The pure joy of being a fan of any sport is often encapsulated in single moments, those that incite the most innate feelings of passion, relief, and bliss. Whether it be the drop goal that wins a nation a World Cup, a point in the final at Wimbledon that simply takes your breath away, or that one swing of a club that will be written about for years to come, it is these instances, the ones etched into the memories of fans around the world, that compel us.
So, when perhaps the most compelling annual sporting event incorporates such a moment, the world comes to a standstill, to admire the drama of it all. The Super Bowl draws incredible TV audiences, and, at the most crucial of times, it often comes up big with a dramatic twist or unbelievable piece of athletic prowess, but of the most storied Super Bowl moments, which rates as the greatest? Let’s take a look…
2002: New England Patriots 20 St Louis Rams 17
The Belichick/Brady era started earlier in the 2001 season, as incumbent QB Drew Bledsoe headed to the side-line with an injury. The young Brady stepped up to the plate, quickly earning the respect of his offensive and defensive teammates alike, and led the Patriots to one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.
Late in the fourth quarter, the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ scored a late go-ahead touchdown thanks to Ricky Proehl, but allowed New England precious time to drive down the field, and get kicker Adam Vinatieri in range. In the franchise’s third Super Bowl, Vinatieri kicked the winning field goal as the clock hit 0:00, and the Patriots won their first Lombardi Trophy, and kicked their 00’s dynasty into gear.
1991: New York Giants 20 Buffalo Bills 19
This list focuses mainly on the moments in which athletes have stepped up to the mark, and taken their team to success, but in Super Bowl XXV, the first of four straight losing efforts for the Buffalo Bills, it was a play to forget that caused one of the most dramatic moments in the game’s history.
In an even game, the Bills looked to kicker Scott Norwood. With a deep breath, he ran up, and kicked perhaps the most infamous field goal attempt in NFL history. With 0:04 remaining, Norwood had failed, handing the Giants a Lombardi Trophy, and unbeknownst to him, ending the best chance the Bills would ever have of winning it all.
1989: San Francisco 49ers 20 Cincinnati Bengals 16
For the best players in a sport’s history, career defining moments are the staple of a legacy, and for one of the best quarterbacks to have graced the NFL, Super Bowl XXIII granted Joe Montana with the opportunity to provide just such a moment.
With 3:20 remaining in the game, and down three points, the Niners QB led his offense on a staggering 92 yard drive over 11 plays, which culminated with a 10-yard TD pass to John Taylor, lifting San Francisco over the Bengals, and to their third Super Bowl triumph.
2009: Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Arizona Cardinals 23
The Pittsburgh Steelers are the most successful franchise in the league’s history, and their most recent Lombardi was hoisted after one of the most dramatic finales to have graced the Super Bowl.
With a storybook ending lined up for retiring Cardinals’ QB Kurt Warner, the Steelers drove down to the Arizona red-zone, and with 0:35 remaining, Ben Roethlisberger looped a pass to the back corner of the end zone, and with perhaps the most athletic touchdown catch in Super Bowl history, Santonio Holmes grounded both feet with just millimetres to spare, completing a historic turnaround.
2000: St Louis 23 Tennessee Titans 16
The St Louis Rams built a legendary offense in the late nineties, the culmination of which came between 1999 and 2001. In their first super Bowl appearance since moving to Missouri, the Rams were on the brink of glory as the Titans took to the field for one last drive.
Pioneering QB Steve McNair led Tennessee on an exhilarating drive, escaping pressure on numerous occasions, and giving his team one final play to win it all. With 0:06 on the clock, McNair snapped the ball, delivered a quick pass to Kenny Dyson who looked destined for the end zone. As he reached for the goal-line, with a Ram defender wrapped around his legs, Dyson came up less than one yard short, and St Louis claimed their first, and what remains their only, Super Bowl triumph.