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Sports Then and Now

Ten Best Individual Performances in Super Bowl History

Posted on February 04, 2011 by A.J. Foss

Steve Young's performance in Super Bowl XXIX was masterful.

Welcome to the fifth and final installment of the 50 Greatest Individual Performances in Super Bowl History.

This is the best of the best, the top ten Super Bowl performances of all time:

10. Terrell Davis-Running Back, Denver Broncos, XXXII
Davis put the Broncos on his back and led his team as well as quarterback John Elway to their first Super Bowl title.

Davis carried the ball 30 times and gained 157 yards as he scored three touchdowns, including the game-winning touchdown with 1:45 left as Denver shocked the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers 31-24.

Davis was chosen as the game’s MVP despite missing the entire second quarter with a migraine headache.

9. Joe Montana-Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers, XIX
In a much-hyped showdown with Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, it was Montana who stole the show.

The 49ers quarterback completed 24 of 35 passes for 331 yards, a Super Bowl record at the time, and threw three touchdown passes, to comply a 127.2 quarterback rating.

Montana also ran for 59 yards on five carries, a Super Bowl record for most rushing yards by a quarterback until Steve McNair in XXXIV, and ran for one touchdown.

In all, Montana totaled 390 yards of total offense and four touchdowns to win his second Super Bowl MVP in San Francisco’s 38-16 win over the Miami Dolphins.

8. John Riggins-Running Back, Washington Redskins, XVII
“The Diesel” carried the load for the Redskins in XVII against the Miami Dolphins as he carried the ball a record 38 times for 166 yards and a touchdown that ranks as one of the greatest touchdowns in Super Bowl history.

With about 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter and trailing 17-13, the Redskins were faced with a 4th-and-1 at the Dolphins’ 43-yard-line.

Head coach Joe Gibbs called for “70 Chip”, a short-yardage play that called for the offensive line to open a hole on the left side for Riggins.

Riggins took the handoff and was met at the line of scrimmage by Dolphins cornerback Don McNeal but Riggins shrugged him off and ran in for a 43-yard touchdown run that gave the Redskins the lead.

Washington added another touchdown and won the game 27-17, with Riggins winning the MVP award.

In the postgame locker room celebration, Riggins “Ronnie (Reagan) made be president, but I’m king for the day”

Doug Williams threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns in Super Bowl XXII.

7. Doug Williams-Quarterback, Washington Redskins, XXII
Williams did not get off to a good start as he completed four of 10 passes in the first quarter and hyper-extended his left knee which caused him to leave the game in which the Redskins trailed the Denver Broncos 10-0.

He re-entered the game in the second quarter and proceeded to lead the single greatest quarter in Super Bowl history as the Redskins scored 35 straight points with Williams throwing for 228 yards and four touchdown passes on just nine of 11 passes in the quarter.

Williams finished the game with a 18-of-29 for 340 yards and four touchdown performance as the Redskins easily defeated the Denver Broncos 42-10.

Williams’ performance is not only historic for the records he set, but for the fact that he became the first and so far only African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

6. Lynn Swann-Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers, X
It was not expected that Swann would play in this Super Bowl against the Dallas Cowboys after he spent two days in a Pittsburgh hospital because of a concussion he suffered in the AFC Championship Game.

However, Swann did play and helped lead the Steelers to a 21-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys for Pittsburgh’s second straight Super Bowl victory.

Swann only caught four passes, but all but one were simply spectacular as he totaled 161 yards, averaging over 40 yards per catch.

In the first quarter, Swann made a catch in which he twirled his body to catch a pass that appeared to be on its way out of bounds and then managed to get both of his feet in bounds for a 32-yard gain that lead to the Steelers’ first touchdown of the game.

In the second quarter, Swann made perhaps the most famous catch of his career, a 53-yard reception in which he managed to catch a tipped pass before he fell to the ground.

Then with late in the fourth quarter and the Steelers leading 15-10, Swann caught a 64-yard touchdown pass that proved to be the back-breaker even though the Cowboys made a late rally.

Swann was named the game’s MVP, the first wide receiver to win the award.

5. Marcus Allen-Los Angeles Raiders, XVIII
Allen provided the most famous run in Super Bowl history when on the final play of the third quarter he took a handoff from quarterback Jim Plunkett and ran to his left, but then turned around and cut back to the middle of the field to run untouched for a 74-yard touchdown run that ended the hopes of the Washington Redskins.

Allen added a 39-yard run in the fourth quarter which lead to a field goal as he finished the game with 191 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns to lead the Raiders to a 38-9 rout over the Washington Redskins.

Allen averaged 9.6 yards per carry as he was named the MVP.

4. Phil Simms-Quarterback, New York Giants, XXI
Simms had the most accurate passing performance in Super Bowl history as he completed 22 of 25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Giants to a 39-20 victory over the Denver Broncos and their first Super Bowl title.

In the second half alone, Simms was perfect as he completed all 10 of his passes for 165 yards and threw two touchdowns as the Giants scored 30 points in the second half.

The Giants quarterback was named the game’s MVP and became the first player to say “I’m going to Disney World”

3. Jerry Rice-Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers, XXIII
Of all the great performances Rice had in his Super Bowl career, his best performance came in his first Super Bowl in which he won the MVP and set records for most receptions and most receiving yards.

Rice caught 11 passes for 215 yards and one touchdowns in the49ers’ 20-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, with three of his catches going for at least 30 yards.

On the 49ers’ famous 11-play, 92-yard touchdown drive in the final three minutes of the game, Rice caught three passes for 51 yards, including a 27-yard reception on a 2nd-and-20 that put San Francisco at the Bengals’ 18-yard-line.

Two plays later, Montana hit John Taylor for the game-winning touchdown.

Joe Montana was like a surgeon on the field as he sliced up the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.

2. Joe Montana-Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers, XXIV
Montana saved his best for last as he won his record third Super Bowl MVP award in leading the 49ers to their fourth Super Bowl title in nine years.

Montana completed 22 of 29 passes, including 13 passes in a row, for 297 yards and a record five touchdown passes, for a quarterback rating of 147.6, in the 49ers’ 55-10 blowout of the Denver Broncos.

1. Steve Young-Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers, XXIX
With the shadow of predecessor Joe Montana hovering over him, 49ers quarterback Steve Young broke Montana’s record for most touchdown passes in a Super Bowl as he lead the 49ers to their fifth Super Bowl title.

Young threw two touchdown passes in the first five minutes of the game that put San Francisco ahead 14-0, then threw four more touchdowns for a record six touchdown passes to become the second quarterback to throw for six touchdown passes in a NFL postseason game.

Young finished the game with 325 yards on 24 of 36 passes and also rushed for 49 yards to win the MVP award as the 49ers destroyed the San Diego Chargers 49-26.

By stepping out of the shadow of a legend in a historic fashion, Steve Young’s performance in Super Bowl XXIX is the greatest individual performance in Super Bowl history.

Check out the other articles in the series:





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