2. Everson Walls, Super Bowl XXV: This is the game that everyone remembers the Giants beating the Bills 20-19 because Buffalo's Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal on the last play of the game. But a game-saving tackle was made in the final two minutes by the Giants' Everson Walls.
This game was shockingly reminiscent of the divisonal playoff game a few weeks ago between the Indianapolis Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, after a Jerome Bettis fumble, Roethlisberger made a game-saving tackle on the Colts' 42-yard line. Instead of celebrating the winning touchdown, the high-powered Colts could only move the ball close enough to attempt a 46-yard field goal at the end of the game (which they missed).
In the Super Bowl 15 years ago, it was Walls who was the last wall of defense for New York. Thurman Thomas was a one-man wrecking crew for Buffalo. He ran the ball 15 times for 135 yards. He caught five passes for 55 more yards. The Bills, with less than two minutes remaining in the game, ran Thurman on a draw play from their own 37-yard line. He ... could ... go ... all ... the ... way ... one man to beat, it's Walls. But Walls made a diving tackle that stopped Thomas from running for a 63-yard game-winning touchdown. But all anyone remembers is Norwood's 47-yard miss a few minutes later. Walls won the Super Bowl more than Norwood lost it.
3. Dan Bunz, Super Bowl XVI: The San Francisco ***** took a 20-0 halftime lead over the Bengals, but the game was far from over. The Bengals scored a touchdown on their first possession of the second half. Two possessions later, Cincinnati was three yards away from another touchdown. They had all the momentum.
Here's how Bill Walsh remembered it in his 1990 book with Glenn Dickey, Building a Champion. "On first down Pete Johnson, their 250-pound fullback, dove straight over left tackle, but John Harty, Dan Bunz, and Jack Reynolds stopped him at the one-yard line. Second down, and Johnson plowed over right guard, but Reynolds and Bunz downed him with the help of Archie Reese, who undercut their guard's legs. On third down, the Bengals made a good call: Ken Anderson faked to Johnson and quickly threw to Charles Alexander in the flat. Again Bunz was there with a picture perfect tackle for no gain on the play."
Following a timeout, Pete Johnson followed Alexander into the line, and was stopped short of the goal line. Cincinnati wasn't through; they would score a touchdown on their very next possession to cut the lead to 20-14. But San Francisco held on for their first Super Bowl win, defeating the Bengals 26-21. Bunz played only 28 more NFL games following that Super Bowl. His play in the goal-line stand, particularly on the third down tackle of Charles Alexander, ranks among the greatest in Super Bowl history.
4. Gale Gillingham and Donnie Anderson, Super Bowl I: The Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the first NFL-AFL championship game. In this game, an offensive guard, Gale Gillingham, and a running back, Donnie Anderson, made the biggest hit of the game. Here's the backdrop. Fred Williamson was a Chiefs defensive back that spent the week before the game making outrageous statements about Green Bay players. He was known as "The Hammer," because he had a secret weapon ("the hammer," a forearm chop to the helmet). He described the karate blows he was going to deliver to the Packers receivers. He said that (Packers) Jim Taylor, "would have been no big deal in our league."
This from 1987's Starr: My Life in Football, by Bart Starr with Murray Oldermann. "In the fourth quarter, we finally nailed The Hammer. I mean, really nailed him. Gale Gillingham, our powerful left guard, led Donnie Anderson on a sweep around the right end. The Hammer, ever aggressive, came up to meet Gillingham, but Gilly just ran right over him. Gilly's knee caught The Hammer flush on the helmet, Donny tumbled over both of them, and The Hammer went down and out for the count." As an unconscious Williamson lay on the field, Packers' guard Fuzzy Thurston stood over him humming the song, If I had a Hammer.
5. Lawrence Taylor, Super Bowl XXI: What happens when one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in his first Super Bowl meets one of the great pass rushers of all time? It happened in Super Bowl XXI in Pasadena. The Broncos led 10-9 at halftime, but it could have been at least 17-7. Rich Karlis was a goat for the Broncos, missing two short field-goal attempts in the second quarter (one from 23-yards). That came after a brilliant goal-line stand, with the Broncos having a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
On first down, John Elway rolled right and Lawrence Taylor was right there, stopping Elway for a loss. On second down, Harry Carson stopped Denver's Gerald Wilhite up the middle. And on third down, Carl Banks stopped a Sammy Winder sweep that lost yardage. But L.T. stopping Elway from the 1-yard line was like Russell stopping Chamberlain. The Broncos' missed opportunities would cost them dearly. In the third quarter, Denver would run 10 plays and gain only two yards. The Giants won 39-20.
6. Bob Lilly, Super Bowl VI: The Dallas Cowboys were trying to shed their loser image going into Super Bowl VI. They had lost Super Bowl V. They had lost the NFL championship game in 1966 and 1967 (which denied them a chance of playing in the first two Super Bowls.) In Super Bowl VI, the Cowboys didn't allow a touchdown. In the first quarter, the Cowboys jumped out on top, thanks to a mere 9-yard field goal. Bob Lilly tackled Bob Griese for a 29-yard loss on the last play of the first quarter. The score was only 3-0 at the time, but it seemed bigger.
7. Don Beebe, Super Bowl XXVII: Sometimes, a player gains more respect for how he plays when his team is getting blown out. The Bills were losing 52-17 late in Super Bowl XXVII, when Leon Lett picked up a fumble and began running for an easy touchdown. In one of the most memorable moments in Super Bowl history, Beebe came from 25 yards back and caught a showboating Lett, stripping him of the ball at the goal line. It meant the Bills lost by 34 points instead of 41, but it wasn't the score. It was the character displayed by Beebe that meant something. Think a young Ben Watson was watching?
Leon Lett is looking over the wrong shoulder. (Rick Stewart / Getty Images)
8. Mike Vrabel, Super Bowl XXIV: The Eagles came out and drove down the field, getting inside the Patriots' 8-yard line late in the first quarter. On first-and-goal, Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel sacked Donovan McNabb for a 16-yard loss. Forced to throw, McNabb would be picked off by Rodney Harrison. McNabb would throw 51 times in Jacksonville. He would be sacked by Vrabel, Teddy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, and Richard Seymour. It took its toll, and McNabb had nothing left at the end of the game, when the Eagles were within striking distance.
9. Manny Fernandez, Super Bowl VII: Jake Scott was the MVP of this game for the Dolphins, as he intercepted two passes. But defensive tackle Manny Fernandez was the real defensive force in stopping the Redskins. Fernandez had eight unassisted tackles, and assisted on eight others. If not for an error by placekicker Garo Yepremian, the Dolphins would have recorded a shutout.
The most significant tackle by Fernandez came early in the second half. Washington was down 14-0, but quarterback Billy Kilmer was marching the Redskins down the field. He completed four consecutive passes down to the Miami 17. Then, Fernandez got through and sacked Kilmer. Washington's Curt Knight missed a field goal. President Richard Nixon (the Redskins biggest fan) and coach George Allen had to suffer through a bad day, a bad Knight, and a ferocious Fernandez. The Dolphins put the finishing touches on their perfect season.
10. Matt Chatham, Super Bowl XXXVIII: You want to talk about a much-needed tackle? How about Patriots' linebacker Matt Chatham, who tackled a streaker — Mark Roberts — who fooled security just after halftime by ripping off his tear-away referee uniform. He revealed a website which I won't name in this article, as well as the words "Super Bowl" written on his back. This took place moments after a much more publicized "wardrobe malfunction."