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Best Super Bowl Performances

July 12, 2008 - Chris Masse
The NFL Network recently released its "Top 10 Super Bowl Performances." While most of its selections were solid, it also fumbled late with some of its selections. Specifically it messed up with some of the ones it included and with how it ranked some others.

Case in point: Joe Namath's performance against the Colts in Super Bowl III (17-of-28 for 206 yards and zero touchdowns in a 16-7 win was voted No. 9). Adam Vinatieri, who missed two easy field goals against the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII was voted No. 4 even though had it not been for his misses he would not had to kick the game-winner in the final seconds. Lynn Swann's four-catch, 161-yard performance in Super Bowl X was placed five spots higher than Jerry Rice's 11-catch, 215-yard performance against the Bengals in Super Bowl get the point.

So let's do it right and put some more thought into this.

10. Steelers Defense in Super Bowl IX: Pittsburgh put on the most dominant defensive display in Super Bowl history, allowing just 119 yards in a 16-6 win. The defense did not allow any points and the Steelers would have won by shutout had a punt not been blocked and recovered in the end zone for a fourth-quarter touchdown. In addition to allowing the fewest yards in super bowl history, the Steelers also surrendered only nine first downs, recorded the first safety in super bowl history and forced five turnovers.

9. Phil Simms in Super Bowl XXI: Simms was not perfect...but he was close to it when he led the Giants to a 39-20 win over the Broncos. Simms completed 22-of-25 passes, a record for completion percentage, while throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns as the Giants overcame a 10-9 halftime deficit and scored 30 second-half points.

8. Rod Martin in Super Bowl XV: It's hard to believe Martin was not named Super Bowl MVP after the linebacker intercepted a super bowl record three passes in a 27-10 win over the favored Eagles. Martin sparked a dominant team defensive effort, returning his three interceptions for 44 yards while setting up Oakland's first touchdown with a 17-yard return to the Eagles 30-yard line.

7. Timmy Smith in Super Bowl XXII: His career was short-lived but Smith was the best running back in the world for one glorious January day, running for a super bowl record 204 yards in a 42-10 rout. The only reason Smith is not higher is because his success was more the result of his offensive line's dominant performance than his greatness. Smith had some great runs, but look back at the highlights of that game and one sees that I could have run for a lot of yards through those gaping holes. Still, Smith who had a 58-yard touchdown run and scored twice and his out of nowhere performance is what makes the super bowl great.

6. Lynn Swann in Super Bowl X: Swann caught only four passes against the Cowboys...but each of those four catches was spectacular and meaningful as he finished with 161 yards and a touchdown while averaging a whopping 40 yards per catch in a 21-17 win. Swannás performance helped the Steelers rally in the fourth quarter and his fourth-quarter touchdown put the Steelers ahead 21-10. Swann made two of the best catches in super bowl history, twisting his body like a gymnast to make a leaping grap on the sidelines and catching a deflected ball while falling to his knees for a big gain near midfield for another. Without Swann's circus catches and big plays the Cowboys would have won and maybe they then would have become the team of the 70s.

5. Joe Montana in Super Bowl XXIV: Playing against the league's top defense in terms of points allowed, Montana had a masterful performance, completing 22 of 29 passes for 297 yards and a then-record five touchdowns in a 55-10 rout of the Broncos...and he did it basically three quarters of work. Montana led the 49ERS to a record in points that still stands and helped them reach that total with more than 14 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Montana then came out and the scrubs entered. Had he continued playing, Montana likely would have put up some mind-boggling numbers. As it is he completed a record 13 straight passes and showed why the 89 Niners are one of the leagueás all-time great teams.

4. Marcus Allen in Super Bowl XVIII: Playing in his first super bowl against the favored Redskins, Allen was virtually unstoppable, running for a then-record 191 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries. Allen dazzled Washington with his moves and broke off one of the most memorable runs in super bowl history, turning what looked like it would be a big loss into a 74-yard score. That was the longest run in super bowl history for 22 years and clinched the game for the Raiders, who won 38-9.

3. Jerry Rice in Super Bowl XXIII: Like Swann for the Steelers in Super Bowl X, Rice saved the 49ERS from the upset in Super Bowl XXIII, putting together the great super bowl performance by a receiver in NFL history. Rice caught a record 11 passes for a record 215 yards as the Niners rallied in the last minute to defeat the Bengals, 20-16 and cement their status as the team of the 80s. More important that the passes Rice caught was when he caught them. After the Bengals took a 13-6 third-quarter lead, Rice helped the Niners tie the game on the ensuing possession, scoring on an acrobatic play that capped the 4-play drive in which he caught two passes. After the Bengals went ahead 16-13 with 3:10 remaining, the Niners took over 92 yards from the end zone. Rice made three huge receptions on the game-winning drive, including a 27-yarder, after a penalty seemed like it might doom the Niners chances. Performances like these would come to define Rice's super bowl career. In his next two super bowls, Rice caught 7 passes for 148 and three touchdowns in a 55-10 win over the Broncos and 10 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns (after separating his shoulder in the first quarter) in a 49-26 rout of the Chargers.

2. Steve Young in Super Bowl XXIX: Young escaped Joe Montana's shadow in record-breaking fashion as he led the Niners to that aforementioned blowout over the Chargers. Young completed 24 of 36 passes for 325 yards and a record six touchdown passes. Young did whatever he wanted against one of the leagueás top-ranked defenses and set the super bowl record for quickest touchdown when he hit Rice just three plays into the game for a long score. The rout was on from there as Young led the Niners to 28 first-half points. In addition to his pin-point passing, Young also hurt the Chargers with his legs, running for a game-high 49 yards on just five carries. It's the six touchdown passes, however, which should keep Young near to the top of the all-time performances list for a long, long time.

1. Doug Williams in Super Bowl XXII: The first African-American to start at quarterback in a super bowl, Williams had more pressure on his shoulders than any other player in super bowl history. Add to that, the knee injury Williams suffered in the first quarter that looked like it would knock him from the game and what he did against the Broncos is simply remarkable. Williams completed 18 of 29 passes for a then-record 340 yards and a then-record-tying four touchdown passes as the Redskins rallied from a 10-0 first-quarter deficit and won 42-10. Williams was unstoppable in the second quarter when he threw all four of his touchdown passes and led the Redskins to a super bowl record 35 points in an awesome display of offensive football. Williams had a game for the ages and considering the pressure he was under, it will be tough to top what he did that day.


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