Super Bowl by Air: The Greatest Passing Performances

Written By Chris Imperiale on December 31, 2021 - Last Updated on March 11, 2022
The great quarterbacks are the stars on today's Super Bowl field

In today’s NFL, the Super Bowl is all about the passing game. It wasn’t too long ago that the sport revolved around the running back and the ground attack. But no longer; yesterday’s running heroes are overshadowed in today’s game by the throwing arm kings.

Consequently, to win the Super Bowl, you practically need one of the best quarterbacks in the league. If he’s not on your roster, you must at least have someone playing at an exceptionally high level during the postseason.

Throughout the league’s history, there have been several notable passing performances in the NFL’s biggest game.

Of course, everyone knows about Tom Brady and his legacy. The greatest QB ever has seven Super Bowl titles and is in the running for another this season. Tampa Bay is among the top contenders when looking at the Super Bowl odds.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most impressive showings from signal callers that resulted in a Super Bowl.

Top Super Bowl Passing Performances

The quarterback is seemingly the most important position in football because they always have the ball. Teams are forced to rely on their quarterbacks to make plays down the field because you’re probably not going to have success strictly running it.

With the rule changes over the last few years, NFL quarterbacks have more freedom than ever. They are protected from taking massive hits, especially to the head. They also have wide receivers able to roam the field more freely, with defenders facing more difficult rules than in decades past.

While there are plenty of incredible passing clinics in Super Bowls from the past, there are likely to be lots more in the future.

Joe Montana – San Francisco 49ers

Until recently, Joe Montana has been regarded as the greatest quarterback of all time by many NFL experts and former players. Brady probably supplanted him over the last few years, but Montana is still a legend in his own right.

The San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback won a total of four Super Bowl rings and put up some of the best stats the game has ever witnessed.

In his last Super Bowl from the 1989 season, Montana had a day to remember against the Denver Broncos.

He was practically unstoppable, earning his third Super Bowl MVP. Montana connected on 22 of 29 passes for 297 yards, including five touchdowns.

These five scores set the record at the time for the most in a Super Bowl. The only person to ever throw more was Montana’s teammate on the Niners, Steve Young. He posted the new mark of six touchdown throws five years later.

Naturally, Montana’s big game resulted in a massive victory for his side. The 49ers won 55-10 and claimed their second title in as many years.

It helped him maintain the record for the highest career passer rating in the big game, as well. Montana’s rating of 127.8 is the best cumulative total, beating out the Raiders’ Jim Plunkett by five points.

Steve Young – San Francisco 49ers

This list must include Young, who won three total Super Bowl titles with San Francisco, but just the one as the starter. Luckily for him, Young’s stat line in the 1994 championship was one of the best you’ll ever see.

He completed 24 of 36 attempts for 325 yards and the improbable six touchdowns to surpass his old teammate.

The San Diego Chargers knew they were in trouble early when Young hit on two long passes for scores.

He and Jerry Rice got together for the first one, traveling 44 yards. Then while still in the opening quarter, Young threw a 51-yard touchdown to running back Ricky Watters.

Young collected two more scoring strikes before the half started and San Francisco went on to win by a score of 49-26. As expected, Young was named MVP.

His 49ers teams made their way back to the postseason several times after this game but fell short in multiple contests against the Green Bay Packers. Young was only a full participant in the Super Bowl once, but he certainly left his mark.

Troy Aikman – Dallas Cowboys

Although Emmitt Smith took control of the second matchup in the Super Bowl between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills, it was Troy Aikman who shined in the first.

The QB was precise, as usual, and led his Cowboys to a 52-17 win over the Bills.

Aikman completed 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards and four touchdowns. He’s one of just six players to ever throw for four or more scores in a Super Bowl.

Dallas actually fell behind by seven early, however, it didn’t trail on the scoreboard for long. Tight end Jay Novacek hauled in its opening points before Aikman found receiver Michael Irvin for two more touchdowns in the second quarter.

The Bills closed the game to within 14 at the end of the third, but once Alvin Harper caught a 45-yarder from Aikman, it was basically over.

His teams won two more titles after this first one to finish with three overall for the quarterback. Despite those other contests only featuring one more touchdown toss from Aikman, he still ranks first all-time for career completion percentage in Super Bowls.

Aikman saw success on 70% of his attempts through three games, narrowly beating out Montana at 68%.

The Cowboys’ QB is also ninth still on the list for most passing yards in title games. His 689 yards are right behind fellow Cowboy Roger Staubach’s 734 through four tilts.

Tom Brady – New England Patriots

Brady is the most successful quarterback in the history of the league and he continues to set himself apart. His Tampa Bay Bucs won the Super Bowl last season and are in position to make another run at it this year. Although Brady is 44 years old, there’s no sign of him slowing down yet.

Since he’s been in so many of these games, it’s challenging to choose which was actually his best. The quarterback owns the top two games in Super Bowl history in terms of passing yards, even though he was on the losing end when he threw for 505 yards against Philadelphia.

He only accumulated 466 of them going up against the Falcons to conclude the 2016 season, but the Patriots needed every one of them.

His side couldn’t accomplish much and was down 28-3 at one point. As Brady has done for most of his career, he led New England back in one of the most exciting Super Bowls in recent history.

The Patriots scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to force the first overtime ever in a Super Bowl. When they won the toss, Falcons fans knew it was done as Brady went down the field for another touchdown.

James White’s two-yard rush secured the winning score and the ultimate comeback.

Brady was solid down the stretch and put together an impressive stat line. He completed 43 passes altogether, totaling 466 yards and two touchdowns.

The victory was Brady’s fifth ring and the successful completion of yet another pass: passing legendary Super Bowl quarterbacks Montana and Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw, tied at four rings each, en route to his record seven.

Photo by (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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Chris Imperiale

Chris Imperiale covers sports betting and the online casino industries. He has a journalism degree from Rutgers University and was formerly on staff at Bleacher Report.

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