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Biggest Super Bowl turning point in each of the first 55 Steeler

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    March 14, 2024 6:17 AM EDT

    Often the difference between winning and losing in pro football comes down to one play. In each of the previous 55 Super Bowls, you can point to one play that, had the outcome of that play been different, it may have resulted in a different team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.The Bengals and Rams will look to make the defining play in Super Bowl LVI, joining the following list of plays that helped determine who won each of the previous 55 Super Bowls. The following plays not only helped determine the outcome of each Super Bowl, they helped mold the legacy of players, teams and coaches from several different eras.As the Bengals and Rams prepare to face off, here's a look at the biggest turning points from every Super Bowl, plays that live on in NFL lore.The AFL champion Chiefs hung with the NFL champion Packers in the first half. But Len Dawson getting intercepted by Willie Wood on the fourth play of the second half opened the floodgates. Wood's pick and subsequent 50 yard return set up Elijah Pitts' 5-yard touchdown run that made it a 21-10 game. The Packers pulled away for a 35-10 win. Down 12-0 early, the Raiders got on the board when Daryle Lamonica hit Bill Miller for a 23-yard score midway through the second quarter. But on their next po se sion, George Blanda mi sed a 47-yard field goal attempt, and the Packers made it a two-po se sion game on their ensuing po se sion. Green Bay never led by fewer than two scores for the remainder of the game.The Jets can thank the halftime performers for their 7-0 lead at intermi sion. On the final play of the half, Colts receiver Jimmy Orr was wide open near the end zone after New York's defense got sucked in by Baltimore's trick play. Unfortunately for the Colts, quarterback Earl Morrall never saw Orr; legend has it that Orr blended in with the band that was preparing to enter the field for their halftime performance. Morrall instead threw to running back Jerry Hill but was intercepted by Jim Hudson. It was one of three interceptions thrown by Morrall, who was relieved by Johnny Unitas after Baltimore fell behind 16-0.With their offense stuck in neutral, Minnesota's defense begrudgingly allowed three Jan Stenerud field goals in the game's first 23 minutes. But the Vikings' defense -- led by future league MVP Alan Page -- finally gave up a touchdown after Charlie West's fumble on Kansas City's ensuing kickoff following Stenerud's third field goal. Mike Garrett's 5-yard touchdown on a play called "65 To s Power Trap" gave the Chiefs a 16-0 lead that proved insurmountable. 65 To s Power Trap! owner Norma Hunt recounts the play that will forever be etched in team history. now streaming on ESPN+ NFL (@NFL) The Colts committed turnovers in Super Bowl V. But it was a Cowboys turnover that changed the complexion of the game. Down 13-6, Colts linebacker Rick Volk picked off Craig Morton's pa s deep in Cowboys territory. The pick set up Tom Nowatzke's game-tying touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Teammate Mike Curtis' interception in the game's final minute set up Jim O'Brien's game-winning field goal.A year earlier, Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley became the first losing player to win Super Bowl MVP. With his team ahead 17- Brendan Perlini Jersey 3 in Super Bowl IV, Howley's interception and subsequent 41-yard return set up the Cowboys' game-clinching score. Roger Staubach, the MVP of Dallas' first Super Bowl win, hit Mike Ditka for a 7-yard touchdown three plays after Howley's pick.A common theme, an interception in Super Bowl VII helped Miami capture the NFL's first perfect season. In a defensive grudge match, Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti picked off Billy Kilmer's pa s intended for running back Larry Brown. The interception set up Jim Kiick's 1-yard touchdown that gave Miami a 14-0 halftime lead. Washington's only score came late in the game on Mike Ba s' recovery of Garo Yepremian's fumble on a muffed field goal attempt. "Garo's Gaffe" kicker Garo Yepremian's mishap late in Super Bowl VII one of the most unforgettable moments in Super Bowl history. OTD 1973. Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) This one was never really close, as the Dolphins started the game with touchdowns on their first two po se sions. But if there was a moment where this game could have gotten competitive, it was when the Vikings drove 74 yards to the Dolphins' 6-yard-line late in the first half. On fourth-and-1, however, Vikings running back Oscar Reed fumbled while trying to pick up the first down. Minnesota failed to score before halftime, and trailed 24-0 before finding the end zone.Pittsburgh's defense actually outscored Minnesota's offense on this day. Dwight White recorded the game's first score on a safety (the first in Super Bowl history), while the Vikings' only touchdown came off of a blocked punt. But the Vikings' offense was in position to give Minnesota a 7-2 halftime lead when Fran Tarkenton found receiver John Gilliam open inside the Steelers' 5-yard-line. Gilliam had barely touched the ball before by safety Glen Edwards. The ball flew up in the air and was snared in by Steelers cornerback Mel Blount, as the Steelers took their 2-0 lead into halftime. The Steelers scored the game's first touchdown on the fourth play of the second half after the Vikings fumbled the half's opening kickoff.The Steelers found themselves trailing the Cowboys 10-7 entering the fourth quarter. After not scoring during the second and third quarters, Pittsburgh registered four unanswered scores to take a commanding 21-10 lead. The first score was a by Steelers' defensive back Reggie Harrison. Pittsburgh then kicked two field goals before Terry Bradshaw hit Lynn Swann for a 64-yard touchdown. This game's turning point occurred early in the proceedings. The Vikings' Fred McNeil blocked Ray Guy's punt, giving Minnesota the ball on the Raiders' 2-yard-line with five minutes left in the first quarter. Two plays later, the Raiders' defense stepped up with Willie Hall scooped up Brent McClanahan's fumble. The Raiders then drove 94 yards to score the game's first points. Oakland took off from there, as they led by as many as 26 points in what was a dominant victory under coach John Madden.The Broncos had a faint pulse after making it a 20-10 game entering the fourth quarter. But the Cowboys' "Doomsday" defense snuffed out any thoughts in Denver of a comeback when Aaron Kyle recovered Norris Weese's fumble midway through the fourth quarter. The Cowboys put the game away on the very next play when running back Robert Newhouse threw a perfect pa s to Golden Richards for a 29-yard score.Down 21-14, the Cowboys had a chance to tie the score on their final po se sion of the third quarter. Facing a third down on the Steelers' 10-yard-line, Roger Staubach threw a low pa s in the end zone to tight end Jackie Smith. Smith was unable Alexandre Fortin Jersey to hang on to Staubach's throw, as the Cowboys were forced to settle for a field goal. It was the first of several plays that went against the Cowboys, who surrendered two touchdowns in 18 seconds in the fourth quarter before scoring two late touchdowns. Unfortunately for Dallas, it was too little too late, as the Steelers became the first team to win three Vince Lombardi Trophies. The Steelers were on their heels at the start of the fourth quarter. They trailed the scrappy Rams, 19-17, and one of their best players, receiver Lynn Swann, was out of the game with a concu sion. But fellow wideout John Stallworth stepped up with a 73-yard touchdown catch on a third-and-8 play with 12:15 left. Stallworth's 45-yard catch later in the quarter set up Franco Harris' game-clinching touchdown run. No. 45: QB Terry Bradshaw TD pa s to John Stallworth in XIV (Jan. 20, 1980) : NFL 100 Greatest Plays on NFL (@NFL) A penalty was the turning point in this Super Bowl. Down 7-0, the Eagles appeared to tie things up when Ron Jaworski hit Rodney Parker in the end zone on 40-yard completion. The score didn't count, however, as receiver Harold Carmichael was flagged for jumping offsides. The Eagles, who punted two plays later, fell behind by two touchdowns after Jim Plunkett and Kenny King connected on an 80-yard touchdown. Oakland never led by le s than 11 points the rest of the way en route to becoming the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl.Trailing 20-0 at halftime, the Bengals needed to play a perfect second half to defeat the 