Saturday, July 20, 2024

Ranking greatest QB performances in Super Bowl history: Tom Brady leads way; Steelers, 49ers included in top 5

Epic quarterback performances has become synonymous with the Super Bowl. Almost as much as commercials, food and the halftime shows. Almost annually, a quarterback has a performance in the big game that becomes the stuff of legend. Last year, for example, both Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts recorded performances that were among the best by a quarterback in Super Bowl history. 

The Kansas City Chiefs superstar signal-caller will look to do so again in this year’s Super Bowl. 

With Super Bowl LVIII between the Chiefs and the 49ers just one week away, we’ve decided to come up with a ranking of the top quarterback performances in Super Bowl history. This was the criteria used when making the list:

  • Statistical excellence 
  • Big plays 
  • Quality of the opponent 
  • How much their performances impacted the game’s outcome 
  • Did the QB win the game 

30. Steve McNair, Super Bowl XXXIV (Rams 23, Titans 16) 

  • 22 of 36, 214 yards 

McNair and running back Eddie George put the Titans’ offense on their shoulders after falling behind 16-0. George’s two touchdowns momentarily tied the score, and after falling behind again with two minutes left, McNair led a furious drive that included a 16-yard completion that saw him break two tackles before delivering the throw. 

McNair’s final pass, a completion to Kevin Dyson, fell one yard short of the goal line as time expired. Had the game gone into overtime, there’s a very good chance that McNair and the Titans would have prevailed. His 64 rushing yards — which was the most a the Super Bowl for a quarterback — had left the Rams’ defense exhausted by the end of regulation. 


McNair played a significant role in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever  Getty Images

29. Joe Flacco, Super Bowl XLVII (Ravens 34, 49ers 31) 

  • 22 of 33, 287 yards, 3 TD 

Flacco capped off a memorable postseason with an MVP performance against the 49ers. His third touchdown, a 56-yard completion to Jacoby Jones, gave the Ravens a 21-6 lead. Flacco didn’t do much in the second half, but he avoided committing any critical turnovers while helping deliver Baltimore’s second Super Bowl win. 

28. Brett Favre, Super Bowl XXXI (Packers 35, Patriots 21) 

  • 14 of 27, 246 yards, 2 TD

His numbers weren’t great, but how many quarterbacks can say that they defeated a Bill Belichick defense in a Super Bowl? Favre did by calling two audibles that led to 54 and 81-yard touchdown passes. His touchdown run just before halftime proved to the game-winning score. 

27. Tom Brady, Super Bowl LII (Eagles 41, Patriots 33) 

  • 28 of 48, 505 yards, 3 TD

One of just three losing performances to crack the list, Brady threw for a Super Bowl record 505 yards while keeping the Patriots in the game. He set the record by having three teammates reach 100 receiving yards: Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan. A dropped pass, however, is how many people remember his performance in his third Super Bowl loss. 

26. Tom Brady, Super Bowl LV (Buccaneers 31, Chiefs 9)

  • 21 of 29, 201 yards, 3 TD

With his defense terrorizing Mahomes, Brady picked apart Kansas City’s defense. He threw two touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski and a third to Antonio Brown in the first half alone. His 125.8 passer rating for the game was over 70 points higher than Patrick Mahomes, who threw three interceptions while being under constant pressure. 

25. Jalen Hurts, Super Bowl LVII (Chiefs 38, Eagles 35)

  • 27 of 38, 304 yards, 1 TD; 3 TD runs 

Hurts gets my unofficial title as having the greatest Super Bowl performance by a losing quarterback. In defeat, Hurts threw for 304 yards and a touchdown while becoming the second player to run for three touchdowns in a Super Bowl. His 70 yards on the ground broke McNair’s Super Bowl single-game mark for a quarterback. 

Hurts would be even higher on this list if not for his fumble that led to a Chiefs touchdown. 

24. Terry Bradshaw, Super Bowl XIV (Steelers 31, Rams 19) 

  • 14 of 21 fo 309 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT

The only quarterback to win MVP honors with three interceptions. Bradshaw’s picks were overshadowed by three big completions that determined the outcome: a 47-yard touchdown pass to Lynn Swann to start the second half, a 73-yard touchdown pass to John Stallworth that gave Pittsburgh the lead for good, and a 45-yard completion to Stallworth that put the game away. 



23. Patrick Mahomes, Super Bowl LVII (Chiefs 38, Eagles 35)

  • 21 of 27, 182 yards, 3 TD

 Mahomes has yet to have a monster Super Bowl, but his performance against the Eagles was still pretty epic. Playing through a painful ankle injury, Mahomes threw three touchdowns while taking care of the ball against a talented Philadelphia defense. His 26-yard run with 2:55 remaining helped set up the game-winning field goal. 

