Did You Witness the Greatest Play in Super Bowl History?

Depending on who you ask, the best Super Bowl play could be a game-clinching catch in the last seconds or a nasty defensive sequence from the first quarter. The Super Bowl is the biggest stage in American sports, so a lot can happen. One play in particular, however, still might take the cake as the greatest play in Super Bowl history.

Runners-up for best Super Bowl play

Great moments can happen at any time, but the clutch moments seem to get the most love from nostalgic fans. For example, older fans may recall Redskins back John Riggins running in for a 43-yard touchdown in the final seconds of Super Bowl XVII as a Dolphins defensive back clung to him after a failed tackle attempt.

Defensive feats can be equally impressive. Super Bowl XXXIV was a relatively unexciting game. After the Rams came back in the fourth quarter and shot ahead, however, Frank Wycheck was poised for a 10-yard run for victory. But Rams linebacker Mike Jones figured out his route and stopped him one-yard short, securing a victory.

Other plays, like John Elway’s famous helicopter run when defenders sent him spinning in the air and onto the four-yard line did not happen in the clutch. But they proved to be big moments in historic games.

In 2009’s Super Bowl XLIII, Steeler James Harrison not only intercepted a pass from Kurt Warner, but he returned it for a 100-yard touchdown return after numerous attempts to stop him. From Devin Hester’s memorable kickoff return in the first play of Super Bowl XLI to the awful final play in Super Bowl XLIX, there are countless memorable moves over the years.

Setting up the greatest play in Super Bowl history

New York Giants' David Tyree and Eli Manning after a great play in Super Bowl 42
The Giants’ David Tyree and Eli Manning in Super Bowl 42 | Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

For modern audiences and older fans alike, there might not be a more memorable big game than Super Bowl XLII. It was bound to be a blowout for many. The Patriots had utilized the skills of their starting quarterback along with the speed of Randy Moss and the coaching of Bill Belichick to enter the game undefeated on the season.

With a young, unproven quarterback like Eli Manning, the Giants had their backs against the wall. Even if they showed up, nobody expected them to hang with the best team ever assembled. However, Manning and company did just that.

Still, with the Giants down 14-10 in the final minute of the game, most expected to see Brady and the Patriots win again.

The New York Giants’ helmet catch

Facing harsh coverage by New England’s defense, Manning avoided defenders to move ahead at third-and-five. As he began to throw, however, Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas grabbed hold of Manning’s jersey and pulled him back before he was able to recover and throw a longshot pass down the field.

The throw was long. As such, Giants receiver David Tyree had to work hard to reach the pass and keep the Giants’ hopes alive. Tyree was able to control the ball with one hand. But with his arms outstretched, he had to use his helmet to brace the ball just long enough to get his other hand on it.

The result was the most spectacular catch any Super Bowl viewer has ever seen. It set up Manning for a throw to Plaxico Burress in the endzone, cementing the greatest upset in NFL history with a 17-14 victory. 

Everything about Tyree’s catch was amazing. To this day, the fact that the Giants pulled off the impossible is talked about. People still remember it as though it happened yesterday.

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