Malcolm Butler interception

Ten most iconic moments in Super Bowl history

5. Super Bowl XLIII – James Harrison 100-yard Pick 6

The SB XLIII clash between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals was one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever played [and it took place in the same stadium that SB LV is being held, so fingers crossed].

I will spoil it in advance, and say now, this is the only Super Bowl which features twice on this list, and both plays have earned a spot in the top 5 for good reason.

The first of the plays is one of my personal favourites. We’ve already spoken twice about how important the moments on either side of halftime are in the big game, and this is no different.

The Cardinals and a resurgent Kurt Warner had the ball in the redzone in the dying seconds of the second-quarter, and they tried to throw for the endzone to take the lead, from down 10-7.

The Steelers had pass-rushing beast James Harrison take a break from his usual edge-duties, and dropped him back into coverage. When Warner tried to throw a quick slant, the most unlikely of recipients got in the way, and as soon as he caught it, he was determined to make it count. He ran the entire length of the field, using blockers, avoiding tacklers, roaring down the sideline and trying to avoid tripping over, and then he finally flies into the endzone.

This play is one of the most memorable moments in sporting history, it was not just a 14-point swing, but a 100-yard interception by a defensive end on the biggest stage. This play completely changed the game, and will always have a place in NFL lore, as one of the most iconic Super Bowl plays ever.


4. Super Bowl XXXVI – Vinatieri makes 47-yard walk-off Field Goal to begin the Patriots’ dynasty

We’ve already spoken about how much the context and impact of plays is essential to this list, and based on those criteria alone, this play would be right at #1.

Super Bowl XXXVI will forever be remembered as the game that started the greatest NFL dynasty of all time.

The New England Patriots, led by a second-year Tom Brady and Bill Belichick duo, faced the same St. Louis Rams who we spoke about earlier. Two years after their win via ‘the Longest Yard’, they found themselves on the other side of a game-deciding play.

Kurt Warner and the Rams scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to tie a closely fought game at 17-17. That wasn’t enough though.

A young Brady drove down the field with one of the most clinical possessions of all-time, and set up the most clutch kicker ever (although we didn’t know that at the time), Adam Vinatieri, with a 47-yard kick to win the game, with 7 seconds left on the clock.


He had already proven that he was capable of making any kick, as he had made two of the most impressive kicks you’ll ever see in the infamous ‘Tuck Rule’ game against Oakland in the snow. Now, though, he had to make another incredibly high-leverage kick.

47-yards, as time expires.

He nailed the kick, the sideline erupted, and the New England Patriots era of sheer domination began. Field goals aren’t as flashy as some of the other moments on our list, but this kick was special. It was the first time that the Super Bowl had been won by scoring on the final play of the game, and it was also the kick that started everything for the most prolific QB, head coach and franchise the game has ever seen. That is why it is one of the greatest Super Bowl plays ever.

There are a few plays that have previously happened in the final game of the season that I don’t think will ever, ever be removed from this list. There have been 54 Super Bowls so far, and these plays will still be in the top 10 when there have been 50 more. We are now getting to the most unforgettable moments in NFL history, and the top 3 on our list.

3. Super Bowl XLIII – Santonio Holmes game-winning TD

Now for a play that could be considered near enough the opposite of Vinny’s kick. Where that was a less impressive effort but with so much context, this here is a play which requires absolutely no context whatsoever to be considered one of the greatest moments in NFL history.

As we return to one of the most iconic Super Bowls ever, SB XLIII, the Steelers – even after James Harrison’s pick-six – were still in the passenger seat entering the final moments of the game.

They got the ball back with 2:37 left on the clock after a 64-yard touchdown from Larry Fitzgerald, which put the Cardinals up 23-20.

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense needed to drive down the field and either tie the game or try to take the lead. They only had one drive, starting at their 22-yard line, and wow. They made use of it.

The star of the show here was wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who had three receptions for over 60 yards to help make it down to the 6-yard line on first-and-goal. After two unsuccessful plays, on third-down with a 3-point deficit, Big Ben had one last chance to try and go for the win.

He received the snap in shotgun, looked at the quick first read to the flat, then his eyes drifted inside.

He threw his non-throwing hand forward signalling for someone to try and get open. That is when he saw Holmes running a corner route to the back pylon. Despite there being three defenders around him, Roethlisberger saw an opportunity and went for it. He threw the ball over all of the defensive backs, and about two feet above his receiver’s head, where he witnessed probably the second-most famous catch in NFL history.

Holmes reached up with his arms fully stretched above him, and was on his tip-toes about two inches from the back pylon and even closer to the sideline. The ball stuck, and he fell out of bounds. Touchdown.

The Steelers won 27-23, and not only did they win the big game for the second time in four seasons, they also produced two of the most iconic Super Bowl plays ever in the same game.

