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Selecting super players from the Super Bowl

| Friday, Jan. 30, 2009

The most famous plays in Super Bowl history are etched into our memories — Mike Jones' game-saving tackle at the 1-yard line in Super Bowl XXXIV; Scott Norwood's Wide Right in XXV; Antwaan Randle El's 43-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward in XL.

Who, though, were the greatest Super Bowl performers• The players who dominated from opening kickoff to the final snap, setting records and making memorable box scores• The Trib offers its All-Fantasy Super Bowl team, with commentary from NFL Films president Steve Sabol:

QUARTERBACK, Joe Montana, S.F. 49ers

83-of-122, 1,142 passing yards, 13 total TDs, 0 INT in 4 Super Bowls (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV)

Sure, he passed for only 157 yards and one touchdown (plus one rushing) in Super Bowl XVI. That also means he totaled 11 touchdowns in his next three Super Bowls, an average of almost four per game. He also would not pass for fewer than 297 yards in the next three. No quarterback who played in more than one Super Bowl can come close to Montana's per-game production.

Montana's consistency also makes it obvious why Steve Young was stuck as a backup for several years, even though Young's six-touchdown performance in Super Bowl XXIX ranks as the greatest single game total in history.

Sabol: "Montana was the perfect fit in the perfect system. He was overlooked in the draft, and Bill Walsh saw in Montana the perfect orchestrator for his offense."

Finalists: Steve Young, 49ers (XXIV, XXIX); Doug Williams, Redskins (XXII); Terry Bradshaw, Steelers (IX, X, XIII, XIV).


· Kurt Warner has the two highest passing totals in Super Bowl history (414 yards for the Rams in 1999 and 365 yards for the Rams in 2001).

· The Denver Broncos' John Elway scored a rushing touchdown in four of his five Super Bowl appearances.

· The only QB to rush for more than one TD in a Super Bowl was the Chicago Bears' Jim McMahon in 1985.

RUNNING BACK, Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos

259 rushing yards, 58 receiving yards, 3 TDs in 2 Super Bowls (XXXII, XXXIII)

Davis averaged 158.5 total yards in the Super Bowl, and it was no fluke -- in eight career playoff games, his lowest rushing total was 91 yards, and the only time he failed to score a touchdown was Super Bowl XXXIII. He is the only player to rush for three touchdowns in a single Super Bowl.

Emmitt Smith has more career Super Bowl touchdowns (five), but his lowly 49 yards on 18 carries against the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX showed his human side.

Sabol: "(Davis) played with a migraine in the game against the Packers. People talk about courageous performances in a Super Bowl ... Davis came off the field at one point and said he couldn't see."

Finalists: Emmitt Smith, Cowboys (XXII, XXIII, XX); Marcus Allen, Raiders (XVIII); Timmy Smith, Redskins (XXII).


· The only Super Bowl in which the Steelers' No. 1 running back did not score a touchdown was Super Bowl X in 1976 (Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier held scoreless).

WIDE RECEIVER, Jerry Rice, S.F. 49ers

33 receptions, 589 receiving yards, 8 TDs in 4 Super Bowls (XIX, XXIII, XXIV, XXIX)

Three of the top eight receiving yardage totals in Super Bowl history show Rice's greatness. His eight receiving touchdowns, though — a total that is five more than any other player and that includes three against the Chargers in XXIX — show his dominance.

Sabol: "Watching him move through the secondary was like watching Fred Astaire showing up at a party of slam-dancers. That's how graceful he was. ... In the (Chargers) blowout, in the first quarter, he separated his shoulder, and no one knew it."

Finalists: Deion Branch, Patriots (XXXVIII, XXXIX); Ricky Sanders, Redskins (XXII); Lynn Swann, Steelers (IX, X, XIII, XIV);


· Jerry Rice is the only WR from an NFC team to catch 10 passes or more in a Super Bowl.

· The Steelers' Andre Hastings (Super Bowl XXX) is one of only seven WRs to make 10 receptions in a Super Bowl.

TIGHT END, Dan Ross, Cincinnati Bengals

11 receptions, 104 yards, 2 TDs in Super Bowl XVI

Ross scored twice in the fourth quarter as the Bengals tried to rally against the 49ers, leading him to become the only tight end to make 10 receptions, top 100 receiving yards or score two touchdowns. He also was the first to make 11 catches in a game, a record tied three times since.

Sabol: "Totally forgotten. Nobody talks about it. That's one of the great, unsung performances."

Finalists: Jay Novacek, Cowboys (XXII, XXIII, XX); John Mackey, Colts (III, V), Dave Casper, Raiders (XI).


· Despite finishing his career as the NFL's all-time leader among TEs in yards and receptions, Shannon Sharpe caught only eight passes for 69 yards in three Super Bowl appearances.

· The Steelers have allowed a touchdown catch by an opposing tight end in three of their past four Super Bowls.

KICKER, Adam Vinatieri, Patriots/Colts

7-of-8 field goals, 13-of-13 PAT, long of 48 in 5 Super Bowls (XXXI, XXXVI, XXXVIII, XIX, XLI)

He didn't score the most points, kick the longest field goal or have the most extra points. What he did do, though, is miss only one kick in five Super Bowls and drill two game-winners from more than 40 yards out (XXXVI, XXXVIII).

Sabol: "Before he went in to kick the game-winner in the Super Bowl against the Rams, he tells the equipment manager, 'After I make it, make sure you get the ball, I want it for my trophy case.' That's how tough he was."

Finalists: Ray Wersching, 49ers (XVI, XIX); Steve Christie, Bills (XXVII, XXVIII); Kevin Butler (XX).


· In three Super Bowls, Steelers kicker Roy Gerela was only 2-for-6 on field goal attempts.

TEAM DEFENSE, 1985 Chicago Bears

123 total yards allowed, 7 sacks, 6 turnovers, 1 TD, 1 safety in Super Bowl XX

The sacks and turnovers were enough for the Bears to clinch the title of "Best Super Bowl Defense Ever," but the Bears took destruction to another level. After allowing a garbage-time, fourth-quarter touchdown to the New England Patriots, the Bears expressed their displeasure by scoring a final safety (courtesy of defensive end Henry Waechter).

Sabol: "That defense was a force of unmanageable proportions. It was a defense that ravaged offenses, mauled and brutalized ball-carriers. That was the most sustained work of devastation ever committed on a Super Bowl field."

Finalists: 2000 Baltimore Ravens; 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 1992 Dallas Cowboys; 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers.


· The Super Bowl X Steelers and Super Bowl XX Bears hold the record with seven sacks apiece.

· The Cowboys have the top three performances in forcing turnovers in Super Bowl history (nine against the Bills in XXVII; eight against the Broncos in XII; seven against the Colts in V).

Additional Information:

Steelers rally GigaPan

Additional Information:

Super Bowl reference

The rosters: Steelers and Cardinals

The numbers: Steelers and Cardinals

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