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« Man vs. Beast | Main | Prisoner 10641 »

Ten Wild Plays in NFL History

Posted by Jellio on November 15, 2005.

RoyWilliams.jpg

Anyone see Monday Night Football last night? The Cowboys, down by two touchdowns with less than 4 minutes to play, scored twice to beat the Eagles 21-20, with the second score coming from a Roy Williams interception of a throw delivered on a silver platter from Donovan McNabb. Freaking Great Game...especially for a Cowboys fan (that's right, I've been a suffering New York Cowboys fan for thirty years, and I don't want to hear anything about it)

This comes one day after an amazing Redskins/Bucs game, in which the Bucs came back from an eight point deficit with Chris Sims scoring with 58 seconds on the clock, to bring them to within one point....and Coach Gruden calls for the TWO POINT CONVERSION, and they go in for the win. (once again, for a cowboys fan, how awesome is this.)

It's the last-minute, edge-of-your-seat plays like this that make football so great, and it's in honor of these, that I thought I'd take a look at some of the wilder plays in the history of the NFL. Now please note, I didn't go for the usual ones, so you won't find The Catch (Joe Montana to Dwight Clark), or The Drive (John ELway 98 yard march to an overtime victory), or even the Immaculate Reception (The Franco Harris "look what I found" play). I wanted to focus on some of the stranger plays I've seen. And as always, feel free to call me slanderous names and tell me the ones you think I missed.

10) The Efren Herrera Catch
Effren.jpg
I'll bet no one that reads this blog has even heard of this 1979 Seahawks/Falcons game. But I mention it on this list for two reasons. One, this was the first time the lowely Seahawks graced the Monday night stage, and two, Effren Herrera was the Dallas kicker for years, and I've already mentioned my feelings on Dallas.

Jack Patera, one of the wackier coaches in the NFL (brother was a pro wrestler) called a fake field goal, JIm Zorn takes the snap, Efren runs up the middle and makes the catch for a 20 yard gain. The best way I know to explain the play is to ask you to imagine a little 4'6" Hispanic penguin waddling up field to catch a ball between its flippers. Efren Herrera...the least athletic person to ever catch a pass in the NFL. Final Score: Seahawks over Falcons 31-28


9) Jim Marshall's Wild Ride
Jim Marshall.jpg
This is the one play that's before my time, but I've read about it many times, and it's too great not to mention. October 25th, 1964, Vikings-Niners. Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall picks up a fumble but accidently runs 62 yards the wrong way, scoring a safety for the 49ers before he realizes his mistake. How messed up, hung-over, or whatever do you have to be to run 62 yards in the wrong direction...awesome.


8) The Snow Plow Incident
SnowPlow.jpg
Shout out to the grounds crew in Foxboro, Mass. 1982: Dolphins-Pats. After a blizzard held both teams scoreless, Patriots head coach Ron Meyer ordered the area where the ball was to be spotted for a field goal attempt to be cleared by a snow plow. The successful kick was the game winner, and to this day, opposing teams at Foxboro keep one eye on the plow just to be sure it stays put. (maybe)


7) The Comeback
Comeback.jpg
Number seven isn't a play, but the whole Bill-Oilers Wild Card game of 1993. I include it here because I LOST FIVE HUNDRED FREAKIN' DOLLARS ON THAT GAME.

Long story short...The Oilers have a 35-3 lead with a minute and 41 seconds gone in the second half. Frank Reich, who started in place of an injured quarterback Jim Kelly, starts a comeback that ends on a Steve Christie field goal from 32 yards out with 3 minutes gone by in the overtime...Buffalo wins 41-38. End of story


6) The Hook and Ladder
HookLadder.jpg
Technical name - The hook and lateral...the receiver runs a 10 yard route and turns in (hook), then passes back to a teammate running at full speed (lateral)...but hook and ladder sounds cooler. The best example of which will always be from the Miami/San Diego playoff game of 1981, with Don Strock passing to Duriel Harris, who pitched it back to a sprinting Tony Nathan who ran 40 yards for the score.

The game set playoff records for the most points scored in a playoff game (79), the most total yards by both teams (1,036), and most passing yards by both teams (809). Chargers placekicker Rolf Benirschke kicked the winning field goal in overtime for a 41-38 San Diego win. The image is of Kellen Winslow being helped off the field after a very emotionally and physically draining game...wuss.


