This offseason, Shutdown Corner's Frank Schwab and Eric Edholm will look into what is overrated and underrated in all aspects of the NFL. We fully expect your angry emails and comments that are sure to follow.
OVERRATED AND UNDERRATED: Super Bowl play
Eric Edholm: Jackie Smith's drop against the Steelers
Verne Lundquist made a call that has stuck with us for years, and it has become the sad hallmark for the Hall of Famer Smith’s career: "Bless his heart, he's got to be the sickest man in America."
Roger Staubach had a wide-open Smith in the end zone of a 17-17 thriller, near the end of the third quarter of Super Bowl XIII. The Cowboys had fooled the veteran Steelers defense with a running formation (two tight ends) on 3rd and 3 from the Pittsburgh 10-yard line. The Steelers didn’t concern themselves too much with the 39-year-old Smith, who caught zero passes during the regular season, when he went out for a pass route.
Staubach made a shaky throw, low and a little behind him. Smith slipped and, yeah, he should have caught it. But after the game, Staubach shared the blame.
"I saw him open and I took something off it. I didn't want to drill it through his hands," Staubach said. "The ball was low. It could have been better. Chalk that one up to both of us."
And yet history remembers it as poor Smith’s career coda. It also is remembered as the reason the Cowboys lost. The Cowboys settled for a field goal, a net loss of four points, and lost 35-31. Easy peasy, right?
Wrong. There were more than 17 minutes of football left in this one, and Smith’s play — while significant — did not prevent the Cowboys from winning.
Basically, the Cowboys fell apart. After the defense held on the next possession, Staubach had a 3rd-and-5 pass knocked down near midfield. Following a punt, the Steelers milked five minutes and drove 88 yards (converting two key third downs, one following a Cowboys sack negated by penalty) to take an 11-point lead.
That lead grew to 18 on the ensuing squibbed kickoff when Randy White tried to run with it, fumbling on a hit by Tony Dungy, interestingly. One play later, the Steelers would score a touchdown — 14 points in 19 seconds. White later joked that Smith’s drop somehow let him off the hook.
“I told him, ‘I am glad you dropped that pass, Jackie," White told the Times Record News in 2010. "Now they blame you for losing that game. They forgot about me.’”
The Cowboys would score twice after that, but it was their defense and special teams that let them down in the end. Smith’s play certainly hurt, but it was not by itself what caused the Cowboys to lose.
Frank Schwab: Santonio Holmes' game-winning touchdown
I'm not downplaying the historical significance of Holmes' game-winning catch against the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. It was a huge play, but I think we like to make highlights like that bigger than they are.
I don't see David Tyree's "Helmet Catch" every Sunday in the NFL. I don't see guys jumping over cornerbacks and tipping balls to themselves like Lynn Swann did in Super Bowl X all that often. I see a receiver keep his feet in bounds and make a very nice play like Holmes' catch fairly often in the NFL. Cris Carter seemed to do it twice a week. Holmes' catch was difficult, it was very nice, it certainly had an enormous impact, but it wasn't one of the great athletic feats in NFL history, as I've read before. I don't even think it was the Steelers' greatest play in that game. I'll take James Harrison's interception return for that. I'm not sure Holmes' catch was the best part of that game-winning play either. I might prefer Ben Roethlisberger buying time and firing an absolute rope into the tightest window possible just to get the ball to Holmes.
Holmes' play has a historic significance in NFL history that's undeniable. So does Alan Ameche's run in the 1958 NFL Championship game, but we don't add on superlatives to that to make it bigger than it was. Holmes' catch was what it was: A remarkably significant play in the annals of NFL history, and the catch itself was also very good. But it wasn't one of the most impressive catches ever.
EE: J.R. Redmond's screen pass sets up Patriots win in Super Bowl XXXVI
Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl in improbable fashion, an upset over the 14-point-favorite Rams to cap a season in which he did not even begin as the Patriots’ starting quarterback.
Brady also was the controversial MVP of that game — Ty Law or Willie McGinest might have made better choices, frankly — but he had a lot of help.
The final drive of the game was surprising in a lot of ways. The Rams had just tied the game 17-17 with 90 seconds left, owners of all the momentum in the game. Broadcaster John Madden implored the Patriots to kneel on the ball as they took over from their own 17-yard line.
