There is no bigger stage in sports than the Super Bowl. It’s a game where good players can become great, and great players can become legends. Of course, a relative unknown can become fabled too, even if only for a day. If you are going to have a great game in the NFL, make it the final one that’s played in February. Let’s break down the five best Super Bowl player performances. This isn’t based on how many titles a player has, or whether they are in the Hall of Fame, but rather what they did to win the game on Super Bowl Sunday. We are purposely omitting Tom Brady for this story. He belongs in a class by himself.
5. James Washington:
Dallas Cowboys S – Super Bowl 28
Defensive players don’t get enough love in the Super Bowl, but James Washington certainly deserves it for the performance he put on against the Buffalo Bills. We remember Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and Troy Aikman from those great Cowboys Super Bowl teams, but we can’t overlook Washington who had one of the great games of his career. The safety racked up 11 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, and then scooped up a fumble and returned it 46 yards to the house for a score.
4. David Tyree:
New York Giants WR – Super Bowl 42
If you are going to pull off the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, you are going to have to come down with one of the greatest catches in the history of the game. If it wasn’t for this catch, I’d assume that 99.99 percent of NFL fans would have no idea who David Tyree is. As a backup receiver for the Giants in 2007 he only had four receptions the entire season. However, in this game he shined, scoring the Giants first td on a pass from Eli Manning. Tyree had his number called late in the game when Manning escaped a sack, heaved the ball downfield and Tyree somehow came down with it as the pigskin was pressed against his helmet. The catch occurred on a 3rd-and-5 in the final two minutes of regulation. The Giants went on to knock off the undefeated Patriots. This catch is regarded as the greatest play in Super Bowl history. Tyree never caught a pass again in the NFL after this amazing reception.
3. Nick Foles:
Philadelphia Eagles QB – Super Bowl 52
Ten years after the David Tyree catch, the Patriots had to endure another stellar performance from an otherwise mediocre player up until this point. After losing QB Carson Wentz to an injury, the Eagles had to ride their backup Nick Foles to the Super Bowl. The assumption was that there was no way that Foles could get into a dogfight with Tom Brady and come out as the victor, but he proved all of us wrong. Foles threw for 373 yards, helping Philadelphia put up 41 points on his three touchdown passes and his receiving touchdown, known as the “Philly Special.” Foles put together one of the great stat lines for a quarterback, especially for a backup.
2. Jerry Rice:
San Francisco 49ers WR – Super Bowl 23
When you talk about Jerry Rice and Super Bowl performances, you have to narrow down which one you are talking about. In this case, we are visiting Super Bowl 23 when the Niners were knotted up with the Bengals at 3-3 come halftime. While this game ended in the final seconds thanks to a Joe Montana touchdown pass, the wide receiver was consistent all day long. He racked up 11 catches for 215 receiving yards, the most in Super Bowl history. The 49ers skated by Cincy 20-16, but it was a performance that still lives on as one of the most clutch of all-time by the greatest receiver to ever lace them up.
1. Steve Young:
San Francisco 49ers QB – Super Bowl 29
Steve Young needed to win a Super Bowl and get the “Joe Montana monkey” off his back, and the poor San Diego Chargers were the team that had to pay the price for it. Young didn’t just play well for a quarterback he played better than any quarterback in Super Bowl history as the 49ers became the first franchise to win five Super Bowls. Young did it all on this day. He threw for 325 yards while completing two-thirds of his passes and set a record with six touchdown passes in the game. On top of that, he rushed for a game-high 49 yards on just five carries and kept the Chargers defense on their toes as the Niners were able to score 49 points in a dominant win.