5) A Yard Too Far
Titans.jpg
(Military reference...get it?) Super Bowl 34. Trailing 23-16 with 10 seconds remaining in the game, the Titans have one final shot to tie the Rams. Steve McNair passes to Kevin Dyson who is tackled AT THE ONE YARD LINE. No time left...Game over...Rams win. I include this play because it was the sickest ending to a Super Bowl I've ever seen, and I happened to be in Hawaii at the time, pretty much totally shitfaced by 2:00 in the afternoon.


4) The Tuck
tuck.jpg
Confession time...To this day, I still don't understand this ruling. 2002 AFC Divisional Playoffs. With less than two minutes to play in regulation, the Patriots trail the Raiders, 13-10 (in a snowstorm) Charles Woodson sacks Tom Brady, causing what appeared to be a fumble...ball recovered by the Raiders. BUT, when the officials review the play, they rule that Brady lost the ball while attempting to abort a pass by using a tucking motion, making it an incomplete pass rather than a fumble. The Patriots keep possession, and win overtime on a 23-yard field goal. (So let me get this straight, if you're trying not to pass, we will rule it an attempted pass...I hate the Pats)


3) The Marino Fake Spike
Marino.jpg
No love lost bewteen the Jet and the Fins, and this game was just another example of that rivalry. Jets have been up all game, but Marino is staging a comeback. With the clock ticking down, Marino hurries to the line and pretends to spike the ball, but instead fakes it. The Jets are caught napping, Mark Ingram sneaks behind the defense and is wide open to catch Marino's pass. Dolphins win 28-24. I had never seen it before, and I've never seen it since. (Marino finishes his career with no rings...karma?)


2) Leon Lett: Parts 1 & 2
LeonLett.jpg
You knew I was gonna have a Cowboys player on this list, and Mr. Lett makes the cut with two classic blunders from 1993. In Super Bowl 27, the Cowboys had a 52-17 lead late in the fourth quarter, Leon picked up a Bills fumble and runs for a 64-yard touchdown. Wait, Leon starts his victory stroll at the five, and Bills receiver Don Beebe knocks the ball out of bounds for a touchback. I remember thinking that touchdown would have covered what was a huge spread, and Leon must have had Buffalo and the points....sleep well, Leon.

That wasn't the end of the Leon fun in '93. Thanksgiving Day, Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich attempts a 41-yard game winning field goal with seconds left. The kick is blocked. (Cowboys win, right?) Wait, the ball spins toward the end zone. All players avoid the ball, but sure-footed Leon jumps on it and slips on the snow, making it a live ball. The Dolphins recover at the two...Stoyanovich kicks a 20-yard field goal...time expires...Miami wins. I throw a bowl of stuffing across the kitchen.


1) The Joe Pisarcik Fumble
Pisarchik.jpg
Leading 17-12 with less than 20 seconds left in the game, the Giants lead 17-12. Quarterback Joe Pisarcik will obviously just take a knee...wait...what's going on...Pisarcik hands off to running back Larry Csonka...Csonka fumbles and Herman Edwards picks up the loose ball and runs it in...EAGLES WIN. This was great on so many levels...1) I hate the Giants 2) I love it when Giant's fans are in pain and 3) these days, Herm Edwards is pretty much my favorite coach. All good reasons to make this my favorite wild play.

THAT'S ALL. BUT IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU'LL LOVE THESE!

If you enjoyed this story, read more like it in our Top Ten Lists section.

Reader Comments

What?!?!?

No Immaculate Reception?!?!?!

Posted by Rick.

Another one - 1980 Packers/Bears season opener. In OT, Chester Marcol, a curly haired glasses wearing kicker from Poland, lines up for a winning field goal. It's blocked, right back to him, and he runs for the winning touchdown, carrying the ball like it's a puppy trying to squirm away from him.

Posted by DrBear.

nice! (good visual reference)

Posted by Jellio.

Great list. I need to find a video clip of the 1979 Seahawks-Falcons game.

I'm surprised you missed the 1995 Morris Knolls-Livingston High thriller. Livingston had the ball, leading 12-8 in a driving rain with :09 to play. It was 4th down, so their coach could have 1) Had the punter run backwards and take a safety; 2) Had the punter run around for :09 and fall; or 3) Had him shank a 12-yard punt out of bounds, leaving :03 to play. Because that '95 Morris Knolls team had fate on its side, of course it was #3. Our backup QB (the starting QB had been suspended for dipping in a team meeting the night before) launched a 45-yard bomb towards the end zone, which was tipped and caught by wide receiver (and current assistant coach) Kevin Borecki, who fell into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Also his first career catch.

