Importance and difficulty earns each of these great plays a spot on our list of the 10 best football catches ever made. Of the catches listed here, five of the catches occurred during the Super Bowl, three in the playoffs and two in key, regular season games.
- Dwight Clark Perhaps the most famous pass play in NFL history, “The Catch” is number one on our list of the ten best football catches of all time. This connection from San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana to a leaping Dwight Clark in the end zone occurred with just 51 seconds left, giving the 49ers a 28 to 27 win in the 1981 NFC title game over the hated Dallas Cowboys.
- Franco Harris “The Immaculate Reception” may or may not have actually been caught by Franco Harris before it hit the ground, but it ranks second on our list of the ten best football catches ever. With 22 seconds remaining, Harris snags a deflected fourth-down-Terry-Bradshaw-pass out of the air and races 60 yards for a touchdown, giving the Steelers a shocking thirteen to seven win over the Oakland Raiders.
- David Tyree The only thing standing between the 2007 New England Patriots and an undefeated season is one of the ten greatest catches in football history. With 59 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XLII, David Tyree leaps high in front of a defender to snag a 32-yard pass, setting up the New York Giants’ winning touchdown.
- Santonio Holmes Trailing the Arizona Cardinals 23 to twenty in Super Bowl XLIII, the Pittsburgh Steelers pull the game out in the final minute on a six-yard tip-toe grab in the back corner of the end zone by Santonio Holmes—one of the ten best catches of all time.
- Lynn Swann In Super Bowl X, Pittsburgh’s star receiver makes one of the greatest catches in NFL history as the Steelers defeat the Dallas Cowboys 21 to seventeen. Swann leaves his feet and lays out for a 53-yard bomb from Terry Bradshaw. The ball is tipped in the air and Swann snags it, putting him on our list of the ten best football catches ever.
- Mike Ditka. Two days after the assassination of JFK, the country is in mourning, but the NFL decides to go ahead and play minus television coverage. In a pivotal game, the Chicago Bears (eventual NFL champs) trail seventeen to fourteen in the fourth quarter. That’s when Bears tight end Mike Ditka takes off on a spectacular 63-yard catch-and-run, breaking six tackles before being dragged down from behind. One of the best football plays ever, Ditka’s amazing effort sets up a field goal and the game ends in a seventeen to seventeen tie.
- Butch Johnson The highlight of Dallas’ win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII is a diving fingertip catch in the end zone by the Cowboys’ Butch Johnson. The 45-yard toss from Roger Staubach to Johnson ranks among the best catches in NFL history.
- Max McGee After grabbing just four passes all season, seldom-used Green Bay Packers receiver Max McGee comes off the bench in Super Bowl I to make seven catches for 138 yards. On his first grab—the first TD in Super Bowl history—McGee has to reach back and snag the ball one-handed, making it one of the ten best football catches ever.
- Drew Pearson In the closing seconds of a 1975 first round playoff game, Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach unleashes a Hail Mary pass for wide receiver Drew Pearson who leaps along with defenders, snags the deflected ball and carries it into the end zone. Pearson’s catch wins the game over the Minnesota Vikings seventeen to fourteen and ranks among the biggest catches in football history.
- Antonio Freeman In November 2000, in front of a Monday Night Football audience, the Packers’ Antonio Freeman makes a catch that ranks as the final entry on our list of the ten best football catches ever. While lying flat on his back, Freeman snags a pass that has deflected off his body, gets up and runs into the end zone to win the game in overtime.
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