With the world awaiting Super Bowl LVII, it’s easy to be swept up in the fondness of memories from the Super Bowl’s past. The Super Bowl has long been the biggest event the professional sporting world has to offer, an event that draws attention from professional football die-hards and casual viewers alike. Since the game’s inception, moments that have come to entrench themselves in the collective public conscience have made so that we continue coming back to it year after year. Here are just ten of the most memorable moments in the big game’s storied history.
10. 49ers Goal-line Stand (Super Bowl XVI)
The San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals met in Super Bowl XVI at the Pontiac Superdome in Pontiac, Michigan. The slightly favored 49ers, led by Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, and Ronnie Lott, put together a goal-line stand in the third quarter that stands out as one of the all-time great Super Bowl moments.
After Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson failed to get in the end zone on first down and Pete Johnson lost a yard on second down, Anderson tossed the ball to Charles Alexander who, on a missed route, was brought down by Dan Bunz to force fourth down.
9. Lynn Swann’s Bobbled Catch (Super Bowl X)
Lynn Swann had just four receptions for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl X against the Dallas Cowboys, but they were four of the biggest receptions in Super Bowl history, going for a total of 161 yards and a touchdown. The most memorable of the four receptions stands out as an all-time great Super Bowl moment.
In the January sun at the Miami Orange Bowl, quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a long pass down the field to Swann who somehow came down with the 53-yard reception after a bobble. Though the 64-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter was longer, the bobbled catch is even more memorable, standing out as one of the most improbable catches in NFL history.
8. Vince Lombardi’s Last Game with the Packers (Super Bowl II)
Super Bowl II between the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders at the Miami Orange Bowl wasn’t one of the more competitive games in Super Bowl history, with the Packers taking a quite easy 33-14 win. But it is one of the most memorable games in NFL history because it was the final game Vince Lombardi would coach for the Packers.
In a moment forever secured in NFL history, the Packers carried Lombardi off the field after securing the win over the Raiders. The legendary coach would be stricken ill and die untimely just two years later in 1970 at just 57.
7. Jackie Smith’s Drop (Super Bowl XIII)
Jackie Smith is one of the NFL’s all-time greatest tight ends, as well as one of the all-time greatest Cardinals. His Hall of Fame resumé comes entirely on the merits of his St. Louis Cardinals career. However, his one season with the Dallas Cowboys provided the moment that is perhaps most attached to his NFL career.
In a Miami Orange Bowl Super Bowl rematch between the Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Roger Staubach attempted a pass to a wide open Smith in the end zone in the third quarter. In an uncharacteristic turn, Smith dropped the ball, killing a sure touchdown for the Cowboys. It’s long been said that Smith expected the ball to be thrown by Staubach in his usual manner, but Staubach, seeing how wide open his target was, decided to loft it to him. Regardless, the moment lives in Super Bowl history.
6. Patriots Comeback (Super Bowl LI)
The largest comeback in Super Bowl history happened at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas in Super Bowl LI. Whether you see the comeback as a testament to Tom Brady’s greatness, an all-time great halftime adjustment, or an epic collapse by the Atlanta Falcons, the game is one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever played.
With the score 28-9 in favor of the Falcons at the start of the fourth quarter, the New England Patriots rattled off 19 consecutive points to tie the game and set it to overtime. After Brady hit James White, Danny Amendola, and Chris Hogan to get the Patriots down the field, a pass interference call would put the team in the red zone. On a pitch to White, the most improbable win in Super Bowl history was cemented as he scored the final touchdown.
5. Titans Just Short (Super Bowl XXXIV)
At the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the Tennessee Titans gave the “Greatest Show on Turf” all it could handle. Led by the warrior Steve McNair, the Titans just wouldn’t go away. The high-powered St. Louis Rams were on the ropes as McNair led the Titans offense down the field one last time late in the fourth quarter.
As the clock stood at six seconds remaining in the game, McNair and the Titans had time for just one more play in an attempt to tie the game. A final pass was completed to wide receiver Kevin Dyson who had darted across the middle of the field to get open. Rams linebacker Mike Jones wrapped up Dyson, as the receiver reached out for the end zone and came up just short of the goal-line as time expired.
4. James Harrison’s Interception (Super Bowl XLIII)
Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida was the sight of one of the greatest Super Bowls in NFL history. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals exchanged a number of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history, one of which was James Harrison’s goal-line interception return for a touchdown.
Harrison intercepted a pass from Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner to take away a Cardinals touchdown, returning it 100 yards for a touchdown just before halftime to increase the Steelers’ lead to 17-7. At the time, it was the longest play in Super Bowl history.
3. Larry Fitzgerald’s Touchdown (Super Bowl XLIII)
Again, during Super Bowl XLIII, one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history took place. This time, Larry Fitzgerald provided the moment on a 64-yard touchdown catch from Kurt Warner to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game 23-20 with under three minutes to go in the game.
This moment was massive, as it appeared the Cardinals may have been on their way to winning their first Super Bowl in franchise history, their only championships coming in the pre-Super Bowl era of the NFL. It didn’t happen, of course, as the Steelers would go down and score on a game-winning drive that provided yet another list-worthy moment.
2. Helmet Catch (Super Bowl XLII)
Then-University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona was the site of the famous “helmet catch” by David Tyree to lead the New York Giants to victory over that season’s thought-to-be-unbeatable New England Patriots, who had gone 16-0 in the regular season. Eli Manning’s escape from pressure to make the pass was perhaps equally as improbably as the catch itself.
The Giants’ victory was over a Patriots team favored by double digits. In fact, the Giants didn’t even win their division during the regular season. All of this adds up to one of the ultimate David vs. Goliath stories in professional sports history.
1. Joe Namath’s Guarantee (Super Bowl III)
Super Bowl III at the Miami Orange Bowl remains the biggest moment in Super Bowl history. Charismatic New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath’s guarantee of victory over the seemingly superior Baltimore Colts was one of the gutsiest, some might say stupidest calls in professional sports history. Nevertheless, the 19.5-point underdogs pulled off the impossible.
The game was also huge in changing perceptions around the game of pro football. At the time, it was believed that AFL teams stood absolutely no chance against NFL teams, having been beaten badly in the first two Super Bowls. The brash, confident Namath laid waste to that idea, on his way to 206 passing yards, an MVP performance, and what is still the greatest moment in Super Bowl history.