Top 25 Performances in the History of Monday Night Football
I was born on a Monday in early December.
The first Monday Night Football game of my life was about as historic as they get. It was Week 14 of the NFL season, and two teams with identical 7-6 records were battling for a chance at the playoffs.
The date was December 8th, 1980 and it was also the night that the nation learned that John Lennon had been gunned down outside his New York City apartment.
Howard Cosell’s announcement of the event on Monday Night Football has become nearly as historic as the event itself.
Monday Night Football has a storied history in our culture, and its games, announcers and players have had a profound impact on any football fan's life.
In anticipation of tonight's Redskins vs Cowboys battle, I've combed through every box score in Monday Night Football history to see exactly which players have shined the brightest on this oh-so-important stage.
The following slideshow is the Top 25 performances in the history of Monday Night Football.
I’ve singled out five especially impressive defensive/special teams performances, and then the next twenty will be offensive performances.
Did I miss someone? Disagree with the list? Comment below!
25. Devin Hester: December 11th, 2006
Hester turned in an amazing performance by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns. In the second quarter he took a kickoff 94 yards to give the Bears a 7-6 lead.
Hester sealed the game in the fourth quarter by returning a kickoff 96 yards for another touchdown.
Hester’s final line was four kick returns for 225 yards and two touchdowns along with one punt return for 21 yards.
24. Chicago Bears Defense/Special Teams: October 16th, 2006
The same 2006 Bears team was 5-0 early in the season when they travelled to Arizona to take on the Cardinals.
The Cardinals jumped out to 20-0 halftime lead before the Bears defense/special teams awakened.
Mike Brown returned a fumble three yards in the third quarter to make it a 23-10 game, and then Charles Tillman returned a fumble 40 yards to make it 23-17, giving the Bears life.
Arizona would be forced to punt late in the fourth quarter, and instead of punting out of bounds—eliminating the effect of Devin Hester—they punted the ball directly to Hester, who took the punt 83 yards for the touchdown to give the Bears a 24-23 victory.
23. Jared Allen: October 5th, 2009
The Vikings would ultimately pull out a 30-23 victory, but instead of Brett Favre as the star, it was defensive lineman Jared Allen who recorded 4.5 sacks—the most in Monday Night Football history.
22. Johnny Robinson: September 28th, 1970
21. Seattle Seahawks Defense: December 8th, 1986
The Raiders were 8-5 after suffering a tough overtime loss against the Eagles the previous week.
They wouldn’t win again the rest of the season.
Seattle completely shut down the Raiders' offensive attack by registering 11 sacks and grabbing three interceptions. The Raiders could only muster 138 yards of total offense in this critical Monday Night game that would ultimately propel the 7-6 Seahawks to a 10-6 record.
20. Carolina Panthers Running Backs: December 8th, 2008
The Carolina Panthers' prolific running attack took things to a new level in a Monday night game against division rival Tampa Bay.
The Panthers' star running back duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart racked up 301 yards and four touchdowns on the ground to defeat the Buccaneers 38-23.
DeAngelo Williams ran 19 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns while Jonathan Stewart carried the ball 15 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
19. Drew Brees: November 30th, 2009
The Saints would dominate the Patriots behind the strong arm of Drew Brees.
Brees was 18-of-23 for 371 yards and five touchdowns in a dominant performance that helped to propel the Saints to a Super Bowl championship later in the year.
18. Randy Moss: November 19th, 2001
The Giants had a 16-14 lead entering the fourth quarter, but the Vikings would soon take command of the game after a Cris Carter touchdown to take the lead and then a 57-yard touchdown to Randy Moss to ice it.
Moss ended up with 10 catches for 171 yards and three touchdowns, along with one run for 18 yards.
17. Randall Cunningham: October 5th, 1998
Randall Cunningham had his last great season in 1998. His best performance of the year was probably this Monday Night Football game against the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay.
Cunningham would go 20-of-32 for 442 yards and four touchdowns to help the Vikings pull out a 37-24 win and remain undefeated.
16. Eric Dickerson: October 31st, 1988
The Indianapolis Colts turned in one of the most impressive displays of offensive ability in Monday Night Football history against the Denver Broncos in 1988.
The Colts led the Broncos 48-10. At the half.
Indianapolis would go onto win the game 55-23, and Eric Dickerson would turn in a final line of 21 carries for 159 yards and four touchdowns.
15. Jerry Rice: September 5th, 1994
It was opening weekend of the 1994 season when Jerry Rice and the 49ers put a serious beating on the Los Angeles Raiders.
The 49ers won 44-14, and Jerry Rice caught seven passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns as well as one 23-yard touchdown run.
