The moment of pure joy most of you probably experienced watching that Dolphins miracle on Sunday can’t imagine you’ve seen anything quite like that before. But believe it or not, crazier, or at least something on par in terms of wackiness, has happened in the past couple of decades. Worse yet for Pats-haters, this loss likely does not change the fact that New England is going to still get a first-round bye for the ninth straight year (!). Still, it’s worth reminiscing about some of the insane final-play things that have happened in football games in recent memory (yes, I probably missed a couple along the way, but that only enhances the point about this not being as unbelievable as it seemed). A look now, with a rating on the zany scale (out of 10) attached:
1999 Wild Card Playoffs — The Music City Miracle (8 out of 10)
Really, this would probably be a 10 out of 10 were it not for the fact that it happened to Buffalo, the city that always ends up on the short end somehow. Trailing 16-15 after a 41-yard field goal by Steve Christie with 16 seconds, the Titans needed a massive play on special teams — and they got one. Frank Wycheck fielded a squib kick and threw a lateral (or was it?) to Kevin Dyson, who followed a wall of blockers 75 yards for the winning touchdown. The Titans went on to win two more games and reach Super Bowl XXXIV, while the Bills would not make the playoffs again until last year, which had been the longest drought in professional sports.
2001 Week 8 — Mike Brown’s deja vu against Browns (10 out of 10)
This one was about as wild as it gets. A week after rallying from 15 points down to beat the 49ers in OT — on a Mike Brown pick-six — the Bears miraculously did it again. This had a much greater degree of difficulty because Chicago trailed by 14 points with less than a minute to play (36 seconds to be exact). Shane Matthews connected on a 9-yard touchdown pass to Marty Booker to cut the deficit to 21-14, but with 32 seconds left, a victory still seemed out of reach. That is, until the Bears recovered the ensuing onside kick. Three plays later, Matthews heaved a Hail Mary into the end zone, where the ball was tipped up into the air. Running back James Allen came diving in and snagged it, sending the game into OT. After Chicago punted, the defense took center stage. Tim Couch’s pass was batted into the air, and Brown again took it to the house for the win. Three days after the Yankees had pulled off improbable heroics in Games 4 and 5 in the World Series in similar fashion, Brown essentially said, “Hold my beer…”
2002 Week 1 — Chiefs win after Dwayne Rudd’s helmet toss (7 out of 10)
The Chiefs were about the be on the short end despite scoring 37 points, a harbinger of things to come in 2002. Down two with four seconds to play, Trent Green flipped a lateral as he was being dragged to the ground for a sack. It ended up in the hands of offensive lineman John Tait, who rumbled 28 yards to the Browns 25 yard-line. It should have been the game’s final play, but Dwayne Rudd took off and threw his helmet in celebration as the play was still ongoing, resulting in a penalty and one untimed down. Morten Andersen kicked a 30-yard field goal to give the Chiefs an improbable 40-39 win. However, the Browns went on to make the playoffs, which still today stands as their most recent postseason appearance.
2003 Week 16 — The River City Relay (9 out of 10)
This was a two-part disaster — one by both teams. The Jaguars were on their way to a 20-13 victory, one that meant little to them but would essentially knock the Saints from postseason contention. Trailing 20-13 with seven seconds to go, Aaron Brooks completed a pass down the right sideline to Donte Stallworth, who fought off tackles to give the play a chance. A lateral to Michael Lewis and another one to Deuce McAllister kept hope alive, but McAllister was suddenly about to be pancaked by two defenders. He somehow got a contested lateral off to the center of the field, where Jerome Pathon had an angle. Pathon got a block from Brooks and scored, completing the miracle play… but it only made the score 20-19. John Carney pushed the extra point wide right (remember, this was when extra points were only 20-yard chip shots), and the Saints’ playoff hopes died anyway.
2017 Divisional Playoffs — The Minnesota Miracle (9 out of 10)
The Vikings had this game in their pocket, leading 17-0 at halftime, before somehow, someway, they found themselves behind at the very end. After the Saints kicked a field goal to go up 24-23 with 25 seconds remaining (had they picked up a 3rd-and-1, they would have been able to kick it with no time left), the Vikings looked done. But on 3rd-and-10 from their own 39 with 10 seconds to play, Case Keenum launched a pass down the right sideline for Stefon Diggs. Rookie safety Marcus Williams was worried about being flagged and didn’t hit Diggs, allowing him to run up the sideline for the game-winning 61-yard score. The win sent a delirious Vikings team (see what I did there?) to the NFC championship game… where they were waxed by the Eagles, 38-7.
2018 Week 7 — Patriots hold on by a yard (4 out of 10)
Before Patriots fans start freaking out that they can’t believe this happened to their team, flash back seven weeks and think about how that game ended. A 3-4 team on the road, New England is the only team to win at Soldier Field this year, but it didn’t come easy. The Pats led 38-24 before Chicago cut the lead in half, then had a chance to tie it on a Hail Mary. Kevin White caught it but was gang-tackled a yard short, preserving the win. Oh, and by the way, Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts were broadcasting that game, too.