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This may be my favorite project of the 2015 season. Of course, that may be because it has nothing to do with the 2015 season, but it was a football historian’s dream project: a look at the best plays from each of the 50 yard lines, beginning at the 50 and moving to the opponent’s one-yard line (you can probably guess that one).

With 49 Super Bowls in the history books, the NFL’s biggest game has seen some of football’s biggest plays. To celebrate Super Bowl 50, the following recounts the most exciting, most impactful and most memorable play from each hash mark from midfield to the 1-yard line.

The plays were selected based on a combination of memorable moments, big plays in the biggest game that led to the biggest changes in win probability. Note that only plays from 50 yards and in are included, so plays such as David Tyree’s helmet catch (which started at the Giants 44-yard line) and Los Angeles Raiders running back Marcus Allen running with the night from 74 yards out against the Redskins, are not included. Still, there’s no shortage of sterling Super Bowl moments, including one memorable play with the snap right at midfield.

The graphics team at the Washington Post did a fantastic job, so please take a look. And much credit goes to Pro-Football-Reference.com, and Mike Kania (@zempf) in particular, for helping me narrow down the list of candidates at each yard line.

The toughest choice to make? Three of the most memorable plays happened at the ten yard line: The Tackle, by Mike Jones, Joe Montana to John Taylor to beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, and the Sickest Man in America, when Jackie Smith dropped a sure touchdown.

Anyway, please take a look: I am sure any historian will enjoy this trip down memory lane.

  • Johhny Ohrl

    What? No play from the greatest SB team ever? How about the OWN 4 yard line? Dumb NE down 3-23 and they still keying in on Payton (who was no factor until then, early in the 3rd quarter, and later on too).
    Well… McMahon with gloves on (others tried too but could not hit targets… you know who ;-)… goes deep for Gault. Just shirt tackled by the NE CB, otherwise this play goes down as the greatest SB play ever for a 96 yard TD!…
    And even if “only” gaining 60 yards, that was the best play from the 4 yard line up to now in any SB.

    • Except that didn’t come from the opponent’s 4-yard line. The article is looking at plays where the line of scrimmage was the 50 yard line and in.

      • Johhny Ohrl

        Yo… my mistake. Just scrolled trou the yard lines, looking for THE play. My mistake (again)…
        May you go on from the “51” to “99” yard line? 😉

        I am sure Gault will be included then…

    • Tom

      Well, that play may have looked spectacular, but I doubt it had any real WP impact considering the Bears were ahead by 20. I have never seen that play listed as a “great” Super Bowl play and rightfully so.

      • Johhny Ohrl

        Hi Tom… tomorrow is the day that decides Football talk for the next two decades at least… Will send you a (virtual) Moet bottle after I received your Pizza (in case CAR wins) 😉
        To the topic:
        I think for a play to be great it´s not a must it´s “statisticaly sound” (be it EPA, WPA, the new-age-QBR or whatever new sophisticated stat came up lately).
        For me a play is great if it gains max yards and is perfectly executed from start (QB reads the D correct) to finish (Gault using his world class speed to get behind the CB and catches the ball)…
        Btw, this play had a EPA swing of 3.56 (2nd highest in this game) per PFR.

        • Tom

          Yes Johhny, tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow is the day that decides how many love letters Manning is going to get…. Sweet, sweet love letters, describing how PM is the greatest QB of ALL TIME! And we will gorge ourselves on Papa John’s Pizza in delerious celebration!

          Be prepared Johhny!

          Ok, about the Bears play, yes, a huge EPA play, no doubt, and I’m not saying it wasn’t an awesome play (I just watched it on GamePass and yeah, its great), I’m just saying it probably wouldn’t come up in Great Plays of the SB, because nothing really hinged on that play at that moment.

          So…now we wait…Tick tock…

        • Tom

          Get ready for an avalanche of love letters Johhny!

  • Delevie

    The O’Brien FG in 1971 was when the goalposts were at the front of the end zone and thus 10 yards closer. All the graphics for the pre 1975 SB plays are also incorrect.
    BTW SB V was the 1st SB I watched start to finish and was, by far, the least exciting, worst close game ever.

    • Good catch. I will see if they can fix. I think their graphics team did an incredible job, so I can’t blame them for an error or two.

  • Ryan

    Also from the 49…bucs return int for TD for the last score of the game.