As the Falcons prepare for Super Bowl LI, I thought it would be good to go back and look at some of the most memorable moments from the biggest one-day sporting event in the world.
I am old enough to say that I have watched all, or part, of every Super Bowl. Yes, I was a mere nine-years-old when the Packers and Chiefs battled for the NFL-AFC Championship at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Needless to say, there are many plays that have stuck in my brain, burned into the memories. The following may not be the “greatest plays” ever in the 50-year history of the Super Bowl, but they are unforgettable.
5.) Super Bowl XVII 01/22/1984: Marcus Allen’s 74 yard touchdown run
The favored Washington Redskins entered Super Bowl XVII in Tampa as the defending champs and sporting the league’s best record (14-2). The Los Angeles Raiders were at 12-and-4. From the beginning this was a no contest as the Raiders man-handled the Redskins and won going away. The highlight of the game came on the last play of the 3rd quarter. With Los Angeles sporting a 28-9 lead, running back Marcus Allen took a hand-off from quarterback Jim Plunkett and started to run wide left. But when he saw there was no room to run, he cut back and ran into Super Bowl lore, or as NFL Films’ John Facenda would say: “As Washington’s hopes faded into the dying daylight, on came Marcus Allen, running with the night.” The final score: Raiders 38, Redskins 9. Allen was named MVP by rushing for 191 yards.
4.) Super Bowl X 01/18/1976: Lynn Swann’s incredible catch
The game was right in the middle of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ run of great teams in the 70’s. Two of the top teams in the NFL at the time, the Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys, met with Pittsburgh trying for its second straight title. With time running down in the first half, and the Cowboys leading 10-7, the Steelers were on the move. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw completed a 53-yard pass to Lynn Swann at the Cowboys’ 37. The catch by Swann is one of the most memorable catches in Super Bowl history. Even though the catch helped move the Steelers within field goal range, kicker Roy Gerela missed a 36 yard attempt and Dallas went to the half with a 3-point lead. But Pittsburgh, on the strength of a 14-point 3rd quarter, won the game 21-17. Swann, who finished with four catches for 161 yards and one touchdown, was the first wide receiver ever to be named Super Bowl MVP.
3.) Super Bowl XXV: 01/27/1991: Scott Norwood and “Wide Right”
The game, played in Tampa, had a little bit of everything. From Whitney Houston’s iconic version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to the heightened security at the stadium because of the Gulf War, this was a most memorable night. However, the biggest memory was saved for the end. With :08 to go in the game, the Buffalo Bills trailed the New York Giants by one point. With the ball resting at the New York 29, the Bills brought in field goal kicker Scott Norwood. His kick, which seemed to have the distance, sailed about a foot wide right. The Giants took over, ran out the clock and won the game 20-19. It was the first of four straight Super Bowl appearance by the Bills, and the first of four straight Super Bowl losses. The Giants returned to the big game four more times where they were 4-1.
2.) Super Bowl XLII 02/03/2008: David Tyree’s helmet catch
The New England Patriots had not lost a game and were trying to become the only team other than the 1972 Miami Dolphins to finish out the season undefeated. The New York Giants were 10-6 and a Wild Card team. The two teams met in Glendale, Arizona in what became one of the biggest upsets in NFL history. The Giants won 17-14 as quarterback Eli Manning hit wide-out Plaxico Burress with a 13-yard touchdown pass with :35 left in the game. But the play that helped set up that winning score is the one that’s most remembered. Little used receiver David Tyree made an incredible, leaping one-handed catch of a Manning pass, and held on by pinning the ball against his helmet as he fell to the ground. The play was good for 32 yards and kept the winning drive alive. Adrian Hasenmeyer of Fox Sports called it “an insult to physics and Albert Einstein.”
1.) Super Bowl XXXIV: 01/30/2000: “The Tackle”
As great as Tyree’s helmet catch was, nothing can top what happened on the final play of Super Bowl XXXIV at the Georgia Dome back in 2000. The Tennessee Titans were trailing the St. Louis Rams by seven with only :06 to go in the game when they had the ball at the Rams 10. With one final chance to tie the game, quarterback Steve McNair hit Kevin Dyson with a pass, but Rams linebacker Mike Jones tackled Dyson one yard short of the goal line. The image of Dyson stretching the ball, reaching toward the goal line with Jones wrapping him up at the legs is one of the most iconic scenes in the history of pro football. After the game, Dyson told the Washington Post: ” He (Jones) just made a great play. I thought I was going to get in there. I didn’t think he had a good grip on me, and I stretched out, but I was just short.” The Rams won the game, 23-16 and returned to the Super Bowl two years later, only to lose to New England. The Titans have never made it back to the Big Game.