49ers. Cincinnati nearly did but came up short on a few big plays, the biggest ones one coming from the 49ers' 1-yard-line at the end of the third quarter. The Bengals were unable to gain that final yard on three straight plays as the 49ers recorded the greatest goal line stand in Super Bowl history. Cincinnati, which trailed 20-7 at the time of the 49ers' goal line stand, responded with two more touchdowns but ultimately ran out of time. The Dolphins' Killer B's held Washington to just 13 points through the first three quarters of Super Bowl XVII. With a 17-13 lead, Miami nearly took control of the game after defensive end Kim Bokamperof Joe Theismann's pa s inside Washington's 5-yard line. Had Bokamper hung on to the pa s, he would have waltzed into the end zone while giving the Dolphins a double-digit lead. Instead, Washington scored the go-ahead touchdown on John Riggins' iconic 42-yard run on its next po se sion. Washington pulled away in the fourth quarter to win the franchise's first Vince Lombardi Trophy. Down 14-3 with the first half winding down, Washington attempted a pa s that would e sentially end the contest. In a similar position during the teams' regular-season showdown, Washington had gained 67 yards on a screen pa s from Theismann to running back Joe Washington. With that in mind, Raiders defensive coordinator Charlie Sumner replaced linebacker Matt Millen with Jack Squirek, a pa s defense specialist. Sure enough, Theismann threw again to Washington, but this time, his pa s was snared in by Squirek, who waltzed untouched into the end zone to give the Raiders a 21-3 halftime lead. reserve linebacker Jack Squirek's pick-six just before halftime in Super Bowl XVIII, OTD in 1984.A stroke of great coaching strategy by defensive coordinator Charlie Sumner, a fatal error by Washington. Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) Miami led 10-7 before Joe Montana led three unanswered scoring drives to take a commanding 28-10 lead. On third-and-11 from the 49ers' 13, Dan Marino tried to get Miami back in the end zone just before halftime. But his pa s intended for was underthrown and broken up by Ronnie Lott. Miami had to settle for a field goal, which loomed even larger after the Dolphins kicked a second field goal moments later after the 49ers muffed the ensuing kickoff. Instead of a 28-20 halftime score, the Dolphins trailed 28-16 at intermi sion. Marino and the Dolphins' high-scoring offense was shut out by San Francisco's vastly underrated defense in the second half. After a slow start, the Bears started to roll after getting some defensive turnovers. The second one, a Mike Singletary recovery of ' fumble, set up Matt Suhey's 11-yard touchdown run that gave Chicago a 13-3 lead heading into the second quarter. The Bears scored 33 more points before the Patriots finally found the end zone.Trailing 10-9 at halftime, the Giants succe sfully converted a quarterback sneak by backup quarterback Jeff Rutledge on fourth-and-1 on the first drive of the second half. New York capped off the drive on Phil Simms' touchdown pa s to Mark Bavaro, and the Giants would never trail again.The Broncos led 10-0 before Washington scored two quick touchdowns to start the second quarter. A 21-yard run by John Elway gave the Broncos a chance to halt Washington's momentum, but failed to do so after Rich Karlis mi sed a 43-yard field goal attempt. Timmy Smith gave Washington a 21-10 lead moments later on a 58-yard touchdown run. Washington went on to score a Super Bowl record 35 second quarter points. Bengals cornerback Lewis Billups dropped an interception in the end zone with Cincinnati ahead 13-6 at the start of the fourth quarter. Joe Montana made Billups pay on the next play, as he hit Jerry Rice for a game-tying, 14-yard touchdown. Montana ended the game with a game-winning to s to John Taylor with 34 seconds left.Believe it or not, this game was somewhat close for the first 15 minutes. The 49ers began to pull away at the end of the first quarter, when Tom Rathman picked up four yards on a fourth-and-1 play from Denver's 35-yard-line. The 49ers capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown pa s from Montana to Brent Jones that put the 49ers ahead 13-3.Down 12-10 at the start of the third quarter, the Giants picked up a critical first down when broke several tackles to pick up