The best catches in Super Bowl history don’t define the games, but they sure are great conversation topics. There are few things more exciting in sports then the silent anticipation of a football spiraling through the air while offensive and defensive players sprint, jockeying underneath, while trying to anticipate the proper position in an attempt to own that violent moment, when sound erupts back into consciousness and the ball descends back to the level of humans. When this happens on one of sports’ biggest stages, the results are often unforgettable.
1. Super Bowl XIV John Stallworth: There was nothing particularly spectacular about this best catch in super bowl history. Terry Bradshaw hit Stallworth over the shoulder, in stride and just past the out-stretched arms of the defense, but what was spectacular was Stallworth taking the third and eight pass to the house for a 73-yard go-ahead touchdown in the game’s final quarter.
2. Super Bowl XI Willie Brown: It was an easy catch, but any catch made by a defender in a Super Bowl is going to be memorable. Throw in the fact that Brown turned this interception into a record (at the time) 75-yard return and you have the reason this is one of the best catches in Super Bowl history.
3. Super Bowl XXIII John Taylor: It was a simple 10-yard slant pattern—a staple of the west coast offense. A perfect route and a perfect throw. With only 34 seconds left and the 49ers down by three, the fact that it was caught as Taylor crossed the goal line makes this the third best catch in Super Bowl history.
4. Super Bowl XXVII Don Beebe: The most memorable play of this Super Bowl came when Don Beebe caught the ball, or more appropriately caught up to the ball. Don Beebe’s hustle was rewarded with a goal line strip of the showboating Leon Lett and we were all treated to an unforgettable Super Bowl play.
5. Super Bowl XIII Jackie Smith: Jackie Smith made a monumental catch in this Super Bowl, unfortunately for him, it was a lifetime of regret. The Cowboy tight end was wide open in the third quarter as he watched the ball go through his hands and bounce off his chest right between his numbers. The Cowboys had to settle for a field goal and lost by four.
6. Super Bowl I Max McGee: The first touchdown in Super Bowl history came on an the first best catch in Super Bowl history. Bart Starr threw behind Max McGee. McGee was able to reach behind and make a fine one-handed grab before sprinting into the end zone.
7. Super Bowl XII Butch Johnson: Butch Johnson got behind the Orange Crush Bronco Defense and Roger Staubach over threw him, but Johnson dove and fully extended, getting his fingertips on the ball to haul it in for an unbelievable 45-yard touchdown catch.
8. Super Bowl XLIII Santonio Holmes: Surrounded by the red of the end zone and three Cardinal defenders, Santonio Holmes extended up to the tip of his tip toes, while reaching over the white markings of the out of bounds and over his head to get his fingertips on the ball—hauling it in with 35 seconds left for the game-winning score.
9. Super Bowl X Lynn Swann: On third down, Terry Bradshaw under threw a deep pass, from his own end zone, that looked destined to land in the hands of the defender, but then Swann adjusted his route and leaped up and over the defender. He tipped the ball into the air, tracked it, and caught it while twisting and crashing to the ground.
10. Super Bowl XLII David Tyree: Somehow, someway Eli Manning escaped the pressure to launch a ball in Tyree’s direction. Tyree stopped, blanketed by Rodney Harrison, and leapt to get the ball at the highest point. He got two hands on the ball just as his arms were battered at the wrist by one of the strongest safeties in league history. Falling to the ground and almost losing his grip on the ball Tyree pinned the ball, with half of a hand, against the top of his helmet and controlled it for one of, if not the best catch in Super Bowl history.