The Super Bowl represents the culmination of sacrifice, hard work and dedication for each and every player lucky enough to brace the hallowed turf and compete for the Lombardi trophy.
With that in mind, and with Super Bowl LIV around the corner. Let’s take a look at who, on the biggest stage of them all, performed the best. Here are the top ten Super Bowl performances of all time.
10. Joe Namath / Jets vs. Colts / Super Bowl III
There will be players on this list that boast a far more impressive stat sheet than Joe Namath in Super Bowl III (206 yards passing with 0 TDs and 0 INTs). However, Namath’s place on this list is earned through more intangible means than simple statistics. Namath’s New York Jets were entering the Super Bowl as the underdog despite finishing the season 11-3. And rightly so, Broadway Joe’s Jets were facing the Baltimore Colts led by head coach Don Shula and quarterback Johnny Unitas who finished the regular season 13-1. As well as going up against Shula and Unitas, Namath would have to conquer a Colts defence that led the NFL in fewest points allowed (144).
Three days before the biggest game of his career, Namath boldly declared to reporters at the Miami Touchdown Club that “We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it.”
Namath would famously go on to back up his claim and give the Jets their one and only Lombardi trophy, leading the team to a convincing victory at a time when AFL teams were seen as vastly inferior to the more competitive NFL. As a result of the victory, Namath cemented himself in NFL history as ‘Broadway Joe’, one of the smoothest and coldest characters in the history of the game.
9. The Legion of Boom / Seahawks vs. Broncos / Super Bowl XLVIII
Peyton Manning had just put together one of the greatest seasons by a quarterback the National Football League has ever seen. Manning threw for 5477 yards, 55 touchdowns with a 68.3% completion rate. In Super Bowl XLVIII, Manning threw for 240 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions leading the Broncos to score a measly 8 points.
The reason? The Legion of Boom.
Manning and the Broncos walked straight into a buzzsaw. From the very first snap (a safety caused by Broncos C Manny Ramirez shooting the ball over Manning’s head) the Broncos seemed intimidated. What would follow would be complete and utter domination by the Seahawks defence. The final score tallying up to 43-8 in Seattle’s favour.
Impossible it may be to give the Super Bowl MVP to an entire defence, ROLB Malcolm Smith received the honour. Smith recorded 9 tackles and a game-sealing pick-six to make it 22-0 Seahawks in the second quarter.
8. Von Miller / Broncos vs. Panthers / Super Bowl 50
Leading up to the 50th Super Bowl, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers seemed unstoppable. Newton won MVP that season after putting together a season that made audiences across the country believe that this guy is Superman. With Peyton Manning playing like a shadow of his former self (losing his job to Brock Osweiler midway through the season then getting it back on the eve of the playoffs), the Broncos had been carried to the Super Bowl by a stellar defence. However, Newton and the Panthers were still favourites to win Super Bowl 50.
That was until Von Miller showed up.
It seemed that every single snap Newton took, Von Miller was there in a flash, similar to a starved cheetah chasing down a wildebeest. Miller finished the game with six tackles, two and a half sacks and forced two fumbles, earning himself Super Bowl MVP. The first forced fumble was recovered for a touchdown, the second was recovered to seal the game. Newton had a chance at securing the second fumble but instead chose to stay on his feet. Newton knew that even if he recovered that ball, there was only ever going to be one outcome. Superman had met his kryptonite.
7. Kurt Warner / Rams vs. Titans / Super Bowl XXXIV
Kurt Warner is one of the biggest success stories in the history of the NFL. Warner was making a living playing in the Arena League and overseas before finally getting a chance to become the starting quarterback for the St. Louis Rams in 1999 due to a season-ending injury to Trent Green. Warner seized the opportunity, leading the Rams to the Super Bowl whilst being the linchpin of the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’.
In the game itself, Warner finished with 414 yards and 2 touchdowns to 0 interceptions. Warner also set the, then, records for most passing yards in a Super Bowl (414) and most passes without an interception in a game (45). With the victory in Super Bowl XXXIV, Warner cemented his legacy as the greatest quarterback of all time.
6. Nick Foles / Eagles vs. Patriots / Super Bowl LII
Few analysts gave Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles a chance in Super Bowl LII. The journeyman back up had come in to replace 2017 MVP candidate Carson Wentz late in the regular season. Foles would impressively lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl. This was an achievement in itself, but few would believe what came next.
