NFL Nation: 2014 Memorable Plays Winner

Adam VinatieriAP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Score: Patriots 16, Raiders 13 (OT)
Date: Jan. 19, 2002 Site: Foxboro Stadium

The voting is complete for the top play in Patriots history, and I'm in agreement with the majority. My vote is also for Adam Vinatieri's "Snow Bowl" kick.

Here are a few thoughts from this viewpoint:

I kept coming back to the 2001 season throughout the process of this "top play/memorable moment" project and felt that my choice would come from that year because of what it meant to the franchise.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Patriots' history?

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    43%
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    11%

Discuss (Total votes: 47,087)

Would it be Drew Bledsoe getting knocked out by Mo Lewis, opening the door for Tom Brady? Adam Vinatieri's "Snow Bowl" kick? The tuck rule play in which Patriots followers will always thank referee Walt Coleman for his knowledge of the rule book? Vinatieri's game-winning kick in Super Bowl XXXVI? Ty Law's interception return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl?

I even considered the Patriots coming out for Super Bowl XXXVI as a team, passing on individual introductions, as a possible "top play/memorable moment" because it was such a powerful statement and captured a big part of the franchise's unexpected run to its first title.

There are many other top plays from other years -- a personal favorite was the record-setting long touchdown pass from Brady to Randy Moss in the 2007 regular-season finale to cap an undefeated regular season -- but '01 trumped them all to me.

Vinatieri's kick just might be the best, most clutch, toughest field goal in the history of this great game.
DeSean JacksonDrew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty Images
Score: Eagles 38, Giants 31

Date: Dec. 19, 2010 Site: New Giants Stadium

After the deeply frustrating exercise of picking three plays from the long history of the Philadelphia Eagles as the most memorable in franchise history, I could never second-guess the voters who selected the most recent "Miracle of the Meadowlands" play as No. 1.

It was a narrow vote, with DeSean Jackson's 65-yard, game-winning punt return edging out Herm Edwards' improbable game-winning fumble recovery in the 1978 "miracle" game. The bigger surprise was how far behind (9 percent of the vote) Wilbert Montgomery's touchdown run in the 1980 NFC title game finished.

But I think this gets at the issue pretty directly. Our top three had zero plays by Randall Cunningham or Donovan McNabb, zero by Reggie White or Brian Dawkins, zero by Chuck Bednarik or Steve Van Buren. And yet, every one of those players made any number of plays worthy of consideration.

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Which is the most memorable play in Eagles' history?

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    45%
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    46%
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    9%

Discuss (Total votes: 35,685)

So what are we really looking for? Cunningham bouncing off Carl Banks on "Monday Night Football" was a definite "wow" moment, but what did the play ultimately mean? One of the toughest final cuts was McNabb’s fourth-and-26 throw to Freddie Mitchell. Yes, it was an astonishing play to help win a playoff game, but the Eagles lost the following week.

When you see fans voting for great plays that led to championships, it’s a painful reminder that the Eagles haven’t won one of those since 1960. In their victory against the Green Bay Packers that season, Bednarik made a game-saving tackle of Jim Taylor. That play probably belonged on the short list, too, but how many fans have even seen it at this point?

Meanwhile, Jackson’s "miracle" return at the new Giants’ stadium in East Rutherford was voted best play in NFL history a couple years ago. That is pretty hard to ignore, even if you allow for the impact of Youtube and social media and being on an endless loop on SportsCenter.

Bednarik didn’t have any of that. Neither did Randall or Reggie. So what makes a play unforgettable?

It’s all in the eye of the beholder, and the beholders have spoken.
Mark SanchezWilliam Perlman/USA TODAY Sports
Score: New England Patriots 49, New York Jets 19
Date: Nov. 22, 2012. Site: MetLife Stadium

The people have spoken. The voters picked the Butt Fumble as the New York Jets' most memorable play. My take? Give yourselves a round of applause.

