Here’s a New Year’s toast to last through mid-February:
“Savor the new NFL.”
Gamblers enjoy an extended lead-up to Super Bowl 56, which was pushed back to its latest start ever of Feb. 13. This allowed another week of regular-season NFL betting.
The longer Super Bowl leadup also provides more time to debate the unforgettable plays that changed Super Bowls and gambling finances, especially before legalized sports betting.
Here’s an unofficial, individual selection of memorable Super Bowl moments. It’s subjective of course, but nonetheless compelling. Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and New York Jets fans will relate to many of these.
Blend this Top 5 list in with your own.
5) An Orr Without a Paddle
- Super Bowl 3: Jan 12, 1969, Miami, Fla.
- Final Score: JETS 16, Baltimore Colts 7
- Odds: Baltimore -18
The Jets’ lone Super Bowl triumph is usually described as Joe Namath’s guarantee that the Jets would defeat the Colts. It happened and remains the largest upset in Super Bowl history.
The Colts, 15-1, were considered one of the greatest teams of all time. But they threw four interceptions deep in Jets territory, including one on a sure touchdown.
With the Jets leading 7-0 near the end of the first half, the Colts ran a gadget play that fooled the Jets.
It left Jimmy Orr wide open near the end zone, with nobody within the same zip code. But Earl Morrall picked out the wrong receiver and his deep pass was picked.
Instead of forging a 7-7 tie, the Colts trailed 7-0 at halftime and whimpered to a 16-7 loss. The play is remembered because it had been run earlier in the season for a touchdown. From Morrall to Orr.
“I am the intended receiver on the play,” Orr said later. “Earl said he just didn’t see me. I was open from here to Tampa (282 miles away).”
The play illuminated how tense the Colts were. They were heavily criticized for being the first NFL team to lose to an AFL squad. That soon became moot as the leagues merged.
The game also forged Namath’s legacy and propelled him into the Hall of Fame.
4) The Tackle. A Game of Inches.
- Super Bowl 34: January 30, 2000, Atlanta, Ga.
- Final score: St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16
- Odds: St. Louis -7
This was a Super Bowl decided on the final play, by perhaps three inches. The Titans tried an underneath pass rather than toss one into the end zone. The pass was complete to Kevin Dyson, but Mike Jones of the Rams wrapped him up just inside the one.
Dyson stretched the ball out and was inches short. It is probably the greatest tackle in the history of the Super Bowl.
Eagles fans were happy for their former coach Dick Vermeil, who had led them to the Super Bowl in 1980, retired and came back to coach the Rams.
Oddsmakers nailed this game right too. They installed the Rams as seven-point favorites. In this game, played prior to legalized sports betting, millions of dollars changed hands on this play.
The tackle also prevented what likely would have been the first overtime in Super Bowl history. That finally came in when the Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons.
3) Oh No They Didn’t. Patriots Intercept Seahawks Dreams of Repeat.
- Super Bowl 49: February 1, 2015, Glendale Az.
- Final score: New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24
- Odds: Pick
The odds of pick-em were appropriate because an electrifying pick shocked the NFL world.
The Seahawks were about to become the first repeat Super Bowl champions since the 2004 Patriots. They had the ball on the New England one-yard line, trailing 28-24.
The Patriots were down to 26 seconds and had no timeouts.
Just hand it off to Marshawn Lynch, the running back who hadn’t been stopped all day.
This time he was stopped by a curious play selection. The Seahawks went for a passing slant pattern and Malcolm Butler jumped the route to intercept it. It was a heads-up play by Butler, who moved like lightning to beat the receiver to the ball.
It was a miracle win for the Patriots, a shock for the ages by the Seahawks.
Never did a Super Bowl look so firmly planted in one team’s pocket only to be yanked away.
2) Double Trouble: Manning Escape, Tyree Catch Helps Giants Thwart Unbeaten Season for the Patriots.
- Super Bowl 42: Feb. 3, 2008, Glendale Az.
- Final Score: New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14
- Odds: New England -12
The Patriots were two plays away from completing the first NFL unbeaten season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. They led 14-10 and it was the Giants’ final possession. The Giants had 3rd and 5 from their 44. They had been given life by Asante Samuel dropping the game-ending interception one play earlier.
The Patriots blitzed Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who was nearly sacked. Two players had hold of his jersey. But he darted away, then hoisted a bomb to David Tyree, who outleaped all-pro defender Rodney Harrison and pinned the ball against his helmet.
It was destiny after that. The Giants scored with 35 seconds left, the Patriots had no time left and Big Blue posted a monumental upset. Because two things happened on this play, the Manning escape and the Tyree grab, it is one of the most influential plays in Super Bowl history. Some would consider it No. 1 as far as changing a game.
1. You Want Philly Philly? Trick Play Becomes Landmark of Eagles’ first Super Bowl victory.
- Super Bowl 52, Feb. 4, 2018, Minneapolis, Minn.
- Final Score EAGLES 41, New England Patriots 33
- Odds: New England – 4
The Philly Special is not only the greatest trick play, but arguably the greatest designed play in Super Bowl history.
The Eagles held a 15-12 lead with 38 seconds left in the first half. They had 4th and goal from the New England 1. Everyone beseeched the Eagles to take the field goal and go up six. That’s what made the following play more satisfactory.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles barked the signals, moving along the right side of the line to sell the idea of everyone being on the same page. The snap didn’t go to Foles. It went to Corey Clement, who tossed to tight end Trey Burton coming around from the left side.
Foles snuck out into the flat and Burton lobbed a beauty into his hands for the score that will be talked about for ages, especially in Philadelphia.
Foles became the first quarterback ever to catch a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.
It changed the game by giving the Eagles a 22-12 advantage, rather than 18-12. The Philly Special was also the signature play in a record-setting game. The Birds and Patriots combined for 1,151 yards, the most in NFL history.
Honorable mention in this game: Zach Ertz’s pivotal fourth-down catch to preserve the Eagles’ go-ahead fourth-quarter drive in their own territory. The Eagles trailed 33-32 and may not have gotten the ball back without the catch.
But the Philly Special will have a long shelf life for many NFL fans, especially here.
Lead image credit: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson