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10 Greatest Catches in NFL History

Justin Jefferson's snag was one for the ages.
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

Justin Jefferson's one-handed grab to help his Minnesota Vikings defeat the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 13 will go down as one of the greatest catches in the history of the NFL.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson made an amazing one-handed catch against the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 13 that is immediately being labeled one of the greatest in NFL history. Amazing receptions happen in every game so opinions on ranking which were the best will widely vary. With that in mind, here are the 10 greatest based on awe and the stage where they were made.

10. Antonio Freeman’s "Monday Night Football" Catch

Green Bay Packers 26, Minnesota Vikings 20

Nov. 6, 2000 – Green Bay, Wis.

In overtime, Packers quarterback Brett Favre lobbed a pass to Freeman that seemed to fall incomplete. However, the ball landed on Freeman’s back and never touched the ground. He rolled 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. The Hail Mary

Dallas Cowboys 17, Minnesota Vikings 14

Dec. 28, 1975 – Bloomington, Minn.

Other catches on this list have names, but only this one coined an actual football term. Down 14-10 on the 50-yard line with 32 seconds remaining, Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach threw a deep pass that Drew Pearson miraculously caught and carried into the end zone for the win. After the game, Staubach said, “It was a Hail Mary pass. I just threw it up there as far as I could." Today, a Hail Mary pass is part of every team’s playbook.

8. Keenan McCardell’s One-Handed Diving Catch

Carolina Panthers 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

Nov. 9, 2003 – Charlotte, N.C.

Down 20-14 in the fourth quarter, Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson threw a 36-yard pass that McCardell caught diving into the end zone with one hand. The Panthers ultimately won, but McCardell’s catch is what is remembered by fans.

7. Santonio Holmes Keeps His Feet Inbounds

Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23 (Super Bowl XLIII)

Feb. 1, 2009 – Tampa, Fla.

Holmes had already caught eight passes for 125 yards, but his last one proved to be the game-winner in Super Bowl XLIII. Ben Roethlisberger threw a six-yard pass to Holmes who caught it in the back of 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)

Jan. 10, 1982 – San Francisco

If you’ve never heard of "The Catch," then you probably came across this article by mistake. Regardless, the 49ers were down 27-21 and facing third-and-three on the Cowboys' six-yard line with 58 seconds left in the NFC Championship Game. Joe Montana took the snap and saw that his primary target, Freddie Solomon, was covered. As Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Larry Bethea, and D. D. Lewis chased him to the sideline, Montana threw a high pass to the back of the end zone that only Dwight Clark could catch. Catch it he did and the image of him doing so for the win became one of the most iconic in NFL history.

5. The Catch II

San Francisco 49ers 30, Green Bay Packers 27 (NFC Wild Card)

Jan. 3, 1999 – San Francisco

While the first “Catch” is more famous, “The Catch II” may have been more dramatic. Facing third-and-three with eight seconds left in an NFC Wild Card game, Steve Young rocketed a pass into the end zone that Terrell Owens caught between three Green Bay defenders for the win.

4. Lynn Swann Goes Airborne

Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17 (Super Bowl X)

January 18, 1976 – Miami

Every one of Swann’s four catches for 161 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl X turned heads. The greatest was a 53-yard acrobatic catch where he jumped higher than Dallas cornerback Mel Renfro, tipped his pass, and caught it in mid-air (0:50 in the below video). In addition to winning his second Super Bowl ring, Swann was also named the game's MVP.

3. Odell Beckham Jr. Becomes a Madden Cover

Dallas Cowboys 31, New York Giants 28

Nov. 23, 2014 – East Rutherford, N.J.

Beckham has made numerous one-hand catches throughout his career, but his most famous occurred during his rookie season against the Dallas Cowboys. He caught a deep one-handed pass from Eli Manning as he fell backward into the end zone while fending off pass interference. Not only is it considered to be one of the greatest catches in NFL history, but it also put Beckham on the cover of the Madden video game the next season.

2. Justin Jefferson’s One-Handed Catch

Minnesota Vikings 33, Buffalo Bills 30

Nov. 13, 2022 – Orchard Park, N.Y.

The Vikings were down 27-23 and facing fourth-and-18 when Kirk Cousins threw a pass to Jefferson who caught it between the arms of a defender with one hand and pulled it in for the first down. The catch was immediately called one of the best in NFL history and rightfully so.

1. The Helmet Catch

New York Giants 17, New England Patriots (Super Bowl XLII)

Feb. 3, 2008 – Glendale, Ariz.

The Giants were driving on the unbeaten Patriots with a little over a minute to play in Super Bowl XLII. Facing a third-and-five on the New York 44-yard line, Eli Manning broke free from tacklers and heaved a pass that David Tyree caught against his helmet at the New England 24-yard line. The “Helmet Catch” kept New York’s winning drive going and is the greatest play in Super Bowl history.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.