the nece sary yards on third-and-14 from Buffalo's Graham Knott Jersey 32-yard-line. Ottis Anderson gave the Giants the lead several plays later, as New York ultimately prevailed in the only Super Bowl that has been decided by one point. No. 73: WR Mark Ingrams catch on 3rd-and-13 in 25 (Jan. 27, 1991) : NFL 100 Greatest Plays on NFL (@NFL) Ahead 17-0 at halftime, Washington started the second half with Kurt Gouveia's interception of Bills quarterback Jim Kelly on the first play of the second half. Washington made it a 24-0 game on Gerald Riggs' touchdown on the game's next play, as Buffalo was unable to overcome its ma sive deficit.The Cowboys' offense piled up points, but their defense also came up with a Super Bowl record nine forced turnovers. The biggest one occurred when Thomas Everett picked off Kelly on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line three minutes into the second quarter. The Cowboys, who were ahead 14-7 at the time of their goal line stand, took a 28-10 halftime lead en route to a 35-point victory.Buffalo's 13-6 halftime lead di solved 39 seconds into the second half. On the third play of the second half, scooped up Thurman Thomas' fumble and waltzed 46 yards to the end zone for the game-tying score. The Cowboys never trailed again en route to back-to-back titles.Down 28-10, the Chargers needed a spark to start the second half. Instead, San Diego went three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half after Tony Martin dropped Stan Humphries' pa s on third-and-2. The 49ers put the game away on their ensuing drive, as Ricky Watters scored his third touchdown of the game on a 9-yard run.Larry Brown's second interception iced the game, but what transpired on the previous play set up Brown's game-winning play. Andre Hastings -- who caught a game-high 10 pa ses for 98 yards -- failed to hold on to Neil O'Donnell's pa s on first down that would have given the Steeles a first down near midfield. O'Donnell, facing a heavy blitz, hit Brown in the numbers on the next play. Emmitt Smith put the game away with his second touchdown of the half two plays later.Sometimes, the Super Bowl's biggest turning point has also been its biggest play. Such was the case Super Bowl XXXI. Seconds after Curtis Martin's touchdown made it a one-po se sion game, Desmond Howard's 99-yard kickoff return for a score took the wind out of the Patriots' sails. Neither team scored after that, as Reggie White and the Packers' defense dominated the game's final 17 minutes.Facing a third-and-6 on the Packers' 12-yard-line, John Elway's "helicopter" run gained eight yards while setting up Terrell Davis' go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter. The run dramatically shifted the game's momentum in the Broncos' favor, as Denver went on to upset the defending champion Packers. In the proce s, the Broncos snapped the NFC's 13-year winning streak in the big game. No. 33: QB s helicopter spin in XXXII (Jan. 25, 1998) : NFL 100 Greatest Plays on NFL (@NFL) The Falcons failed to fully capitalize on their early scoring opportunities, and the Broncos made them pay for it. One play after Morten Anderson mi sed a 26-yard field goal attempt, John Elway hit for an 80-yard touchdown that gave Denver a 17-3 lead with five minutes left in the first half. The Falcons also came up short on a fourth-and-2 rushing attempt by Jamal Anderson after the Falcons' defense picked off Elway earlier in the half.The Rams' prolific offense had gone dormant following Torry Holt's 9-yard touchdown to open the second half. The unit woke up, however, one play after the Titans tied the score on an Al Del Greco field goal with 3:08 left. Facing heavy pre sure from Javon Kearse, Kurt Warner stood tall before delivering a strike to Isaac Bruce, who raced into the end zone for a 73-yard score. The Rams' defense then stood tall on the game's final play, as Mike Jones tackled Kevin Dyson one yard short of the end zone as time expired.A pretty dull game overall, Super Bowl XXXV did have a pretty exciting sequence that included three touchdowns scored in a span of 27 seconds late in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Giants, two of those touchdowns were by the Ravens, who responded to Ron Dixon's 97-yard kickoff return for a score with an 84-yard kickoff for a touchdown by Jermaine Lewis.One of the