22. Mark Rypien, Super Bowl XXVI (Washington 37, Bills 24) 

  • 18 of 33, 292 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT 

Of the Bills’ four straight Super Bowl losses, nobody threw for more yards against them than Rypien, whose 30-yard, third quarter touchdown pass to Gary Clark ended any hopes of a Buffalo comeback. He had two 100-yard receivers that day in Clark and Hall of Famer Art Monk. 

21. Matthew Stafford, Super Bowl LVI (Rams 23, Bengals 20) 

  • 26 of 40, 283 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT

Stafford was on his way to a big day before Odell Beckham Jr. suffered an injury a minute into the second quarter. With Beckham out and his running game nonexistent, Stafford was still able to lead Los Angeles on two second-half scoring drives that included a 15-play possession that ended with his game-winning touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp. The drive also included Stafford’s no-look pass to Kupp that quickly vent viral following the Rams’ victory. 

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20. Tom Brady, Super Bowl XXXVI (Patriots 20, Rams 17)

  • 16 of 27, 145 yards, 1 TD

Easily his most underwhelming Super Bowl from a statistical standpoint, but this Super Bowl is remembered for being the berth of the Patriots’ dynasty. Brady’s five completions on the Patriots’ last drive set up Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning, 48-yard field goal as time expired. 

19. Jim Plunkett, Super Bowl XV (Raiders 27, Eagles 10) 

  • 13 of 21, 261 yards 3 TD 

The former Heisman Trophy winner light up an Eagles defense that sacked him eight times when the two teams faced each other in the regular season. He threw two touchdown passes to Cliff Branch, who this summer will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Plunkett’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Kenny King was at the time the longest touchdown pass in Super Bowl annals. 

18. John Elway, Super Bowl XXXIII (Broncos 34, Falcons 19)

  • 18 of 29, 336 yards, 1 TD 

Everyone expected the Broncos to lean on league MVP Terrell Davis. Instead, Davis served as a decoy while allowing Elway the chance to star in in his final game. Elway’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith helped turn a close game into a runaway. His 3-yard touchdown run stretched Denver’s lead to 31-6 early in the fourth quarter. 


Getty Images

17. Tom Brady, Super Bowl XXXVIII (Patriots 32, Panthers 29)

  • 32 of 48, 354 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT

In a wild game, Brady won a shootout against Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme. He led the Patriots on three fourth quarter scoring drives that included a last-minute, game winning drive for his second Super Bowl win. His favorite target was future Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch, who caught 10 of 13 targets for 143 yards and a score. 

16. Ben Roethlisberger, Super Bowl XLIII (Steelers 27, Cardinals 23) 

  • 21 of 30, 256 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT 

Roethlisberger’s numbers weren’t eye-popping, but he played his best on Pittsburgh’s 88-yard, game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. His game-winning touchdown pass has gone down as one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history.

15. Joe Namath, Super Bowl III (Jets 16, Colts 7) 

  • 17 of 26, 206 yards 

Namath played the NFL’s top-ranked defense like a fiddle while leading the greatest upset in pro football history. He shortened his drop to offset the Colts’ ferocious pass rush, led by linebacker Mike Curtis. The result was an extremely efficient, mistake-free game while leading four Colts scoring drives. With a 16-0 lead, Namath didn’t call a single running play during the game’s final quarter. His favorite receiver was George Sauer, who caught 8 passes for 133 yards. 

14. Aaron Rodgers, Super Bowl XLV (Packers 31, Steelers 25)

  • 24 of 39, 304 yards, 3 TD 

Often overlooked, Rodgers defeated a Steelers defense that featured two Defensive Player of the Year winners in James Harrison and Troy Polamalu. Two big completions to Greg Jennings in the second half prevented the Steelers from catching the Packers, who took a 21-3 first half lead largely on the strength of Rodgers’ right arm. Several dropped passes prevented Rodgers from having an even bigger performance.

13. Nick Foles, Super Bowl LII (Eagles 41, Patriots 33) 

  • 28 of 43, 373 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT

Against the Patriots, Foles completed one of the most improbable playoff runs in recent memory. Matching Brady score for score, Foles gave the Eagles the lead for good on a touchdown pass to Zach Ertz with 2:21 left. He was also on the receiving end of the “Philly Special,” a play that will forever be celebrated in the City of Brotherly Love. 

12. Eli Manning, Super Bowl XLII (Giants 17, Patriots 14)  

  • 19 of 34, 255 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

You can’t tell the history of Super Bowls without talking about Manning and the Giants slaying the dragon that was the previously undefeated Patriots. Sans his stats, Manning’s performance checked every other box. His dramatic, 32-yard completion to David Tyree is one of the most memorable plays in NFL history. He followed it up by hitting Plaxico Burress for the game-winning score.  

11. Doug Williams, Super Bowl XXII (Washington 42, Broncos 10) 

  • 18 of 29, 340 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT

Williams engineered the greatest quarter of offensive football in Super Bowl history. Trailing the Broncos 10-0 after one quarter, Williams threw four touchdowns in the second quarter as Washington scored a Super Bowl record 35 points during the quarter. Williams got things going with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Sanders, who later in the quarter caught a 50-yard bomb by Williams. 

