Top 10 plays in Boston sports history: Is Malcolm Butler's interception the best?

Scott McLaughlin
February 04, 2015 - 11:55 am

Where does Malcolm Butler'€™s interception at the end of Super Bowl XLIX rank among the greatest plays in Boston sports history? It seemed like a question worth asking and a top 10 list worth making. Here we go: 10. Flutie'€™s hail mary - Nov. 23, 1984 The game itself didn'€™t really mean a ton. Neither Boston College nor Miami were in contention for the national title, and BC had already accepted an invitation to the Cotton Bowl. But it was a great game with a great finish. Doug Flutie and Bernie Kosar combined for more than 900 yards passing, and Flutie'€™s 48-yard hail mary to Gerard Phelan on the final play will forever be one of the most memorable and most incredible finishes in college football history. Dan Davis'€™ radio call and Flutie winning the Heisman Trophy that year add to the play'€™s legacy. 9. Ortiz'€™s grand slam - Oct. 13, 2013 Going into the bottom of the eighth in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS, the Red Sox trailed the Tigers 5-1 and were in serious danger of falling into an 0-2 hole in the series. They had scored just one run in the first 16 innings of the series. But then Will Middlebrooks doubled, Jacoby Ellsbury walked and Dustin Pedroia singled to load the bases with two outs. On the first pitch he saw, David Ortiz ripped a changeup just out of Torii Hunter'€™s reach and into the Sox bullpen to tie the game at 5-5 and give us that iconic photo of Officer Steve Horgan throwing his hands up in celebration as Hunter flipped over the wall in front of him. The Sox would go on to win the game, win the series and win their third World Series in 10 years. 8. Horton'€™s Game 7 OT winner - April 27, 2011 Nathan Horton had three monster goals during the Bruins'€™ 2011 Stanley Cup run (he also scored the overtime winner in Game 5 vs. Montreal and the lone goal in Game 7 vs. Tampa Bay), but his overtime winner in Game 7 vs. Montreal is probably the greatest. I mean, just break that sentence down -- overtime, Game 7, Montreal. Plus, the build-up to the goal was pretty impressive. Adam McQuaid had two nice keep-ins along the right wall, and then Milan Lucic jumped up to grab a loose puck before settling it down and making the pass to Horton. 7. Bird'€™s steal - May 26, 1987 All the Pistons had to do was inbound the ball cleanly and they'€™d have a 3-2 series lead in the 1987 Eastern Conference finals. That didn'€™t happen, though. Larry Bird intercepted Isiah Thomas'€™ inbounds pass, tip-toed along the baseline and fed Dennis Johnson for a layup that gave the Celtics a 108-107 lead with one second left in the game. The Celtics went on to win the series in seven games before falling to the Lakers in the NBA finals. In terms of flipping the script from certain loss to unbelievable win, this was as good as it got until Butler'€™s interception. 6. Fisk stays fair - Oct. 21, 1975 The only thing holding this back is that the Red Sox ended up losing Game 7 of the 1975 World Series the next night. It had everything else, though. The buildup itself was incredible. Bernie Carbo tied the game in the bottom of the eighth with a three-run pinch-hit home run to center. Denny Doyle was gunned down at home in the bottom of the ninth. Dwight Evans robbed Joe Morgan and then doubled up Ken Griffey at first in the top of the 11th. Then in the bottom of the 12th, Carlton Fisk waved the ball fair, jumped up and down as it hit the left-field foul pole and forced a Game 7. 5. Roberts'€™ steal - Oct. 17, 2004 It wasn'€™t really the play that started the greatest comeback in sports history (that would be Kevin Millar drawing the walk against Mariano Rivera to lead off the bottom of the ninth), but it was the most important and most iconic play of the Red Sox'€™ 2004 World Series run. You know the story: the Red Sox trailed the 2004 ALCS three games to none and trailed Game 4, 4-3, entering the bottom of the ninth. Dave Roberts came in to pinch run for Millar, and everyone knew he was going to try to steal second. After three throws over from Rivera -- and a couple close calls -- Roberts took off. Safe. Barely. Then Bill Mueller singled him home to tie the game, David Ortiz won it with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th, and the Red Sox won eight straight games en route to their first World Series title in 86 years. 4. Havlicek'€™s steal - April 15, 1965 This is probably better known for Johnny Most'€™s radio call than the play itself at this point, but the play itself is one of the greatest in NBA history. The Celtics were clinging to a 110-109 lead with five seconds left in Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference finals. Hall of Famer Hal Greer was inbounding the ball from underneath the Celtics'€™ basket and appeared to have an open Chet Walker out high. But John Havlicek read the play perfectly, jumped in front of the pass and tipped it over to Sam Jones, who dribbled up the court and ran out the clock. The Celtics went on to beat the Lakers in the NBA finals to capture their seventh straight title. 3. Vinatieri wins Super Bowl XXXVI - Feb. 3, 2002 This wasn'€™t the toughest field goal Adam Vinatieri made during the Patriots'€™ first Super Bowl run (that would be the 45-yarder through the snow to force overtime against the Raiders in the divisional round), but it was the most memorable. After Tom Brady drove the Patriots 53 yards in the final 1:21 of Super Bowl XXXVI, Vinatieri booted a 48-yarder right down the middle as time expired to give the Pats a 20-17 win over the heavily-favored Rams. It was the only time in history that a Super Bowl was decided by a score on the final play. 2. Orr'€™s flying goal - May 10, 1970 Bobby Orr'€™s most famous goal, followed by him flying through the air after getting tripped by Blues defenseman Noel Picard, gave the Bruins their first Stanley Cup in 29 years and the hockey world its greatest photograph, courtesy of Ray Lussier. The goal wasn'€™t quite a do-or-die situation -- the Bruins swept the series, so even if they had lost that game they would'€™ve had three more cracks at finishing off the Blues -- but it was a great play. It started with Orr pinching from the right point to keep a puck in along the boards. Then he executed a perfect give-and-go with Derek Sanderson, with Sanderson putting the return pass right on Orr'€™s stick and Orr finishing in the tightest of spots with a quick shot through Glenn Hall'€™s legs. 1. Butler'€™s interception - Feb. 1, 2015 As you can tell from the first nine entries on this list, Boston has had some incredible sports moments over the years. It was going to take something absolutely amazing, something we had never seen before, to top all of those, and Malcolm Butler gave us just that in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks. His interception on the goal line with 20 seconds left in the game had everything you would want in an all-time great play. It was the championship game. It was late in the game. It sealed the victory, and hence the championship, for his team. Adding to that foundation is the fact that the Patriots most likely lose if Butler doesn'€™t make the play. Even if he just knocks the pass down -- which would have been a very good play in its own right -- the Seahawks still would have had two more chances to score from the one-yard line. If Russell Wilson completes that pass to Ricardo Lockette, or if the Seahawks score on one of the next two plays, there'€™s no overtime, no second chance for the Patriots. The Seahawks win the Super Bowl. But that didn'€™t happen thanks to Butler, who read the play perfectly, jumped the route and made a great play to intercept the pass while colliding with Lockette. Brandon Browner also deserves credit for getting a great jam on Jermaine Kearse that allowed Butler to have a clear path to the ball. (You have to click through to watch this one. The NFL is weird like that.)