Two months later, we (Knolls) went on to win the second (of three) straight state sectional title.

Shocked this wasn't on your list. Anyone else want to post his or her high school sports memories, go for it. Make me feel a little less pathetic.

Posted by aquaman.

I too saw that Seahawks game but the better one
was herrera to zorn almost.I also remember the dolphins Chargers game it went on forever and everyone was dragging ass at the end and kellen
winslow was helped off the field after blocking
a dolphins field goal attempt.

Posted by Mike Mixer.

There's a couple of follow-ups to the Herrera story, IIRC. A few games later, they tried the same play, but Zorn got pressured and Herrera couldn't catch the pass.

Then a few games after that, they went for it one more time... This time Zorn tucked the ball and scrambled for a first down.

After the game, a reporter asked Herrera why Zorn didn't throw the pass to him.

"I was double-covered," replied Herrera... probably making him the least athletic receiver to ever to be double-covered in an NFL game.

Posted by Chuck Lipsig.

If my memory serves me correctly, I believe Herrera almost got in the end zone on one of the trick plays. I can still see him reaching out for the pylon. I was a huge Seahawks (Jim Zorn) fan as a kid and this was the first time they were on MNF. Funny how I can remeber crap like this, but can't tell you where my spare house key is.

Posted by Will Coltraine.

What about the titan mirical play (vs the bills?)
That was one great play.

Posted by DRRINO.

I'm a little late on the comments.. But I remember that efren herrera play.. I watched it on my little 12 inch tv in my room. And I don't think anyone else could have described it better.. Except that after he caught it you didn't mention how he laid on the ground cradling that puppy like it was gold. One of my favorite plays of all time. I'm die hard Hawks fan and that stands out just as much as Largent's hit on the Bronco's DB in '88 after the interception.. woo dang!

Posted by maneoman.

# 10, the Herrera catch on MNF. Somebody else saw it... I watched that game with my dad when I was 11 years old. I don't remember much from when I was under 20 years old, but that is one memory I'll never forget! It was cool to watch!

Posted by Seattle #12, Sara.

#10, the Herrera catch on MNF. Someone else saw it... I watched this game with my dad when I was 11 years old. I don't rmrmber much from before the age of 20 or so, but I remember this play. It was cool to watch.

Posted by Seattle #12, Sara.

Well this list is missing one the greatest football plays u will ever the
1972 "Immaculate Reception" If u disgree by not putting that on he then that is real stupid
never has anything been done like what franco harris did to catch the ball and run for a 60 yard touchdown with only 22 seconds remaining on 4th down to win the game against Oakland to get the super bowl. In my and many other peoples eyes that play should not only be on this list but should be #1.

Posted by Marcus.

Well this list is missing one the greatest football plays u will ever the
1972 "Immaculate Reception" If u disgree by not putting that on he then that is real stupid
never has anything been done like what franco harris did to catch the ball and run for a 60 yard touchdown with only 22 seconds remaining on 4th down to win the game against Oakland to get the super bowl. In my and many other peoples eyes that play should not only be on this list but should be #1.

Posted by Marcus.

Well this list is missing one the greatest football plays u will ever the
1972 "Immaculate Reception" If u disgree by not putting that on he then that is real stupid
never has anything been done like what franco harris did to catch the ball and run for a 60 yard touchdown with only 22 seconds remaining on 4th down to win the game against Oakland to get the super bowl. In my and many other peoples eyes that play should not only be on this list but should be #1.

Posted by Marcus.

The "Immaculate Reception" did not vault the '72 Steelers into the Super Bowl. It vaulted them into the AFC Championship Game against the undefeated Dolphins. Miami won the game in Pittsburgh and went on to beat the Redskins in Super Bowl VII.

Loved the reference by DRRINO to that hit by Largent on the Denver DB. I thought I was the only one that remembered that. Probably the hardest hit I've ever seen.

Posted by Dan.

The "Immaculate Reception" did not vault the '72 Steelers into the Super Bowl. It vaulted them into the AFC Championship Game against the undefeated Dolphins. Miami won the game in Pittsburgh and went on to beat the Redskins in Super Bowl VII.

Loved the reference by DRRINO to that hit by Largent on the Denver DB. I thought I was the only one that remembered that. Probably the hardest hit I've ever seen.

Posted by Dan.

Why didn't you include Garo Yepremian's fourth-quarter QB duties in that SuperBowl against the Redskins?

Posted by T-Mac.