It isn’t every season in the NFL that we see something so eye-opening, so jaw-dropping, and so exceptional that it not only goes down in the books as being eternally memorable but takes over social media as well. The Indianapolis Colts accomplished that feat Sunday, though not in a manner they would have preferred.
On Sunday Night Football, the Colts ran a play that brought a nation to ask the question “What the …” in unison. It failed that badly. In this spirit, we take a look at a number of other plays that have gone down on the wrong side of history in the NFL.
6.) Dan Orvlovsky Unknowingly Runs Out Of His Own End zone
In his first career NFL start, Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orvlovsky certainly wowed fans with his lack of awareness, to put it lightly, as to where the end zone was. Toward the end of the first quarter in a 2008 game against the Minnesota Vikings, Orvlovsky took the snap near his own end zone. The problem was that he didn’t realize exactly how close he was to his own end zone. Orvlovsky rolls right and for about 10 feet, does not realize he is out of bounds and continues to look for a receiver. The play was a ruled a safety and Orvlovsky went on to call himself an “idiot” after the game.
5.) Mark Sanchez Butt-Fumble
On Thanksgiving Day 2012, the New York Jets were hosting the New England Patriots as the last of three holiday games televised that day. In the second quarter with the Jets already trailing miserably, quarterback Mark Sanchez took his position under center as the offense set up in an I-formation. What was meant to be a handoff play to fullback Lex Hilliard quickly went down in flames when Sanchez turned to his left instead of his right, as the play had called for. In a moment of fight or flight, Sanchez attempted to scramble forward and promptly slid directly into the considerable backside of guard Brandon Moore, who was busily attempting to contain New England’s star defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. Upon making contact with his own man, Sanchez fumbled the ball and was subsequently crushed by Moore. The ball was recovered at the 32 yardline by Patriots safety Steve Gregory, who returned it for a touchdown.
4.) Leon Lett Thanksgiving Fumble Slip Extravaganza
Perhaps it’s the pressure of playing in front of a holiday-size television audience or maybe it’s the large quantity of food, but Thanksgiving has historically had an effect on the NFL that has provided us with no shortage of moments more suited for the circus than the gridiron. On Thanksgiving Day 1993, snow had been falling heavily enough to turn the Dallas Cowboy’s green field white. The Miami Dolphins were trailing, 14-13, and were attempting a potential game-winning field goal, which was blocked. The game was over, as long as Dallas didn’t touch the ball. However, up jumped the Thanksgiving devil, as Dallas defensive tackle Leon Lett attempted to recover the ball. While we don’t know why on earth he would try to do this, we do know he kicked the ball in the attempt, letting it get away from him as Miami regained possession, and kicked the game-winning field goal that had been denied them in their previous attempt.
3.) Jim Marshall and the 66-Yar -Safety In 1964
Way back in 1964, one of the earlier “wrong-way” mental mistakes in the NFL occurred in a game between the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings. San Francisco’s Billy Killmer had fumbled the ball, which rolled into the hands of Minnesota defensive end Jim Marshall. The excitement must have been too much for him, as Marshall turned tail and took off – in the wrong direction. It would have been one thing if he had run 10 yards to the end zone, but the man ran 66 yards, to his own end zone. The play resulted in a safety, and two points to the Niners.
2.) Colts Fake Themselves Out On Sunday Night Football
The most recent of the NFL gaffes, no one except those few in the Indianapolis Colts locker room – those very few, apparently – have much of an idea of just what the play was supposed to accomplish. Trailing by six points to the undefeated New England Patriots in the third quarter, the Colts on a fourth-down attempted what we think may have been a variation of a fake punt. The offense lined nine players up on the right, with wide receiver Griff Whalen playing center and safety Colt Anderson playing quarterback. Let that image haunt you for a moment or two. While some say the play was meant to take a delay-of-game penalty, the ball was snapped prematurely, and Anderson was positively bombarded by nearly every Patriot on the field in a show of destruction rivaled only by video game accomplishments on NFL Blitz. The look of confusion on the players’ faces mirrored that of head coach Chuck Pagano, as well as scores of faces in front of television screens across the country.
1.) The Super Bowl XLIX Play
Perhaps never had so many people around the world in such perfect harmony shouted “What?” at television screens since the moon landing. The look on Pete Carroll’s face after the play certainly indicated he wished in that moment he was on the moon. In a simpler world, the final seconds of Super Bowl XLIX would have played out differently, with Marshawn Lynch running the Seahawks into the end zone to their first Super Bowl repeat. It was clear. With 1 measly yard, any children’s league coach would have made the right call. Just run the ball in. Instead, the play called for a pass. Carroll asked Russell Wilson to attempt a pass, and then it happened. The target was Ricardo Lockette, running a slant into the end zone, but Malcolm Butler, a rookie, jumped in front of the route and made the interception.