5 Best Super Bowl Moments of the 21st Century

On one Sunday, every year, time comes to a standstill. America, with one collective gasp, turns its eyes eagerly to 100 yards of perfectly manicured grass and a ruddy oblong-shaped ball covered in pigskin. Yes, the Super Bowl has, at long last, arrived. Fans of the competing teams await in both trepidation and unremitting anxiety; whilst the remainder of us settle in comfortably, with snacks and beverages diligently arrayed, enthused at the specter of a few quality commercials, an entertaining halftime show, and to ultimately witness the crowning of a champion.

During this hallowed spectacle, more of a holiday than an actual game, some of football’s most grandiose moments have transpired. Plays like “The Ambush” onside-kick executed by the Saints against an unsuspecting Indianapolis Colts in 2010; the 108 yard dash for a game-separating touchdown by the Raven’s Jacoby Jones against the 49ers in 2013; Von Miller’s bellicose strip of the ball against a vulnerable Cam Newton during Super Bowl 50; Eli Manning’s heave to a streaking Mario Manningham that catalyzed a game-winning drive against the seemingly impervious 2008 Patriots; all remained engraved in the hearts and minds of NFL fans across the country. In this article, we’ll celebrate the Super Bowl moments that loomed largest, on the nation’s largest stage: Here are the top 5 Super Bowl plays of the 21st century.

Super Bowl 44 (2010), New Orleans Saints vs Indianapolis Colts: The Porter Pick

Photo courtesy of YouTube, #3 Tracy Porter Picks Off Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLIV 

For 43 years, the Saints franchise in New Orleans trudged along in despair and drudgery. It took the franchise 21 years, for goodness sake, to record its first winning season. It required an additional 13 years for it to record its first postseason victory. To say it was a mockery of a competent football franchise may have been a slight compliment. Not so, however, during the 2009 regular season, when the Saints vehemently rode the coattails of a dominant Drew Brees en route to a dominant season where they finished 13-3.

Intrepidly, the Saints marched through the playoffs eventually meeting the unassailable Peyton Manning and Indianapolis Colts. It was a classic, tug-of-war game, replete with circus antics like “The Ambush” on-side kick executed by the Saints to begin the second. In the closing minutes, with the Saints clinging to a tenuous lead of 24-17, the Colts offense had marched to the New Orleans 31, seeking to tie the game. On 3rd and 5, Manning peered to his left and tossed the ball to WR Reggie Wayne, only to be intercepted by a streaking Tracy Porter, who promptly sprinted down the sideline for a Saint’s TD. The “Big Easy” erupted in bedlam as the Saints secured their first Super Bowl victory.

Super Bowl 43 (2009), Arizona Cardinals vs Pittsburgh Steelers: All Hail Santonio Holmes

Photo courtesy of YouTube, Santonio Holmes Game Winning Touchdown Catch Super Bowl XLIII

A hysterical, non-sensical contest, Super Bowl 43 pitted the Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals against Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh Steelers. Including a 100 yard interception by the Steelers LB James Harrison and a valiant comeback by the determined Cardinals, a definitive outcome to the game remained elusive until the waning seconds. After 16 unanswered points by the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers had finally responded with some mettle, driving to the Cardinal’s 6-yeard line. With 35 seconds remaining, Roethlisberger lofted a pass to an outstretched Santonio Holmes, who completed the reception. The catch was officially reviewed, confirming the transcendent catch.

Said Holmes, in a post-game interview: “I knew it was a touchdown 100 percent. My feet never left the ground. All I did was stood up on my toes and extended my hands.”

Those hands brought the Steel City its 6th Super Bowl title.

Super Bowl 34 (2000), St. Louis Rams vs Tennessee Titans: Dyson’s Denial

Photo courtesy of YouTube, Kevin Dyson: One Yard Short Super Bowl XXXIV

The “Music City Miracle” ended not in tears of triumph, but of tragedy. A few obdurate feet ended up separating the 2000 Tennessee Titans from enduring glory.

