Biggest QB Performances in Super Bowl History
When it comes to winning the Super Bowl, more often that not it comes down to how your quarterback performs.
Will he step up to the plate and deliver, or will he wilt and contribute to your defeat? The importance can best be summed up by the fact that nine of the last 14 Super Bowl MVP awards have gone to quarterbacks.
With this in mind, I present ten of the greatest single game performances in the Super Bowl. Violently disagree? Leave a comment at the bottom of the article or hit me up on Twitter: @ndutton13
Joe Montana Super Bowl XXIII 49ers 20 Bengals 16Montana was the MVP in three of the four Super Bowls he won, throwing a combined 122 passes without a single interception. But for my money, the game he played in which he did NOT carry most valuable honors was by far his greatest, and helped cement the legacy of “Joe Cool”. The Cincinnati Bengals held a 16-13 lead in what had been a tight defensive game, and with just over three minutes left on the clock the 49ers had the ball on their own eight yard line. Needing to make sure his team mates focused on what was needed to be done, not concentrate on the score, Montana interrupted his speech in the huddle to point out that the actor John Candy was in the crowd.
The game on the line, on the biggest stage afforded to football in the world, and the quarterback is more impressed that he can see the star of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” than he is worried about the score? How could you not follow him, wherever he wanted to take you? Montana completed eight passes, including a 27 yard pass to Jerry Rice on 2nd and 20 with just over a minute left, and the game winning score to John Taylor with just 34 seconds left in the contest. Rice finished as the games MVP, with 215 yards receiving and a score, but Montana’s poise on that last possession, added to his 357 passing yards and two touchdowns, makes him the man of that match for many.
Bart Starr – Super Bowl I Packers 35 Chiefs 10
While the numbers posted by Starr are not the greatest in Super Bowl history, his contribution to his sides victory in the very first of the games that would become known as Super Bowl’s cannot be understated. The pressure was on both Starr, and his head coach Vince Lombardi, to ensure that the Green Bay Packers “defended the honor” of the NFL in a match up against a Kansas City Chiefs team from its upstart rival, the AFL.
The Chiefs put up a great fight, and had out gained the NFL Champions 181-164 at half time, leaving the score at 14-10 to the Packers at the interval. The second half, however, belonged to the Packers and Starr. After tossing a 37 yard touchdown to Max McGee in the first quarter, Starr guided his offense to 21 unanswered second half points, including a second scoring pass to McGee.
Starr completed seven of his ten passes in the second half, finishing with 250 yards passing, two scores and one interception. The honor of the NFL had been upheld, thanks to “America’s Quarterback” and his offense.
Kurt Warner – Super Bowl XXXIV Rams 23 Titans 16
Warner was relied upon to carry the offense, and he did not disappoint. He finished with 414 yards passing from his 24 completions, with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. His 24th completion was to Isaac Bruce, who promptly dashed 73 yards to score the go ahead touchdown. The Rams defense were able to keep the Titans out by the narrowest margin ever needed to win a Super Bowl, and the Rams were champions of the world. Warner’s 414 passing yards remains a Super Bowl record.
Tom Brady Super Bowl XXXVI Patriots 20 Rams 17
In the game that launched a dynasty, Tom Brady capped his fairy-tale season by leading his team to a last gap victory over the heavily favored Rams. St Louis, under Mike Martz and with Kurt Warner still orchestrating the “Greatest Show on Turf”, came into the game as 14 point favorites against their opponents from New England, whose previous Super Bowl appearances had ended with the team getting a good hiding. Brady had only come into the starting line-up in Week 2, after Jets linebacker Mo Lewis knocked Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe out of their game with massive internal injuries.
The 6th round draft pick, building on his statement to Patriots owner Robert Kraft that his selection was the best decision the franchise had ever made, had brought the team back from an 0-2 start to make it to the big game, and for 58 and a half minutes the underdog and the powerhouse traded punch after punch, with the game seemingly set for overtime.
Brady hadn’t read the script however, and with no timeouts left he set out from the Patriots 17 yard line with clinical precision, intent on winning the game in regulation. He completed five passes on the final drive, including a six yard pass to Jermaine Wiggins that allowed the team to reach the Rams 30 yard line with just seven seconds left on the clock. Adam Vinatieri duly knocked the winning field goal through the posts as the clock struck triple zero, handing the Patriots their first Super Bowl title and ensuring a dislike of the team by the majority of the free footballing world for the best part of the last fifteen years. Brady “only” had 145 yards passing from 27 attempts, but the calm way he led his team down the field against the clock evoked memories of his idol, Joe Montana.
Steve Young Super Bowl XXIX 49ers 49 Chargers 26
Despite often stellar play in relief of, and as a replacement to, Joe Montana, many felt that Steve Young would never truly win acclaim in his own right until he captured a Super Bowl title as a starter. He finally achieved this after the 1994 season, as the Niners destroyed the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. In one of the best planned games in Super Bowl history, Young executed 49ers OC Mike Shanahan’s offense superbly, right from the 3rd play of the game when he hit Jerry Rice for a 44 yard touchdown. Young would go on to throw FIVE more touchdowns, including another three in the first half alone, en route to MVP honors in a 49-26 rout. Young added 49 yards rushing to his 325 through the air, becoming the first man to lead his team in passing and rushing in a Super Bowl victory. His six touchdown passes are a Super Bowl single game record, and secured the removal of an exceptionally heavy monkey from the back of Steve Young.
