Eli's escape and pass to Tyree is among the SB greats
Posted: Wednesday February 6, 2008 12:09PM; Updated: Wednesday February 6, 2008 3:07PM
When you think about the 1985 Super Bowl-champion Chicago Bears, the image that immediately pops into your mind isn't Walter Payton carrying the football 22 times or Willie Gault's 129 receiving yards. It's not Reggie Phillips' 28-yard interception return for a touchdown and it's not even Jim McMahon thumbing his nose at Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
No, more than two decades later, the singular image that flashes into our minds when we think of the Bears' 46-10 destruction of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX in New Orleans is the Fridge, massive defensive tackle William Perry, lugging his 390 pounds of blubber over the goal-line for a third-quarter rub-it-in touchdown.
That one play told you everything you need to know about the Bears. They didn't just want to beat you, they wanted to humiliate you and laugh at you and then steal your girlfriend after the game.
These are the iconic images of the Super Bowl. The snapshots frozen in our collective consciousness that stand alone and, in a way, are more memorable than the games themselves. Pro football, more than any other sport, defines its stars by their performances in championship games. We dismiss Dan Marino, one of the greatest passers in history, because he didn't win a Super Bowl, and we embrace Doug Williams, a journeyman of modest accomplishment whose one magical quarter just happened to be on the game's greatest stage.
The image of Perry waddling across the goal-line is the defining moment of Super Bowl XX and also of the historic Chicago Bears franchise.
Here -- in reverse chronological order -- is a look at the rest of the Top 10 defining moments in Super Bowl history. Some define a player, some define a team, some define an era. All are etched forever in our memories.
Eli Manning simply would not go down. No matter how many guys tore at his jersey and grabbed at his shoulder pads and tugged at his legs, Manning refused to hit the deck. Until that moment, Eli was Peyton Manning's kid brother and it was hard to imagine anything -- even a Super Bowl championship -- would change that.
But Manning's determined escape from a sea of Patriots defenders and 32-yard third-down miracle to a leaping David Tyree with stickum on his helmet not only kept alive the game-winning touchdown drive Sunday, it elevated Manning into an icon. And that play, that impossible, miraculous, death-defying, season-saving play, became the defining moment not only for the Giants but for underdogs everywhere who refuse to believe they have no chance to win.
Only the most hard-core football fans remember who caught the ball. And only the most hard-core football fans remember who made the tackle.
What made Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta after the 1999 season such a defining moment for the league had little to do with the Rams or the Titans. It was all about the tackle. With the Rams up by seven, the Titans with the ball at the Rams' 10-yard-line, the clock at 0:06, the entire season resting on one play, a Rams linebacker made a Spaulding Guide tackle on a Titans receiver, stopping him as he stretched the football out a few agonizing inches from the end zone.
The names have become footnotes. For the record, Mike Jones was the linebacker, Kevin Dyson the receiver. Neither was a star. Jones was out of football by 2003, Dyson by 2004. The tackle transcended its participants. It carried football back to its simple roots, back to the days when the game was played by steel workers and railroad men during their Sundays off from work. Back when pro football didn't mean billion-dollar TV contracts or endorsements or six-hour pre-game shows. It just meant running, blocking and tackling.
It took Reggie White nine years to win a playoff game and 14 pro seasons to reach a Super Bowl. By then, his credentials were etched in stone. White was the greatest defensive lineman in NFL history. But without a ring, his career was hollow, and although his playoff production was good -- seven sacks in his first 10 postseason games -- it was hardly overwhelming.