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Sunday, January 19, 2003
Updated: January 20, 4:40 PM ET
The List: Best Super Bowl performances

Page 2 staff

It's Super Bowl week, which means it's time to recall the top 10 performances in the history of the big game. Check out Page 2's list of the best efforts and then vote in the poll at right to pick the most Super of them all.

Steve Young
Steve Young got the monkey off his back in a big way in his only Super Bowl game.
1. Steve Young: Vindicated (Super Bowl XXIX)
Finally emerging from Joe Montana's shadow, Young posts perhaps the most impressive line for a QB in Super Bowl history: 24-for-36, 325 yards, six (6) (SIX!) TD passes, zero INTs in San Francisco's 49-26 pasting of San Diego. Also: five carries, 49 yards rushing. On the 49ers' first seven plays against the Chargers, Young throws TD tosses of 44 and 51 yards. Helpful receivers: Jerry Rice (10 catches and three TDs), John Taylor, TE Brent Jones, and RBs Ricky Watters and William Floyd. After the game, Young is modest, but cutting. Of those who had been carping that Young wasn't half the quarterback Montana was, he says, "The critics and the skeptics continue to backpedal."

2. Marcus Allen: Dazzling (Super Bowl XVIII)
Oblivious to the fact that Washington had the league's best defense against the run during the 1983 season, Allen ran for 191 yards on 20 carries in the Raiders' 38-9 whipping of the Redskins. Among the jaunts during his MVP performance: a spectacular 74-yard run on the final play of the third quarter, which remains the longest run from scrimmage in Super Bowl history. After the game, Allen admitted his big play included a big mistake. "I was supposed to stay inside the guard on the play, but for some reason I wound up on the outside. Then I cut back inside, saw a huge hole and tore upfield."

Marcus Allen
Marcus Allen spun his way through the Redskins defense in Super Bowl XVIII.

3. Jerry Rice: Unstoppable (Super Bowl XXIII)
You remember the miracle drive and Joe Montana's dramatic toss to John Taylor with 34 seconds left as the 49ers rallied to defeat the Bengals 20-16. You might have forgotten Rice's amazing performance, but the record books certainly haven't: Setting a mark that still stands, Rice gains 215 yards on a whopping 11 catches. On the winning drive, he caught three passes for gains of seven, 17, and 27 yards. Rice was named the game's MVP, but said he thought Montana deserved it.

4. Phil Simms: Near-perfect (Super Bowl XXI)
In the biggest game of his life, Simms had the best game of his life, completing 22 of 25 passes for 268 yards, three TDs and zero INTs as the Giants whomp the Broncos 39-20. "This might be the best game a quarterback has ever played," Giants coach Bill Parcells said. Simms is pretty pleased himself: "I was like a fastball pitcher," he says. "I had great location all day. Almost every pass landed exactly where I wanted it to. I've never played better. I told 'em before the game I was smoking."

5. Timmy Smith: Out of nowhere (Super Bowl XXII)
A rookie who ran for only 126 yards on 29 carries during the regular season, Smith set a Super Bowl record that still stands by rushing for 204 yards on 22 carries in the Redskins' 42-10 rout of the Broncos. Smith put up a game's worth of stats in the second quarter alone as he ran for 122 yards on five carries (including a 58-yard TD run), helping Washington erupt for a record 35 points in the period. For good measure, he added a 4-yard TD run in the fourth quarter and finished the game with an average of 9.3 yards per carry.

Timmy Smith
Timmy Smith was never heard from before -- or after -- his record performance.

6. Lynn Swann: Grace (Super Bowl X)
Swann caught just four passes in the Steelers' 21-17 victory over the Cowboys -- but two of them were among the most memorable grabs in Super Bowl history. In the second quarter, Swann leapt over Dallas cornerback Mark Washington and maintained his concentration while falling to the turf to haul in a 53-yard catch. With Pittsburgh clinging to a 15-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Swann flew high to pull down a 64-yard TD pass from Terry Bradshaw that helped Pittsburgh to its second consecutive Super Bowl victory. He finished with a then-Super Bowl record 161 yards receiving.

7. Joe Montana: Again (Super Bowl XXIV)
It's difficult to pick from among Montana's three MVP performances, but we'll take his effort during the Niners' 55-10 steamrolling of the Broncos. Picking apart the Denver secondary with ease, Montana completed 22 of 29 passes for 297 yards and five TDs to win his fourth Super Bowl ring.

8. John Riggins: King (Super Bowl XVII)
Plowing behind The Hogs, Riggins ripped through the Dolphins' defense (the best in the NFL during the 1982 season) for 166 yards on 38 carries as the Redskins won their first Super Bowl and their first NFL title in 40 years with a 27-17 victory over Miami. On a crucial fourth-and-1 play in the fourth quarter, Riggins broke through the line and broke Gerald McNeil's tackle to put the Redskins ahead with a 43-yard TD run. "I'm very happy," Riggo said after the game. "At least for tonight, Ron's the president, but I'm the king."

Joe Montana
Joe Montana was named MVP of three Super Bowls.

9. Kurt Warner: Fairy tale (Super Bowl XXXIV)
Four years removed from being a grocery clerk and one year removed from being the Rams' scout-team quarterback, Warner followed up his regular-season MVP performance with a storybook ending. Warner's 414 yards passing set a Super Bowl record, and it was entirely necessary as the Rams barely squeezed past the Titans 23-16. Warner's first-half stats alone would be a pretty great day for most QBs: 19-for-35 for 277 yards. But his second half was more dramatic, as it included a 73-yard TD pass to Isaac Bruce with only 114 ticks left to put the Rams ahead to stay. "Kurt had a marvelous game," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "He took a pounding. He was getting hit, hit, hit, but he just hung in there and made the big plays to win the game."

10. Raiders LB Rod Martin: Opportunistic (Super Bowl XV)
Martin set the tone quickly in the Raiders' 27-10 victory over the Eagles by picking off Ron Jaworski's first pass to set up Oakland's first touchdown. He finished with a Super Bowl-record three interceptions.

Also receiving votes
  • Jets QB Joe Namath in Super Bowl III (Jets 16, Colts 7)
  • Packers DE Reggie White in Super Bowl XXXI (Packers 35, Patriots 21)
  • Redskins QB Doug Williams in Super Bowl XXII (Redskins 42, Broncos 10)
  • Dolphins S Jake Scott in Super Bowl VII (Dolphins 14, Redskins 7)
  • Ravens LB Ray Lewis in Super Bowl XXXV (Ravens 34, Giants 7)
  • Broncos RB Terrell Davis in Super Bowl XXXII (Broncos 31, Packers 24)
  • Cowboys QB Troy Aikman in Super Bowl XXVI (Cowboys 52, Bills 17)
  • Bills RB Thurman Thomas in Super Bowl XXV (Giants 20, Bills 19)
  • Bears DE Richard Dent in Super Bowl XX (Bears 46, Patriots 10)
  • Steelers WR John Stallworth in Super Bowl XIV (Steelers 31, Rams 19)
  • Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw in Super Bowl XIII (Steelers 35, Cowboys 31)
  • Packers WR Max McGee in Super Bowl I (Packers 35, Chiefs 10)
  • Cowboys LB Chuck Howley in Super Bowl V (Colts 16, Cowboys 13)