"Memorable" doesn't mean the best, it means something that will be remembered. If the objective was to determine the best play, it would've been Joe Namath-to-Don Maynard in the 1968 AFL Championship Game or Ken O'Brien-to-Wesley Walker in the 1986 classic against the Miami Dolphins. Those were tremendous plays displaying great skill and poise under pressure. We could probably add a few more to a great-play list. Truth be told, the franchise's most iconic image is that of Namath, flashing the No. 1 sign as he trots off the field at Super Bowl III -- a picture that transcends a simple photo caption.

But like I said, we're talking memorable plays here, folks.

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Which is the most memorable play in Jets' history?

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    14%
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    31%
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    55%

Discuss (Total votes: 37,787)

The Butt Fumble will be talked about for years, decades probably. It will have a permanent place in blooper lore. Who knows? Maybe some day you will see it featured on an ESPN Films "30 for 30" documentary. The play contained the necessary ingredients to endure the test of time. You had a big-name player (Mark Sanchez), a slapstick moment (Sanchez crashing into the buttocks of guard Brandon Moore), a significant outcome (a fumble recovery for a touchdown), a national stage (Thanksgiving night, 2012) and two bitter rivals, the Jets and the New England Patriots.

The ramifications of the Butt Fumble were significant. It fueled an epic meltdown in the second quarter, which led to an embarrassing loss, which all but ruined the Jets' playoff hopes and led to the demise of general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

Oh, did we mention the hilarity of the play?

In many ways, the legend of the Butt Fumble was enhanced by the social-media landscape. It blew up on Twitter and YouTube, and ESPN contributed by playing it over and over and over. It topped the "Not Top 10" list for 40 consecutive weeks before it was mercifully retired. Of course, the fans voted, so don't place all the blame on us. The point is, if Namath had run into Randy Rasmussen's rear end in 1968, the fallout wouldn't have been anything close to the Butt Fumble.

I was there for the other two nominees, Dan Marino's fake spike in 1994 and Jumbo Elliott's improbable touchdown catch in 2000. The impact of Marino's play can't be overstated because it shattered the psychologically fragile Jets, who never won again that season, costing Pete Carroll his job. I was happy for Carroll when he won the Super Bowl last February at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where the fake spike occurred in the old Giants Stadium. Elliott's touchdown was a terrific moment, no doubt, but I don't consider it an all-timer.

Anyway, the fans got it right. It had to be the Butt Fumble. Anything else would've been a butt ... well, you know.
onside kickMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports  
Score: Saints 31, Colts 17
Date: Feb. 7, 2010. Site: Sun Life Stadium

Voting for the most memorable play in New Orleans Saints history was, as I expected, a tight race. The three nominees finished within percentage points of one another: The "Ambush" onside kick in Super Bowl XLIV won with 38 percent of the vote, followed by Tracy Porter's Super Bowl interception return (33 percent) and Steve Gleason's blocked punt in the Superdome re-opener after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 (29 percent).

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Which is the most memorable play in Saints' history?

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    38%
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    33%
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    29%

Discuss (Total votes: 34,564)

Personally, I was more partial to Gleason's block. I've never been around a moment that emotional at a sporting event -- or any other event. The symbolic rebirth of New Orleans on a national "Monday Night Football" stage transcended sports. But it was also a huge moment from a sports-specific angle, because it sparked a 3-0 start for the Saints that season on the way to the NFC Championship Game.

Former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, who was around for all three of the nominated plays, said via Twitter: "Without Gleason's blocked punt, none of the other stuff happens. That moment was much bigger than just football."

I suspect that "Ambush" earned a number of votes from non-Saints fans as well as Who Dat Nation; it was such a memorable play that has since ranked on many lists of the top moments in Super Bowl history. The gutsy surprise play that started the second half also perfectly symbolizes the Saints' personality throughout the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era.

It was the first time a team had ever attempted an onside kick before the fourth quarter in a Super Bowl -- and it paid off big time. The Saints immediately followed with a touchdown, sparking their rally from a 10-6 halftime deficit.

