Anyone following North American sport cannot fail to acknowledge the NCAA College basketball tournament, where it is all about surviving in order to move on.
Unlike the debacle that is the current NCAA College football post-season, the basketball post-season is at least simple to follow. It is a simple knockout tournament. You win you stay alive. You keep winning you get to the ‘final four’ and then a chance to lift the shiny trophy.
The NFL have tried to capitalise on this wave of ‘bracketology’ discussions by launching their own knockout competition to decide the greatest ever NFL play.
With the parallel timing of the ‘final four’ NFL plays and the ‘final-four’ NCAA College Basketball games it’s all about getting to the final this weekend.
I am a little saddened that the final four NFL plays are dominated by modern-day plays; Marshawn Lynch running ‘beast-mode’ (2011); DeSean Jackson’s game winning punt-return touchdown (2010); Troy Polamalu’s ‘over-the-top’ tackle (2010). The remaining play is from 1988, Steve Young’s insane run through the entire Minnesota Vikings defense, and it is without doubt the best of the four (in my eyes).
If I had it my way I would have made the top 64 plays far more eclectic, with one play from every year over the last 64 seasons.
So where would I go with my top plays of all time? It’s a tough call and I don’t know the order quite yet, but here I go with some of my personal favourites…
- Leonard Marshall forcing a fumble by Joe Montana in the 1991 NFC Championship game. I was 17 at the time and thought Joe Montana was invincible. That single play knocked the stuffing out of ‘Joe Cool’ and it was five Giants field-goals that gave the visiting team the win.
- Darrell Green’s punt-return in the 1987 Divisional playoffs. Withe the scores tied 14-14 and a minus 10 wind-chill factor Green picked up a punt around midfield and ran it back for a score. Green had been playing cornerback all game and even tore his own rib cartilage half-way through the return after hurdling over a wannabe tackler.
- Eli Manning’s 10 yard touchdown run at Wembley in 2007. For the 81,176 fans at the first ever regular season NFL game played in England it was the realisation of the dreams of fans like myself, who fell in love with the sport at a very young age but never even imagined they could see real NFL teams in a real NFL regular-season game. Manning’s scramble and the whole game may have been soggy and scrappy, but right there and then the NFL had truly ‘touched-down’ in England.
- Santana Moss’s 70 yard touchdown catch in 2005. Under four minutes left, down 13-0 and in Texas, Redskins wideout Moss caught not one but two bombs delivered by Mark Brunell. The second, a 70 yard catch, was the winner and helped his team to make it into the playoffs (later in the season).
More to come soon, but what do you think so far?