Pick Six: Most memorable plays in NFL history

Every Lynyrd Skynyrd-loving Jacksonville citizen worth their salt will claim that they were at EverBank Field when the Jaguars beat the Texans on QB David Garrard‘s desperation heave to WR Mike Thomas, regardless of what the attendance says.

Because big moments are what define the NFL. And some of the best ones even get a fancy nickname. Here are my top six most memorable plays in NFL history:

6. Music City Miracle

Following the Bills’ kickoff on the game’s final play, Titans WR Kevin Dyson takes a field-wide lateral from TE Frank Wycheck and races 75 yards to lift Tennessee over Buffalo in an AFC Wild Card Game. What made the outcome more delicious was that Bills coach Wade Phillips had benched QB Doug Flutie for the game after Rob Johnson performed well in a meaningless Week 17 contest that was played after their playoff slot had been determined. Phillips was seconds away from being justified for an unjust move. The Football Gods said otherwise.

5. Tyree’s catch in Super Bowl XLII

Talk about your desperation heaves. Giants QB Eli Manning fights through a number of defenders, launches the ball toward a little-known David Tyree, who pins it to his helmet while Patriots safety Rodney Harrison desperately tries to knock it away. This is what happens to Harrison when he tries to play by the rules. The play set up Plaxico Burress‘ winning touchdown reception to end the Patriots’ bid for perfection.

4. The Holy Roller

The Raiders were once known (should that be past tense?) as rule breakers. But QB Ken Stabler might not have broken the rules when he intentionally fumbled the ball forward against the Chargers, which allowed RB Pete Banaszak to knock it into the end zone so TE Dave Casper could fall on it for a touchdown. A rule was later added making this illegal.

3. Immaculate Reception

This might be hard for you youngsters to believe, but there was a time when the Steelers were a downtrodden franchise and the Raiders were among the NFL’s elite. But when Steelers RB Franco Harris caught a ball that had ricocheted off John “Frenchy” Fuqua‘s hands via the Raiders’ Jack Tatum and raced into the end zone, a dynasty was born.

The only thing that could have made this play more memorable would have been if the referee had buried his head into the replay booth for five minutes, if there were a replay rule at the time, and later emerged to explain that there was no conclusive evidence, and the play would stand.

2. The Hail Mary

The one and only. Cowboys QB Roger Staubach threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to WR Drew Pearson in the closing seconds of a 1975 NFC Divisional playoff game. After the game, Staubach referred to the pass as a “Hail Mary” and the legend was born. Vikings fans still say that Pearson pushed off and call it Holy (expletive).

1. The Tuck Rule

This game had everything you would want: a snow storm, in the playoffs, and the Raiders losing. Patriots QB Tom Brady appeared to have fumbled in the closing minutes to give Oakland the win. But the now-famous NFL Rule 3, Section 21, Article 2, Note 2 said otherwise. Brady went on to lead New England to the win and ultimately a Super Bowl win over St. Louis. Adam Vinatieri‘s winning boot in the Super Bowl deserves an honorable mention here.

Also deserving votes: the Ghost to the Post, the Sea of Hands, and the fight between Rams and Raiders fans during a Week 11 game at Anaheim Stadium in 1994.

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