And for those reasons, it probably gives the Saints the best chance to keep moving on in the overall "playoff" that ESPN will kick off next week among the winners from all 32 teams. I'm not sure it can top plays like "The Immaculate Reception," "The Catch" or "The Helmet Catch." But when it comes to unique moments throughout the game's history, "Ambush" certainly belongs in the conversation.
Larry FitzgeraldDrew Hallowell/Getty Images
Score: 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.

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Which is the most memorable play in Cardinals' history?

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    77%
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    18%
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    5%

Discuss (Total votes: 30,641)

There were definitely other plays that may have been more impactful toward a win, but Fitzgerald's fourth-quarter touchdown catch was significant to the Cardinals' franchise as well as the long-suffering fan base. It deserved to be voted as the team's most memorable play for a combination of reasons.

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.
John ElwayPhoto by Kevin Reece/Getty Images
Score: Broncos 31, Packers 24
Date: Jan. 25, 1998
Site: Qualcomm Stadium

We have a winner. The voters and I agree that The Helicopter is the Denver Broncos' most memorable play.

John Elway played quarterback for 16 seasons for the Broncos, started five Super Bowls, and was the winningest starting quarterback in NFL history when he retired following the 1998 season. He went 148-82-1 with 47 game-winning or game-saving drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.

For many, he will always be the face of franchise, now as the team’s top football decision-maker.

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Which is the most memorable play in Broncos' history?

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    80%
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    6%
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    14%

Discuss (Total votes: 38,649)

And if Elway says his put-it-all-on-the-line dive for a first down in the Super Bowl is the favorite play of his career, as he has stated on several occasions, it’s probably worth a long look for any list, and it sits at the top of this one.

In terms of franchise context -- the context of Elway’s career before the play and what the play meant on the game’s biggest stage -- it is the most memorable play of all the plays the Broncos have run. It was Elway’s fourth career Super Bowl start, his career was in the homestretch, and a Super Bowl ring had eluded him to that point.

The Broncos -- with a passionate fan base that has produced an ongoing streak of multiple decades worth of sold-out home games -- had done plenty through the years, but had not won a Super Bowl since the team’s inception in 1960.

And with the title on the line and the game tied 17-17, Elway did what Elway had done so many times in so many situations; he turned trouble into football prosperity. But this time he hurled his then-37-year-old body at three Packers defenders to do it.

Tucked in the game’s play-by-play, it reads simply as an 8-yard run for a third-quarter first down. But for the players on the field with Elway, those on the sideline, the coaches who saw it unfold, and thousands of the team’s faithful who simply call it The Helicopter, it will always stand alone.

The late Mike Heimerdinger, the former Titans and Jets offensive coordinator who was a wide receivers coach in Denver at the time, once simply called it "probably the greatest thing I ever saw on a football field. You just knew when he started to run he was going to do it, and when he got up and went back to the huddle you just knew we were going to win that ring."
Marcus AllenAP Photo
Score: Raiders 38, Washington 9
Date: Jan. 22, 1984
Site: Tampa Stadium

We have a winner. The voters picked 17 Bob Trey O as the most memorable play in Oakland Raiders' franchise history, and I concur with the selection. Indeed, 17 Bob Trey O, or when Marcus Allen ran with the night in Super Bowl XVIII, is the play I consider most memorable in the long and winding history of the Raiders.

Sure, the Sea of Hands and the Holy Roller may have better monikers, but Allen reversing field on a busted play and breaking off a then-Super Bowl record 74-yard touchdown run on a play called 17 Bob Trey O tops the list.

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Which is the most memorable play in Raiders' history?

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    57%
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    9%
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    34%

Discuss (Total votes: 29,480)

For one, it happened on the game’s biggest stage.

For another, it put a dagger into the defending champs and basically clinched the Raiders’ third Lombardi trophy as it gave them a 35-9 lead on the final play of the third quarter.

