St. Patrick’s Day countdown: the NFL’s luckiest plays

NFL.com Illustration

NFL.com Illustration

With St. Patrick’s Day today, the luck of the Irish is in the air. Which means it’s time to look back at some of the luckiest plays in NFL history. In no particular order, here are seven of the luckiest. If they didn’t already have a name, I gave a half-hearted attempt at coining a new one. If you have better options, tweet them at me below and I’ll rename them in this post and give you a shout out as well.

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The Hail Mike Thomas

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The Jaguars were facing overtime against the Texans in 2010 until Mike Thomas snagged the batted down pass intended for Mike Sims-Walker and trotted into the endzone for the game-winning score. Conventional wisdom (and most coaches) teach you to bat the ball down. Some players learned that the hard way last season.

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The Helmet Catch

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This play was incredible (and incredibly lucky) for a number of reasons. To start, how in the world does Manning elude that much pressure? The guy typically is about as agile as those fainting goats, but he somehow managed to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge his way out of the pocket. Then, David Tyree (who’d only caught four passes during the regular season) manages to hold onto the ball as the hard-hitting Rodney Harrison tries to wrench it from his hands, err helmet. Lastly, this whole play was set up by a stroke of luck when Asante Samuel dropped what should have been the game-clinching interception.

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Monday Night Magic

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I remember staying up late to watch the overtime finish of this game. Boy, was it worth it. It was hard to see live, but I thought Freeman had made the catch, whether through some form of mysticism or pure luck I wasn’t sure. The television replays later confirmed that Freeman was on the right side of one of the luckiest bounces in NFL history. Kudos to Freeman though for being aware enough to make the ridiculous grab and run into into the endzone for the game-winner.

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The Immaculate Reception

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No list of lucky plays would be complete without this gem. From the way the ball bounced back to Franco Harris to the way the ball was also just out of the camera view, there isn’t anything about this play that isn’t lucky.

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The Miracle at the Meadowlands

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Footballs have a tendency to bounce whatever way they so choose causing havoc on the field. Yet this football decided to bounce directly into the outstretched hands of Herm Edwards. My favorite part about this play is that when it originally happened the TV broadcast credits were rolling across the screen because they had assumed the game was over. And you know what they say about assuming…

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Music City Miracle

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The Titans needed a miracle, and they got it. I added this play to the “lucky” list because if Kevin Dyson doesn’t take that step back, the refs probably throw a flag for an illegal forward pass and we’re reminiscing the Music City Mistake instead. Whether or not he actually stepped back far enough for it to be legal lateral remains up for debate. But the Titans are lucky Dyson took that fateful step to spark their playoff run that unfortunately ended on a rather unlucky play for Titans fans.

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The original “Hail Mary”

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We have to pay homage to the one that started it all. Admittedly, I wasn’t alive to witness this in person but as soon as I started to develop my love for football I heard stories of the one true Hail Mary. Thanks to the internet, I was able to get a chance to watch it years later. To me, the luckiest part of this play is that Vikings cornerback Nate Wright loses his footing and falls over as Drew Pearson leaps over him. Had Wright not tripped, we may never have had one of the most iconic plays in all of sports.

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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