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Most Memorable Plays in NFL History: Philly Special, David Tyree Catch Headline Top 10

What are the most memorable plays in NFL history? We offer our top 10, which includes the Philly Special and the David Tyree Catch.

The NFL has been around for over 100 years and produced numerous iconic moments. But what are the most memorable plays in NFL history? It wasn’t easy, but we ranked the top 10, along with nine honorable mentions.

10 Most Memorable Plays in NFL History

Honorable mentions: Miracle in Miami, Minneapolis Miracle, Tuck Rule, John Riggins’ Run to Glory, Santonio Holmes Catch, Steve Young Runs Over Vikings, Alan Ameche Wins Greatest Game Ever, Dolphins Hook and Latter, John Carney Misses Extra Point

10) John Elway Helicopter (1997)

The play that defined John Elway’s career.

After Elway lost in his first three Super Bowl trips, he and the Denver Broncos got another chance against the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. The 37-year-old Elway’s desire to win his first title manifested in his iconic third-down run in the third quarter.

With the game tied, Elway, facing 3rd-and-6, went scrambling for a first down but needed to dive to reach the marker. He made it, but not before being sent for a 180-degree spin by Packers safeties LeRoy Butler and Mike Prior. The drive finished with a Terrelle Davis touchdown run, and the Broncos eventually won the game.

9) Wide Right (1991)

This play is memorable for good reasons if you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan but bad reasons if you’re a member of Bills Mafia.

Trailing 20-19 at the end of Super Bowl XXV, Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood had a chance to deliver Buffalo its first championship. But his 47-yard attempt sailed wide right and sent the Bills to their first of four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Oh, how different their franchise history could have been had Norwood made that field goal.

8) Beast Quake (2011)

One of the coolest plays in NFL history.

The Seattle Seahawks held a four-point, fourth-quarter lead over the New Orleans Saints in an NFC Wild Card round matchup in Seattle. Marshawn Lynch sealed the game when he ran 67 yards for a touchdown, breaking nine tackles along the way.

We later learned the crowd was so loud during Lynch’s run that a nearby Pacific Northwest Seismic Network station registered a small tremor at Qwest Field.

7) The Tackle (2000)

This play is sometimes called “Mike Jones’ Tackle” or “One Yard Short.” Either way, it’s one of the most memorable plays in NFL history.

The Tennessee Titans rallied from a 16-0 deficit to tie the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, but Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce connected on a 73-yard TD to give St. Louis a seven-point lead with under two minutes to play. The Titans responded by driving to the Rams’ 10-yard line and calling their final timeout with six seconds remaining.

Steve McNair then hit Kevin Dyson on a quick slant, but Rams linebacker Mike Jones tackled him at the 1-yard line to end the game. Dyson reaching for the goal line remains one of the more enduring images in NFL history.

6) Philly Special (2018)

This play didn’t occur during overtime or the fourth quarter. In fact, it didn’t even happen in the second half of Super Bowl LII.

Leading the New England Patriots 15-12 late in the first half, Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles wanted to strike an early kill shot. Head coach Doug Pederson decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the goal line with 38 seconds and chose “Philly Special” as the play.

The rest is history: The ball was hiked to Corey Clement, who pitched it to Trey Burton, who threw it to Foles for a touchdown. The Eagles went on to win their first and only Super Bowl championship.

5) Malcolm Butler Interception (2015)

The Patriots had gone a decade without winning a Super Bowl. And with Deflategate dominating the NFL news cycle, most of the football world was rooting against New England in Super Bowl XLIX.

With the final seconds ticking down, it appeared the Seahawks would score a game-winning TD and leave Tom Brady 3-3 in Super Bowls. Instead, Pete Carroll inexplicably opted against giving the ball to Lynch on the goal line. He called for a pass, and Russell Wilson threw an interception to little-known Malcolm Butler.

The Patriots won the game, and their second dynasty was born.

4) Music City Miracle (2000)

Talk about a roller-coaster ride for the Titans in the 1999 playoffs. The run ended in heartbreak against the Rams but began in a miracle fashion against the Bills.

Trailing by one point with 16 seconds left in an AFC Wild Card matchup, Lorenzo Neal fielded a kickoff before handing the ball to Frank Wycheck, who lateralled to Dyson. No further laterals were necessary; Dyson ran 75 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with three seconds left.

Dyson surely would trade this play for one extra yard in the Super Bowl, but owning one of the greatest plays in NFL history is a decent consolation.

3) David Tyree Catch (2008)

Sorry, Patriots fans.

New England was minutes away from finishing off a perfect season and cementing itself as the best team in NFL history. The high-powered Patriots offense struggled against the New York Giants defense throughout Super Bowl XLII but held a 14-10 lead with 1:15 left in the game.

Eli Manning then broke a slew of tackles before finding David Tyree for a miraculous 32-yard reception. Tyree, with Rodney Harrison all over him, somehow pinned the ball to his helmet. Moments later, Plaxico Burress found the end zone, and the Giants finished off the improbable upset.

2) The Catch (1982)

One of the most famous plays in sports history, “The Catch,” is also a defining moment in the story of the NFL.

The Cowboys held a 27-21 lead over the San Francisco 49ers with 58 seconds left in the 1981 NFC Championship Game. Facing a 3rd-and-3 from the Cowboys’ 6-yard line, Joe Montana rolled right and fired a desperate back-foot throw toward the back of the end zone. Dwight Clark came out of nowhere to catch it, and the 49ers went on to win the game.

The play marked the end of the Cowboys dynasty and the rise of the 49ers as the best team in the league.

1) Immaculate Reception (1972)

Some fans are eager to move this play down the list, but it still belongs in the No. 1 spot. The most famous play in NFL history is also one of the most iconic plays in the history of United States professional sports.

The Pittsburgh Steelers trailed the Oakland Raiders late in an AFC Divisional playoff matchup. Terry Bradshaw fired a pass for John Fuqua, but the ball was deflected into the hands of Franco Harris, who ran 60 yards for a game-winning touchdown.

Whether Harris caught the ball before it touched the ground remains up for debate, as poor video quality and limited camera angles yielded inconclusive replays.