NFC West: 2014 Memorable Plays Winner
July, 11, 2014
By Josh Weinfuss | ESPN.com
Drew Hallowell/Getty ImagesScore: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
Date: Feb. 1, 2009 Site: Raymond James Stadium
We have a winner and, in fitting fashion, it ran away from the pack.
The voters picked Larry Fitzgerald's 64-yard touchdown reception from Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XLIII as the Arizona Cardinals' most memorable play, and I applaud their selection. Fitzgerald's sprint down the middle of the field to the end zone is the play I consider the most memorable.
First, it's certainly the most exciting play in team history.
Super Bowl. Fourth quarter. Go-ahead touchdown. Less than three minutes left. It was the stuff legends, dreams and fairy tales are made of. Even though Arizona lost the game on another breathtaking play, Fitzgerald's run to glory -- his second touchdown of the game -- was picturesque. And for 2:05, it was going down in Cardinals, NFL and Super Bowl lore. Which leads us to the second reason it deserved to be named the Cards' most memorable play: It gave Arizona's fans a Super Bowl moment.
Every Super Bowl team has one. There's one play -- offensive, defensive, special teams, it doesn't matter -- that will be seared in the memory of that team's fans for life. For Cardinals fans, it's Fitzgerald's touchdown. All Cardinals fans remember where they were when Fitz caught the pass from Warner, how they slid to the edge of their seats as Fitz broke through the secondary and how they hit the ceiling with exhilaration as Fitzgerald's legs swallowed yards en route to pay dirt. Even though Arizona lost the Super Bowl less than three minutes later, Cards fans will forever eternalize that play.
And thirdly, Fitzgerald's catch deserved to be Arizona's most memorable play because of what it meant for the franchise.
For years -- even generations -- the Cardinals have been synonymous with losing. They've been mired in mediocrity. But when the Cards made their incredible run to the Super Bowl, all that was forgotten -- at least temporarily. And when Fitzgerald sprinted for that go-ahead touchdown, it looked like Arizona would join the echelon of Super Bowl champs. But being that close cast the team in a new light around the NFL. The Cardinals weren't just a team that lucked out and got to the Super Bowl, as other teams have been labeled in the past. They made a legitimate run at the Vince Lombardi Trophy, one that was highlighted by Fitzgerald's touchdown.
July, 11, 2014
By Bill Williamson | ESPN.com
AP PhotoScore: 49ers 28, Cowboys 27
Date: Jan. 10, 1982
Site: Candlestick Park
The fans got it right picking The Catch.
Was this really a choice?
That is no disrespect to Joe Montana hitting John Taylor to win the Super Bowl in 1989 or to Steve Young and Terrell Owens hooking up with The Catch II to win a 1998 playoff game. Those were the two other finalists in our 49ers most memorable plays feature this week.
Fine, stunning, unforgettable plays. Both of them.
Whether you were alive or not in 1982, you know this play. You can see Dwight Clark jumping into the sky over Everson Walls to snag Montana’s desperate heave right now, can’t you?
It is one of the most iconic plays in NFL history. This play represents so much more than what it simply was at the moment. It didn’t just surge the San Francisco 49ers into their first Super Bowl -- it changed the course of NFL history.
It was the beginning of a dynasty. It was the arrival of Bill Walsh and Montana as NFL legends.
It knocked the Dallas Cowboys off their perch for a bit. It ignited one of sports' greatest rivalries.
Like all things great, The Catch’s impact was great and long lasting. There is no other play like it in 49ers history. It began the history of the 49ers in a lot of ways, and it certainly defined it.
There was no other choice.
July, 11, 2014
By Nick Wagoner | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Michael ConroyWe have a winner. The voters picked Mike Jones' game-saving tackle as time expired in Super Bowl XXXIV as the Rams' most memorable play.
