Everyone makes mistakes on the job from time to time. Sometimes no one notices, other times you’re reprimanded by your higher-ups. If that seems bad, think about millions of people seeing your blunder on live TV and it being archived. That situation is a reality for NFL players (and pro athletes in general). On October 25, 1964, Vikings DE Jim Marshall scooped a fumble and ran the wrong way causing a safety for his team rather than a touchdown. Despite having a 20-year Hall of Fame-worthy career, Marshall is most remembered for his miscue from 54 years ago.
In light of this anniversary (and to acknowledge the fact that no one is perfect), here are the 15 Biggest Bloopers in NFL History.
No. 15 Tim Tebow Runs For -28 Yards
Game: Patriots vs. Broncos
To Tebow’s credit, the situation was already dire for the Broncos. Down 18 and facing a fourth-and-long with 2:30 left against the Patriots, Tebow had no choice but to extend the play and try to make something happen. Unfortunately, that something was nearly ten seconds of aimless scrambling resulting in a 28-yard loss and a turnover on downs well into Denver territory.
No. 14 The Failed Helicopter Hurdle
Game: Colts vs. Texans
John Elway famously leapt in the air and spun around on top of a couple defenders to pick up a first down in Super Bowl XXXII. Sage Rosenfels tried to do the same in this 2008 matchup with the Colts, springing off the ground in hopes of picking up a first down late in the fourth quarter to help secure the Texans’ victory. It didn’t quite go as planned. Rosenfels lost the ball, the Colts returned it for a touchdown and later scored again to complete the comeback and win the game.
No. 13 Missed EP ruins River City Relay
Game: Saints vs. Jaguars
The Saints completed one of the most improbable plays in NFL history, but it’s largely forgotten because of what happened afterward. Trailing 20-13 with just six seconds left in the 4th quarter, Aaron Brooks completed a 42-yard pass to Donte Stallworth — three epic laterals and 33 yards later, WR Jerome Pathon found the end zone. The Saints just needed John Carney to kick the extra point to send the game to OT, but his attempt sailed wide right resulting in a 20-19 loss for New Orleans.
No. 12 Darius Reynaud Crosses the Line
Game: Titans vs. Steelers
Awareness on all plays is such a key trait for pro athletes. Without it, routine plays can turn into epic blunders. Reynaud found this out the hard way when he took one tiny step forward and one big step back (literally and figuratively) on this lowlight that resulted in a safety. Despite the absent-minded blooper, the Titans would go on to win 16-9.
No. 11 Duckworth’s Phantom Fumble
Game: Chargers vs. Bears
Some plays are so strange that they can’t be explained. How did Chargers WR Bobby Duckworth lose the ball on what seemed like a certain TD? Despite the gaffe, Duckworth did score an 88-yard TD in the Chargers’ 20-7 victory over the Bears.
No. 10 Dan Orlovsky Backs That Thang Up…Too Far
Game: Lions vs. Vikings
Jared Allen coming off the edge is a scary sight for any quarterback. Dan Orlovsky, in his first NFL start, was so spooked he retreated out the back of the end zone, resulting in an easy safety for the Vikings’ defense. After the game, Orlovsky said, "When they started blowing the whistle, I was like ‘Did we false start? Or were they offsides or something? And I looked, and I was just like, ‘You’re an idiot.’" The worst part: the Lions went on to lose the game by two points.
No. 9 The Botched Snap
Game: Cowboys vs. Seahawks (Wild Card Playoffs)
The Cowboys were in a position to win with just 1:19 left on the clock. They were down 21-20, but only needed a 19-yard field goal to take the lead. In other words, the Cowboys basically needed Martin Gramatica to make an extra point (20 yards prior to the rule 2015 rule change). However, Graamatica would never get a chance to attempt the chip shot. Tony Romo fumbled the snap, scrambled to try and score, but was stopped short by Seahawks SS Jordan Babineaux. The Seahawks won 21-20 and Dallas was left agonizing over what could’ve been their first playoff victory since the 1996 season.
