In the 48 Super Bowls we've had the pleasure of watching, there have been amazing moments that people relive as some of the greatest in all of Pro Football history. From the catches that have defined the games to defensive stands that have helped teams win titles, the most exciting and memorable plays of the games are always the touchdowns.
From Max McGee’s grab as the Super Bowl's first touchdown way back in 1967 to Doug Baldwin's fourth quarter TD grab in last year’s game, touchdowns always seem to be the biggest highlight of the biggest game of the year.
There has been plenty of Hall of Famers that have crossed the goal line in the Super Bowl, with maybe the most glaring omission being one of the greatest running backs of all-time, Walter Payton. At Super Bowl XX, where the Chicago Bears crushed the New England Patriots, head coach Mike Ditka didn’t realize that Payton hadn’t scored yet, when the score was 37-3 in the third quarter, and instead allowed defensive lineman William “Refrigerator” Perry to barrel in from a yard out.
Ditka says it was the most regrettable moment of his coaching career, showing just how important it is to NFL players to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Crossing the goal line in the game that everyone watches can go a long way to making a player's career. Just ask Santonio Holmes.
Today we look back and relive some of those great touchdowns, going back in time to count down the “Top 20 Game Changing Touchdowns in Super Bowl History.”
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20 Julian Edelman Super Bowl Winning TD - Super Bowl XLIX
Although this Super Bowl will be remembered for the Seahawks decision to not run the ball on the goal line with Marshawn Lynch and instead run a slant across the middle of the field, the Patriots still needed to get in a position to win the game. Down 24-21, Tom Brady drove the Patriots down the field before hitting Julian Edelman on a three-yard touchdown throw. Edelman ran an ankle-breaking route against Tharold Simon before Tom Brady put the throw right on the money to give the Pats a four point lead.
19 Butch Johnson’s Diving End Zone Grab – Super Bowl XII
It was the Dallas Cowboys time to shine and their Super Bowl XII win over the Denver Broncos was their crowning moment. The game saw the Cowboys build a 13-3 lead, and as Roger Staubach and the Cowboys offense usually did back then, they went for the kill. From the Broncos 45-yard line in the third quarter, Staubach reared back, and fired a perfect pass between two Broncos defenders. Wide out Butch Johnson dove for the pass, pulling it in by the fingertips as he went across the goal-line for the score and put the game away. The ball came out as soon as Johnson passed the goal-line, but it was ruled a touchdown and put Dallas up 17 points. Dallas went on to win by a score of 27-10.
18 Swann Burns Dallas for 64-yard Score – Super Bowl X
This happened in the first of three Super Bowls between the Steelers and Cowboys. Dallas held a 10-9 lead during Super Bowl X before the Steelers got a pair of Roy Gerela field goals to make it 15-10. With the game still in question, MVP WR Lynn Swann combined with QB Terry Bradshaw on a 64-yard bomb that put Pittsburgh up 21-10. Swann had an amazing game, catching four passes for 161 yards and the TD that put the Steelers up for good.
17 Porter Picks off Peyton To Clinch Saints Win – Super Bowl XLIV
The battle between the Saints and Colts went back and forth, and with the Saints up seven with five minutes left, the Colts started their march downfield, with future Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning, as they tried to tie the game. Manning, as he usually does, brought his team downfield and had the Colts nearing the end zone with three and a half minutes left. The Saints defense clinched their first Super Bowl win when Manning threw a bad pick to Saints CB Tracy Porter, who then took it back 74 yards for the score to make it a 31-17 game. It was an emotional play for a franchise that finally reached the top after many years of suffering.
16 Jacoby Jones 108-yard Kickoff Return vs the 49’ers – Super Bowl XLVII
The Ravens were in firm control of the 47th Super Bowl at halftime and they extended that lead with a huge and somewhat risky return by returner Jacoby Jones to start the second half. Jones took the kickoff deep in the end zone and instead of downing it for a touchback, he raced up field, past the 49ers special teams, and all the way into the end zone for a record 108-yard return. While it made it a 28-6 game, the Ravens needed every last point as they held on for a 34-31 win. If it wasn't for that gutsy decision by Jones to run the ball out of the end zone, the game may have had a different outcome.
15 Hayden’s Pick-Six Seals the Colts Super Bowl XLI Win – Super Bowl XLI
Many felt that the 41st Super Bowl was a rather sloppy game, played mostly in the rain in Miami. It was a battle between the Bears and Colts, and the game went back and forth, with the Colts holding a five-point lead early in the fourth quarter. That’s when the Colts defense, which at times during the season had been downright bad, made the play to seal the game. From the Colts 44-yard line, Chicago QB Rex Grossman threw a bad pass that Colts corner Kelvin Hayden picked off and took down the sideline for a 56 yard score that pushed the Colts lead from five to 12. The Indianapolis defense made its stand, as the franchise clinched their first title in 37 years.
