Friday October 23rd, 2015

From flea flickers to onside kicks, our favorite trick plays in Super Bowl history (in chronological order):

Cowboys' halfback pass | Super Bowl XII, 1978
A popular strategy is to take a shot after a turnover flips field position. The Cowboys did so in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XII, icing away their 27-10 victory on a creative play call. 

One play after the Cowboys recovered a fumble at the Denver 29, fullback Robert Newhouse took a pitch left from QB Roger Staubach and floated a perfect pass to WR Golden Richards at the goal line. Richards made a catch over the shoulder, with two Broncos defenders trailing him, and came down in the end zone for the touchdown. 

Rams' halfback pass | Super Bowl XIV, 1980 
Pittsburgh wasted little time in the third quarter jumping into a 17-13 lead, thanks to a 47-yard pass from Terry Bradshaw to Lynn Swann. The Rams answered back less than two minutes later with a bit of trickery.

On a 3rd-and-7 from the Los Angeles 26, QB Vince Ferragamo found Billy Waddy for a huge 50-yard pickup. Now on the Pittsburgh 24, Ferragamo handed off to RB Lawrence McCutcheon, who fired a pass to Ron Smith. The Rams' receiver made a leaping grab near the goal line and bounced off a hit for the score.

It was just the second time in Super Bowl history that a running back had thrown for a TD, following up on Newhouse's trick-play toss two years earlier.

Giants' flea-flicker | Super Bowl XXI, 1987 
Deception was the calling card during the third quarter of New York's win over Denver. Not only did the Giants pull off this memorable trick play, they also executed a fake punt (of sorts) to move the chains. On that play, backup QB Jeff Rutledge initially lined up as a blocker in front of punter Sean Landetta, then moved under center with a pair of backs behind him and simply ran a QB sneak—it was a more traditional play than a true fake.

The Giants' flea-flicker a few moments later was the real deal. They had scored 10 unanswered points at that point, and had the Broncos on their heels, so they went for the throat. Simms handed off to Joe Morris, who turned and pitched it back to Simms. The eventual game MVP then fired a strike downfield to Phil McConkey. He somersaulted over a defender down to the Denver 1. Morris scored on the next play.

Broncos' halfback pass | Super Bowl XXII, 1988
Denver running back Steve Sewell completed three passes to John Elway during his career, this being the lone postseason occurrence. 

From the Washington 36-yard line, Sewell took a handoff from Elway, who then peeled back to his right and headed up the sideline as a receiver. Sewell stopped and fired it back across the field for the completion—a 23-yard gain. The Broncos would finish the drive with a field goal, giving them a 10-0 lead. Unfortunately, they never scored again in the game and lost in blowout fashion, 42-10.

"Making it work in a Super Bowl game was memorable," Sewell told the Denver Post years later, "but it didn't score a touchdown, and we needed points."

Steelers' reverse pass | Super Bowl XL, 2006
Then-second-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger struggled throughout Super Bowl XL to find room through the air—he finished just 9-of-21 for 123 yards and two interceptions. So, with the outcome still very much in the balance in the fourth quarter, the Steelers turned to their former college QB-turned-wide receiver Antwaan Randle El.

Roethlisberger first moved the chains on a 3rd-and-2 with a five-yard run to the Seattle 43. He pitched it to Willie Parker on the next snap. Parker earlier had broke free for a 75-yard touchdown run, but on this play, as he headed to his left, the Steelers' RB handed the ball to Randle El on a reverse. A block by Roethlisberger cleared room for Randle El to wind up and fire, which he did, finding Hines Ward deep downfield. Ward, later named the game's MVP, caught it and hopped into the end zone for six.

Saints' onside kick | Super Bowl XLIV, 2010 
Was this the gutsiest call in NFL history? It has to be up there. With his team down 10-6 to the Colts at halftime, New Orleans coach Sean Payton decided to open the second half with a surprise onside kick.

Punter Thomas Morstead, who served as the Saints' kickoff specialist, lined up as if he would kick it deep but swung back across his body instead. The ball ricocheted off the body of the Colts' Hank Baskett, who dove forward at the 45-yard line in an attempt to field the kick. New Orleans safety Chris Reis pounced on it, plus managed to maintain possession during a lengthy effort by the officials to dig through the pile of players. (Linebacker Jonathan Casillas was given credit for the recovery.)

The Saints scored on the ensuing possession to take a 13-10 lead, en route to a 31-17 win.

Ravens' fake field goal | Super Bowl XLVIII, 2013
Baltimore's trick-play attempt hardly qualifies as anything great since it failed, though it is noteworthy—this marked the first (and thus far, only) fake field goal in Super Bowl history. 

Kicker Justin Tucker lined up for a 32-yard field goal attempt. He took a direct snap instead, racing toward the left sideline on a 4th-and-9. And he nearly made it, coming up just a yard short as San Francisco's Darcel McBath raced over to drive him out of bounds before he could reach the first-down marker. 

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