The countdown continues of the great drives in NFL history. Which famous moments make the cut this time?
‘The Tyree Play’ – New York Giants over New England Patriots – 2007
Anybody going into Super Bowl XLII who gave the New York Giants a prayer was just trying to win a bet. How could a team that almost lost its head coach in the off-season and went 3-5 at home have any prayer to beating a New England Patriots team that had gone 18-0 entering the game? The answer was simple. Keep the game close, rush the passer and hope they can somehow pull it out at the end. It worked for most of the night. The Giants had the edge 10-7 in the 4th quarter. Then, as he had all season, quarterback Tom Brady put together a drive late and got the Patriots ahead 14-10. The first undefeated season since 1972 seemed like a sure thing.
With just 2:39 left, quarterback Eli Manning had to get the Giants 83-yards to a touchdown against a defense and a team that had won three Super Bowls the previous six years. What ensued was one of the wackiest drives in NFL history. At times it looked positively ugly. The Giants converted a 4th-and-1 early in the march but then nearly gave the game away on a dropped interception by a Patriots defender.
On the next play in looked like New England would seal the deal as their pass rush swarmed around Manning, grabbing handfuls of jersey. Somehow, he wriggled free and heaved a pass down field where reserve receiver David Tyree awkwardly clamped the ball to his helmet with a defender draped on him. The resulting review of the catch stood. Four plays later, Manning struck receiver Plaxico Burress for the go-ahead score with 35 seconds left. Thus ended the Patriots undefeated bid and the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.
‘The Drive’ – Denver Broncos over Cleveland Browns – 1986
By 1986, scrutiny really begin to come down on quarterback John Elway for his inability to win big games in big moments. For the first time he was playing in an AFC championship game and hopes were high he might finally deliver. Unfortunately things went catastrophically wrong in the 4th quarter. With just five minutes left, the Cleveland Browns scored a touchdown, making the game 20-13. On the ensuing kickoff, a bad bounce of the football caused it to tumble to the Denver 2-yard line.
The situation at that point seemed impossible. Elway had to drive the Broncos 98 yards in five minutes against a Browns defense that was one of the best in the NFL at that time. Worse yet, he had to do it in bad weather and on the road in Cleveland. Most didn’t expect the Broncos to even out of the shadow of their own end zone, much less all the way to score.
What followed is what many believe was the foundation of a Hall of Fame career and a legend. Elway, operating under immense pressure, used his arm and legs to push Denver down the field. As the drive grew and he began to string together first downs, reports indicated that the Cleveland crowd got quieter and quieter. Perhaps the decisive blow came with 1:47 left. A Browns sack had put the Broncos in 3rd and 18 yards to go. One more stop would likely end the Denver rally. Instead Elway rifled a 20-yard completion to receiver Mark Jackson for a first down. Five plays later, on the 15th play, Elway struck Jackson again for the tying touchdown. Just :39 seconds were left.
“The Drive” as it came to be called, got the Broncos into overtime where they eventually ousted Cleveland on a winning field goal, resulting in their first of five Super Bowl appearances under Elway.