14 '65 Toss Power Trap' Clinches a Chiefs Title – Super Bowl IV
The final game between the NFL and the AFL saw the upstart Chiefs dominate the favored Vikings, and it was one play that people still can name today that clinched the Chiefs only Super Bowl title. Kansas City coach Hank Stram, who was wearing a microphone for the game, made the call of ’65 toss power trap,’ a run play from the Minnesota five-yard line. The trap draw play saw running back Mike Garrett have a wide open lane for a short five-yard touchdown run to push the Chiefs’ lead from 9-0 to 16-0. The Vikings never had a chance and going back it was a play that defined the Kansas City victory.
13 Bruce and Warner Hook Up for a Super Bowl Game Winner – Super Bowl XXXIV
The St.Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans were hooked up in a memorable matchup in Super Bowl XXXIV, a game which saw the score tied at 16 with just over two minutes left. That’s when Kurt Warner, the NFL MVP that season, and his favorite WR Issac Bruce, hooked up for a memorable play which resulted in a Rams title. The play was a deep throw down the sideline, as Bruce pulled in the pass and made a cut up field, he raced 73 yards past the Titans defense for a touchdown which put St.Louis up seven. While the Titans were able to get all the way to the Rams one on the final play, it was the touchdown by Bruce that won the game.
12 Washington’s Fumble Return Evens Up Super Bowl XXVIII – Super Bowl XXVIII
It finally looked as if the Buffalo Bills might be able to get their long awaited title, as in their fourth straight Super Bowl appearance they led the Dallas Cowboys 13-6 in the third quarter. That’s when things turned south, as just 45 seconds into the half, the game turned for good into the favor of the Cowboys. Leon Lett forced a fumble from running back Thurman Thomas, and Cowboys safety James Washington was in the right place at the right time. He scooped up the loose ball, and raced 48 yards, tying the game at 13 in the eventual 30-13 Dallas win. It was just another play that didn’t go the Bills way ,as they will always go down as the team that just couldn’t win the big one.
11 Davis’ TD Clinches the Broncos First Title – Super Bowl XXXII
It was the easiest touchdown in running back Terrell Davis’ career, and there was good reason why. Tied at 24 with 1:45 left, Packers head coach Mike Holmgren decided to let the Broncos score the go-ahead touchdown from the one. The decision gave the Packers time to try for a tying score, but also gave Denver a seven-point lead that would hold up in the eventual win. Davis ran all over the Packers this day, going for 157 yards and three scores on 30 carries. Davis had no idea that Green Bay were allowing him to score the one-yard run, but in the end it was the touchdown that finally got Hall of Fame QB John Elway his long awaited championship.
10 Malcolm Smith Puts Denver Away By Halftime – Super Bowl XLVIII
The Seahawks win in 2014 over the Broncos never really seemed in doubt, but it was a pick-six by Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith that clinched the dominating win. Already leading it 15-0 in the second quarter, the Broncos finally started to mount a drive they hoped was going to get them back into the game. Facing a third down at the Seattle 35, Peyton Manning tried a pass to RB Knowshon Moreno, but the pass was high, and the Seahawks LB picked it off and went 69 yards for a touchdown that put Seattle up 22 points with still three minutes left in the half. It was the back breaking touchdown that sealed the Seattle domination over Denver.
9 Randle El Throws His Way In the Record Books – Super Bowl XL
Super Bowl XL in Detroit saw the Steelers build a 14-3 lead, but by the fourth quarter hold just a four-point advantage trying to put the game away. Following an Ike Taylor interception, Pittsburgh had the ball at midfield, and needed a play to put the final touches on their fifth Super Bowl title. The play saw former college QB and NFL wide out Antwaan Randle El take a pitch from running back Willie Parker on a reverse, and fire a 43-yard perfect pass to wide out Hines Ward, who caught the pass in stride and high stepped into the end zone to give the Steelers an 11-point lead. It was the first time a wide out had ever thrown a TD pass in the Super Bowl.
8 Howard’s Kickoff Return Puts Away The Patriots – Super Bowl XXXI
The Green Bay Packers needed a big play to put some distance between them and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, and they got it from kick returner Desmond Howard. Up 28-21, the former Heisman winner took a kickoff and went 99 yards to put the Packers up two scores at 35-21. Howard took home the MVP for Green Bay, as their defense held the two score lead the rest of the way. It was a historic win for Green Bay, as the franchise won their first Super Bowl since way back in 1968 when Vince Lombardi still controlled the Packers sidelines.
