The National Football League has been the venue for some of the greatest moments in sports. And it has also set the scene for some of the best sports photographs of all time. Get a load of these jaw-dropping snaps captured over the years, from some of the league’s best games.
Greatest Game Ever Played
This wonderful black and white photo captures a touchdown scored by Alan Ameche of the Colts. It won the so-called ‘Greatest Game Ever Played’ in the NFL Championship game against the Giants.
Sometimes sports photographers capture some truly wonderful incredible sights. This one snaps Eagles linebacker, Chuck Bednarik, after he knocked Frank Gifford of the Giants flat out! Wowzer!
It’s well known that they don’t cancel football games no matter the weather. And the conditions here are suitably Arctic! That isn’t stopping 49ers running back Jim Taylor pounding the mud to make up valuable yards.
This photo from 1962 sees the moment of glory for Jimmy Orr. The Colts’ wide receiver makes a touchdown catch against his despairing 49ers opponent.
This is a wonderfully taken photograph capturing the beauty and elegance of the game. The Green Bay Packers defense tries to block a chip shot from San Francisco’s Tommy Davis. Magical.
Brown and Out
The Cleveland Browns have always been one of the most combative teams in the league. This illustrates their desire and passion, as they scramble for the touchline in the 1964 NFL Championship game.
This is one of the more familiar kinds of NFL photos when the weather is poor. The two teams caked in mud and water, locked in a battle to the end. Here we see Ray Nitschke of the Packers recover a ball in ‘66.
Football is all about those moments that tug at the heartstrings. Watching men on the field of victory, as one in their joy. Here Vince Lombardi is carried off the pitch following his (and the Packers) 2nd straight Super Bowl win.
Check out the eye this cameraman had. How stylish and technical is this shot? The Oilers’ Pete Beathard barks a play at his teammates, and the camera guy captures the event as it happens.
Circle of Influence
If you thought that last picture was impressive, this one might be the pick of the bunch. Taken in 1968 during The Colts warm up. What made this wonderful effect? A fisheye lens. Awesome.
Check out this pictures of Dick Butkus diving on another unsuspecting opponent. He’s not the sort of guy you’d want to bump into in an alley on a dark night. He was a beast on and off the field.
A rare off the field picture on our list. This one captures “Broadway” Joe Namath charming the press as usual. He correctly predicted that his underdog Jets would achieve Super Bowl glory against Baltimore.
Wowzer that must have hurt on landing. Minnesota Vikings back Dave Osborn is almost horizontal in this photo. He’s been clipped pretty hard, but he still managed to score like a hero.
Here is Osborn and his beloved Vikings again. After the agony of Super Bowl defeat to the Chiefs, they managed a revenge victory here in 1970. The Vikings have played a total of 4 Super Bowls and lost all of them.
Super Bowl V
Super Bowl V is one of the most exciting and memorable in history. The 1971 game saw The Colts clinch a narrow victory over the Cowboys, and this photograph captured the winning field goal.
Steelers By Name…
Steelers by nature! Mean Joe Green is in action here as the Steelers’ first draft pick. He was the impenetrable Rock in the Steelers defense that dominated the 1970s with a staggering 4 Super Bowls!
Players in the heat of battle are pretty formidable looking. Here we are treated to a shot of Packers’ Mike McCoy as he rushes to tackle San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Spurrier.
Dolphins and Skins
This 1973 Super Bowl tie between Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins was a cracker. The action shot we are treated to here is wonderful and shows us perfectly how the different phases of the game work.
That Super Bowl game was won by the Miami Dolphins, who also went the entire seasons unbeaten (still a record). The man behind the magic was Don Shula, and here he’s lifted high by players and fans alike.
Wounds of War
Many players are battle scarred from their years on the field, and this shot is a pretty awesome photo. It shows a close up of the weathered and beaten hands of Steelers defensive end, L.C. Greenwood.
Before his run-ins with the law, O.J. Simpson was one of the game’s brightest talents. Here we are treated to a photo of him breaking the single-season rushing record set by Jim Brown many years prior.
Dolphins Swim Again
The Dolphins were quite the force in the 70s, and this photo shows their winning Super Bowl VIII tie. They bested the Vikings, and Jim Marshall, who’s falling on his backside, had a torrid game for Minnesota.
Field of Mud
At a glimpse, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a still from a medieval movie. A cloaked man stood in a field of mud. Only a closer look reveals it’s Jets quarterback Joe Namath during a crazy game.
Steel-ing the Limelight
Lynn Swann was a great player, and Super Bowl X was arguably his finest hour. His imperious display put the Cowboys to the sword and secured the Steelers their second consecutive Super Bowl.
Man in Motion
The Steelers won again in the Super Bowl when they bested the Cowboys again in Super Bowl XIII. But it could have been a mightily different story. If Jackie Smith hadn’t flopped in the end zone, Cowboys could have won.
History in Motion
Dwight Clark rises to make a last minute catch and win the play-offs for San Francisco. This action shot captures perfectly what is now known as ‘The Catch.’ And it’s still talked about today.
The Catch was the defining play-off moment and got the 49ers to Super Bowl XVI. You can see Earl Cooper’s celebrations after scoring a touchdown en route to the team’s first-ever Super Bowl win.
Catch Me if You Can
Get a load of the reach on these two! Mike Williams of the Chargers competes for an aerial ball with Dolphins’ Bruce Hardy. The people on the sideline must have had a real treat watching this.
I Believe I Can Fly
Walter Payton was all about yards, and he’d pick them up wherever he could. This snapshot perfectly encapsulates the way he approached the game. Doing whatever it takes to get those yards.