While I can certainly understand why The Tackle emerged victorious, I would cast my vote in a different direction. To me, the most memorable play in franchise history came moments before Jones brought Tennessee receiver Kevin Dyson down at the 1-yard line. Wide receiver Isaac Bruce's 73-yard touchdown catch to give the Rams the lead in that game is my choice for the top play in Rams history, narrowly edging Jones' tackle and Ricky Proehl's 30-yard touchdown in the NFC Championship Game.
Proehl's catch, as great as it was, came with the Rams in reasonable field goal range. If Proehl doesn't make the play, the Rams can line up for a 47-yard field goal and still take the lead. That's no chip shot or guarantee, but there was still a way for the Rams to win the game. And while Jones' tackle saved the victory for the Rams, many forget that if Dyson had slipped past him, the Titans would have had to kick an extra point to tie the game (or if coach Jeff Fisher wanted to get crazy, go for two and the win). Theoretically, the Rams still could have won the game in overtime, though momentum clearly was swinging in the Titans' direction.
But ultimately, Bruce's play stands above the rest to me because it most properly defines the greatest era in team history. The "Greatest Show on Turf" was known for its quick-strike ability to score from anywhere on the field at any moment.
After blowing a 16-point lead in the second half, the Rams were on the ropes. The personality of that team came directly from its no-fear approach to offense and coordinator Mike Martz's propensity for keeping the gas pedal pressed down for 60 minutes.
With the Rams reeling, it was fitting that Kurt Warner, the supernova quarterback who came from nowhere, connected with Bruce, the mainstay superstar who had been through all the bad times, to give the Rams a lead they would not relinquish and a championship they'd forever cherish.
July, 11, 2014
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesScore: Seahawks 41, Saints 36
Date: Jan. 8, 2011. Site: CenturyLink Field
It wasn't an easy choice, especially considering the significance of the top two plays, but we have a winner.
By almost a 2-to-1 margin, the voters picked the Beast Quake 67-yard TD run by Marshawn Lynch in the 2011 playoff game against New Orleans over the Immaculate Deflection, cornerback Richard Sherman's game-saving tip in the NFC Championship Game this past season.
Both plays will be remembered forever by Seahawks fans, but I beg to differ with the voters. For me, Sherman's defensive gem is the signature, memorable play in franchise history.
Lynch's run, which literally caused a seismic reaction, was a rumble for the ages. But it cannot compare in national significance to Sherman's moment, on and off the field.
First, the play: It was near the end of the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field.
With Seattle leading 23-17, San Francisco was driving toward a possible game-winning score and had a first-and-10 at the Seattle 18 with 30 seconds to play. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick lofted a fade intended for receiver Michael Crabtree into the right corner of the end zone.
Sherman leaped and used his long arms to tip the ball away and right into the hands of linebacker Malcolm Smith for the interception. It saved the game but was only the start of the story.
Sherman was flagged for taunting, when he ran over to Crabtree as the receiver was leaving the field. Sherman said he went over to tell Crabtree good game, but the receiver shoved his hand into Sherman's face mask and walked off.
Moments after the game ended, Sherman was interviewed on the field by Fox reporter Erin Andrews.
"I'm the best corner in the game," Sherman screamed. "When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're going to get. Don't you ever talk about me."
When Andrews asked him who he was talking about, he replied: "Crabtree. Don't you open your mouth about the best, or I'll shut it for you real quick. L.O.B. [Legion of Boom]."
Those comments in the heat of the moment, directed at a player who had publicly ridiculed Sherman, led to a Twitter explosion of people calling Sherman a thug, a gangster and much worse.
But Sherman reversed the narrative with an informative column and a speech to the media a few days later, in which he effectively argued such comments reflected racism and ignorance.
It gained Sherman national respect he couldn't have imagined -- Time Magazine's top 100 list of the world's most influential people, an invitation to speak at Harvard and a spot at the annual White House Correspondent's Dinner, to name only a few.
It was a great play that sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, but it also was a moment that brought about an important national conversation and transformed a man's life.