Sort of like Super Bowl XLIII, big plays seemed to start and end with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009. While every team has produced some big plays or moments throughout the calendar year, the defending Super Bowl champions more than had their share.
Here's a look back at the NFL's top plays in 2009 (in chronological order), with a decidedly Steel Town feel:
Summary: Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison(notes) picked off Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner(notes) at the goal line and rumbled the distance as the half ended to give Pittsburgh a 17-7 lead in an eventual 27-23 victory.
The Steelers' James Harrison scores after a 100-yard interception return during the Super Bowl.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)
Y! Sports' take: Harrison, unseen by Warner until it was too late, was in perfect position to pick off the pass at the goal line, and he raced up the sideline as numerous Cardinals players angled in and hit the turf as if props in a video game. Harrison made one final thrust past Larry Fitzgerald(notes) and through Arizona wideout Steve Breaston(notes), landing just over the goal line with the clock already having struck zero to complete the longest play in Super Bowl history.
– Michael Silver, Game for the ages
Super Bowl: Holmes' nifty footwork for the game-winning score
Y! Sports' take: Channeling the spirit of Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Hines Ward(notes), Holmes made the biggest play of many in the final quarter during Pittsburgh's 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Holmes joined Swann and Ward as the third Steelers wide receiver to earn Super Bowl MVP honors, doing so in Pittsburgh's league-best sixth Super Bowl win. His toe-tapping, 6-yard touchdown reception with 35 seconds was the final blow delivered in a game of stunning drama.
– Jason Cole, Holmes uses grace to nab catch, MVP
Week 1 of '09 season: Stokley's reception off a deflection to beat the Bengals
Y! Sports' take: As Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley finished his improbable game-winning, 87-yard touchdown catch on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, he said a million thoughts flashed through his head. But one sensation was overwhelming: How quiet the fans at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati got. And thankfully for Stokley's teammates, it quieted furious rookie head coach Josh McDaniels …
– Jason Cole, Stokley's catch silences fans – and his coach
The Vikings' Greg Lewis catches the game-winning touchdown with two seconds left against the 49ers.
(Genevieve Ross/Getty Images)
Summary: One week before his monumental first meeting against the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre(notes) ratcheted up the hype with his heroics against the San Francisco 49ers with two seconds left for a 27-24 victory.
Y! Sports' take: Here was the iconic superstar, weaving his way through traffic in the final seconds and snapping off a 32-yard dart, just before getting plowed over by a defender. Favre didn't immediately see the aftermath – how wideout Greg Lewis married an improbable throw with an impossible catch, stabbing down one foot in the end zone and dragging the toe of another as he fell out of bounds. Just like that, Minnesota snatched back a game it almost threw away.
– Charles Robinson, Favre paints perfect picture of what he offers
Week 7: Peterson steamrolls Gay
Y! Sports' take: This is what happens when a 190-pound cornerback meets a 235-pound man-beast. While it ultimately didn't matter, Peterson delivered a steam-rolling that should endure for a long, long time.
– Charles Robinson, Winners and Losers
Y! Sports' take: Todd Watkins(notes) went up to get the ball, but before the receiver could make a play, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis closed quickly from the outside and soared up over him to make a lunging grab. A cascade of boos ensued, but in this particular case JaMarcus Russell shouldn't have been the object of criticism. Instead, Raiders fans should have begrudgingly cheered Revis, a third-year cornerback from Pitt who made the Pro Bowl last season and will probably turn that into an annual habit. His 10th career pick was that good.
– Michael Silver, Defensive back grows as latest glamour spot
Y! Sports' take: Stafford threw five touchdown passes – the final one coming with an injured non-throwing shoulder and in a game-winning situation, after a pass interference penalty on a Hail Mary put Detroit at Cleveland's 1-yard line with no time left. Stafford was available to take the final snap only after Cleveland coach Eric Mangini called a timeout, giving the injured quarterback time to get back on the field. All of this came after Detroit trailed 24-3 at one point in the game's first quarter. Stafford's fifth score constituted a league record since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. No other rookie passer in that span had ever thrown five touchdowns in a single game, including such accomplished first-year starters as Dan Marino, John Elway and Peyton Manning(notes).
– Charles Robinson, Stafford, Quinn provide shine for tarnished clubs
The Titans' Vince Young celebrates after tossing the game-winning touchdown against the Cardinals.
(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Y! Sports' take: But while the prologue was different, the story remained the same, with Young engineering an improbable 99-yard touchdown drive that captured a 20-17 victory on the final play of the game. Much like 2006, all Leinart could do was stand and watch as his team's 17-13 lead vanished before his very eyes. For Leinart, it was a solid game ending on a sour note. For Young, it was a seismic event. Yes, he had led the Titans to four straight wins after owner Bud Adams essentially forced him back into the starting lineup. But Sunday's 99-yard drive was unquestionably a seminal moment. Not every win defines a winner. However, this victory did just that.
– Charles Robinson, Rally shows QB Young in a different light
Week 13: Meachem strips Moore and scores
Summary: New Orleans Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem(notes) stripped Kareem Moore(notes) following a fumble recovery and returned it for a tying touchdown at the end of the first half in an eventual 33-30 overtime victory over the Washington Redskins.
Y! Sports' take: When I saw it unfold on television while watching multiple games at a restaurant near University of the Phoenix Stadium, I simply wrote down "Robert Meachem!!!!" in my notebook. Meachem, a first-round draft pick in '07, was regarded as a washout until this year. Now he may go down as a man who helped the Saints make history. "That was the play of the year for us," said safety Darren Sharper(notes) (via text), who has made a few great ones of his own. "He's having a breakout season. It was a true football play."
– Michael Silver, Morning Rush
Y! Sports' take: Not only did he have a monster game against the Green Bay Packers (503 passing yards and three touchdowns), he completed a game-winning scoring pass as time expired. The moment was every bit as impressive as what Brett Favre did to the 49ers in Week 3.
– Charles Robinson, Winners and Losers
Missed the cut
Week 1: Troy Polamalu one-hand INT vs. Titans
Week 2: Chris Johnson 91-yard TD run vs. Texans
Week 4: Chad Ochocinco one-hand TD grab vs. Browns
Week 11: Terrell Owens 98-yard TD catch vs. Jags
Week 15: Joshua Cribbs 103-yard KO return vs. Chiefs