10. Troy Aikman, Super Bowl XXVII (Cowboys 27, Bills 23) 

  • 22 of 30, 273 yards, 4 TD

After a slow start, Aikman was unstoppable in leading the Cowboys to the third-greatest margin of victory in Super Bowl history. He threw two touchdowns to Michael Irvin while completing seven passes (including his first touchdown) to tight end Jay Novacek. His 45-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Harper to start the fourth quarter ended any thoughts of a Buffalo comeback. 


Getty Images

9. Kurt Warner, Super Bowl XXXIV (Rams 23, Titans 16) 

  • 24 of 45, 414 yards, 2 TD

Warner led three drives that ended in field goals in the first half. He saved his best work for the second half, as he stretched the Rams’ lead to 16-0 on a touchdown pass to Torry Holt. After the Titans had tied the score, Warner stood tall in the pocket before finding Isaac Bruce, who scored the game-winning, 73-yard touchdown. 

8. Joe Montana, Super Bowl XIX (49ers 38, Dolphins 16)

  • 24 of 35, 331 yards, 3 TD

As 49ers lineman Randy Cross said near the end of the game, “They came to see an offense, and the wrong one showed up.” In a duel between two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, it was Montana who shined brightest. Trailing 10-7 after one quarter, Montana led three consecutive scoring drives as the 49ers led 28-10. He also ran for 59 yards and a touchdown as the 49ers capped off their second Super Bowl win of the 1980s. 

7. Joe Montana, Super Bowl XXIII (49ers 20, Bengals 16) 

  • 23 of 36, 357 yards, 2 TD

Montana set a then-Super Bowl record for passing yards while engineering arguably the most famous game-winning drive in Super Bowl history. Down 16-13 with just over three minutes left, Montana led an 11-play, 92-yard drive that was capped off with his 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left. Montana took advantage of his legendary chemistry with Jerry Rice, who caught 11 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown while winning MVP honors. 

6. Tom Brady, Super Bowl XLIX (Patriots 28, Seahawks 24)

  • 37 of 50, 328 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT

Trailing by 10 points and facing Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” defense, Brady kept the Patriots alive with a third-down completion to Julian Edelman with under nine minutes left. He got New England closer with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola, and his 3-yard strike to Edelman with 2:06 left put the Patriots in front to stay.  

5. Phil Simms, Super Bowl XXI (Giants 39, Broncos 20) 

  • 22 of 25, 268 yards, 3 TD 

Masterful can be used to describe Simms’ performance. He completed all 10 of his passes with two touchdowns in the second half. His 88% completion percentage is still the Super Bowl record. Simms completed passes to nine different teammates and threw touchdowns to three different Giants.



4. Steve Young, Super Bowl XXIX (49ers 49, Chargers 26) 

  • 24 of 36, 325 yards, 6 TD

Young overwhelmed the Chargers right from the start. He threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Rice on the third play of the game and didn’t stop until he had set the new Super Bowl record for touchdown passes. Young threw three touchdown passes to Rice and two more to running back Ricky Watters. He was also the game’s leading rusher with 49 yards. 

3. Terry Bradshaw, Super Bowl XIII (Steelers 35, Cowboys 31) 

  • 17 of 30, 318 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT 

Bradshaw shredded the Cowboys’ “Doomsday” defense. After turning the ball over twice, Bradshaw rallied with touchdown passes to John Stallworth and Rocky Bleier to give the Steelers a 21-14 halftime lead. His fourth quarter touchdown pass to Lynn Swann proved to be the game-winning score. And unlike most of the quarterbacks on this list, Bradshaw called his own plays, which helped move his performance higher up on this list. 

2. Joe Montana, Super Bowl XXIV (49ers 55, Broncos 10) 

  • 22 of 29, 297 yards, 5 TD

Montana said that he never had more fun in a Super Bowl, and it’s easy to see why. He threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter, one in the second and two more in the third quarter before leaving the game to a shower of cheers early in the fourth quarter. He threw three of his touchdown passes to Jerry Rice, who caught 7 passes for 148 yards. Montana won his then-record third MVP trophy while improving to 4-0 in Super Bowls. 


Getty Images

1. Tom Brady, Super Bowl LI (Patriots 34, Falcons 28) 

  • 43 of 62, 466 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

I’m sure you’re surprised to see Brady at the top of this list. But Brady’s performance in this Super Bowl is more than deserving of having top billing. 

Down 28-3, Brady led the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. The comeback started with Brady’s touchdown pass to James White. A touchdown pass to Danny Amendola, two two-point conversion completions, and a jaw-dropping completion to Julian Edelman helped force overtime. In overtime, Brady completed five straight passes to set up James White’s game-winning score. 

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons


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