1986 Ewan’s starting to see more colorful photos and a more colorful league. This wonderful picture shows the Bears celebrating a Reggie Phillips touchdown in their Super Bowl XX destruction of the Pats.
Clouding the Issue
There are drawbacks to not calling games off for weather. The fog here is giving us enough trouble, so we shudder to think the problems Jack Vaughn is having following this field goal attempt.
Joe Montana is one of the greatest quarterbacks in history. And this is an action shot of him doing his thing. His drive and influence snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in Super Bowl XXIII for his beloved 49ers.
Who’d want to be a quarterback, huh? Well, OK, maybe we would too. But, not if we had to deal with this! Jay Schroeder of the Raiders is taken out by a gang tackle from the Bills’ defense. Ouch!
Clash of Clans
The Cowboys and The Giants were never teams to pull punches. And you can see their clash here is pretty brutal. Emmit Smith tries to evade Lawrence Taylor, one of the best linebackers of all time.
It’s not often we see the ref attempting a tackle, especially on a linebacker! But in this shot, that’s precisely what we are treated to! Kudos to this cameraman who was clearly on the ball!
Where’s the Grass?!
Even a player as gifted as Dan Marino can’t be finding it easy to play his game on this torn up pitch. We certainly hope these days Miami have a better groundsman and pitch than they had here.
There aren’t many players who have come along and totally changed the way the game was played. Lawrence Taylor is one, and another is Barry Sanders. His unique role style and ability were unlike anything we’d seen before.
No, this isn’t someone’s head smoking. It’s The Bears’ Chris Zorich in the chilly, wintry Midwest weather. Look how the fog seeps and billows from his head as if it’s attached to him in some way!
Scoring 123 rushing touchdowns in your career is a monumental achievement. And this is exactly what Marcus Allen of Kansas City Chiefs did. This photo shows his scoring number 100. What a legend!
Stretched to the Limit
Cornerback Dale Carter stretches to resemble a soccer goalkeeper here. The Chiefs’ player is doing all he can to break up the pass and disrupt the Packers’ influence in the game.
Again we see the grueling job of a quarterback as Marcus Burnell receives a thumping tackle. The Jaguars QB still manages to cross the line and reach the end zone, though. That’s dedication!
It really is a wonder more of these players don’t pick up serious injuries. This kind of clash is pretty standard these days. Steve McNair gets absolutely destroyed here by the Steelers defense. Ouch isn’t the word!
Divide and Conquer
We all know about how brutal the gang tackle can be, but it can often be employed tactically too. Here we see Aaron Brooks, Saints’ QB getting treated to some defensive steel, Giants style.
Plucked From Thin Air
The timing of this photo is darn near perfect. Look how effortless and elegant it makes Randy Moss look. The Vikings’ wide out plucks the ball from the air with a majestic one-handed catch.
Soaring to Glory
As action shots go, this might be one of the best we’ve seen. The beauty of modern cameras is that the get shots like this. Randy Michaels soars over the Saints defense to score a TD in this 2001 game.
The face mask (or helmet) is, understandably, one of the most important pieces of equipment in the game. Antwaan Randle El gets face-masked by Chris Atkins of the Browns. A big no-no!
Put Your Heads Together
It’s no surprise there are a lot of concussion problems in the game. Incidents like this, Justin McCareins and Mike Caldwell coming head-to-head, can damage players.
There’s nothing quite like the visuals involved in a touchdown. Seeing it in motion is the best, of course, but photos like this are pretty awesome as well, and they stick in the memory long after.
The Brady Bunch
One of the game’s greatest ever QBs, Tom Brady, celebrates his second Super Bowl with Patriots teammates. The man is still playing and is something of a football institution in his own right.
Palming Him Off
Now, this looks painful! LaDainian Tomlinson may be a running back, but he’s still a bit of a tank. And Rams safety O.J. Atogwe feels the full force as he’s powerless to stop LT scoring a 38-yard touchdown.
Not Just a Hat Rack
It’s great when players think outside the box and do things we aren’t used to seeing. Like this shot of New York Giants’ David Tyree using his helmet to make a catch. What a maverick.
Every game has defining moments, and that moment at Super Bowl XLIII is captured here. Santonio Holmes scores a leaping touchdown with 42 seconds left to win it for the Steelers. Cue bedlam.
This photo is as amusing and ridiculous as it is memorable. It’s captured the end of a magnificent touchdown catch by Derrick Mason. And catches the Ravens wide out in a compromising position too!
It’s not every day you see a linebacker being upended, that’s for sure! This is Buccaneers linebacker Geno Hayes being upended during a Packers play. OK, Geno is athletic for a linebacker, but that’s still impressive!
Diving to Glory
Well, this is a pretty unbelievable photo as well. It captures Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson at the end of a 48-yard touchdown. He dives over the line to glory and sends the crowd wild.
Concussions are a big problem in the modern game, and something they need to do more to combat. This hit by linebacker James Harrison left Browns wide out Mohamed Massaquoi with concussion.
This is another case of players grabbing at oppositions helmets. Jets linebacker David Harris seems as though he’s become quite attached to Aaron Hernandez’ helmet, and wants it for himself!
No, Ahmad Bradshaw isn’t sitting down for a breather. The Giants back is trying to kill the clock while scoring a touchdown with less than a minute on the clock. It would be the winning touchdown of Super Bowl XLVI.
Perhaps the most naturally gifted QB in the league, Robert Griffin III has endured an injury-ravaged career. This photo though magnificently captures him in action for the Redskins against the Bengals.