Anatomy of a Play  

 

Holmes' Super Bowl-winning touchdown catch was one for the ages

  • By NFL Films
More Columns >

NFL Films president Steve Sabol has labeled Santonio Holmes' 6-yard grab in Super Bowl XLIII as the greatest touchdown catch in league history.

It happened at the most critical moment of the biggest game, with Holmes' team trailing and time running out. Holmes stretched to his limit to snare a ball that was thrown high, late and fast, with nothing but the tips of his shoes touching the Raymond James Stadium turf. He was hit after he caught the ball but maintained control when he landed, giving the Pittsburgh Steelers their sixth Super Bowl championship.

Anatomy of a Play
G. Newman Lowrance / NFL.com
Santonio Holmes' 6-yard touchdown catch in Super Bowl XLIII will go down as one of the best in Super Bowl history.
More Anatomy of a Play:
» Harrison's 100-yard return

Can there even be an argument against Sabol's claim?

Let's start by eliminating all regular-season plays from consideration. They don't belong in "greatest ever" discussions.

"The Immaculate Reception," "The Sea of Hands" and "The Catch" all were memorable, game-winning touchdown receptions in the playoffs. They have stood the test of time and are worthy of consideration, but ultimately, they should be eliminated because they didn't happen in the Super Bowl.

David Tyree's pinned-to-the-helmet miracle in Super Bowl XLII probably was a better catch, in just as big a moment, but it wasn't a touchdown. And Plaxico Burress' winning touchdown catch four plays after Tyree's grab was just a footnote in the New York Giants' storybook finish to that Super Bowl.

Several Super Bowl touchdown catches are comparable. John Taylor's carried the same weight as Holmes', winning Super Bowl XXIII for the San Francisco 49ers in the final minute. But like the Eli Manning-to-Burress touchdown last year, Taylor's ball was perfectly thrown by Joe Montana. It was on time and hit Taylor in stride. He simply had to squeeze the ball -- no stretch, no hit, no toe tap.

John Stallworth's 73-yard, over-the-shoulder touchdown catch in Super Bowl XIV put the Steelers ahead of the Los Angeles Rams and helped Pittsburgh win its fourth Super Bowl title. But more than 12 minutes remained in the game, and Stallworth's touchdown wasn't even the game's final score.

The only touchdown catch that could possibly match Holmes' in both magnitude and difficulty was Isaac Bruce's 73-yarder in Super Bowl XXXIV.

The Rams, now in St. Louis, had blown a 16-0 lead by surrendering 16 consecutive points to the Tennessee Titans and, pinned deep in their own territory with 2:12 left on the clock, needed to move quickly. Tennessee was playing press, man-to-man coverage on Bruce. Quarterback Kurt Warner wanted to take a shot down the field, calling 999 -- aka "everyone go deep."

Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse pummeled Warner on the play, causing his pass to be underthrown, but Bruce made an incredible adjustment, stopping at just the right moment to cut back inside the cornerback and catch the ball. Bruce then made the safety miss and outran everyone to the end zone for the winning touchdown.

If the run after the catch is included in the greatest touchdown catch argument, then Bruce's vies for the top spot. Judging just the catch and not the entire play, then Sabol is 100 percent right, and Holmes made the greatest touchdown catch in NFL history.

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15