Eli Manning's pass to David Tyree was an American football play involving the two aforementioned New York Giants players in the final two minutes of Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008. It was instrumental in the Giants' 17–14 upset victory over the New England Patriots. It featured Manning escaping from the grasp of three Patriots defensive players, followed by Tyree making a leaping catch by pressing the ball against his helmet. NFL Films' Steve Sabol called it "the greatest play the Super Bowl has ever produced". The play was also named by NFL Films "The Play of the Decade (2000s)". The play has become known as "The Helmet Catch".
Tyree had been used primarily on special teams and had only 4 receptions for 35 yards and no touchdowns during the 2007 regular season. Although Tyree was seldom used as a receiver during the regular season, he caught the Giants' first touchdown of the Super Bowl early in the fourth quarter, giving his team a 10–7 lead at the time. The Patriots, undefeated on the season and heavily favored to win the game, scored a touchdown to take a 14–10 lead with 2:42 remaining in the game. The Giants then faced a 3rd down with 5 yards needed for a 1st down from their own 44 yard line with 1:15 remaining.
Manning called the play "76 Union Y Sail" from the Giants' playbook in hopes of connecting with a receiver downfield. On third-and-5 from the Giants' 44-yard line, Manning took the snap in the shotgun formation and immediately faced pressure from the Patriots defensive linemen Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green, and Adalius Thomas. Green grabbed Manning by the shoulder while Seymour grabbed him by the back of his jersey and attempted to pull him down for a sack. Manning however was able to stay on his feet and duck under the arms of the Patriot defenders, before scrambling backwards into space at around the 34 yard line, and throwing the ball down field to Tyree at the 24 yard line of the Patriots. Fox announcer Troy Aikman said after the play "I don't know how he got out of there." Had Manning been sacked, the Giants would have faced a fourth down with around 8 yards to go for a first, and would have needed to convert for the second time on the drive to keep their chances to win alive (halfback Brandon Jacobs converted on a 4th-and-1 three plays earlier in the drive to keep the Giants' drive going).
Due to the Patriots' pressure, Tyree was unable to run his intended route and instead came back towards the line to give Manning an option down the field, stopping at the 25 yard line. As the ball arrived Tyree fell on the ground, along with Patriots defender Rodney Harrison who was attempting to knock it down. Initially, Tyree caught the ball with both hands, but a swipe by Harrison's arm caused his left hand to be knocked off the ball. However, Tyree was able to secure possession of the ball by pressing it against the top of his helmet with his right hand. Harrison pulled him down, and Tyree landed on top of him with the ball still pressed against his helmet.
The play gained 32 yards for the Giants and gave them a first down with 58 seconds left. Four plays later, Plaxico Burress scored the touchdown that won the game for the Giants 17–14.
Like other famous plays in the NFL, this play has been given nicknames, but, largely due to two separate unique occurrences in the play, consensus has not been reached on a single name. In 2008, readers of the New York Daily News voted on nicknaming the play "Catch-42" as the favored name in reference to Super Bowl XLII and the kind of coverage the Patriots deployed against the Giants' four-receiver set. Since then, David Tyree has adopted the "Catch-42" nickname as well as ESPN.com. Bill Simmons has claimed it should be named "The Helmet Catch". Other proposed nicknames include "The Escape and the Helmet Catch", "The E-mmaculate Connection" (a pun on the Immaculate Reception; the 'E' standing for Eli), "The Double Miracle", and "The Reception that Ended Perfection". The blog Kissing Suzy Kolber suggested "The Giant Snatch". "The Great Escape" was used by President George W. Bush during the Giants' White House championship visit. "David and Eliath" was also suggested by David Tyree, due to its biblical reference.