Plus, it was the signature play of Allen’s MVP performance, in which he ran for a then-Super Bowl record 191 yards, on 20 carries, with two touchdowns, plus two receptions for 18 yards.

Lastly, it got Allen a plug by the leader of the free world after the game, a seeming U.S. weapon in the Cold War.

“I have already had a call from Moscow,” President Ronald Reagan told Raiders coach Tom Flores in the congratulatory phone call to the locker room. “They think Marcus Allen is a new secret weapon and they insist we dismantle him.”

From his perspective, Allen said the run was like time travel, since everyone else seemed to slow down.

“You’re in such a zone and at the height of instinct,” Allen told ESPN Radio affiliate 95.7 The Game in a Super Bowl week interview this year. “You just really get out of your own way. Don’t question it and just get out of your own way and just go. And that’s what I did. It was just one of those games -- I had several of them -- but, obviously, to have it at that particular time was the greatest thing in the world.”

Allen took the handoff from Jim Plunkett and went too wide to the left of pulling right guard Mickey Marvin, and was met by safety Ken Coffey. Allen had to immediately spin to his left, reverse field, and accelerate through a hole on the right side of the line. Then he raced to the left pylon.

“To make a run like that, in a game like that, at a time like that, it was just, it was pure magic,” Allen told the NFL Network. “It was beautiful.”

Which is why it's also the most memorable play in Raiders history.
Steve SmithAlbert Dickson/Sporting News/Icon SMI 
Score: Panthers 29, Rams 23, 2 OT
Date: Jan. 10, 2004. Site: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis

It's hard to argue with the voters on this one. Steve Smith's 69-yard touchdown catch from Jake Delhomme on the first play of the second overtime ended one of the most exciting playoff games not only in Carolina history but in NFL history.

The Rams overcame an 11-point deficit to force overtime, and both teams blew opportunities to win in the first extra period. I actually went to the sideline with an early story filed, awaiting the final score with Carolina leading 23-12. I've never felt so helpless. With no cell phone coverage and not being allowed to return to the press box, I had no way to rewrite the drama as it unfolded. And there was plenty.

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Which is the most memorable play in Panthers' history?

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    60%
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    27%

Discuss (Total votes: 27,415)

One could argue the most memorable play came from cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. a few plays before Smith's catch. The Rams had a first down at the Carolina 38 and appeared poised to win before Manning ripped an apparent catch from the hands of wide receiver Torry Holt for an interception. Were it not for that play, Smith's catch never would have happened. But because Smith's play won the game and sent Carolina to the NFC Championship Game and ultimately the Super Bowl, it is the one etched in the minds of most fans.

The scene at the Edward Jones Dome went from complete pandemonium to stunned silence as Smith caught the pass in stride over the middle between two defenders and raced untouched into the end zone. In a matter of seconds, St. Louis' 14-game home winning streak was over.

"I've never seen a game quite like that," then-Carolina coach John Fox said afterward.

There haven't been many like it since. As much as I'd say linebacker Sam Mills intercepting a shovel pass and returning it for a touchdown to secure Carolina's first franchise victory in 1995 was more memorable, that play or any other really isn't close when you consider what Smith's catch meant and the emotion it brought.
Earnest Byner, Brian BrennanAP photo/Mark Duncan
We have a winner. The voters picked Earnest Byner's fumble at the goal line against the Broncos in the 1987 AFC title game as the Browns' most memorable play. I respect the selection, but also respectfully disagree. Gary Collins' touchdown reception from Frank Ryan in the last championship in the city of Cleveland is the play I consider the most memorable.

Score: Cleveland 27, Baltimore 0
Date: Dec. 24, 1964. Site: Cleveland Municipal Stadium

One inherent difficulty with conducting a survey such as this is those most interested in the survey weren’t around or don’t know enough about a team’s long-term history.

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Which is the most memorable play in Browns' history?

