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Ten costliest dropped passes in Super Bowls

About the Author

Bob McGinn
Contributing writer

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Posted Jan. 13, 2010 @ 9:55 a.m. ET
By Bob McGinn

Second in a series of 10 Super Bowl top-10 lists excerpted from "The Ultimate Super Bowl Book" by Bob McGinn.

1. Jackie Smith, TE, Cowboys, XIII: The veteran TE, summoned from retirement by the Cowboys in September, tried to body-catch an endzone pass on third and 3 from the 10 late in the third quarter. The wet turf gave way as Smith reached for the ball, which was thrown a bit prematurely by Roger Staubach. The pass bounced off Smith's hands incomplete. If caught, it would have tied the score at 21. The Cowboys went on to lose, 35-31.

2. Antonio Freeman, WR, Packers, XXXII: The clock was down to 42 seconds and the Packers trailed, 31-24, when Brett Favre fired a bullet pass to Freeman, who had a step on CB Darrien Gordon at the Denver 15. It was the costliest drop of Freeman's eight seasons in Green Bay. The Packers had time for two more incompletions before their hopes of repeating were extinguished.

3. Preston Dennard, WR, Rams, XIV: The underdog Rams gave the Steelers everything they could handle until the fourth quarter. They had a chance to take a 17-10 lead from the Pittsburgh 13 in the final minute of the first half. On first down, Dennard had room to make a tough catch in the very back of the endzone, but Vince Ferragamo's pass skipped off his hands. Frank Corral had to kick a field goal.

4. John Mackey, TE, Colts, III: The game was scoreless before the Jets broke through six minutes into the second quarter. Late in the first quarter, Earl Morrall had Mackey open on a first-down pass from the Colts 42, but the Hall of Fame tight end dropped it. Coach Don Shula said it very well might have been a touchdown.

5. Don Beebe, WR, Bills, XXVI: Although Jim Kelly had one of the poorest games of his career, his numbers would have looked much better if Beebe had come up with a pass at the goal line in the final minute of the first half. It should have been a 20-yard touchdown.

6. Charlie Garner, RB, Raiders, XXXVII: The Bucs had just scored midway through the second quarter to take a 13-3 lead. On the Raiders' first play of a new possession from their 29, the Bucs blew a coverage, leaving the entire left side of the field open. Garner checked down in the area about 7 yards downfield and, with his speed, probably would have gained at least 50 — only he dropped the pass.

7. Patrick Johnson, WR, Ravens, XXXV: On the Ravens' second possession in a scoreless game, Johnson ran by CB Jason Sehorn deep along the right sideline. Trent Dilfer threw a beautiful, long pass that hit Johnson in stride in the endzone for what should have been a 46-yard touchdown. Instead, he dropped it and the Ravens had to punt.

8. Mark Seay, WR, Chargers, XXIX: The Chargers were reeling, down 28-7 late in the first half, but then they moved 60 yards to the 49ers' 13-yard line. On second down, Seay gained a step on FS Merton Hanks in the left corner of the endzone. Not an easy catch, by any means, but he got both hands on the ball before it fell incomplete. It was San Diego's last chance to make a game of it.

9. Charley Taylor, WR, Redskins, VII: Down 14 at halftime, the Redskins opened the second half with a 53-yard drive to reach the Miami 17. On second down, Taylor was free on a sideline pattern between CB Lloyd Mumphord and FS Jake Scott. As Billy Kilmer's pass approached, Taylor stumbled on loose turf and dropped the ball at the 3-yard line.

10. Dan Reeves, RB, Cowboys, V: The score was tied at 13 and only a minute remained. Facing second and 35 from their own 27, coach Tom Landry decided to go for broke. Craig Morton sprinted right, stopped, and tossed a high floater back inside to Reeves. The veteran running back leaped and barely managed to get both hands on the ball, but couldn't pull it in. Linebacker Mike Curtis cradled the tipped pass for the interception that set up Jim O'Brien's game-winning field goal.


Bob McGinn, the author of "The Ultimate Super Bowl Book," has covered the Green Bay Packers and the NFL for 30 years, including the last 19 for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He has been Pro Football Weekly's correspondent in Green Bay since the early 1980s. McGinn spent 4½ years interviewing more than 150 head coaches, assistant coaches, players, general managers, scouts and owners, as well as studying tapes of every game, in preparation for writing his book. His objective was to break down why each game was won. "The Ultimate Super Bowl Book," published by MVP Books, is available at, and book stores across the country. It contains more than 25 top-10 lists, a comprehensive statistical summary of each game and a list of Super Bowl records.

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