No. 8. Koenen and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Play
Game: Chiefs vs. Bucs
When kickers or punters give their best quarterback impression, it usually never ends well — just ask Garo Yepremian. Nearly 40 years after Garo’s Super Bowl VII gaffe, Bucs P Michael Koenen had this two-for-one mishap. After having his kick blocked, Koenen attempted to salvage the play, but threw a pick-six to Chiefs DE Edgar Jones instead. The Bucs would go on to rout the Chiefs 38-10, so the botched play didn’t do much besides bruise Koenen’s ego.
No. 7 The Colts’ Failed Fake Punt
Game: Patriots vs. Colts
This attempt at a fake punt has a solid argument for being the most baffling play in NFL history. Fans, announcers, and even some players were left confused. Chuck Pagano, who was the Colts head coach at the time, gave an explanation afterward:
"The whole idea there was on fourth-and-3 or less, we shift to an alignment to where we could catch them misaligned," Pagano told NFL.com. "They tried to sub some people in. Catch them with more men on the field — 12 men on the field. And if you get a certain look, you have three (or) two yards to make a play."
No. 6 Leon Lett Touches Blocked FG
Game: Dolphins vs. Cowboys
Less than a year after his Super Bowl XXVII gaffe, Leon Lett had this miscue which led to a Miami recovery and subsequent game-winning field goal.
No. 5 DeSean Jackson’s Premature Celebration
Game: Eagles vs. Cowboys
In the first Monday Night Football game of his career, rookie DeSean Jackson got open, caught a deep pass from Donovan McNabb, and went into the end zone for the TD. Actually, no. D-Jack celebrated a bit early and dropped the ball before crossing the goal line. Eagles RB Brian Westbrook would punch it from the one-yard line on the next play, but the Eagles lost 41-37 and Jackson had to wait a couple more weeks before scoring his first career TD.
No. 4 The Miracle at the Meadowlands
Game: Eagles vs. Giants
This play is known by most as the original "Miracle at the Meadowlands," but for Giants fans it’s simply "The Fumble." The Eagles had no timeouts and were trailing 17-12 with 31 seconds left when Giants QB Joe Pisarcik dropped back and fumbled the ball. Eagles CB Herm Edwards scooped the fumble and ran it back 26 yards for the game-winning TD. To be honest, the story (and drama) behind how this play unfolded deserves its own ‘A Football Life’ episode.
No. 3 Garo’s Gaffe
Game: Dolphins vs. Redskins (Super Bowl VII)
The 1972 Dolphins were less than three minutes away from not only completing the perfect 17-0 season, but they were just a few minutes (and a FG) away from winning 17-0. That would be the perfect ending, right? Well the gridiron gods had other plans. Garo Yepremian’s field goal attempt was blocked, and the Miami placekicker then attempted one in one of the most awkward plays in NFL history. Redskins DB Mike Bass eventually recovered the fumble and ran it in for a 49-yard TD.
No. 2 The Wrong Way Run
Game: Vikings vs. 49ers
One play — negative or positive — should never completely determine the narrative of an entire career. The Wrong Way Run, an infamous play in which Vikings DE Jim Marshall recovered a fumble and ran 66 yards to the wrong end zone — resulting in a safety — happened in October 1964. Over a half-century later, that’s unfortunately what he’s most remembered for today. Not the fact that the two-time Pro Bowler started in a ridiculous 270 consecutive games for the Minnesota Vikings which is still the record for consecutive starts among NFL defensive players.
No. 1 The Butt Fumble
Game: Patriots vs. Jets
The Butt Fumble is likely the most-viewed blunder in NFL history — 20 million saw it as it happened live on Thanksgiving Day and it has racked up millions more in the nearly six years since. Although this is without a doubt the low point of Mark Sanchez’s tenure with the Jets, his stats for the game itself weren’t horrible: he completed 26 of 36 passes for 301 yards, one TD, and one INT. That being said, no one remembers his 94.8 passer rating in the Jets’ 49-19 loss to the Pats.
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