Whether you’re a football fan or not, the Super Bowl is an annual event that captures the collective fervor of the viewing public, with over 100 million people watching the game, the lead up to the game and all the post-game activities. The game is such pinnacle moment during the year for not only football but sports in general, it produces some of the most dramatic moments that comprise the top 10 greatest Super Bowl moments.
It is such an influential event, advertisers create commercials specifically for the game, promote them beforehand and measure the reaction once shown on game day. Sports bars, pubs and other venues where sports enthusiasts gather are packed with enthusiastic patrons that gobble up refreshments of all sorts. There are neighborhood block parties, private parties by friends and other acquaintances, all geared toward celebration of the big game.
As big a social event the Super Bowl has become, the drama on the field as the two teams clash have produced some of the most memorable moments in sports history. In fact, there are so many great moments in Super Bowl history, it’s hard to pick just a few; however, here are our picks for the top 10 Super Bowl moments.
10. By the Tips of His Toes – Super Bowl XLIII
Super Bowl XLIII between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals was a game of runs. The Steelers, behind quarterback Ben Roethlisberger built up a 17 to 7 halftime lead, only to see that evaporate behind Arizona’s explosive offense led by quarterback Kurt Warner. With 2:37 left in the game, Arizona took the lead, 23 to 20, off a pass from Warner to receiver, Larry Fitzgerald.
The Steelers got the ball on their own 22-yard line. With two timeouts remaining, Roethlisberger engineered a drive that took the Steelers down to the Cardinals 6-yard line. That set up the go-ahead touchdown – A pass from Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes in the right corner of the endzone. Holmes caught the ball by extending the tips of his toes so he could reach up to grab the pass. He secured the ball with his toes inbound before falling out of bounds. Replay confirmed the catch and the Steelers won the game.
Super Bowl XLIII
Final Score: Steelers 27 – Cardinals 23
Date: February 1, 2009
Stadium: Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Florida
MVP – Santonio Holmes
9. Wide Right – Super Bowl XXV
In a game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Giants that came down to one point in the fourth quarter when the Bills made their final march down the field, it was a last second kick that decided Super Bowl XXV. With the Bills down 20 to 19, the ball at their own 10-yard line and 2:16 remaining on the clock, quarterback Jim Kelly went to work to attempt to move his team down the field for either a touchdown or a field goal against the number one defense in the NFL.
Kelly was superb in the final drive, completing several short passes and scrambling for yards when the Bills needed it. Running back Thurman Thomas also added several key runs, including the final 7 yards to get the ball in field goal range at the Giants 29-yard line. With seconds remaining, Bills kicker Scott Norwood lined up the 47-yard attempt. The snap and hold were perfect, and Norwood kicked the ball cleanly. As fate would have it though, the ball went wide right of the upright and the Bills lost the game.
The Bills would go to three more Super Bowls and lose them all.
Super Bowl XXV
Final Score: Giants 20 – Bills 19
Date: January 27, 1991
Stadium: Tampa Stadium – Tampa, Florida
MVP – Ottis Anderson
8. Swann Song – Super Bowl X
Although Pittsburgh Steelers receiver, Lynn Swann, had four catches for 161 yards, none of the catches was more important than the one he made in the fourth quarter to seal the game. Trailing the Dallas Cowboys 10 to 7 going in the fourth quarter, the Steelers scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter in different ways: A blocked punt for a safety; an interception that led to a field goal; a field goal off a return of the free kick after the safety; and Lynn Swann’s touchdown catch.
The touchdown catch came on a third and four play at the Steelers own 36-yard line. Instead of opting for a short pass for the first down, quarterback Terry Bradshaw called Swann’s number in the huddle and told him to run a deep post pattern. Bradshaw dropped back to pass, avoiding a blitzing D. D. Lewis and throwing the ball deep to Swann. Swann caught the ball on the five-yard line and went into the endzone for the score.
Bradshaw never saw the play as he was hit by blitzing safety Cliff Harris and defensive lineman, Larry Cole. The hit knocked Bradshaw out of the game but that proved to be the game winning score.
Super Bowl X
Final Score: Steelers 21 – Cowboys 17
Date: January 18, 1976
Stadium: Orange Bowl – Miami, Florida
MVP – Lynn Swann
7. Elway’s Helicopter Ride – Super Bowl XXXII
Super Bowl XXXII was a classic dual between the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers. Featuring two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Denver’s John Elway and Green Bay’s Brett Favre. The game went back-and-forth with the score being tied 17 to 17 midway through the third quarter.
That’s when John Elway and the Broncos began a drive down the field that would last 13 plays and go 92 yards for a Terrell Davis touchdown. But it wasn’t that touchdown run or any other play in that drive that set the tone for the rest of the game. It was a first down run by John Elway that was the defining moment of the game.
With the ball on the Packers 12-yard line and the Broncos facing a third down, Elway went back to pass. Finding no one open, Elway took off, scrambling eight yards for the first down. At the end of the play though, as Elway dove for the first down, Mike Prior of the Packers hit him in mid-air, spinning him around like a helicopter. In fact, the play was later referred to as “The Helicopter.”