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    18%
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    8%
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    74%

Discuss (Total votes: 32,324)

Thus, when polled about the top plays in Cleveland Browns history, most of their choices were from the 1980s forward.

That is fine and fair, but it doesn’t recognize the greatest stretch of achievement in team history, when Paul Brown’s teams won or played for the championship in 10 consecutive seasons.

Four of those were in the old All-America Football Conference, but it didn’t matter. Brown cemented his legacy by winning the title in his first season in the NFL and playing in the title game his first six -- winning three.

The 1964 Browns team was Paul Brown’s, coached by Blanton Collier, and it continued Brown’s tradition of the Jim Brown toss-sweep and the Gary Collins post pattern as the Browns won the NFL title, the last professional championship of any kind in the city of Cleveland.

The Fumble, The Drive, The Helmet, Red Right 88 ... they’re all memorable. But are they really more memorable than the plays of championship teams? Dare we immortalize all Earnest Byner did for the Browns and Cleveland by picking his one mistake as the most memorable play of all time?

Not me.

Too much good happened in the Browns' glory days -- and those days must be recognized.

It’s excruciatingly painful to make this list without considering Jim Brown’s power sweep behind pulling guard Gene Hickerson. The problem is Brown’s sustained excellence made every one of his plays memorable -- to the point that no one stood out on the marquee. A strong case could be made for the 3-yard TD run in Dallas when Brown ran through or by six Cowboys on his way to the end zone, but not strong enough to get past the titles of 1950 and '64 and the heartbreaks of the '80s.

But when the Browns' great plays are mentioned, there always is a reference to Gary Collins going over the middle to catch a touchdown pass. In the 1964 championship game at Municipal Stadium, Collins caught three TDs. Two were long throws when he beat the coverage. The first was his patented post pattern, over the middle, against a defense expecting it and looking for it but unable to stop it.

That post pattern epitomized that time, and that game.

And because of that, it is my most memorable play in Cleveland Browns history.
Roger Staubach and Drew PearsonAP Photo/Bill Kostroum
Score: Cowboys 17, Vikings 14
Date: Dec. 28, 1975 Site: Metropolitan Stadium

With nearly 40,000 votes cast, Roger Staubach’s Hail Mary pass to Drew Pearson was voted as the most memorable play in Dallas Cowboys' history by the ESPN.com readers.

Troy Aikman’s fourth-quarter pass to Alvin Harper in the 1992 NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers that set in motion the 1990s dynasty finished second. Bob Lilly's sack of Bob Griese in Super Bowl VI was a distant third even if it propelled the Cowboys to their first championship.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Cowboys' history?

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    57%
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    36%
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    7%

Discuss (Total votes: 38,414)

The voters got this one right. Staubach is the most iconic player in franchise history, and that play is frozen in time. It was one of the most iconic plays in NFL history and introduced “Hail Mary,” into the league’s lexicon. You cannot write the history of the NFL without that play.

To recap the play: With time running out in a 1975 divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys had the ball at midfield and needed a miracle. They had dominated statistically, but the Vikings had a 14-10 lead.

Staubach pumped to his left after taking the shotgun snap, in hopes of moving safety Paul Krause away from the sideline. As he pumped, Staubach said he nearly lost the ball and as a result the pass was underthrown.

Subsequently, Pearson had to pull up and either knocked Nate Wright down (Minnesota's version) or made an excellent adjustment to the ball (Dallas' version) to score the winning touchdown, pinning the ball against his right hip.

Some of you wondered why Tony Dorsett's 99-yard run, Emmitt Smith's carry in which he broke Walter Payton’s rushing record or his stiff-arm of Lawrence Taylor playing with a separated shoulder, Clint Longley's Thanksgiving Day heave against the Redskins or even Leon Lett's miscue in Super Bowl XXVII didn’t make the list.

Two of my personal favorites: Marion Barber’s run out of the end zone against the New England Patriots breaking seven tackles and Tony Romo's first-down scramble vs. the St. Louis Rams after a shotgun snap sailed over his head didn’t make the list either.