14. Warrick Dunn: December 18th, 2000
Tampa Bay and St. Louis faced off late in the 2000 season in an important game between two 9-5 teams.
Tampa Bay would ultimately come out on top of this back-and-forth contest on the strength of a Warrick Dunn touchdown run.
Dunn turned in a career game with 23 carries for 145 yards and three touchdowns, along with five receptions for 52 yards.
13. Steve Young: December 23rd, 1991
The Bears and 49ers faced off in the very last game of the 1991 regular season.
The game was over by halftime, with the 49ers blowing out the Bears 52-14 to improve to 10-6 on the season.
Steve Young turned in an amazing game, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns and adding in eight rushes for 63 yards and a rushing touchdown.
12. Emmitt Smith: September 4th, 1995
The Dallas Cowboys would go on to win the Super Bowl in 1995, and their first game of the season set the table for everything to follow.
The Cowboys destroyed the Giants 35-0 in New York.
Emmitt Smith ran the ball 21 times for 163 yards and four touchdowns in a season that would see him ultimately run for 25 total touchdowns.
11. Steve Young: December 18th, 1995
Steve Young turned in a dominant performance in Week 15 of the 1995 season. Young's 49ers would beat a very talented Vikings team, led by Warren Moon and Cris Carter, 37-30 to improve to 11-4.
Young's final line was 30-of-49 for 425 yards, three TDs, two INT and one rushing touchdown
10. Bo Jackson: November 30th, 1987
Bo knows Monday Night Football.
Jackson led the Raiders over the Seahawks in a dominant performance by the young phenom.
Jackson ran the ball just 18 times, but he amassed 221 yards and two touchdowns along with one catch for a 14-yard touchdown as well.
9. Wes Chandler: December 20th, 1982
The Bengals and Chargers battled in one of the highest-scoring games of the strike-shortened 1982 season. The box score for this game is littered with great performances, but nobody shone as brightly as Wes Chandler.
The final line for the four-time Pro Bowler was 10 catches for 260 yards and two touchdowns.
8. Earl Campbell: November 20th, 1978
The 7-4 Houston Oilers faced off against the 8-3 Dolphins in what ended up being a very important game for both teams. The Oilers would pull out the win in Week 12 and then wind up beating the Dolphins again in the playoffs.
Earl Campbell sealed the Week 12 win on Monday Night Football by rushing 28 times for 199 yards and four touchdowns!
7. Ron Johnson: October 2nd, 1972
Two-time Pro Bowler Ron Johnson had one of the best games of his career in a Monday Night win against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Johnson turned in a dual-threat performance that would have made Marshall Faulk proud.
His final line was 36 carries for 124 yards and one touchdown along with five receptions for 60 yards and three touchdown receptions.
6. Drew Bennett: December 13th, 2004
Drew Bennett turned in the game of his career in a game his team would ultimately lose to the Kansas City Chiefs, 48-39.
Bennett caught 12 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns from Billy Volek who was filling in for an injured Steve McNair.
5. Tom Brady: September 12th, 2011
Not surprisingly, Brady's performance a few weeks ago ranks as one of the greatest in Monday Night Football history. He was already having an amazing game before the 99-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker.
Brady's final line was 32-of-48, 517 yards, four touchdowns and one interception
4. Eric Hipple: October 19th, 1981
Eric Hipple got his first career start against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.
Hipple burst onto the scene by leading the Lions past the Bears in an astounding 48-17 victory.
Hipple's amazing final line was 14-of-25 for 336 yards and four touchdowns, along with four rushes for 13 yards and two additional touchdowns.
Six touchdowns in his first career start!
3. John Taylor: December 11th, 1989
The 11-2 San Francisco 49ers were trailing 27-17 in the 4th quarter when Joe Montana hooked up with John Taylor for a 96-yard touchdown pass.
That pass would ultimately provide the spark that the 49ers would need to come back and win the game 30-27.
Taylor's final line was 11 catches for 286 yards and two touchdowns.
2. Michael Vick: November 15th, 2010
Mike Vick played some great games in the 2010 season, but nothing compares to the dominant, all-around performance that he displayed against the Redskins on Monday Night Football.
Vick was 20-of-28 for 333 yards passing and four touchdowns, along with eight rushes for 80 yards and two additional touchdowns.
The Eagles would win the game 59-28.
1. Jerry Rice: December 18th, 1995
Jerry Rice has a history of amazing Monday Night Football performances, and his best one was on December 18th, 1995.
The 37-30 win also placed Steve Young on this list, but Rice's performance was more impressive.
Rice hauled in 14 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns to help the 49ers pull out the win.
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