There have been some fantastic Super Bowl finishes, but rarely does cool stuff happen on the actual last play of the game.
Adam Vinatieri's 41-yarder to beat the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVII? Four seconds left. Malcolm Butler's goal-line interception of Russell Wilson in Super Bowl XLIX? Tom Brady still had to take a knee. Way back in Super Bowl V, when Colts kicker Jim O'Brien toe-poked a 32-yarder in to seal a victory over the Cowboys? Still :05 on the clock.
So this is not a ranking of the best Super Bowl finishes of all time—this is a ranking of the best literal last plays in Super Bowl history.
5. Super Bowl XLVII: Baltimore Ravens 34, San Francisco 49ers 31
After the 49ers failed to convert a 4th-and-goal with under a minute remaining, the Ravens elected to take three knees and then a safety with :04 left, tightening their lead to 34-31. That left the 49ers with one last chance: if they returned the post-safety punt for a touchdown, they would be Super Bowl champs.
The 49ers put speedster Ted Ginn Jr. on the field to try to make history. He appeared to have a bit of a seam, but he was hit around the 45 and finally brought down at midfield. That gave older brother John the victory over Jim in the Harbaugh/Power Outage Bowl.
4. Super Bowl X: Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17
Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw hit Lynn Swann for a 65-yard score to put Pittsburgh up 21-10 with just 3:31 left, seemingly putting the game to rest. But Roger Staubach needed only 1:35 to march his Cowboys down the field and score a touchdown to close the deficit to 21-17. The Steelers then ran the ball four straight times—including on 4th and 9 at the Cowboys 41—and Staubach got the ball back with 1:22 left.
He ran it for 11 yards on first down before completing a 12-yard pass to Preston Pearson to get to the Pittsburgh 38. After two straight incompletions, Staubach took a shot to the endzone, but Glen Edwards made a Super Bowl-winning interception.
3. Super Bowl XLVI: New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17
In the rematch of Super Bowl XLII, Eli Manning led his Giants, down 17-14, to the New England 7-yard line with 1:04 remaining. The Patriots called their second timeout, and it appeared the Giants were trying to kill clock and force the Patriots to burn their last timeout before scoring the game winner.
But Ahmad Bradshaw fell backwards into the endzone on the next play, leaving Brady the ball with 57 seconds and a timeout. The Patriots advanced to their own 49 before stalling, and on fourth down they threw up a Hail Mary in the direction of a certain tight end who resides in jail. Said tight end had a decent chance at coming down with it and the ball deflected up in the air. Rob Gronkowski was just half a step short of catching a Super Bowl-winning Hail Mary.
2. Super Bowl XXXVI: New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17
Rams quarterback and 2001 NFL MVP Kurt Warner hit Rickey Proehl for a 26-yard touchdown to tie the game with 1:21 remaining. That proved to be too much time for Brady, who was making the first of his seven Super Bowl appearances. Brady and the Patriots, who entered the game as 14-point underdogs, advanced to the 30-yard line to set up Adam Vinatieri for a 48-yard field goal. The kick was perfect all the way, and the Patriots dynasty was born.
1. Super Bowl XXXIV: St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16
Warner found Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard score with 2:04 remaining to put the Rams up 23-16. Steve McNair led the Titans down to the 10 before burning his final timeout with :05 remaining, setting the stage for a true do-or-die last play. Titans receiver Kevin Dyson ran a slant route. McNair hit him in stride and Dyson appeared to have a clear path toward the endzone, but Mike Jones managed to bring him down before Dyson could stretch across the goal line. One yard short, and one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history.