2. Super Bowl XLIX – Malcolm Butler goal-line interception

In Super Bowl XLIX, the New England Patriots faced the Seattle Seahawks and the ‘Legion of Boom’. Seattle had won the Super Bowl in 2013, and were now returning one year later to try and go back-to-back, but this time they had to face the greatest dynasty in NFL history at their hungriest.

Brady and Belichick hadn’t won the championship in 10 years, and they wanted to get back to winning form. Seattle – while their defense had the flashy nickname – also had Russell Wilson at quarterback, and Marshawn ‘Beast Mode’ Lynch at running back, making their offense nearly as dominant. The first half ended tied at 14-14, but the Seahawks had a strong third quarter scoring 10 points.

In the fourth quarter, New England rallied and scored twice to take the lead 28-24, but there was still just over 2 minutes left on the clock. They started with a long reception from Lynch out of the backfield and then after another first down, a huge passing play to Jermaine Kearse, who made an incredible catch after multiple bobbles and bounces, to get down to the five-yard line with a 35-yard gain. If this game had ended differently, this catch by Kearse would probably have made this top-10, feel free to go watch that play too.

After this insane catch, the Seahawks ran the ball with Beast Mode and he gained four yards, down to the Patriots’ 1. The Pats didn’t call a timeout which meant that the Seahawks could let the clock run and then go for the killing blow. Then came the most controversial football playcall of my lifetime.

On the one-yard line, Pete Carroll called for a passing play. It was a straight up pass call, with no play action. They ran a pick concept, where Kearse would drive up the field and block the two defenders tasked with playing man coverage, opening up Ricardo Lockette for a bullet slant that should be open, with the two DB’s screened by Kearse. Wilson fired in at the slant, and rookie free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler read the play, and broke aggressively on the ball, smashing into Lockette and intercepting the ball on the goal-line. Game over.

Malcolm Butler’s interception had everything. A cornerback that went from a rookie free agent to a household name. A controversial decision – that commentator Cris Collinsworth immediately declared he couldn’t believe – taking the ball out of Lynch’s hands. The celebration from Tom Brady was both hilarious and sincere. The same moment from star cornerback Richard Sherman’s perspective was quite the opposite. Malcolm Butler’s interception was without a doubt one of the best plays in Super Bowl history.

Not #1 though.

1. Super Bowl XLII – The Helmet Catch

The most iconic play in Super Bowl history. You already knew what it was.

The Helmet Catch.

The New York Giants found themselves in Super Bowl XLII, facing the New England Patriots, who were on a conquest to become just the second team in NFL history to have a perfect season. They went 16-0 in the regular season, and made it to the biggest game of all, and they had already asserted themselves as a dynasty when they won three Super Bowls in four seasons from 2001-2004. Just three years later they wanted to assert their dominance with a 19-0 season, and the Giants were the final team in their way.

Led by Eli Manning, the 10-6 Giants had fought their way to the final Sunday of the season, and they were serious underdogs going into the game. It was low scoring and tense, and when the third quarter ended, it was only 7-3 to the Patriots. The defenses were both playing very well, but in the final quarter the scoring started to open up a bit more. David Tyree scored a 5-yard touchdown, and then with under three minutes remaining in the game, Tom Brady found Randy Moss for a score that put them up 14-10.

With 2:42 left, a truly epic 12 play drive began, and the Giants had only one option, they had to score a TD, now or never. There were a few plays that started the momentum, including a crucial fourth down conversion from running back Brandon Jacobs. Then, on 3rd and 5 with just 75 seconds left in the game, the most famous play in Eli Manning’s career, in Giants history and possibly NFL history took place.

The ball was snapped, and within just a couple of moments, Manning was swarmed by the Patriots’ pass rush, with hands reaching out and grabbing at his pads and jersey.

When the play looked dead and buried, he suddenly broke free, and escaped back into what was left of the pocket, and threw up a hopeful high-point pass over the middle of the field. Over the head of David Tyree, who scored earlier. Tyree had four regular season receptions on five targets by the way.

The ball flew through the air and Tyree leapt up, contested by Pats safety Rodney Harrison, and while being tackled in mid-air, proceeded to catch the ball, by pinning it to his helmet, and falling backwards holding it to his own head. The ball was just an inch off the ground, when he landed, but he held onto it, and made a gain of 32 yards.

Plaxico Burress scored on a sluggo route just four plays later, and the Giants won the game 17-14. The Helmet Catch wasn’t just a ridiculous and memorable catch, it also represents the play that stopped a perfect season, a play that completely encapsulated the David vs Goliath nature of this game (I’m sorry, the pun was right there). It won the Giants the Super Bowl, it knocked off one of the best football teams of all time, and it was a spectacular play – which is why it has to be crowned the most iconic Super Bowl play of all-time.

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