The Green Bay Packers will be presented with their Super Bowl rings this week, providing another chance to reflect on how that ring was won.
Heck, why not take a closer look at how all four Super Bowl rings were won? On the game’s biggest stage, it takes big plays, and lots of them.
Here’s one writer’s list, in ascending order of importance, of the 10 plays in the Packers’ four victorious Super Bowls that meant the most.
10. Boyd Dowler’s 62-yard TD, second quarter, II
Don Chandler had just kicked his second of four field goals to give the Packers a 6-0 lead, and the defense responded with a quick three-and-out, highlighted by Willie Davis’ sack of Oakland quarterback Daryle Lamonica on third down.
Following the ensuing punt, Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr wasted no time hitting Dowler, who made the most of a Super Bowl do-over after leaving the prior year’s title game on the first series with an injury. Dowler’s 62-yard catch-and-run down the middle gave the Packers 10 points in just over a minute of play and a 13-0 lead en route to a 33-14 triumph. Dowler finished with two catches for 71 yards.
9. Nick Collins’ 37-yard INT-TD, first quarter, XLV
Speaking of two quick scores, the Packers had just taken a 7-0 lead, and Pittsburgh was backed up on its own 7-yard line following a penalty on the kickoff. On the first snap, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tried to go deep down the left sideline to Mike Wallace, but the underthrown ball was picked off by Collins and returned for the Packers’ second TD in a span of 24 seconds.
The player who doesn’t get enough credit for this play is defensive end Howard Green, who was claimed off waivers at midseason. Green got a piece of Roethlisberger’s arm just as he released the ball, causing it to float woefully short of its target. Fellow defensive end Ryan Pickett also chipped in, making a key block near the end zone to help give Collins the clearance to leap over the goal line for the score.
8. Max McGee’s 37-yard TD, first quarter, I
With Dowler out, McGee quickly showed that, despite Super Bowl history’s most famous hangover, the Packers’ passing game would not suffer.
Cutting across the middle, McGee had to reach behind him to get a hand on Starr’s pass, and he made the spectacular, juggling catch while breaking free from Kansas City’s Fred Williamson and ultimately scoring the first points of a Super Bowl.
McGee added a second TD catch in the third quarter and finished with seven receptions for 138 yards, accounting for more than half of Starr’s 250 yards passing on the day.
7. Jordy Nelson’s 38-yard catch on third-and-10, fourth quarter, XLV
Nelson topped McGee’s franchise Super Bowl records with nine catches for 140 yards, and he had a 29-yard TD in the first quarter. This play was his most significant.
The Packers’ 21-3 lead had shrunk to 21-17 early in the fourth quarter when Green Bay faced third-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 40. Nelson had just dropped a ball over the middle on the previous play, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers went right back to him, hitting him on a similar crossing route. Nelson not only picked up a first down, but he nearly scored, getting knocked out of bounds on the 2.
Two snaps later, the Packers were in the end zone again.
6. Andre Rison’s 54-yard TD, first quarter, XXXI
The Packers hadn’t been in a Super Bowl in 29 years, and it took them just 51 seconds to score. Calling an audible on Green Bay’s second play from scrimmage, quarterback Brett Favre found Rison all alone on a post route and the Packers were on the board.
The play provided one of the more lasting images of Favre’s career, as he tore his helmet off and jubilantly ran off the field with a broad smile Packers fans came to love. Like Dowler 29 years earlier, Rison caught just one other pass in the game, but he had made his Super Bowl mark.
5. Willie Wood’s 50-yard INT return, third quarter, I
Herb Adderley’s 60-yard interception return in Super Bowl II was longer and reached the end zone, but it simply punctuated a rout. Wood’s big pick the previous year was far more crucial.
The Packers led the Chiefs only 14-10 early in the third quarter when Wood snared Len Dawson’s pass intended for tight end Fred Arbanas and raced 50 yards the other way to the Kansas City 5. Elijah Pitts ran it in on the next play for the first of his two rushing TDs, and the championship was never in doubt again.
4. Greg Jennings’ 31-yard catch on third-and-10, fourth quarter, XLV
Jennings caught two TD passes in Super Bowl XLV, including a tough one over the middle in the second quarter, absorbing a big hit from Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu. He made no bigger play than at a crucal time in the fourth quarter, though.
Leading 28-25 with under seven minutes left, the Packers faced third-and-10 on their own 25. A punt from back here, and the Steelers would have the field position, and the time, to get a tying field goal if not a go-ahead touchdown.
Jennings ran a skinny post from the left slot, and Rodgers’ bullet throw was absolutely pristine. Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor even got a fingertip on it, but the spiral was so tight the deflection is only detectable on super slo-mo. Jennings snagged the pass, was upended by Polamalu and gained 31 yards. The Packers went on to kick a field goal with 2:07 left for the game’s final points.
3. Antonio Freeman’s 81-yard TD, second quarter, XXXI
The Packers’ early 10-0 lead had vanished, as New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe threw two TD passes by the end of the first quarter. Suddenly trailing 14-10 as the second quarter began, Favre spotted a mismatch to his right – Patriots rookie safety Lawyer Milloy lined up to cover Freeman one-on-one.
Freeman made a simple move to the outside to avoid Milloy’s jam at the line, and Favre let it fly down the right sideline. Freeman caught it in stride and outran everyone for what stood as the longest reception in Super Bowl history for seven years.
More important, the Packers never trailed again.
2. Rashard Mendenhall’s fumble, fourth quarter, XLV
Trailing 21-17 late in the third quarter, the Steelers forced the Packers to punt from their own 8-yard line and took over on the Green Bay 41, poised to take their first lead of the game.
Mendenhall ran for 8 yards on first down as the third quarter expired. On the first play of the fourth quarter, second-and-2 from the 33, Pickett got penetration to stop Mendenhall in his tracks in the backfield, and linebacker Clay Matthews delivered a crunching hit that popped the ball out. Fellow linebacker Desmond Bishop recovered.
The play turned the momentum of the game around. The Packers had gained just one first down on four third-quarter possessions, but they converted the turnover into a 55-yard touchdown drive to regain control of the game.
1. Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return, third quarter, XXXI
The Patriots had battled back from a two-score deficit once already, and they were looking to do so again. An 18-yard touchdown run by running back Curtis Martin pulled New England within 27-21 with 3:27 left in the third quarter.
Enter Howard, who also had key punt returns of 32 and 34 yards in the game. He took Adam Vinatieri’s kickoff at the 1, found a well-blocked seam up the middle of the field, easily eluded Vinatieri around midfield and was off to the races, nothing left to do but watch himself on the jumbo-tron as he danced into the end zone.
The touchdown re-established a two-score lead, set a Super Bowl record for longest kick-return, won Howard game MVP honors and closed out the scoring in the Packers’ first world championship in 29 years.