most infamous game-winning drives in Super Bowl history began with three short completions from to running back J.R. Redmond. The drive's big play was Brady's 23-yard completion to Tory Brown on a cro sing route that moved the Patriots to the Rams' 36-yard-line. Brady then moved New England six more yards to set up game-winning, 48-yard field goal as time expired. Super Bowl XXXVI, 20 years ago today~ The ' Final Drive ~(2/2) Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) The score was already 27-3 by the time Dwight Smith recorded his first of two pick-sixes off of Rich Gannon with 4:56 left in the third quarter. Smith's score proved to be significant, however, as the Raiders scored three consecutive touchdowns to make it a 34-21 game with 6:14 left. But the Raiders ultimately ran out of time as Tampa Bay took advantage of Oakland's pa s-heavy offense with two more pick-sixes to end the game.One of the craziest fourth quarters in Super Bowl history ended in a somewhat anticlimactic fashion. After tying the score on a 12-yard touchdown from Jake Delhomme to Ricky Proehl, John Kasay's ensuing kickoff sailed out of bounds, leading to an inevitable game-winning drive by Brady. Five Brady completions -- with the capper being a 17-yard strike to Deion Branch -- in Connor Murphy Jersey the game's final minute set up Vinatieri's 41-yard, game-winning field goal with nine seconds left.In a game that was ultimately decided by three points, Rodney Harrison's first-quarter interception of Donovan McNabb proved to be a pivotal play. Adding insult to injury for the Eagles was the fact that a penalty against the Patriots had wiped out Asante Samuel's interception of McNabb on the previous play. Instead of capitalizing on the second chance, the Eagles turned the ball over deep in New England territory.Pittsburgh was on the brink of pulling away until an interception pulled Seattle pulled to within four points. The Seahawks were driving early in the fourth quarter before Ike Taylor stepped in front of Matt Ha slebeck's pa s intended for Darrell Jackson deep in Pittsburgh territory. Antwaan Randle El hit Hines Ward for the game-clinching score four plays later.The Colts clinched their first Super Bowl win since moving to Indianapolis when recorded a pick-six off Rex Gro sman with under 12 minutes left. Bob Sanders intercepted Gro sman on the Bears' next po se sion, as Indianapolis' defense outscored Chicago's offense during the second half.David Tyree's helmet catch was clearly the turning point, but 12-yard completion to on third-and-11 three plays later was also significant. One play after hitting Smith, Manning lofted the game-winning strike to Plaxico Burre s. Tyree and Burre s made iconic catches, but the Giants also received clutch performances that night by fellow wideouts Smith and Amani Toomer, who caught a combined 11 pa ses for 134 yards. 13 years ago today, Eli Manning and David Tyree linked up for the helmet catch and the Giants went on to take down the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII (via ) Sports Illustrated (@SInow) 100-yard pick-six just before halftime was a huge momentum swing. But Super Bowl XLIII's true turning point was 40-yard completion to with a minute left. The completion set up Roethlisberger's iconic, game-winning touchdown pa s to Holmes that capped off one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever. OTD in 2009The Steelers win Super Bowl XLIIIHeres the game-winning drive. Steel City Star (@steelcitystar) The earliest-attempted onside kick in Super Bowl history spearheaded the Saints' second half comeback. Down 10-6 at halftime, New Orleans took its first lead six plays after recovered onside kick to start the second half. The Saints never trailed again en route to the franchise's first Super Bowl win. brought the Steelers to within four points of the Packers five minutes into the second half. Brandon Saad Jersey The Steelers were driving ahead when Packers linebacker jarred the ball from Mendenhall's grasp on the first play of the fourth quarter. Green Bay then drove 55 yards to extend its lead to 28-17 with 12 minutes left. The Packers never relinquished the lead while denying the Steelers a seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy.Manning's 38-yard completion to toe-tapping Marino Manningham was nearly as jaw-dropping as his completion to Tyree four years earlier. Like Tyree's catch, Manningham's clutch catch set up the Giants' game-winning score, as (inadvertent) touchdown run gave New York the lead for good with 1:04 left. Eli Manning does it again.Eight years ago today, Manning delivered a STRIKE to Mario Manningham and the Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.