Super Bowl XXXII
Final Score: Broncos 31 – Packers 24
Date: January 25, 1998
Stadium: Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, California
MVP – Terrell Davis
6. Taylor Made – Super Bowl XXIII
In a rematch of Super Bowl XVI, the San Francisco 49ers squared off against the Cincinnati Bengals. Seven years earlier, the 49ers beat the Bengals. For the first 57 minutes and 50 seconds, history didn’t look like it would repeat itself. With 3:10 left on the clock, the ball on the 49ers eight-yard line and the Bengals up 16 to 13, Joe Montana went under center to attempt to engineer a drive down the field that would give the 49ers the lead.
Legend has it that prior to taking the snap that would begin the drive, while in the huddle, Montana pointed into the stadium and quipped to his teammates, “Hey, isn’t that John Candy.” He did it to help calm the nerves of his teammates. Montana then went on to lead the 49ers down the field to the Bengals 10-yard line. With 39 seconds left in the game, Montana dropped back for a pass and found John Taylor for the game winning touchdown.
Super Bowl XXIII
Final Score: 49ers 20 – Bengals 16
Date: January 22, 1989
Stadium: Joe Robbie Stadium – Miami, Florida
MVP – Jerry Rice
5. The Butler Did It – Super Bowl XLIX
The Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots see-sawed back forth for much of the game. In fact, Seattle had built a 10-point lead to end the third quarter but the Patriots, behind their ageless quarterback, Tom Brady, charged back to take the lead 28 to 24 with 2:02 left in the game.
Seattle though, marched right down the field behind the arm of quarterback Russel Wilson and the running of tailback, Marshawn Lynch. With 26 seconds remaining in the game, Seattle was at the one-yard line courtesy of a four-yard run by Lynch. It seemed inevitable the Seahawks would score. Just give the ball to Marshawn Lynch. Instead, the Seahawks passed the ball. Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockette was who the pass was intended for but undrafted rookie, Malcolm Butler read the play beautifully and intercepted the ball to seal the game.
Super Bowl XLIX
Final Score: Patriots 28 – Seahawks 20
Date: February 1, 2015
Stadium: University of Phoenix Stadium – Phoenix, Arizona
MVP – Tom Brady
4. Vinatieri’s Kick – Super Bowl XXXVI
In a game where the St. Louis Rams outgained the New England Patriots 427 to 267 in total yards, the Rams trailed the Patriots 17 to 3 in the 3rd quarter. The Rams though came back to tie the game with 1:30 remaining in the game.
That’s when second year quarterback, Tom Brady, with no timeouts took the Patriots down to the Rams 30-yard line. With 7 seconds left in the game, New England coach, Bill Belichick sent Adam Vinatieri into the game for the potential game winning kick. The 48-yard attempt was good, giving New England the win and setting them on the path of a dynasty with the incomparable pairing of Belichick and Brady.
Super Bowl XXXVI
Final Score: Patriots 20 – Rams 17
Date: February 3, 2002
Stadium: Louisiana Superdome – New Orleans, Louisiana
MVP – Tom Brady
3. The Riggins Run – Super Bowl XVII
After building a 17 to 10 halftime lead, the Miami Dolphins watched the Washington Redskins score 17 unanswered points in the second half to win the game. The key play in the 2nd half though was made by John Riggins, the rugged running back of the Washington Redskins.
With a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game and facing fourth and one at their own 43-year line, the Redskins coach, Joe Gibbs, decided to go for the first down. Gibbs called Riggins number. The play was to the right side of the line. Riggins broke free from an attempted tackle by Dolphins cornerback, Don McNeal. After breaking the tackle, Riggins outran the Dolphins defense to go 43 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Riggins run proved to be the defining moment of the game as the Redskins went on to win 27 to 17.
Super Bowl XVII
Final Score: Redskins 27 – Dolphins 17
Date: January 30, 1983
Stadium: Rose Bowl – Pasadena, California
MVP – John Riggins
2. The Guarantee – Super Bowl III
Super Bowl III featured the pride of the NFL, the Baltimore Colts with quarterback Johnny Unitas, against the champions from the upstart AFL, New York Jets led by flamboyant quarterback, Joe Namath, nicknamed Broadway Joe. Namath was just as renowned for his off-field exploits as he was for his on-field accomplishments.
In the lead up to the game, Namath issued his now famous guarantee while at the Miami Touchdown club – the Jets would beat the Colts in Super Bowl III. Unfortunately for the Colts, Namath and the Jets were able to back up this bold braggadocio, winning Super Bowl III by a score of 16 to 7, giving the AFL their first Super Bowl victory.
Super Bowl III
Final Score: Jets 16 – Colts 7
Date: January 12, 1969
Stadium: Orange Bowl – Miami, Florida
MVP – Joe Namath
1. One Yard Short – Super Bowl XXXIV
With the Rams up 23 to 16, the Titans had marched down the field to the 10-yard line with time enough left on the clock for one play. That final play would go down as one of the greatest defensive plays in Super History.
Titans quarterback, Steve McNair dropped back for a pass and found a wide-open receiver Kevin Dyson, who caught the ball and headed straight for the goal line. Rams linebacker Mike Jones, who had been covering Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, saw the catch, switched directions and was able to stop Dyson one yard short of the goal line, ending the game and securing a Rams victory.
Super Bowl XXXIV
Final Score: Rams 23 – Titans 16
Date: January 30, 2000
Stadium: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, Georgia
MVP – Kurt Warner