The 10 Greatest Receptions in NFL History
NFL history is full of great moments. Perhaps no other sports league produces nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat action with such regularity.
The greatest moments in NFL history occurred on a variety of play types, many of them receptions. One factor they have in common is that all of them are spectacular in their athletic difficulty. Other than that, their individual X-factors vary.
The majority resulted in game-altering touchdowns. Some define a player's career, while others placed an established star in the realm of immortality. Many of them occurred on the NFL's biggest stage—the Super Bowl. Most of them occurred at critical junctures in games. A few occurred between bitter rivals in the most emotionally charged games of all time.
Some of them are simply jaw-dropping "did you just see that??" type of grabs. A select few changed not only the course of games but produced seismic shifts in the balance of power, leading to dynasties lasting for decades to come.
Without further ado, here are the 10 greatest receptions in NFL history.
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1. Bart Starr to Max McGee, Super Bowl I: first touchdown in Super Bowl history
McGee, a little-used tight end, made an acrobatic catch despite partying the night before because he didn't expect to play in the game. Hey, maybe that's what Tony Romo needs to do before a big game!
2. Johnny Unitas to John Mackey, Super Bowl V: 75-yard TD on tipped pass
After the debacle of their loss to the Joe Namath and the Jets in Super Bowl III, the Colts regained their honor by winning the Super Bowl just two years later.
3. Troy Aikman to Alvin Harper, 1992 NFC Championship Game
This win launched "America's Team" to their first Super Bowl championship in the Jimmy Johnson era. The crucial play was a pass and run late in the fourth quarter from Aikman to Harper, securing the win and Super Bowl berth.
10. Tom Brady to Wes Welker 99-Plus Yard Touchdown Catch, 2011 MNF
This spectacular play tied the NFL record for the longest pass play from scrimmage.
It was the dagger in the back of a Miami team moments after they had threatened to pull within one score of New England in the first Monday Night Football game of the season.
And this Miami team has yet to win a game so far in 2011...
9. Antonio Freeman OT Catch vs. Vikings on Monday Night Football
For Antonio Freeman to catch this pass from Brett Favre required amazing concentration and presence of mind.
The Vikings defender never realized what was happening until it was too late, and Packers fans would celebrate a victory over their hated rivals deep into the night.
8. 1986 AFC Championship Game, John Elway to Mark Jackson
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This TD throw (apologies for not showing on the left) capped a 98-yard drive to tie the game and force overtime.
By putting together this remarkable drive, Elway cemented his reputation as a clutch quarterback.
Jackson made an incredible diving/rolling catch, and although the Broncos didn't go on to win the Super Bowl, it still deserve recognition on this list.
7. 1998 Wild Card, Steve Young to T.O. to Knock Packers from Playoffs
As a Green Bay fan, I hate to include this play.
But the fact is, the connection from Steve Young to a young Terrell Owens was one of the most significant touchdown receptions in a crucial playoff scenario.
It ended Green Bay's two-year run of Super Bowl appearances, and Brett Favre would never return to the game's biggest stage.
6. Super Bowl XLIII Game-Winning TD, Roethlisberger to Holmes
This incredible play caps the only good drive Ben Roethlisberger has put together in his three Super Bowl appearances.
Therefore, it deserves recognition on this list.
5. Cowboys Beat Vikings on Hail Mary in 1975 Playoffs
After the game, Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach said, "I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary" out of desperation (thus making the expression famous in football lore).
But the last-gasp play worked, and we have another one of the great receptions in NFL history.
4. 1974 Raiders Beat Dolphins on "Sea of Hands" TD
This catch took Miami out of the playoffs after they had made it to the last three Super Bowls.
Interestingly, this game used to be known as the "Lost Game" because it was thought that the English broadcast was lost.
However, NFL Films recently discovered a copy of the game deep in storage.
Skip to 2:28 to see the actual play.
3. The Immaculate Reception
Simply put, this is one of the craziest plays in NFL history. Who ever heard of a football boinking off a helmet and fortuitously careening into the arms of another receiver?
This play literally turned around the fortunes of an entire franchise.
Prior to this play, the Steelers had never won a playoff game. After this miracle, the Steel Curtain went on to win four Super Bowls in the 1970s.
2. The Catch
Like the Immaculate Reception, this play set the tone for the domination of an NFL franchise over an entire decade.
After beating the Cowboys in dramatic fashion, the 49ers went on to own the 1980s. San Francisco made the playoffs in eight of the next 10 years, winning four Super Bowls.
Skip to 0:55 to see the actual play.
1. David Tyree, Super Bowl XLII
And finally, the greatest reception in NFL history.
Every football fan remembers this moment with some type of emotion. David Tyree's incredible behind-the-helmet grab that set up the game-winning touchdown for the Giants in Super Bowl XLII was quite possibly the most stunning play in the history of America's most popular sport.
Also, as an anti-Patriot fan, it's one of my favorite plays of all time.