(via ) CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) This game will always be remembered for the 35-minute power outage. Had the 49ers, who were down 28-6 at the time of the outing, completed their comeback, this game would be remembered for a very different reason. The 49ers were on the doorstep of completing the comeback when scored on the longest touchdown run by a quarterback in Super Bowl history (15 yards) with 10:04 left. But on the ensuing two-point try, Baltimore's blitz forced an early and errant pa s from Kaepernick intended for Randy Mo s. Had they converted on their two-point attempt, the 49ers would have only needed a field goal on their final drive instead of a touchdown. Baltimore held on to win the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy.There was some belief that the and the Broncos' powerful offense would be able to overcome their 22-point halftime deficit. Those thoughts, however, went out the window when took the second half kickoff 87 yards to pay dirt to give Seattle a 29-0 lead. The lead swelled to 43-0 before Manning and the Broncos finally found the end zone.Down 10 points against the reigning Super Bowl champions, Tom Brady's 21-yard completion to Julian Edelman on a third-and-14 play jump-started the Patriots' comeback. The conversion, which occurred with 10:58 remaining, set up Brady's 4-yard touchdown pa s to . Brady then hit Edelman for the go-ahead score before end zone interception of . recovery of forced fumble summed up the Broncos' defensive dominance in Super Bowl 50. The score, which took place with 6:34 left in the first half, gave the Broncos a 10-0 lead over the favored Panthers. The Broncos never trailed while sealing the win following Miller's second forced fumble of with 4:16 left.Down 28-12, strip-sack of put the Patriots' comeback into high gear. The Patriots made it a one-po se sion game five plays after Hightower's big play. They tied the game following Edelman's fingertip catch on New England's last po se sion of regulation. Brady then orchestrated the first and only overtime drive in Super Bowl history, a drive that ended with 2-yard touchdown plunge. Five years ago tonight...Super Bowl LIIn a game with so many key plays, perhaps the most crucial of them all was Dont'a Hightower's sack fumble of Matt Ryan at Atlanta's 25 with 8:30 left in regulation.The would cash in quickly to make it a one-score game, 28-20. Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) The "Philly Special" has a permanent place in history, but another key play in the Eagles' first Super Bowl victory took place with 5:39 left. Trailing 33-32 and facing a fourth-and-1 on their own 45-yard-line, hit for a 2-yard gain that moved the chains. Foles ended the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pa s that proved to be the game-winning score.Fittingly, a defensive play was the turning point in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history. Protecting a 10-3 lead late in the fourth quarter, was able to break up potential game-tying completion to . Gilmore picked off Goff on the game's next play to set up game-sealing field goal.In what was their trademark, the 2019 Chiefs capped off their Super Bowl run with one last comeback against the 49ers. Down 20-10, ' 44-yard completion to opened the door for a 21-point fourth quarter. Mahomes' two touchdown pa ses gave Kansas City the lead, while ' 38-yard romp with 1:20 left capped off the Chiefs' first Super Bowl win in 50 years. Down 10 in the 4th, the were running out of time... Then and gave KC new life :Rewatch Super Bowl LIV, TOMORROW at 8:00PM ET on FOX FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) As he did many times during his career, Tom Brady made the opposition pay at the end of the first half in what was his final Super Bowl. Aided by a 34-yard pa s interference penalty, Brady gave the Buccaneers a 21-6 halftime lead with a 1-yard touchdown pa s to , Brady's third touchdown pa s of the half.