Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson made an amazing one-handed catch against the Buffalo Bills on November 13 that is instantly recognized as one of the greatest in NFL Story. Amazing receptions are held in each game, so opinions on the rankings, which were the best, will be very different. With that in mind, here are the 10 best based on awe and the stage in which they were made.
10. Antonio Freeman’s “Monday Night Football” catch
Green Bay Packers 26, Minnesota Vikings 20
November 6, 2000 – Green Bay, Wisconsin
In overtime, Packers quarterback Brett Favre threw a pass to Freeman that appeared to be incomplete. However, the ball landed on Freeman’s back and never touched the ground. He rolled it over, cradled it and ran it into the end zone for the win and the amazement of Al Michaels, Dan Fouts, Dennis Miller and everyone at Lambeau Field.
9. Hail Mary
Dallas Cowboys 17, Minnesota Vikings 14
December 28, 1975 – Bloomington, Minnesota.
Other catches on this list have names, but only this one coined a true football term. With 32 seconds remaining 14-10 at the 50-yard line, Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach threw a deep pass that Drew Pearson miraculously caught and carried into the end zone to claim the win. After the game, Staubach said, “It was an Ave Mary pass. I just threw it up as high as I could.” Today, a Hail Mary pass is part of every team’s playbook.
8. Keenan McCardell’s one-handed dive catch
Carolina Panthers 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24
November 9, 2003 – Charlotte, NC
Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson, trailing 20-14 in the fourth quarter, threw a 36-yard pass that McCardell doped one-handed into the end zone. The Panthers ultimately won, but McCardell’s catch is what fans remember.
7. Santonio Holmes keeps his feet inbounds
Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23 (Super Bowl XLIII)
February 1, 2009 – Tampa, Fla.
Holmes had already caught eight passes for 125 yards, but his last one proved the winner of the game in Super Bowl XLIII. Ben Roethlisberger threw a six-yard pass to Holmes that caught him back in the end zone and kept his feet in as he fell out of bounds. Holmes’ overall performance earned him MVP honors for the game.
6. The Catch
San Francisco 49ers 28, Dallas Cowboys 27 (NFC Championship Game)
January 10, 1982 – San Francisco
If you’ve never heard of The Catch, you probably accidentally stumbled across this article. Regardless, the 49ers were 27-21 behind and tied for third and third at the Cowboys six-yard line in the NFC Championship Game with 58 seconds left. Joe Montana took the snap and saw that his primary target, Freddie Solomon, was covered. As Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Larry Bethea and DD Lewis chased him to the sidelines, Montana threw a high pass into the back end of the endzone that only Dwight Clark could catch. Start doing what he did, and the image of him doing it for the win has become one of the most iconic in NFL history.
5. The catch II
San Francisco 49ers 30, Green Bay Packers 27 (NFC wildcard)
January 3, 1999 – San Francisco
While the first “Catch” is more famous, “The Catch II” was possibly more dramatic. Steve Young, eight seconds ahead of third and third in an NFC wildcard game, blasted a pass into the end zone that Terrell Owens caught between three Green Bay defenders to claim the win.
4. Lynn Swann blows up
Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17 (Super Bowl X)
January 18, 1976 – Miami
Each of Swann’s four catches for 161 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl X caused a stir. The biggest was a 53-yard acrobat catch in which he vaulted higher than Dallas cornerback Mel Renfro, flipped his pass and caught it in mid-air (0:50 in the video below). In addition to winning his second Super Bowl ring, Swann was named the game’s MVP.
3. Odell Beckham Jr. becomes a Madden cover
Dallas Cowboys 31, New York Giants 28
November 23, 2014 – East Rutherford, NJ
Beckham has made numerous one-handed catches throughout his career, but his most famous came during his rookie season against the Dallas Cowboys. He caught a deep one-handed pass from Eli Manning as he fell backwards into the end zone while fending off pass interference. Not only is it considered one of the greatest catches in NFL history, but it put Beckham on the cover of the Driving me crazy video game in the next season.
2. Justin Jefferson’s one-handed catch
Minnesota Vikings 33, Buffalo Bills 30
November 13, 2022 – Orchard Park, NY
Trailing 27-23, the Vikings were fourth and 18th when Kirk Cousins threw a pass to Jefferson, who caught it with one hand between a defender’s arms and caught him for the first down. The catch was immediately dubbed one of the best in NFL history, and rightly so.
1. The helmet closure
New York Giants 17, New England Patriots (Super Bowl XLII)
February 3, 2008 – Glendale, Arizona.
The Giants were driving just over a minute ahead of the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Facing third and fifth at the New York 44, Eli Manning broke away from tacklers and heaved a pass that David Tyree caught against his helmet at the New England 24. Helm Catch fueled New York’s triumphal march and is the biggest game in Super Bowl history.
— Written by Aaron Tallent who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is an author whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, Outkick the Coverage of FOX Sports, Liberty Island, and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.