The 20 Most Exciting Plays in Super Bowl History

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The 20 Most Exciting Plays in Super Bowl History

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Derick Hingle- USA TODAY Sports

The Harbowl is just a week away and I’ve decided to countdown the 20 most exciting plays in Super Bowl history.

This was an interesting undertaking because how does one define exciting? Any time your team scores it’s exciting and every time the opponent scores it isn’t. So you have to look at from a third-party perspective and see how the average fan would react to plays. There are a couple of plays that are not necessarily exciting, but are gut-wrenching which I think is the equivalent of exciting for upset fans so they make the list as well.

The plays on this list span all 46 Super Bowls to date and one Super Bowl has the honor of having two plays on this list. The plays are mostly on offense, but there are a couple of special teams and defensive plays sprinkled in there. Most of the plays feature players who are best known for these plays, but there are several Hall of Famers who made spectacular plays on the game’s biggest stage and proved just how great they are.

One of the interesting things about this list is most of the plays occurred within the last 20 years. Granted that has a lot to do with the advancing technology which allows more recent plays to be easily accessible, but it is still amazing to think about how many great plays have come in the last 20 Super Bowls.

Think I omitted a play? Think I ranked one too high or too low? Tweet at me @JoshWalfish and voice your opinion.

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20. The Fridge Ploughs In (XX)

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Rob Grabowski- USA TODAY Sports

When William Perry scores a touchdown it is exciting. When he does it in the Super Bowl it’s even more exciting.

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19. Kicker Throws a Pick (VII)

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Steve Mitchell- USA TODAY Sports

The play was one of the few black marks in the Miami Dolphins’ perfect season in 1972. Garo Yepremian’s poor pass off a blocked field goal was picked and taken back the other way in a strange yet exciting play.

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18. Phil to Phil Flea Flicker (XXI)

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Matthew Emmons- USA TODAY Sports

If this is a touchdown, it would have been a top-10 play, but it was stopped at the 1. It was an ingenious idea for Phil Simms to hit Phil McConkey on a flea flicker and one that definitely gave fans some excitement.

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17. Elway's Helicopter Ride (XXXII)

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John Rieger- USA TODAY Sports

The actual spin is what got this play over the edge. The run was nothing special, but the flip was an iconic moment for John Elway as he led the Denver Broncos to victory.

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16. Randle El to Ward (XL)

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Jason Bridge- USA TODAY Sports

The former Indiana quarterback showed he still had the arm and hit Hines Ward beautifully in stride. Antwaan Randle El was first wide receiver to throw for a touchdown in the Super Bowl and the play was a beauty in a game remembered more for the horrible officiating.

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15. Porter Picks Off Peyton (XLIV)

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Ron Chenoy- USA TODAY Sports

The interception itself was quite easy, but the play is on this list because of what it meant to the city of New Orleans. Peyton Manning threw the ball to Tracy Porter, but the excitement level as Porter raced to the end zone was palpable as the New Orleans Saints won their only Super Bowl.

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14. McGee's One-Handed Grab (I)

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Matthew Emmons- USA TODAY Sports

If you were playing in the biggest game of your life, would you show up hungover? Max McGee did and made a spectacular one-handed grab, made even more special by the fact he was hung over.

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13. Swann Trips, Juggles and Catches Pass (X)

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Charles LeClaire- USA TODAY Sports

A diving, juggling catch in the Super Bowl can be very exciting to watch. In Lynn Swann’s case it was a long play that did not result in any points, but it definitely gave a couple of people some fright as the ball dangled in the air.

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12. Howard goes to the House (XXXI)

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Brian Spurlock- USA TODAY Sports

Just when you thought the Green Bay Packers were going to blow the lead, Desmond Howard stepped in and saved the day with his 99-yard return. Kickoff returns are exciting and ones in the Super Bowl are extra exciting, so when it goes for a touchdown it has to make the list.

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11. Montana Finds Taylor (XXIII)

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Dale Zanine- USA TODAY Sports

It was a throw that won the Super Bowl. The drive may be more memorable than Joe Montana's pass to John Taylor, but if that pass falls incomplete the San Francisco 49ers are in trouble. The excitement level has to be high for a play of this magnitude.

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10. Holmes Toetaps Steelers to Win (XLIII)

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The Star-Ledger- USA TODAY Sports

Santonio Holmes' toe tap was impeccable and the catch won the Super Bowl. It was an excellent play with a pretty high level of excitement. It may not be as iconic as some of the other plays on this list, but it was exciting nonetheless.

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9. Vinatieri Saves the Day Twice (XXXVI and XXXVIII)

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Thomas J. Russo- USA TODAY Sports

I could just as easily break these two Adam Vinatieri kicks up into separate plays on this list, but it only makes sense to keep them together. The field goals in 2001 and 2003 were exciting because they went in, but imagine if they didn’t.

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8. Wide Right (XXV)

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Mark J. Rebilas- USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know if exciting is the right word for this play, it is more nerve-racking then anything else. However, Scott Norwood's missed kick to win the Super Bowl for the Buffalo Bills is one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history and nerve-racking is a different type of excitement in my book, so it comes in at No. 8.

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7. The Cutback (XVIII)

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Kirby Lee- USA TODAY Sports

Way before Reggie Bush was breaking ankles in college, Marcus Allen was breaking the ankles of the Washington Redskins’ defenders as he cruised 74 yards for the score. Any cutback is exciting, but when it comes in the Super Bowl on such a long play it’s even more exciting.

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6. Harrison Ends Half with INT (XLIII)

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Matthew Emmons- USA TODAY Sports

Many people will knock me for the fact I rank this higher than the Holmes catch, but this was a way more exciting play. James Harrison was able to read Kurt Warner’s eyes and then take it 100 yards to the house on the last play of the first half. It was a monumental game changer and cost a lot of people money in their squares game.

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5. Saints "Ambush" Colts (XLIV)

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Derick Hingle- USA TODAY Sports

Onside kicks normally come in desperation moments, but when the New Orleans Saints recovered one to begin the second half, it’s hard to say it wasn’t exciting. The adrenaline rush that I got watching that play, which the Saints named "Ambush," was only matched by two or three other moments in my life.

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4. Hester's Opening Fireworks (XLI)

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Matthew Emmons- USA TODAY Sports

The opening kickoff of the Super Bowl is returned for a touchdown and it’s only No. 4 on this list? This was an electrifying kickoff return, but it is largely forgotten thanks in part to the Chicago Bears losing and the next three plays on this list.

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3. One Yard Short (XXXIV)

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Kevin Hoffman- USA TODAY Sports

The Bills were one a couple of inches away from a Super Bowl title, but the Tennessee Titans were just a yard away thanks to Kevin Dyson. The stretch for the goal line is iconic and it is one of the most exciting plays in the last 15 years because everyone knew the Super Bowl was on the line with that outstretched arm.

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2. Beebe Chases Lett (XXVII)

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Mark J. Rebilas- USA TODAY Sports

The excitement level of seeing whether or not his little wide receiver could catch the big man is high. The fact Don Beebe caught Leon Lett and knocked the ball free makes it that much better.

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1. The Helmet Catch (XLII)

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Jim O'Connor- USA TODAY Sports

What’s there to say, he caught the ball by trapping it with his helmet. How a play can be more exciting than that I don’t know. Don’t forget what Eli Manning had to do just to get the ball to David Tyree. When you combine Manning's avoidance with Tyree's catch, there is no play more exciting in Super Bowl history.


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