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Top Ten Catches in NFL History

A Look at the Best Receptions the NFL Has Ever Seen

2014 NFL Season

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Odell Beckham Jr.’s absolutely sick (in the best possible sense of the word) catch during last night’s game got me thinking about all of the great receptions that pepper NFL lore. So, today, I thought it would be fitting to break down the top ten best catches in league history. 


Top Ten Catches in NFL History


1. I feel like I can’t begin this list with anything but the Immaculate Reception, courtesy of the 1972 AFC divisional play-off game. Pittsburgh Steeler’s RB Franco Harris snagged a ball that literally ricocheted off of his shoelaces (intended for John Fuqua) with 30 seconds to go in the game. Harris ran for 60 yards, scored, and beat the Oakland Raiders 13-7. 


2. Credit where credit’s due, I’m sticking Odell Beckham Jr. in the No. 2 spot on this list. I think I rewound the game 5 times last night (that’s November 23, 2014, for future reference) just to watch him haul in that one-handed catch over and over again. Beckham Jr.’s play is sure to go down as one of the NFL’s all-time great receptions. 


3. It wouldn’t be a list about catches without “The Catch.” In 1981’s NFC championship game (which took place on January 10, 1982), Joe Montana threw a sky-high pass to Dwight Clark at the back of the end zone. Clark essentially reeled-in the ball with his fingertips. The incredible (and unlikely) reception allowed the San Francisco 49ers to tie the Dallas Cowboys and the point after gave them the win. 


4. In Super Bowl X, Pittsburgh Steeler’s wideout Lynn Swann became the first receiver to take MVP honors, and with good reason. Swann had an amazing game against the Dallas Cowboys, but the piece de resistance was his 53-yard catch that looked more like ballet than football.


5. Remember the “helmet catch”? Yeah, me too. During Super Bowl XLII, Eli Manning (not known for his mobility, bear in mind) managed to scramble away from the undefeated Patriots’ pass rushers and throw a 37-yard bomb to David Tyree. Tyree caught the ball with his helmet, more than with his hands, giving the Giants a critical first down. In the end, New York topped the Pats, handing them their only loss of the year. 


6. Although Ben Roethlisberger has made three Super Bowl appearances during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, this drive is the only one that I really remember. Sorry, Big Ben. In Super Bowl XLIII, Roethlisberger threw to Santonio Holmes, who made an incredible catch in the corner of the end zone to win the game. To this day, I’m amazed that Holmes managed to keep his feet in-bounds. Seriously. Watch the film. 


7. In 2011, back when Wes Welker wasn’t playing with Peyton Manning (I’ll never get used to that, I tell you), he and Tom Brady connected for a 99+ yard touchdown pass on Monday Night Football when the Pats took on the Miami Dolphins. Welker and Brady tied an NFL record with the play and, no surprise, won the ball game. 


8. I would be remiss (not only as a Colts fan, but as the writer of this list) to not include Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison today. While Harrison had many incredible catches during his career, I’ve opted to highlight his very first reception from Manning. It wasn’t fancy, just a 6-yard pass with 4 seconds remaining on a September 6, 1998 game, but it ushered in a new era for Indy and was the beginning of one of the greatest duos in NFL history. I’m getting teary-eyed thinking about it. 


9. In the 1975 NFC playoffs, Dallas Cowboys QB Roger Staubach, who was under pressure from the Vikings, lobbed a pass to wideout Drew Pearson. The pass was majorly under thrown, but Pearson managed to catch it with his elbow and his hip (it was indeed as awkward as it sounds from the tape). The Cowboys won the game and afterward Staubach said he “Closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary” before making the desperate pass. The rest, as they say, is history. 


10. I didn’t see how I could write a list about awesome catches without including the very first touchdown pass in Super Bowl history. It was actually fairly impressive, to boot. Green Bay Packers QB Bart Starr threw to Max McGee, a TE hardly anyone even knew of at the time and who wasn’t even expecting to play in the big game. McGee leapt high to make the catch, starting a tradition of great Super Bowl receptions.

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