With that in mind, here's a look at the biggest interceptions in Super Bowl history, a list so good that players such as Ike Taylor(notes), Duane Starks(notes), Herb Adderley and Willie Brown didn't make the final cut.
1. Ty Law, New England Patriots – Most of the memories in this game revolve around the early legacies of Tom Brady(notes), Adam Vinatieri(notes) and the Patriots in general as they won the first of their three titles over a four-year span with a 20-17 victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. Brady led the game-winning drive in the final two minutes and Vinatieri hit the field goal as time expired, finishing an extraordinary postseason for him. But the win wouldn't have been possible if not for the work of Law, who helped shut down St. Louis' explosive offense. His 47-yard touchdown return of a Kurt Warner(notes) throw gave the Patriots their first points as they eventually built a 17-3 lead. Moreover, it was part of a spectacular game for Law and the New England defense, which also got an interception from Otis Smith.
2. Tracy Porter(notes),
New Orleans Saints – Some people might give Porter the nod over Law because of how dramatic his game-clinching 74-yard touchdown return was in New Orleans' victory in Super Bowl XLIV only a year ago. With the Saints holding a 24-17 lead late in the fourth quarter, Indianapolis drove to the New Orleans 31-yard line. That's when Porter came up with the first takeaway of the game, returning it for a touchdown and the final margin with 3:12 remaining. Porter picked the right time to jump a slant route against the combination of quarterback Peyton Manning(notes) and wide receiver Reggie Wayne(notes). Perhaps the best part of the Porter play is the series of fantastic celebrations it set off in New Orleans as the Saints won their first title.
3. James Harrison(notes), Pittsburgh Steelers – In most Super Bowls, Harrison's 100-yard touchdown return would be the stuff of legend, particularly in a game the Steelers ended up winning 27-23 for their sixth title. However, Super Bowl XLIII was a game loaded with more great plays than you usually get in three title games. That includes perhaps the greatest throw and catch in Super Bowl history when Ben Roethlisberger(notes) hit Santonio Holmes(notes) for the game-winner. Harrison's play had a huge impact on the overall game because it was at least a 10-point swing. Arizona had gotten to the Pittsburgh 1 and had 18 seconds remaining in the first half, trailing 10-7. They were facing a tie, if not halftime deficit. That's when Harrison stepped in front of a slant toss by Warner (he has certainly suffered in his Super Bowl losses) and then went on bobbing, weaving and tackle-breaking adventure down the field as he barely reached the Steelers' end zone to give Pittsburgh a 17-7 lead at the break.
4. Willie Wood, Green Bay Packers – Most people don't remember that Super Bowl I was more competitive than the 35-10 score indicates. At halftime, Kansas City was down 14-10, but had outgained the Packers and had more first downs. Plenty of Green Bay players said afterward that the great Vince Lombardi – for whom the title trophy is named – was concerned. The Chiefs opened the second half by driving to their own 49-yard line when Len Dawson was forced to throw on third down. Wood grabbed the pass and returned it 50 yards to the Kansas City 5. Elijah Pitts scored on the next play and the rout was on for the Packers, who won the first two Super Bowls. Later, Packers quarterback Bart Starr called Wood's interception, "The biggest play of the game." After Wood's play, the Chiefs didn't cross midfield, the Packers won easily and Wood's dramatic play has largely been forgotten.
5. Larry Brown, Dallas Cowboys – Brown became famous with not one, but two critical interceptions as Dallas won its third title in four years. Brown's heroics allowed the Cowboys to overcome an inconsistent offensive performance. He returned his first interception 44 yards to the Steelers' 18 in the third quarter, setting up a touchdown to give Dallas a 20-7 lead. Pittsburgh, led by the running of Bam Morris, got back within 20-17 and had the ball with 4:15 remaining. However, Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell, who entered the game as the NFL leader in fewest interceptions per pass attempt, threw another interception to Brown, who returned it 33 yards to the Pittsburgh 6. The Cowboys then scored a final touchdown. In some respects, Brown was in the right place at the right time as O'Donnell had receivers run the wrong routes on him. But it worked out well for him when Oakland later signed him to a large free-agent contract.
6. Jack Lambert, Steelers – The last stand of the great Steel Curtain era happened on Jan. 20, 1980, when Pittsburgh won its fourth title after taking Super Bowl XIV. While the final score, 31-19, was one-sided, the Los Angeles Rams gave the Steelers all they could handle for the first three quarters. In fact, the Rams had a 19-17 lead and then intercepted Terry Bradshaw on back-to-back drives. Pittsburgh eventually scored to take the lead, but the Rams drove to the Pittsburgh 32 in the fourth quarter, threatening to take the lead. Lambert slipped behind a Rams receiver to nab the throw from Vince Ferragamo with 5:24 remaining. The Steelers scored the clinching touchdown and were never challenged again. However, they were never the same again as a team, either.
7. Jack Squirek, Los Angeles Raiders – There are few times in the great career of Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs(notes) that you can say the former Washington Redskins leader called a really stupid play. The end of the first half of Super Bowl XVIII, a game remembered in large part by Marcus Allen's dazzling run, is the one of those moments. While the Raiders generally dominated this game from start to finish, winning 38-9, Squirek provided the clinching moment when he intercepted a screen pass at the end of the first half and returned it five yards for a touchdown to make the score 21-3. The odd part is that Washington even called the play with only 12 seconds remaining in the half. With 88 yards to go, getting a score was nearly impossible. Give the Raiders coaching staff credit for being ready, subbing in Squirek for starter Matt Millen when the Redskins put in a certain alignment. In fact, Squirek, a career backup, was pretty much designated to handle that one play all game after the Redskins had run it against the Raiders in the regular season.
8. Kelvin Hayden(notes), Indianapolis Colts – Even though the Colts were in control for most of their eventual Super Bowl XLI victory over Chicago, the game was still close in the fourth quarter when Hayden finally put it out of reach. Hayden snared a Rex Grossman(notes) pass along the right sideline and returned it 56 yards for a score that turned a five-point lead into the 29-17 final margin. On the next possession, Colts safety Bob Sanders(notes) came up with another interception as the Bears were done.
9. Dexter Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – In looking back at this game, it's easy to dismiss what Jackson did because the Buccaneers ended up winning in a rout, snagging five interceptions along the way (fellow Bucs defensive back Dwight Smith(notes) had two touchdowns in the second half on interception returns). However, Jackson played a critical role in the first half as the Bucs and their No.1-ranked defense took over, dominating Oakland's No. 1-ranked offense and quarterback Rich Gannon in Super Bowl XXXVII. Jackson's two plays came when the game was still competitive (Tampa Bay had only a 6-3 lead after the second one), but kept the Raiders from getting in any type of groove.
10. Rodney Harrison(notes), Patriots – Harrison essentially opened and closed the Patriots' third Super Bowl victory in four years, intercepting a pass by Donovan McNabb(notes) on the opening drive after Philadelphia got inside the New England 20 and then nabbing another on the final offensive play of the game for the Eagles. Harrison's work helped preserve what ended up being a 24-21 victory. All three of New England's Super Bowl wins in that run were by three points.
- Willie Brown
- Super Bowl XXXVI
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