While watching NFL games, just when you think you’ve seen everything, something crazy happens that makes you say, “I’ve never seen that before!” In Week 16 of the 2015 NFL regular season, we saw a couple more “never have I ever” moments. First, on Saturday night, Redskins’ QB Kirk Cousins inadvertently took a knee as Washington drove down the field before the end of the first half, looking to score. The team was out of timeouts and needed to spike the ball to conserve time, but for whatever reason, Cousins sat on it to run out the clock.
If that wasn’t enough, Sunday saw what was potentially the craziest coin toss in NFL history during the Patriots versus Jets game. After forcing overtime, New England had a chance to have the first possession in the extra period after winning the coin toss. Instead, special teams captain Matthew Slater told the officials that the Patriots wanted to kick instead of receive (before changing his mind, which doesn’t work in the NFL apparently).
The Jets went on to drive down the field and win the game on the ensuing possession. These two head-scratching yet memorable moments will likely stick with us for as long as we watch the game. What other moments in league history hold that special place in our hearts? Here are some of the most memorable moments in NFL history that we surely will never forget.
1. The “Fail Mary” (2012)
Back in 2012, the NFL and the NFL Referees Association couldn’t strike a deal prior to the league’s regular season, causing a lockout by the refs. So the NFL utilized replacement referees and the result was weeks and weeks of terrible officiating. Then, on Monday Night Football in late September, the final straw broke, forcing the league to get its regular refs back.
The Seahawks hosted the Packers, with Green Bay leading 12-7 late in the game. Russell Wilson put up a desperation heave into the end zone in the final seconds. His receiver, Golden Tate, went for the ball along with several Packers defenders. It seemed pretty clear that Tate was not the one who caught it. After much deliberation and confusion, the refs ruled the play a catch and a game-winning touchdown for Seattle. The play received so much criticism that it ultimately ended the lockout, putting the real officials back on the field.
2. Beast quake (2011)
Here’s another memorable play in Seattle Seahawks history. What Marshawn Lynch did to the New Orleans Saints back in the 2011 NFL Playoffs wasn’t controversial, but it was still one of the most memorable moments in NFL history. Going up against the heavily favorited Saints, the 7-9 Seahawks led 34-30 with about 3:30 left in the game. What Lynch did next ended New Orleans’ season. He didn’t just run for a 67-yard touchdown to seal Seattle’s upset. He broke nine tackles on his way to the end zone, enticing the home crowd to be so loud that it actually caused a small earthquake.
3. Brandon Stokley’s deflected game-winning touchdown (2009)
Keeping with the theme of crazy passes, a game between the Broncos and Bengals back in Week 1 of the 2009 season saw another desperation heave at the end of the game. Down 7-6 with under :30 seconds remaining, Denver QB Kyle Orton unloaded a pass that quite frankly should’ve been intercepted by Bengals cornerback Leon Hall. Instead, Hall could only tip the pass, and the ball landed softly in the arms of Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley, who sprinted down the field to complete a game-winning 87-yard touchdown of the likes we may never see again.
4. Thanksgiving coin flip (1998)
This past Sunday’s coin flip debacle wasn’t the first time there’s been some confusion on the flip. On Thanksgiving Day in 1998, the Lions and Steelers got together for a meeting in Detroit, the hometown of Pittsburgh running back, Jerome Bettis. After playing to a 16-16 tie after four quarters, the two sides geared up for overtime. What happened on the coin flip will likely not be forgotten. Bettis supposedly called tails for the Steelers and that’s the way the coin landed.
However, referee Phil Luckett indicated that Bettis called heads and gave Detroit the win on the coin toss, which led to them receiving the ball and winning the game. Bettis contested that he called tails, but video and audio evidence later revealed that he began to call heads initially, supporting Luckett’s call. Weeks later, the NFL changed the coin toss rule, saying that team captains must announce their choice prior to the actual flip.
5. Jim Marshall runs the wrong way (1965)
In the heat of the moment during an NFL game, it’s easy to get lost on the field. No player has proven that to be more true than the great Jim Marshall. Back in 1965, the Vikings’ defensive end picked up a fumble by the San Francisco 49ers and sprinted toward the end zone. The only problem was that Marshall ran the wrong way.
He took the fumble 66 yards into the 49ers’ end zone and chucked the ball out-of-bounds, resulting in a San Francisco safety and what stands as the most negative yards occurred on a single play in NFL history. Luckily for Minnesota, they won that game and kept Marshall around for a while; he turned out to be one of the best Vikings in team history.
6. The tuck rule (2002)
We’ll always remember this moment as an integral part of the New England Patriots’ dynasty in the 2000s. Unfortunately for the NFL, it’s also seen as one of the more controversial plays in league history. With 1:50 left in a 2002 playoff game between the Raiders and Patriots, Oakland led 13-10 and New England had possession. The Raiders sent none other than Charles Woodson on a blitz on the next play, knocking the ball out of Tom Brady‘s hands and leading to a Raiders’ fumble recovery — or so it seemed.
The referees reviewed the play and said that Brady’s arm was moving forward before the ball came loose, meaning that the pass was incomplete. What Brady was actually doing, though, was “tucking” the ball back into his body after a pump fake, which is when the ball came out. That’s when a rule nobody had heard of came into play (i.e. “The Tuck Rule”). New England tied the game on the drive before winning it in overtime, and they went on to win their first of three Super Bowls in four seasons. Despite all of their success in those Super Bowls, everyone seems to remember “The Tuck Rule” game above all.
7. Dan Marino and the fake spike (1994)
Dan Marino is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. With Marino under center for the Miami Dolphins, the team was almost never out of a game. Marino showed that ability once again against the New York Jets back in 1994. Down 24-6 in the third quarter, he led Miami to a comeback that cut the deficit to 3 points. With the ball in his hands, Marino completed a pass to the Jets’ eight-yard line with about :42 seconds remaining.
He hurried his team back to the line of scrimmage after the completion, signaling that he was going to spike the ball to stop the clock with about :25 seconds left. Instead of spiking it though, Marino faked out just about everyone in the stadium and dropped back to pass. He hit Mark Ingram in the end zone for a game-winning touchdown on the play in a game that was a microcosm of the New York Jets’ franchise.
8. The butt fumble (2012)
We’ve seen every play in the NFL — good and bad. Nothing, however, measures up to the infamous gaffe that the New York Jets provided the world on Thanksgiving Day back in 2012. Already down 14-0 early in the second quarter in a contest against their rival New England Patriots, Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez took a snap and dropped back, looking as if he were going to hand the ball off to his running back. There seemed to be some disconnect on the play though, so Sanchez took off on his own feet up the middle.
Instead of gaining any yardage, Sanchez ran right into the butt of his own teammate, guard Brandon Moore. When his face made contact with Moore’s backside, Sanchez fumbled the ball and the Patriots picked it up and scored a touchdown. The Jets went on to get clobbered in the game, but they did provide an outburst of jokes for the next several weeks following their embarrassing moment.