Thanksgiving Day is a time for giving thanks, watching football, and trotting out stories involving the famous Thanksgiving Day “Butt Fumble.” I’m happy to oblige. Whatever you do, just don’t ask Bill Belichick about the play. Because that happened Wednesday and it went as well as you probably are imagining. (Note: Two of the items below occurred on the Thanksgiving but the others ruined perfectly good non-holidays.)
Mark Sanchez and the Butt Fumble
If this play had occurred on a regular NFL Sunday it would have been bad enough but no, it went down during a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game in 2012. It will forever endure as an emblem of New York Jets fan suffering but more importantly, the universe’s ability to craft new and humiliating forms of human torment. Also the answer to the trivia question is Steve Gregory: the Patriots player who returned the “butt fumble” for a touchdown, part of a stunning offensive, defensive and special teams touchdown hat trick in just 52 seconds of clock time.
Earnest Byner and “The Fumble”
The thrilling 1987 AFC Championship Game effectively ended with just over one minute left in the game when, down 38-31, Cleveland Browns running back Earnest Byner took a handoff from the 8-yard line. Byner found a lane and broke toward the goal line where Broncos DB Jeremiah Castille charged from the backside and knocked the ball out of Byner’s grip before he could cross the goal line, and Denver recovered the fumble. Byner had amassed 187 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns in the game, but that became a footnote. “All of these heroics,” then-Browns head coach Marty Schottenheimer said, “unfortunately, were overshadowed by a single draw play from the 8-yard line.”
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The River City Relay loses one crucial connection
Even if Byner had scored, the “lowly” kicker still would have had to chip in the extra point to knot the game at 38. As Saints fans know that’s no sure thing, even after a miraculous play in a game’s final seconds, even in the 'ol 17-yard formality-extra-point after days. We’re talking about the “River City Relay” in 1999. The Saints were down 20-13 to the Jaguars and needed a win to stay in playoff contention in late December, when New Orleans players miraculously lateraled the ball three times en route to a crazy 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown. This was Saints radio play-by-play man Jim Henderson’s call on John Carney’s extra point attempt: “Noooooooo!!! He missed the extra point, wide right! Ohhh my God, how could he do that?!?”
Also, it’s simply unfair to call a 39- or 47-yard field goal attempt a “blunder” so no, you won’t be seeing Gary Anderson or Scott Norwood anywhere below.
“Miracle at the Meadowlands”
The handoff (attempt) that occurred between Giants QB Joe Pisarcik and fullback Larry Csonka is known in New York as “The Fumble,” which the Browns later claimed by virtue of a more calamitous fumble. Anyhow, the Giants led the Eagles 17-12 late in a November 1978 contest, and Philly had no timeouts to stop the clock. As your Madden-loving little brother knows, just kneel the ball, although “victory formation” was not standard operating procedure at that time. Pisarcik mishandled the snap and turned to hand it off to Csonka when the ball squirted loose and Eagles DB Herman Edwards took it in stride for a game-winning touchdown. Giants fans could not believe what had just occurred. Giants offensive coordinator Bob Gibson got fired the next day and never coached football again.
“Miracle at the New Meadowlands”
A new generation of Eagles and Giants fans got to experience their own miracle and anti-miracle in 2010, when then-Eagles wideout/returner DeSean Jackson twisted the final dagger in a prodigious New York Giants fourth-quarter collapse. New York led by a whopping 31-10 margin with just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter when Philly struck three times in just six minutes of clock time to even the score 31-31. The blunder belongs to the Giants as a whole and the punt coverage team, but rookie punter Matt Dodge deserves a lot of the blame for his dreadful line-drive punt in the game’s final seconds. Take it away, Joe Buck: “Jackson…bobbles it, and now has to try and recover. … DeSean Jackson… GETS A BLOCK! ARE YOU KIDDING! DeSean Jackson… in for the touchdown, no flags! Un-believable! No time left! Eagles win!” (Showboating doesn’t pay, though.)
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Tight end Jackie Smith’s Super Bowl drop
“Oh, bless his heart,” Verne Lundquist said on the Cowboys’ radio broadcast. “He’s got to be the sickest man in America.” On a third-and-3 from the 10-yard line in Super Bowl XIII, veteran Cowboys tight end Jackie Smith had just dropped a would-be touchdown pass from Roger Staubach. It wasn’t a perfect throw but the ball was certainly catchable. Dallas settled for a field goal and pulled within 21-17 of the Steelers in an eventual 35-31 loss. “You just feel like you let a lot of people down,” Smith said after the game. “I hope it won’t haunt me. But it probably will.”
Leon Leon Lett becomes a turkey
On a bizarrely snowy Thanksgiving Day in Dallas in 1993, Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett inadvertently spiced things up when the Cowboys blocked Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich’s attempt at a 40-yard game-winning field goal in a 14-13 game. After the block, the ball settled into the snow when Lett ran down the ball that was spinning in the snow. Players shouted “Peter! Peter!” or code for “DON’T TOUCH THE BALL” WHEN… Lett came charging toward the ball and knocked it away for a Miami recovery — and another chance at a much shorter field goal, which Stoyanovich drilled for a 16-14 victory. Lett had earlier committed that memorable Super Bowl showboating blunder with a less costly result but certainty did enough good things in Big D because he’s now the team’s assistant defensive line coach.
Tony Romo’s botched hold
Not much to say here except that this is why Tony Romo no longer serves as the team’s placeholder. The Cowboys trailed 21-20 late in the NFC Wild Card game in Seattle in January 2007 when Romo simply lost control of the snap on what was expected to be a game-winning field goal. Not quite. He had to make a failed run at the end zone in a last-ditch effort. Romo endured a very, very, very long offseason.
The “Fail Mary”
Complain all you want about the current NFL officials but never forget that this happened in a real, actual football game in 2012.