The catch won the 2008 Best Play ESPY Award. The award ceremony featured a spoof by host Justin Timberlake, who "revealed" that he had left gum on David Tyree's helmet, which helped him catch the pass (since he caught it close to the top of his helmet). During the acceptance speech, David Tyree jokingly stated, "Justin, thanks for the gum." Eli Manning also jokingly thanked his offensive line, "for giving me zero pass protection."
In an NFC Divisional Playoff game against the defending Super Bowl XLV champion Green Bay Packers on January 15, 2012, Eli Manning threw a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half, which was caught in the end zone by Hakeem Nicks, giving the Giants a 20-10 lead. Nicks caught the ball by cradling it against his helmet, which prompted commentators Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to note the similarity to Tyree's catch. The Giants would go on to beat the Packers 37-20.
Fox Sports lists Eli Manning's pass to David Tyree as the greatest play in Super Bowl history; editor Adrian Hasenmeyer called the play "an insult to physics and Albert Einstein". NBC Sports and NFL.com have also listed the play as the greatest Super Bowl play of all time. NFL Films founder Steve Sabol compared Manning to Fran Tarkenton and said that the play "defied logic, history, gravity and just about anything else you care to mention". The Huffington Post called it one of the greatest sports plays in the 2000s.
- Sabol, Steve (February 10, 2008). "Sabol's Shot - Tyree catch". NFL Films. http://www.nfl.com/videos?videoId=09000d5d8069f011. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- "Play of the decade". NFL Films. February 5, 2010. http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-films-presents/09000d5d8163c627/Play-of-the-decade. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- "Inside a Moment in Time: A Supernatural Catch". ESPN.com. http://espn.go.com/nfl/feature/flash/_/id/6034867/super-bowl-xlii-moment-time. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- "David Tyree Statistics". Sports Reference. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/T/TyreDa00.htm. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- "Readers pick 'Catch 42' for Super Bowl's biggest play". New York Daily News. February 12, 2008. http://articles.nydailynews.com/2008-02-12/sports/17891593_1_eli-manning-to-david-tyree-fan-voting-catch. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- Spencer, Sheldon (January 25, 2011). "David Tyree recalls 'Catch-42'". ESPN.com. http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2010/news/story?id=6011037. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- "The Super Bowl XLII mailbag". ESPN.com. February 8, 2008. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/080208. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- Tunison, Michael (February 6, 2008). "The Giant Snatch". Kissing Suzy Kolber. http://kissingsuzykolber.uproxx.com/2008/02/giant-snatch.html. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- Tyree, David (February 8, 2008). Interview with Jimmy Kimmel. Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
- "Everett, Tyree, NY Giants win ESPY Awards". Associated Press. July 17, 2008. http://www.cnycentral.com/sports/story.aspx?id=160531. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- Borden, Sam (January 15, 2012). "Giants 37, Packers 20: Giants Knock Out the Champs". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/16/sports/football/giants-upset-packers-to-reach-nfc-title-game.html?_r=1&ref=sports. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- Hasenmeyer, Adrian (February 6, 2011). "Top 10 Super Bowl Plays of All-time". Fox Sports. http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/lists/Top-10-Super-Bowl-Best-Plays#photo-title=Super%20Bowl%20XLII%20-%20The%20Helmet%20Catch&photo=26323013. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- Svekis, Steve. "Greatest Super Bowl Moments". NBC Sports. http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/27561879. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- "Top 10 Super Bowl plays". National Football League. February 3, 2011. http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-super-bowl/09000d5d81e1b93f/Top-10-Super-Bowl-plays. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- Sabol, Steve (November 18, 2008). "Tyree's catch goes down as best play in Super Bowl history". National Football League. http://www.nfl.com/superbowl/story/09000d5d8068bd17/article/tyrees-catch-goes-down-as-best-play-in-super-bowl-history. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- Klopman, Michael (March 18, 2010). "Best Plays of the Decade". The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/31/best-plays-of-the-decade_n_389359.html?slidenumber=q5y%2BgBbsAmE%3D&slideshow#slide_image. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
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