Foles would match the greatest quarterback of all-time in the biggest stage of them all, throwing for 3 touchdowns and catching a TD via the famous play called ‘The Philly Special’. On his way to winning Super Bowl MVP, Foles would remind us all that the phrase ‘Any Given Sunday’ is more than a cliche.
5. Terrell Davis / Broncos vs. Packers / Super Bowl XXXII
The story of John Elway dominates this historic meeting between the Broncos and Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, and rightly so. Elway had lost three Super Bowls, 1987, 1988 and 1990. With the veteran quarterback nearing retirement, this was his last chance at a Lombardi trophy. Elway would not have been able to slay those demons and emerge victorious without the standout performance from his running back, Terrell Davis.
Davis became the only non-49er to score three touchdowns in the Super Bowl. Davis also had 157 yards rushing on 30 carries with average yards per carry of 5.23 earning him Super Bowl MVP.
Davis accomplished all this whilst suffering a migraine in the second quarter. Davis wasn’t even able to see whilst helping the Broncos score off of a play-action at the goal line. “Okay just do this” Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan told Davis at the start of the second quarter “You don’t worry about not being able to see on this play because we’re gonna fake it to ya on the ’15 lead’ but if you’re not in there, they won’t believe we’re gonna throw the ball”. Davis goes in. Elway snaps the ball. Walks in on the bootleg. The rest is history.
4. Marcus Allen / Raiders vs. Redskins / Super Bowl XVIII
Heading into Super Bowl XVIII, the Washington Redskins defence, anchored by Dan Butz, led the NFL in fewest rush yards allowed (1,289). This proved to be light work for legendary Raider’s half-back Marcus Allen as he carved up the Redskins defence throughout the game. Allen finished the game with an astounding 191 yards, 2 touchdowns while averaging an astonishing 9.5 yards per carrying.
Allen would make the signature play of his career this game, running as if his skin was made of silk, Allen turned a no-gain into a 74-yard touchdown run. He was untouchable. Allen also ran off with the MVP trophy as well.
3. Steve Young / 49ers vs. Chargers / Super Bowl XXIX
“Would somebody PLEASE help me get this monkey off my back!?” was what Steve Young said to his San Francisco 49ers teammates as the score ran out 49-26 in favour of the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX.
Young had been carrying the ‘Joe Montana monkey’ for years after succeeding, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time and 49ers hero Joe Montana in 1991.
After years of coming close and falling short, Young was finally able to step out of Montana’s shadow and lead the Niners to their fifth Super Bowl victory. Young did so in an extraordinary fashion, finishing the game with 24/36 completions, 325 yards and an emphatic 6 touchdowns.
The game was never even close. Young’s record of 6 touchdowns still stands today.
2. Jerry Rice / 49ers vs. Bengals / Super Bowl XXIII
As the 1988 San Francisco 49ers were entering their third Super Bowl under head coach Bill Walsh, the greatest receiver of all time, and arguably the greatest football player of all time, was still searching for his first Super Bowl ring. And he’d receive it in style.
Rice tormented the Bengals. In the process recording 11 rec. for 215 yards and 1 touchdown.
A crucial piece of Rice’s 215 yards came on the final and game-deciding touchdown drive orchestrated by Montana and co. Backed into a 2nd & 20, Rice rises to the occasion and on the biggest play of his then early career, makes a 27-yard grab across the middle of the field and gains some nice yardage after the catch for the crucial first down.
The Niners would go on to reach the RedZone before Montana hit a wide-open John Taylor in the endzone to win the game.
No receiver has ever topped Rice’s 215 yards in a Super Bowl.
1. Tom Brady / Patriots vs. Falcons / Super Bowl LI
After a disastrous first-half performance which was sure to signify the death of Tom Brady’s long and illustrious career, the, then 39-year-old quarterback, rallied his team to achieve an improbable second-half comeback. Originally down 28-3 at half-time, Brady led his team back from the depths to emerge victorious in overtime 34-28.
Brady finished the game with the most Super Bowl appearances as a starting player (7), most Super Bowl wins as a quarterback (5), most pass completions (43) and most passing yards by a quarterback (466). The final stat sheet for Brady read: 43/62 completions, 466 passing yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
After the pick-six, with the score 21-0 in favour of the Falcons, WR Mohammed Sanu said to fellow Falcons wideout Taylor Gabriel “They ain’t never seen anything like us. We about to put up 40 on them.” Gabriel’s response? “It’s Tom Brady though.”