There needed to be some historic value to the play. The Hail Mary had that, so did Aikman-to-Harper and Lilly’s sack.

But there’s no question which play had the most value.
John TaylorUSA TODAY Sports
We have a winner. The voters selected John Taylor's game-winning TD catch in the 49ers' win over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII as the Bengals' most memorable play and I question their selection.

Score: 49ers 20, Bengals 16
Date: Jan. 22, 1989. Site: Joe Robbie Stadium.

Apparently the people who voted all this week in our Cincinnati Bengals most memorable plays poll aren't on Twitter. Because a good majority of the tweets I received this week regarding the Bengals' three most memorable plays -- selected, I might add, in part by those who participated in an unofficial Twitter survey back in June -- criticized the inclusion of 49ers receiver John Taylor's 10-yard touchdown catch that closed Super Bowl XXIII.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Bengals' history?

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    20%
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    46%
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    34%

Discuss (Total votes: 30,879)

Those of you who vented such frustrations, I get them. When you think about a top plays or most memorable plays countdown, it's in your nature as a sports fan to assume right away that all of the plays involved are "good" ones for the team you root for. For example, either of Ken Anderson's two touchdown passes during the 1981 AFC championship "Freezer Bowl" game with minus-59 wind chills could have been options. Or Jerome Simpson's no-hands goal-line front flip into the end zone in 2011 might have been one. So, too, could Giovani Bernard's field-reversing, tackle-breaking 35-yard run at Miami last season.

Neither of those plays, though, made the cut. Stanford Jennings' 93-yard kick return touchdown that gave the Bengals a late lead in Super Bowl XXIII did, as did running back Corey Dillon's 41-yard touchdown run in 2000 that broke Walter Payton's longtime single-game rushing record. Since some of the best and brightest moments in team history include the Super Bowl appearances, it simply made sense that Jennings' return was a memorable play option. The same had to be said for Taylor's reception, as painful as it may have been for some of you to relive. That reception, which capped another one of Joe Montana's famous comebacks, came at the close of the most recent Super Bowl for the Bengals.

As problematic as the inclusion of Taylor's catch was for some of our loyal Twitter followers, it apparently wasn't an issue for the rest of you. Taylor's catch led the memorable play voting much of the week and ended up the winning selection.

Again, that reception arguably contributed (maybe in a small way) to the downturn the Bengals endured that caused a generation of football fans to grow up believing they weren't a very good franchise. As Chad Richard Bresson tweeted, "One could argue the Jennings return represents apex of Bengals franchise. SB loss, then Montoya. Downhill." (Max Montoya was a guard on the 1981 and 1988 Super Bowl teams. Instead of coming back to Cincinnati as expected in 1990, the then-free agent and California native signed with the Los Angeles Raiders. That postseason, his Raiders beat the Bengals in the second round. Cincinnati hasn't won a playoff game since that year's win over the Houston Oilers a round earlier.)

Instead of Taylor's catch, my pick would have been Dillon's run. Although his record has since been broken by Jamaal Lewis and Adrian Peterson, Dillon's 278 yards against the Broncos were just the dose of optimism the organization needed at the time. In the middle of what was a 14-year stretch without a winning record, the Bengals were in real dark days. They were 0-6 entering that game alone. There was very little to cheer about. But then Dillon came along and smashed one of the game's longstanding records, bringing some positive vibes to the city, even if they lasted for only one more week.
John RigginsManny Rubio/USA TODAY Sports
Score: Redskins 27, Dolphins 17
Date: Jan. 30, 1983. Site: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

From the moment this project was announced, and before I tweeted a word on it, there was only one play in my mind that deserved top billing. When a team hasn't won an NFL title in more than 40 years ... and it trails by four points in the ultimate game ... and it's fourth-and-1 ... and the running back goes the distance? How exactly do you top that?

