10 Greatest Individual Super Bowl Performances
Denver’s Von Miller was pretty spectacular against Carolina and Cam Newton in Super Bowl 50. The pass-rushing linebacker racked up five tackles, two and a half sacks, and a pair of critical forced fumbles that basically won the game for the Broncos.
It was a Super Bowl MVP-worthy performance, but where does it rank among the all-time greats, on the NFL’s biggest stage? Here are the 10 best Super Bowl performances:
10. Terrell Davis, Super Bowl XXXII: 30 Carries for 157 Yards and 3 TDs
Davis really only starred in the league for four years before injuries led him into early retirement, but he made those four seasons count, rushing for over 1,000 yards in each one—including 2,008 in 1998. He also ran for better than 100 yards in seven of his eight playoff games. This one saw him reach the end zone three times as the Broncos pulled off the upset in beating Green Bay 31–24.
9. Joe Namath, Super Bowl III: 17/28 Passing for 206 Yards and 1 Guarantee
This one wasn’t just the Jets versus the Colts. It was the upstart AFL against the established NFL, and the new league had already been on the wrong end of the first two Super Bowls. Before the game, Namath famously guaranteed victory—and he delivered—managing the New York Jets to a 16–7 win over the 18-point favorite Baltimore Colts.
8. Von Miller, Super Bowl 50: 2.5 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles
His numbers don’t jump out at you, but both forced fumbles were at the expense of Cam Newton and led directly to touchdowns. The first was in the opening quarter and was recovered by Malik Jackson in the end zone for a touchdown to give Denver a 10–0 lead. The second occurred late in the fourth quarter and was recovered by T.J. Ward at Carolina’s 9-yard line, who returned it to the 4. Three plays later, Denver punched into the end zone to take a 24–10 lead.
7. Joe Montana, Super Bowl XXIV: 22/29 Passing for 297 Yards and 5 TDs
Montana won four Super Bowls and was named MVP of three of them. This one—a 55–10 laugher over Denver—was probably his best performance. Montana already had three TD passes by halftime as the 49ers led John Elway and company 27–3 at the break. He then threw two more in the third quarter and the rout was on. FYI, Montana threw zero interceptions combined in his four Super Bowls.
6. Timmy Smith, Super Bowl XXII: 22 Carries for 204 Yards and 2 TDs
This is how out-of-nowhere this performance was by Smith. The rookie had 126 yards rushing total in the 1987 season. He had 131 by halftime in this one as the Redskins led by 25 points at the break and rolled to a 42–10 win over Denver. Smith’s 58-yard score in the second quarter was one of five Redskins touchdowns in the quarter and helped Smith to a Super Bowl-record 204 rushing yards.
5. Phil Simms, Super Bowl XXI: 22/25 Passing for 268 Yards and 3 TDs
Simms, a two-time Pro Bowler during a 15-year career, was nearly perfect against the Broncos in this one, setting a Super Bowl record for highest completion percentage in the Giants’ 39–20 win. He was perfect in the second half—completing all 10 pass attempts—as New York pulled away for Bill Parcells’s first Super Bowl win.
4. Marcus Allen, Super Bowl XVIII: 20 Carries for 191 Yards and 2 TDs
Marcus Allen was a special running back in his day, and his 191-yard performance in this 38–9 win over Washington was record-breaking (at the time). Washington had the best run defense during the regular season and Allen broke free for runs of over 35 yards twice, including his infamous 74-yarder where he reversed course in the backfield, after running into a wall of defenders on one side, before finding a crease up the middle for the score.
3. Lynn Swann, Super Bowl X: 4 Catches for 161 Yards and a TD
Swann’s performance wasn’t just the numbers, it was how he got them. Three of his four catches were of the acrobatic variety, and his 53-yard reception—where he jumped up for the ball, had it deflected out of his hands by the defender, and then somehow caught it as he hit the turf—is one of the greatest of all time. Thanks to his heroics, the Steelers prevailed 21–17 over the Dallas Cowboys.
2. Jerry Rice, Super Bowl XXIII: 11 Catches for 215 Yards and a TD
Rice was nearly perfect on a day San Francisco needed him to be, setting a Super Bowl record for most receiving yards as the Niners beat the Bengals 20–16 in a thriller. The Hall of Fame receiver caught four passes of 25 yard or more and hauled in three crucial receptions on the final drive as San Francisco took the lead in the final minute en route to victory.
1. Steve Young, Super Bowl XXIX: 24/36 Passing for 325 Yards and 6 TDs
When Young took over at quarterback for the injured and immensely popular Joe Montana in 1991 he had some huge shoes to fill. Joe “Cool” was 4-for-4 in Super Bowls and until Young led the 49ers to a Super Bowl win, he’d never hear the end of it. He got his wish against the Chargers here and pounced on it, throwing TD passes of 44 and 51 yards in the first quarter alone as the Niners rolled to a 49–26 win. His six TD passes are still a record.