Top 5 Super Bowl Plays of All Time

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The Super Bowl may be the biggest stage for an athlete in all of professional sports. No “series,” just a one-game, winner-take-all championship. As a result, all it takes is having the game of a lifetime for a football player to achieve sports immortality. Additionally, sometimes all it takes is one play: a defining moment that turns a journeyman into a celebrity, a star into a superstar, a superstar into a Hall of Famer. These are the greatest Super Bowl plays in history.

5 The Spin: John Elway

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As Super Bowl XXIII got under way, the Denver Broncos’ 37-year-old John Elway was known for his Super Bowl failures. This time, however, he was determined to win the big game. In fact, he was so determined that, scrambling on a crucial third down during a tie game, he leaped forward rather than ducking out of bounds, knowing he would take a crushing hit if he wanted the first down. Indeed, Elway was sent helicoptering horizontally through the air by the force of the tackle. But the quarterback popped up and drove Denver into the end zone, having shown his teammates that he would not be denied a ring any longer.

4 The Catch: Manning to Tyree

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Great catches are part of Super Bowl lore. However, one catch stands out among the rest, not just for its clutch nature, but also for its sheer lack of conventionality. Receivers are taught to catch the ball with their hands, not their bodies. They are certainly never taught to catch the ball with their helmet. Yet on a crucial third down in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII, the unknown David Tyree suddenly became known by football fans everywhere. He leaped for an Eli Manning pass and hauled it in one-handed against his helmet as he tumbled to the ground. The New York Giants were on their way to an upset victory.

3 The Tackle: Jones at the 1

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One yard – all that stood between the Tennessee Titans and a Super Bowl XXXIV championship. Well, one yard and St. Louis Rams linebacker Mike Jones. On the last play of a 23-16 game, the Titans’ Kevin Dyson caught a pass from Steve McNair and lunged for the end zone and the potential tying touchdown. But there was Jones: a solid but unheralded journeyman linebacker and all that stood between Dyson and fame. When he hauled down the receiver a mere 3 feet short of glory, he earned his own place among the immortals.

2 The Run: Marcus Allen

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The Oakland Raiders were on their way to a rout of the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII, but that didn’t stop Marcus Allen from turning in one of the greatest individual efforts in the history of the game. To say Allen scored on a record 74-yard touchdown run in the third quarter doesn’t do justice to what he actually achieved. Rushing left, he found his path to daylight slammed shut by the Redskin defense. So, he turned completely around and scampered right, outrunning all 11 defenders in the process. His sprint to the end zone might as well have been a sprint straight to the Hall of Fame for the great running back.

1 The Drive: Montana to Taylor

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In Super Bowl XXIII, Joe Montana cemented his place in the Football Hall of Fame by leading “The Drive.” Down 16-13 to the Cincinnati Bengals, Montana had just over three minutes to lead the San Francisco 49ers 92 yards to the end zone if he wanted his third Super Bowl ring. He promptly did just that. With 39 seconds left in the game and the ball at the 10-yard line, Montana hit John Taylor with a laser-like throw for the victory. For one of the greatest clutch quarterbacks to ever play the game, it was a play that summed up his entire career in an instant.

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