Fortunately and wisely, the fans agreed with my take. Which is why John Riggins' touchdown run against Miami in Super Bowl XVII was the runaway choice for the top spot. Riggins' run received 76 percent of the more than 30,000 votes and was solidly ahead shortly after the choices appeared on the blog.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Redskins' history?

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    76%
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    16%
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    8%

Discuss (Total votes: 30,346)

Thing is, there were a few choices that didn't even make the list: Mark Moseley's 42-yard field goal in the snow to clinch a playoff spot in 1982; Clint Longley's bomb on Thanksgiving Day (not all memories are good ones); Sean Taylor's return of a blocked field goal attempt in the final seconds that led to a winning Redskins field goal over Dallas; Ken Houston's stop of Dallas running back Walt Garrison at the goal line; Joe Theismann's broken leg; and either of the two Santana Moss touchdown catches in the Monday night comeback win over Dallas. There are others as well.

But the right three were on the board. A Hall of Famer in Darrell Green making one of the biggest plays of a 20-year career. That garnered 16 percent of the vote. A clinching touchdown on an unlikely play -- an interception return by defensive tackle Darryl Grant -- to win the NFC Championship Game at home, providing a moment that likely still brings chills to those in attendance. But it wasn't big enough, receiving just 8 percent of the votes.

Riggins' run happened in the ultimate game. It happened on a fourth down. It gave Washington the lead. Shall I keep going? Based on the votes, the answer is no. You got it. And you got it right.
 
David TyreeJohn David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports
Score: Giants 17, Patriots 14
Date: Feb. 3, 2008. Site: University of Phoenix Stadium.

This was not a difficult call for me. The third-down Eli Manning pass that David Tyree caught against his helmet in the waning minutes of the Super Bowl XLII victory over the New England Patriots had to be the winner for most memorable play in New York Giants history.

The helmet catch was a runaway winner in fan balloting, pulling in more than 70 percent of the votes.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Giants' history?

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    72%
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    20%
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    8%

Discuss (Total votes: 44,899)

The other two nominees came in Giants losses. That surely doesn't disqualify them as "memorable," and it's not as though the Giants' history doesn't have its share of lean times. But this is a franchise that has won four Super Bowls, and it seems to me that the winning play should come from one of those.

So what are the possibilities? The Phil Simms Super Bowl doesn't really have a standout play. It was a thrashing from the start. The most memorable play from the second Bill Parcells Super Bowl win was a missed field goal by the Buffalo Bills' Scott Norwood at the end of the game. And while Mario Manningham's sideline catch in Super Bowl XLVI was an all-time play, I rate the Tyree play ahead of it because of the difference in the significance of those two Super Bowls in NFL history.

The first Manning/Tom Coughlin Super Bowl was one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports, the Giants coming from behind against a Patriots team that was 18-0 and had set multiple offensive records. Also, the play had more to it than the helmet catch, as Manning had to escape what looked like a sure sack in order to get the throw off.

The Giants converted a fourth down earlier in that drive and would have to convert another third down later in it to keep their hopes alive before Manning connected with Plaxico Burress for the game-winning touchdown. But the Tyree play was so brilliantly improbable, so incredibly clutch on both ends and so significant in changing the history of the NFL (the 2007 Patriots would have plausibly been able to call themselves the greatest team ever) that it had to be the winner.
Joe MontanaAP Photo
Score: 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.

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Which is the most memorable play in 49ers' history?

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However, in reality, The Catch is the only choice for the top play in 49ers history. It might be the most memorable play in NFL history.

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.
Kevin DysonAP Photo/Michael Conroy
We 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.

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Which is the most memorable play in Rams' history?

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Really, you can't go wrong with any of the three plays that were nominated here. All of them were integral in the Rams' pursuit of a Super Bowl title. To differentiate is difficult, but I would argue for Bruce's catch because it's the one play of the three where I can argue that without it, the Rams wouldn't have won the world title.

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.

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