TAMPA, Fla. - Two of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history became footnotes thanks to Santonio Holmes' feet.
James Harrison's 100-yard interception return at the end of the first half - the longest play of any kind ever in a Super Bowl - was just this side of impossible.
Larry Fitzgerald's 64-yard touchdown catch-and-run - which completed a career-making postseason for the brilliant young wide receiver - gave the Arizona Cardinals the lead with less than three minutes left tonight in the biggest game of his life.
Those two mad dashes toward the very same end zone were intertwined in many ways.
Watch the replay of Fitzgerald's wide-eyed sprint, and you'll see Harrison desperately trying to catch the much faster Fitzgerald and fading from the frame.
Watch the replay of Harrison's more ponderous journey and you'll see Fitzgerald, blocked out of bounds, loop around people along the sideline and close on Harrison. A lot of players would have given up on the play, but Fitzgerald caught Harrison, chopping down and trying to dislodge the ball as he tackled the bigger, stronger linebacker.
Fitzgerald came so close to preventing a touchdown, it took a replay review to confirm that Harrison barely reached the goal line as his knee touched the ground.
"We had a defensive touchdown and they didn't," Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said. "That was the difference in the game."
Throw in Fitzgerald's spectacular leaping catch for his first touchdown in the fourth quarter and this game already boasted an abundance of memorable plays.
Then Holmes, the wide receiver no one talked about before this game, made everything that came before moot.
"Before that drive, I told [QB Ben Roethlisberger], 'I want the ball in my hands no matter what, no matter where it is,' " Holmes said. "I wanted to be the one to make the play."
He set up his touchdown with a 40-yard catch-and run down to the Arizona 6-yard line. On first down, Roethlisberger threw a rainbow toward the left corner of the end zone. Holmes had position behind a couple of defensive backs and seemed to have a chance to catch the ball.
So on second down, Holmes did the same thing, getting behind the defense in the right corner this time. This time, Holmes caught the ball, but there was a momentary hush as a stadium full of people wondered whether he was inbounds.
When the official's arms shot up, signifying a touchdown, you knew two things: The Pittsburgher-dominated crowd would begin celebrating the Steelers' record sixth Lombardi Trophy, and that celebration would be contingent upon a replay review.
But there it was, the indefinable in high-definition: Holmes secured the ball and, yes, yes, the toes of both feet touched red-painted grass with a grace that any ballerina would envy.
"My feet never left the ground," Holmes said. "All I did was extend my arms and use my toes as extra extension to catch up to the ball."
David Tyree, whose one-handed and one-headed catch kept the New York Giants' game-winning drive going in last year's Super Bowl, has to step aside and make a little room. All three of these plays, given the circumstances, belong in the conversation as contenders for the greatest play in Super Bowl history.
Tyree's catch wasn't a touchdown. These were.
Harrison's was an incredible product of will and effort and determination - as befits a player who went undrafted out of Kent State and was released four times before finally landing an NFL job with the Steelers.
Fitzgerald's completed a stunning comeback that would have turned the underdog Cardinals into champions - just as it completed Fitzgerald's best-ever postseason performance by a wide receiver.
But Holmes' catch won a Super Bowl with a degree of difficulty rarely exceeded. That ball Dwight Clark caught from Joe Montana has to give up its nickname. It's not "The Catch" anymore. This one is.
It surely pained Eagles fans to see a Super Bowl dominated by great wide receivers. Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner made good throws, but they were just clay that Holmes and Fitzgerald molded into masterpieces.
There's a masters thesis to be done about the nature of recent Super Bowls. Teams that do little right for three quarters suddenly come alive as time slips away and the level of urgency rises.
Jake Delhomme becomes Joe Montana against the Patriots. Eli Manning becomes Tom Brady while Brady watches from the sideline. Warner, who couldn't find Fitzgerald all night, suddenly starts playing catch with him while the brutal Steelers defense stumbles around.
"This is what the Super Bowl is supposed to be about," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
It's supposed to be about great players making unforgettable plays - not great commercials or halftime shows. Holmes made his catch at the perfect moment, and made football history with his toes.