7 Bradshaw and Stallworth Combine to Top the Rams – Super Bowl XIV
The Rams were a much harder opponent than many had predicted for the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV, as they led Pittsburgh 19-17 early in the fourth quarter. That’s when a pair of Hall of Famers took over, as QB Terry Bradshaw went deep with 12:59 to play, finding WR John Stallworth in stride for a 73-yard score over Rams corner Rod Perry. The play was what the Steelers were all about, down facing a 3rd-and-8 from their 27, two of the best in the game came through, hitting a huge score that eventually delivered Pittsburgh their fourth title and cemented them as the team of the 70’s.
6 The “Raider Screen” Does in the Redskins – Super Bowl XVIII
Sometimes it pays off to play your Super Bowl opponent earlier in the year, and that was never more evident than for the Los Angeles Raiders as they took on the Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII. Earlier in the year, the Raiders had been victim of a play in which Redskins QB Joe Theismann threw a screen which resulted in a big gain. Up 14-3 with the half nearing, the Raiders smelt the same play coming. This time, LB Jack Squirek was ready, and he picked off Theismann for a five-yard score which put Oakland up 21-3. It was a play that was only part of the Oakland 35-9 dominance, but a play that stunned the high-powered Redskins and put them away before the half.
5 Harrison Goes the Distance to Stun Arizona - Super Bowl XLIII
The Steelers early 10-0 lead against the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII was gone, and the black and gold were facing a 14-10 halftime deficit if they didn't make a huge stand with Arizona at the Steelers one-yard line in the closing seconds of the first half. Enter LB James Harrison, who read a Kurt Warner pass perfectly and picked it off. Harrison started to rumble up the field, led by a number of fellow Steelers defenders. In maybe the most memorable play in Super Bowl history, Harrison jumped over Cardinals, cut back and forth, and by the time he was caught, he was pushed into the end by two Cardinals for an amazing touchdown. The play covered the entire field, and turned the game totally back into the Steelers favor, giving them a commanding 17-7 halftime lead as opposed being down 14-10 going into the locker room.
4 ‘The Diesel’ Rumbles 43 to Help Washington Top the Dolphins – Super Bowl XVII
John Riggins took over the playoffs in 1983, leading the Redskins to the promise land and a rematch of Super Bowl VII against the Don Shula led Miami Dolphins. Miami led the battle 17-13 in the fourth quarter, when from the Dolphins 43-yard line on a fourth down, the play that defined the game was called. ’70 Chip,’ a run play in which Riggins would have to go one-on-one with a safety through the hole was the call, and Riggins easily ran over the defender, going 43 yards for a score which made it a 20-17 Redskins lead. Washington scored again to put even more distance between them, but it was the run by Riggins that everyone still recalls to this day.
3 Burress’ Snag Ends the Perfect Season for New England – Super Bowl XLII
The play that everyone recalls in Super Bowl XLII was the crazy catch that David Tyree made which set up the winning touchdown in the Giants upset over the Patriots. The Giants though would not have won the game if it were not for Plaxico Burress, who hauled in the 13-yard score from Eli Manning to stun the Patriots and most of the football world. The play was a beautifully run corner route, and the ball seemed to take forever to come down into the hands of the former Michigan State receiver. The loss sent a Patriots team, which was looking to be just the second in the history of the Super Bowls to go undefeated, from 19-0 to 18-1 in stunning fashion.
2 Montana to Taylor Helps the Niners Beat Cincinnati – Super Bowl XXIII
While it was a drive dominated by Jerry Rice, it was the Niners second wide out who made the play that eventually won San Francisco a championship in the 1988 season. Joe Montana was calm as he led San Francisco down the field, down 16-13 in the closing minutes to the Bengals. As Montana went back to pass with 39 seconds left, it seemed like destiny that he would find someone open for the winning score. In this case, it was John Taylor who was open and while he took a rightful backseat to Rice most of his career, he was the hero making the game-winning grab in what turned out to be Bill Walsh’s final game as head coach.
1 Holmes’ Tip Toe Magic Beats the Cardinals – Super Bowl XLIII
It appeared with two minutes to go in Super Bowl XLIII that the Arizona Cardinals were ready to pull the upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers, as two Larry Fitzgerald fourth quarter scores gave Arizona a 23-20 lead. That’s when former Ohio State wide out Santonio Holmes went to QB Ben Roethlisberger and said he wanted the ball in crunch time. Holmes came through, making four huge grabs, including the game-winner, an amazing tip-toe catch in the back corner of the end zone that was part great throw, part insane catch. Holmes’ great grab gave the Steelers their NFL leading sixth title, and it’s a touchdown worthy to be the best ‘game changer’ of them all in Super Bowl history.
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