John Elway Super Bowl XXXIII Broncos 34 Falcons 19
As much for the romance as for the production, the full stop moment to the career of John Elway merits inclusion in this list. After breaking his Super Bowl hoodoo the previous year, thanks mainly to the form of Terrell Davis, Elway once again took a back seat to Davis during the 1998 season, as the running back rushed for more than 2000 yards despite sitting out nearly eight quarters of game time due to blowouts.
In the showpiece against his former coach Dan Reeves, Elway rallied the Broncos to 17 unanswered points after falling behind 3-0, and the lead never once looked like being relinquished. Elway finished the game with 336 yards passing, one touchdown pass and a three yard rushing score one his way to becoming the oldest player to win the MVP award. It was Elway’s last game in the NFL, as he tearfully retired at a press conference a few months after the game. But he had written the blueprint for fairy-tale endings, with the likes of Jerome Bettis and Ray Lewis following suit by riding off into the sunset with a Super Bowl win. Could Peyton Manning, now a decendent of Elway as a Bronco, follow suit?
Doug Williams Super Bowl XXII Washington 42 Broncos 10
They say you can’t win a game in one quarter, but you can go a long way towards losing it. Well, Doug Williams begs to differ. As the first quarter of Super Bowl XXII ended, the Broncos found themselves up 10-0 against their NFC opponents. By the time the game reached half time, the Broncos hopes had been dashed after conceding 35 points. Washington quarterback Williams was the main executioner in chief, as he became the only quarterback in Super Bowl history to throw FOUR touchdowns in a single quarter. The 10 point deficit is the largest ever to be erased by a Super Bowl winning team. Williams, a former first round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, finished the game with 340 yards passing to go with his four scores to take MVP honors and became the second of three quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl under Joe Gibbs for Washington.
Phil Simms Super Bowl XXI Giants 39 Broncos 20
Now best known as a polarising figure in the CBS commentary box, Simms had been a somewhat controversial 1st round draft choice by the Giants in 1979, the same draft in which the 49ers waited until the 3rd round to select Notre Dame signal caller Joe Montana. After a college career at Morehead State that saw him complete less than 50% of his pass attempts, Simms heard the Giants fans boo him for the first time when his name was called by Pete Rozelle at the draft.
He didn’t do much in his early years to prove the boo boys wrong, completing 48% and 54.4% of his passes in 1980 and 1981. He frequently clashed with his head coach Bill Parcells after he was appointed head coach in 1983, but eventually won the cantankerous overseer around, as he showed that he was both good enough and tough enough to lead the Giants offense.
In Super Bowl XXI against the Denver Broncos, any one who remembered the inaccurate kid from Morehead State would have been stunned to see Simms post the most efficient passing performance in Super Bowl history, as he completed 22 of his 25 pass attempts for 268 yards, and three scores. Big Blue’s 39-20 victory gave them, and Parcells, their first Super Bowl, and the MVP of the game, Phil Simms, became the first player to announce that he “was going to Disneyland” to celebrate his championship triumph.
Jim Plunkett Super Bowl XV Raiders 27 Eagles 10
Jim Plunkett’s pro career could best be described as “disappointing”, as he headed into the 1980 season as backup quarterback to Dan Pastorini for the Raiders. At least he would get to play, after Pastorini broke his leg with the Raiders at 2-3. But all of a sudden, Plunkett didn’t merely play, he began to perform, leading the team to nine wins from their last eleven games to make the post season…but as a wild card team. This didn’t stop the Raiders from advancing to the Super Bowl, after famously benefiting from the moment forever remembered in Cleveland as “Red Right 88”.
Despite entering the game as underdogs, the Raiders jumped out to a 14-0 lead thanks to two touchdown passes from Plunkett. The Eagles never looked like getting back into the game, and the Raiders eventually won out 27-10, thanks to three touchdowns and 261 yards passing from Plunkett. The Raiders became the first Wild Card squad to win the Super Bowl, and Plunkett became the second Heisman Trophy winning quarterback to get his hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy, after Cowboys signal caller Roger Staubach. Plunkett was victorious in the second Super Bowl he played in also, and his 46 Super Bowl pass attempts contained exactly zero interceptions. Yet, he remains out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Troy Aikman Super Bowl XXVII Cowboys 52 Bills 17
Three seasons after slumping to a 1-15 record, the Dallas Cowboys were top of the footballing world after sending the Bills of Buffalo crashing to a third straight Super Bowl loss. While the Bills did their very best to hand the game to the Cowboys, turning the ball over a staggering nine times, when the Cowboys had the ball on offense they simply decimated their opponents. Aikman finished with 22 completions from his 30 attempts, for 273 yards and four touchdown passes. His performance evoked strong memories of the days gone by “Air Coryell” offense, with former Chargers QB Dan Fouts calling Cowboys OC Norv Turner the next day and precisely naming the touchdown pass plays called by Turner and executed by Aikman from his memories of running the same offense in San Diego. After a decade or more of at best mediocre, at worst disastrous play, “America’s Team” were on their way to a mini dynasty, capturing a further two Super Bowls in the next three seasons.