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Greatest drives in Super Bowl history: Nos. 5-1

02/03/2013 10:38 AM ET
By Joe Auriemma

Manning-to-Tyree was a big gain in drive No. 1.(Gene Puskar/AP)
Check out drives Nos. 10-6, and an honorable mention, here.

Number 5

Super Bowl XXXII: John Elway accomplished everything he possibly could in football, except a Super Bowl win. He made it to the big game three times, being blown out each time by the superior NFC teams. Finally on his fourth try, against the defending Super Bowl champion Packers, Elway had a chance to orchestrate a potential game-winning drive. Elway drove his team down the field like he had done so many times over, but one play on the drive put an exclamation point on his storied career.

On third down from the Green Bay 10-yard line, Elway showed true grit. He bootlegged to the right and collided with two Packers defenders. On this collision, Elway lowered his head, went airborne and was spun around, gaining the necessary yardage to gain the first down. The Broncos scored two plays later to go up 31-24, with little time remaining on the clock for Favre and the Packers. Elway in one drive finally broke through and won his Super Bowl.

Number 4

Super Bowl XXXVI: In another Super Bowl that the Rams were heavily favored, the Patriots hung tough behind their young quarterback Tom Brady. The Rams, down 17-10, tied the game with 1:30 left. Most everyone thought that on the ensuing possession, the underdog Pats would kneel on the ball and take their chances in overtime. That was where the legend of Mr. Brady began.

Brady led the Patriots down the field and picked apart the Rams without a single timeout. After nine plays and 53 yards, the Pats found themselves at the Rams’ 30-yard line. Brady rushed to the line and spike the ball with seven seconds left, setting up Adam Vinatieri for the game-winning field goal. Vinatieri nailed the 47 yarder as time expired, thus starting the last and maybe final dynasty in the NFL, helping the Patriots take three out of four Super Bowls.

Number 3

Super Bowl XLIII: The Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves down 23-20 to Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals with 2:37 seconds left in the game. With two timeouts and the ball on their own 22-yard line, the Steelers got off to a disastrous start, as a holding call immediate put them in a hole. Then Big Ben and Santonio Holmes went to work. Big play after big play ensued, before Roethlisberger connected with Holmes on a 40-yard pass to get to the Cardinals’ six-yard line. Two plays later, Big Ben threw a ball that only Holmes could catch in the corner of the end zone. Holmes made an acrobatic catch, getting both feet in before going out of bounds, giving the Steelers the 27-23 lead with just 35 seconds left in the game. The Steelers won their record sixth Super Bowl with this super drive.

Number 2

Super Bowl XXIII: “The Drive” as it is known to everyone. For years, this drive was the pinnacle of all Super Bowl drives. Joe “Cool” Montana and the San Francisco 49ers were down 16-13 to the upstart Cincinnati Bengals. With under three minutes on the clock and the Niners starting at their own eight-yard line, things looked bleak for Montana. Right off the bat, Montana solidified his cool demeanor when he pointed out John Candy in the crowd to his teammates as they huddled before the first play.

Montana then went to work. He sliced and diced the Bengals’ exhausted defense like a calculated surgeon. Montana over the middle. Montana to Jerry Rice. Montana to Roger Craig. Suddenly the Niners were in position. Finally, 11 plays into the drive and with 39 seconds left on the clock, Montana connected with John Taylor for the 10-yard touchdown that gave the Niners the 20-16 lead that propelled them to the victory. Montana already had a great reputation, but this drive elevated him to a level of the absolute legends of the game.

Number 1

Super Bowl XLII: The Patriots were going for perfection as the first 19-0 team in NFL history and the second perfect team in the Super Bowl era. Standing in their way was the Cinderella-story New York Giants. Throughout the 2007 season the Patriots shattered offensive record, but in the Super Bowl they were only able to muster up seven points through the first three quarters. The Giants defense held strong in the 7-3 game, and the offense finally got the drive it needed in the fourth quarter to take the 10-7 lead.

The Patriots came back and finally had the drive they were looking for all game, taking a 14-10 lead with 2:39 seconds left in the game. The Giants received the ball at their own 17-yard line, their fate in the hands of Eli Manning.

Amani Toomer started the drive off with two catches for 20 yards. The Giants then were faced with a fourth-and-one situation, but Brandon Jacobs barreled ahead for two yards to keep the drive alive. Manning almost then made a crucial mistake on second and five, when he overthrew David Tyree. But the ball went through the hands of Asante Samuel, stopping the clock with 1:15 to go.

On the very next play, from the 44-yard line, Manning started and completed the greatest play in the history of the Super Bowl. Somehow he eluded three defenders: Adalius Thomas, Jarvis Green and Richard Seymour. Manning would not be denied, avoiding the sack and heaving a hail mary down the middle of the field. Tyree jumped as high as he could, outjumping Rodney Harrison, bringing the ball into his helmet and holding on to it for dear life. The ball did not touch the ground, giving the Giants the 32-yard gain, and more importantly, the momentum.

The forgotten play on the drive was the third-and-11 completion to Steve Smith for 12 yards, getting the Giants to the Patriots’ 13-yard line. This once again was an important conversion that led to the score on the very next play. Manning saw the Plaxico Burress mismatch on the Slugo route in the corner of the end zone, and laid the ball perfectly into his hands. The Giants would hold on defense with 29 seconds remaining in the game, resulting in the improbable victory and the biggest upset in the history of the NFL. This one drive changed the fate of both franchises and solidified Eli Manning as one of the coolest customers in the game.

Manning would lead the Giants on another Super Bowl winning drive against the same Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. That drive could have certainly made this list, especially with Manning's clutch pass to Mario Manningham, but nothing in Giants history will ever top the drive to end perfection.

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