Play calling in the NFL is a lot more difficult than it looks, but there are some moments in recent football history that were just so unbelievable, we can’t understand how they even happened.
If you’re a fan of one of these teams, you’ll never forget it. If you were a fan of the opposing team, you at least got a good chuckle out of it. The rest of us are still in disbelief. These are the plays that made us wonder just what the hell they were trying to accomplish.
6. Cincinnati falls apart
This is less of a single play and more of a series of unfortunate events. Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990, but finished strong in the 2015-2016 season, earning a Wild Card spot and a shot at eliminating their AFC North rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bengals-Steelers games are always a toss-up, but can be particularly brutal. This one is a game neither will forget.
With just 1:45 left in the game and the ball under Bengal control, Cincinnati running back Jeremy Hill fumbled and it was recovered by the Steelers. In the time that was left, Cincinnati players racked up 30 yards in penalties, which moved the Steelers into field goal range. Cincinnati lost by two points.
5. Seahawks Super Bowl pass
The Seahawks made it all the way to Super Bowl XLIX on the back of their beastly running back, Marshawn Lynch. Lynch was arguably the best running back of the season, and perhaps one of the best of all time. So with 25 seconds left in the game and the Seahawks down by four points, it’s second and goal. The Seahawks handed off to the unstoppable Lynch and won the game.
Just kidding, they went for a pass that was picked off by New England who ran the clock out and went home with the Lombardi Trophy. What, exactly, they were thinking has been a mystery ever since.
4. The Jets score a touchdown on their own kickoff
It’s New Years Day 2017 and the Bills decide to start the new year in the most Buffalo way possible. With three minutes left in the game, the Jets are up 23-3 and kick off to Buffalo following their latest garbage-time score. Returner Mike Gillislee opted not to field the ball, instead letting it bounce into the end zone — where it came to a complete stop, untouched by any Bill.
Jets safety Doug Middleton jumped on the ball in the end zone, giving New York another six points.
3. “The Buttfumble”
This might be the only play on this list that deserves its own 30 for 30 and the clip above features Rex Ryan talking about it. It was a terrible call from the start, the national game for NBC’s Thanksgiving Day football coverage. Some 20 million people watched Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez run head-first into the rear end of Jets Guard Brandon Moore.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the “Butt Fumble” (as it came to be called) caused Sanchez to drop the ball, which was picked up by the New England Patriots’ Steve Gregory and returned for a defensive touchdown.
2. DeSean Jackson Literally Drops The Ball
Jackson, who has a history of dumb plays, picked up a 65-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb during his rookie season with the Philadelphia Eagles. To celebrate his touchdown, he dropped the ball in the end zone with some swagger and flourish — except it wasn’t a touchdown.
And there was definitely nothing to celebrate. It turns out, Jackson dropped the ball on the one-yard line, where it was eventually called dead because no one on the cowboys went to pick it up, either. The Eagles were lucky to regain possession on the 1.
1. The Colts’ Worst Punt/Pass Protection
I’m still not sure what to call this. The Colts wanted to trick the Patriots on a fourth down punt-or-pass play by shifting all their players to the right side of the field — except for two. The Colts were down by six points but had plenty of time left in the game on their own 43 yard line, so a punt (a real one) made sense. That’s not what happened. The snap and everyone involved with it was overwhelmed and crushed.
Maybe it was a try to get New England to jump offsides on 4th and 3. Instead, the Colts received an illegal formation penalty and the ball was turned over to the Patriots with great field position. The Patriots scored on that possession and won the game 34-27.