“I don’t agree with what the Patriots are doing here,” Madden said. “I would play for overtime.”
And it seemed reasonable: inexperienced QB … Super Bowl stage … give your team a chance to rest for overtime. I believe the Patriots were playing this thing halfway, too, with that in mind. We’re going to go, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis told Brady, but we’re going to be smart about it.
Brady hit Redmond, a little-used running back, for five yards on first down, narrowly escaping a sack to do so, and then went back to Redmond for eight more yards on second for a first down. Brady then clocked the ball with 41 seconds left. Bill Belichick had used the Patriots’ final timeout two possessions earlier when it was clear his defense was absolutely gassed.
The Patriots faced a 2nd and 10 from their own 30. They still had 35-40 yards to go to get into field goal range. Their offense had been pretty stale, gaining 27 yards on the previous three possessions.
Brady dropped back to pass and looked in the middle of the field. He wanted either Troy Brown or Jermaine Wiggins, it appeared. But Brady instead swung a pass to Redmond in the flat, and he made a very gutsy move, going inside of Rams corner Dre Bly, who was protecting against Redmond going out of bounds. Instead, Redmond had enough juice to break Bly’s tackle to the inside, drag Tommy Polley four yards, beat Kim Herring to the sticks and get out of bounds to stop the clock.
“And now I kind of like what the Patriots are doing,” Madden deadpanned.
Not bad for a player that had one touch in the game prior to that drive and didn’t surpass 1,200 yards from scrimmage in an otherwise nondescript career.
Had Redmond not gotten that first down (or gotten out of bounds), I think the Patriots would have sat on the ball and gone to overtime, right or wrong. Yes, they would have had a third-down play coming up, but the Patriots hadn’t converted a third down since mid-second quarter.
Instead, Redmond’s unexpectedly clutch conversion allowed Brady to hit Brown for 23 yards on a crossing pattern, setting up Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal two plays after that.
FS: Mark Ingram converts third and 13 vs. the Bills
You want a play you don't see every Sunday? How about a receiver catching a pass 6 yards short of a first down, then breaking through five tackle attempts as he drags himself over the first-down line?
Before Mark Ingram was known as the father of a Heisman Trophy winner, he was a Giants receiver and he pulled off one of the great plays in NFL history.
I'm not sure why Ingram's great play, which happened in the third quarter of the Giants' win over the Bills in Super Bowl XXV, has been forgotten by history a bit. In fact, ask around to see who remembers it at all. I bet a few smart football fans you know will draw a blank.
Maybe the play needed a good nickname. Or perhaps only plays that happen in the fourth quarter matter in history. Here I thought there was a reason all 60 minutes counted.
This entire game, which was also one of the greatest in NFL history, is totally different without Ingram's play. It happened on third and 13 at the Bills' 32-yard line. Ingram caught the pass 6 yards short of the first, and if he's tackled there, a field goal is no sure thing. Giants kicker Matt Bahr was 5-of-11 on field goals of 40 yards or more that year. Going for it on fourth down and converting is no gimme either.
But Ingram wouldn't be denied. He made an immediate move to make the first defender miss. Then he slithered under Darryl Talley's tackle attempt. He broke the ankles of a third defender with a juke. Then he spun while being wrapped up from a fourth defender, still 2 yards short of the first. With a fifth defender coming in to finish, Ingram kept lunging and lunging until he got the first down.
This play extended a drive that lasted 9:29, a Super Bowl record, and ended with an Ottis Anderson touchdown. That gave the Giants a 17-12 lead. In a game that was decided by one point, Ingram's phenomenal play that led to a touchdown instead of a long field goal attempt by Bahr seems fairly significant.
I guess the Scott Norwood miss at the end of the game is an easier narrative, and that's what history has remembered from that game. I bet you'd have a much harder time finding a football fan who isn't aware of that play. But Norwood's miss wasn't the play that defined Super Bowl XXV. Not even close. Ingram's third-and-13 conversion was one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history, and happened to personify a tough effort by the underdog Giants as well, even if you can find some hardcore NFL fans who don't even recall it.
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