bowl XXII, including 122 in the second quarter alone.

    It's stories like these that make the Super Bowl what it is today.

No. 4: Jerry Rice, Super Bowl XXIII

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    Rice caught 11 balls for a record 215 yards against the Bengals.Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Jerry Rice is considered by many to be the greatest receiver of all-time.

    So it's no surprise he holds the Super Bowl record for receiving yards in both a game and a career.

    His 215 yards in Super Bowl XXIII came on just 11 catches, including a touchdown.

No. 3: Steel Curtain, Super Bowl IX

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    The 2010 version will look to smother the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The Steel Curtain lived up to its name in Super Bowl IX.

    Against the Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh's defense allowed just 119 total yards, recorded a safety and forced two missed kicks.

    The Vikings' only score came from its defense as the Steelers prevailed 16-6.

No. 2: Steve Young, Super Bowl XXIX

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    Young and Rice put the Niners back on top in Super Bowl XXIX.George Rose/Getty Images

    With Joe Montana gone, Steve Young finally got the chance to showcase his tremendous talent.

    This may have never been more evident than in Super Bowl XXIX against San Diego.

    The Chargers had no answer for Young, who threw for a record six touchdowns on his way to Super Bowl MVP.

No. 1: Joe Montana, Super Bowl XXIII

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    Joe was cool under pressure in Super Bowl XXIII.Mike Powell/Getty Images

    He had better numbers in other games, but with the San Francisco 49ers trailing 16-13 with little more than three minutes remaining, Joe Montana was never more clutch in the Super Bowl.

    He took the Niners from their own eight yard line and finished with a touchdown pass to John Taylor, giving San Francisco the win 20-16.

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