Counterpoised against the Titans were the resilient St. Louis Rams, the so-called “Greatest Show On Turf,” named for the team’s prolific offense heralded by Arena League QB Kurt Warner. The Rams ended their 1999 campaign 13-3 and managed the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance. The Titans, meanwhile, were engineering their own stunning reversal, winning an AFC Title a year removed from a disappointing 8-8 season. Marshalling an unrelenting rush attack led by Eddie George, the Titans posted their own 13-3 record and also promptly won 3 consecutive playoff games.

St. Louis possessed a small edge in the closing minutes, defending a 23-16 lead. With less than two minutes remaining, Steve McNair, the Titan’s QB, astutely managed a well-executed two-minute offense, managing to drive to the Titans to the Ram’s 10 yard line. With the Rams set in a zone defense, McNair deferred to his second option, Kevin Dyson. Dyson caught McNair’s pass, was quickly wrangled by Rams LB Mike Jones, stretching his arm desperately toward the goal-line, ultimately falling a yard short. An exhilarating final drive ended desultorily for the Titans. They had lost, in grotesque and tragic fashion.

Said Dyson, after the game, “I…was able to make the catch and turn up field, but [Jones’s] determination and will allowed him to get his arms around me so I couldn’t extend. That was the difference in that play. Even if he gets a hold of me with just his right arm, I’d still have been able to run through the tackle or extend and get those last three feet.”

So close, yet so far.

Super Bowl 42 (2008), New England Patriots vs New York Giants: A Toss To Tyree

Photo courtesy of YouTube, The Helmet Catch

Entering the 2008 Playoffs, the New England Patriots were undefeated, largely anointed by sports media as the greatest team ever. The New York Giants, led by the wily and capricious Eli Manning, had made an unforeseen run in the Playoffs, barely scraping by Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship.

The game against the Patriots, who were almost regarded as untouchable, seemed a foregone conclusion. In a see-saw battle, however, the Giants found themselves with the ball in the closing minutes. On third down, at the 44 yard line, Manning snapped against a heavy pass rush from the Patriots. Eluding pressure, Manning dropped, set his feet rigidly, and launched a floater down the field to wide receiver David Tyree, who was precariously surrounded by three defenders. Tyree locked the otherwise errant pass to his helmet, securing it in both hands before hitting the ground. It was an amazing, precipitating an eventual touchdown four plays later to receiver Plaxico Burress in the endzone.

“The Helmet Catch” left an indelible footprint on the NFL, destroying what could have been the culmination of a perfect season by the New England Patriots.

Super Bowl 49 (2015), Seattle Seahawks vs New England Patriots: The Butler Bail-Out

Photo courtesy of YouTube, The Malcolm Butler Interception

Was this recompense from the football gods for the dastardly “Helmet Catch” several seasons earlier? We’ll never know.

With twenty seconds remaining, the Seattle Seahawks seemed destined to score, upsetting again the Patriot’s championship aspirations. Down 28-24, the Seahawks were at the Patriot’s 1 yard line, with Marshawn Lynch, referred to as “Beast Mode” poised in the backfield. A Seattle touchdown seemed imminent. Unexpectedly, Russell Wilson snapped the ball, looking to pass, dropped back and flung the football to Ricardo Lockette on a slanting route. Malcom Butler, a Patriot’s linebacker, however, read the play and quick-jumped the pass, intercepting the ball and securing a 5th Super Bowl for the Patriot’s franchise.

It was a case, truly, of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory for the Seahawks.

After the game, Butler described the play as follows: “From the preparation I got from coach Matt Patricia in practice, I remembered the formation they were in. Coach said ‘Malcolm, Go’…I went in and just beat him to the route and made the play.”

For additional articles pertaining to the NFL, reference the following more information:

Top 10 NFL Teams of All-Time

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