The National Football League (NFL) has had more than its share of moments throughout its 101-year history. Some NFL popular moments are spectacular, and others we might prefer to forget, but all moments have shaped the league into what it is today.
This article will count down the top greatest NFL moments of all time that have changed lives and the game forever.
The Catch – 1981 NFC Championship game
‘The Catch,’ in which “Joe Montana and Dwight Clark of the San Francisco 49ers made the catch to send the team to their first Super Bowl, is one of the most iconic plays in NFL history.
Montana led ‘The Gold Rush’ on a 92-yard touchdown drive with 58 seconds left in the historic game to take the lead and eventually win. This moment will go down in Niners history as pivotal in the team’s dynasty in the 1980s.
John Elway’s Helicopter – 1997 Super Bowl
Leading by three points and on their eight-yard line, John Elway led the Broncos to their first back-to-back Super Bowl victories. On a play many thought would be a run, Elway changed the call at the line of scrimmage and fired a bullet across the middle to Shannon Sharpe, who promptly turned upfield for an 80-yard touchdown.
This moment helped solidify Elway as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and was Littleton’s first real taste of greatness.
“Run Mary Run” – 2011 NFC Divisional Game
On third and ten with 20 seconds remaining on their 30-yard line, Aaron Rodgers dropped back on a designed QB rollout to his right. Rodgers heaved a Hail Mary pass downfield tight end with the Packers trailing by six and time running out.
Richard Rodgers miraculously caught that for the game-winning touchdown. This moment is remembered for both the disbelief of the Seahawks defenders and the sheer joy on Aaron Rodgers’ face as he ran off the field.
The Tuck Rule – 2001 AFC Divisional Game
One of the most debated rules in NFL history, the ref called the “Tuck Rule” during a divisional playoff between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders. With less than two minutes to play and the Patriots leading 10-3, Tom Brady was sacked by Charles Woodson, who appeared to force a fumble.
The officials ruled that Brady had tucked the ball back into his body and was still in possession, giving the Patriots a first down. This moment helped launch the Patriots dynasty of the early 2000s and left an indelible mark on NFL history.
The Helmet Catch – 2008 NFC Championship Game
The Giants were trailing by three points with less than two minutes to play in their home stadium when quarterback Eli Manning led them on a miraculous drive to win the game and send them to the Super Bowl.
Manning sent a throw downfield to wide receiver David Tyree on fourth down with the Giants needing a score. Tyree caught it by pinning it against his helmet. ‘The Helmet Catch’ is considered one of the most outstanding catches in NFL history, as it earned the Giants their first Super Bowl victory in nearly two decades.
The Immaculate Reception – 1972 AFC Divisional Game
With less than 60 seconds to the end of the play and the Raiders leading 7-6, the Steelers faced a fourth and ten on their 42-yard line. QB Terry Bradshaw suffered a hit as he dropped back to pass, and the ball was knocked loose.
Franco Harris scooped it up and ran towards the end zone and scored – one of the greatest plays in NFL history. This moment helped launch the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s and is still talked about today.
“The Drive” – 1987 AFC Championship Game
Trailing by 6 points with less than 5 minutes remaining, Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar led the team on an improbable 92-yard drive that helped send them to their first Super Bowl.
With three fourth-down conversions and a touchdown pass to wide receiver Brian Brennan, this drive solidified Kosar’s legacy as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. It gave Cleveland fans something they hadn’t had since 1964: a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Catch II – 2012 NFC Divisional Game
On third and goal with 26 seconds remaining and trailing by five points against the Falcons’ red zone defense, Alex Smith threw a high floater downfield intended for tight end Vernon Davis who was double covered. Somehow, Davis managed to get between both defenders and haul in the pass while falling out of bounds, securing the 49ers’ trip to the NFC Championship.
This version of ‘The Catch’ is remembered as one of the most spectacular catches in NFL history and helped solidify Davis’ status as one of the best tight ends in the league.
The Ice Bowl – 1967 NFL Championship Game
Trailing by 4 points with just over 120 seconds to play and facing a third and six on their 32-yard line, Packers quarterback Bart Starr scrambled for a first down that would keep the drive alive.
With freezing temperatures of below zero and wind chills well below minus-50 degrees Fahrenheit, this moment is remembered as one of the coldest games in NFL history and one of the most dramatic.
Starr eventually led the Packers downfield to score what would stand as the game-winning touchdown. This game helped the Packers secure their first Super Bowl victory and is fondly recounted for its intensity, drama, and significance in NFL history.