For my 100th article for the IDP Guys I wanted to look back on some of the moments that stand out in the minds of some of our writers and readers and really made an impact on them. I asked via twitter and through our writer’s slack channel for some of the most memorable and impactful moments they’ve experienced in their football watching lives. What I got was a reminder of just how many special moments there have been and the inspiration I was looking for to properly celebrate my century mark as a writer for IDP Guys.
Make sure you caught parts one and two of this article series where I discussed long pole Foles, Favres Monday night football game for dad and the Colts exorcise their demons, moments ten through eight. Part two covered Kurt Warner’s journey from bagging groceries to super bowl champion, John Elway’s strong finish and “The Comeback”. Part three will cover three more memorable moments in NFL history.
Number 4: Music City & Minneapolis Miracles
When it comes to miraculous plays, the NFL has a long and distinguished list to choose from. When it comes to miraculous plays when they mattered most the list gets shorter. The Super Bowl has the Tyree Catch, Edelman’s Catch, Manningham’s Catch, Butlers Pick and Santonio Holmes’ toe-tap in the end zone. There has been “The Catch and The Catch Two” both with the 49ers. These were all amazing plays without a doubt but when it comes to the most memorable playoff miracles there are two that stand above all the rest. Of course I’m talking about the Minneapolis Miracle and the Music City Miracle.
The Minneapolis Miracle took place during the divisional round of the 2017-18 playoffs in the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. This game started fast for the Vikings with a Jerick McKinnon 14 yard touchdown run and a Kai Forbath field goal in the first quarter to give the Vikings a quick 10-0 lead. Latavius Murray would score before halftime and the Vikings would go into the half up 17-0 over Brees and the Saints. While some shoveled dirt on the Saints, most knew that this was Drew Brees and a comeback was almost a certainty. They were correct.
Two Micheal Thomas touchdown catches from Brees would cut the lead to three points with just over thirteen minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Vikings would get a Kai Forbath field goal on the very next possession making their lead six points with ten minutes left to play. An Alvin Kamara touchdown catch from Brees would put the Saints on top for only a short while since Forbath would hit another field goal with a minute and a half left giving the Vikings a one point lead with almost no time remaining in the game.
Brees was able to rally the offense and drive down to give Will Lutz a shot at a 43 yard field goal with just 25 seconds left in the game, he knocked it through and this thing looked like a done deal. Brees had completed the comeback and with just 25 seconds left to play and the Vikings stranded on their own 25 yard line after a touchback this game looked over.
Keenum was able to hit Diggs for a 19 yard gain on first down but his next two passes were incomplete and with only ten seconds left in the game and no more timeouts options were limited. On third and ten from the Vikings own 39 yard line Keenum dropped back and tried to hit Diggs on the sideline. The idea was he would step out of bounds and give them the chance at either a long field goal or a hail Mary from closer range.
What actually happened was rookie safety Marcus Williams missed his tackle, took out his own teammate, and Diggs remained upright and inbounds with the ball in his possession and no one in front of him. Diggs scampered 61 yards to the end zone as time expired and the Vikings won the game. This was the only playoff game in NFL history to end with a touchdown as the clock expired.
Pandemonium ensued. I remember jumping off my couch and yelling “HOLY SHIT!!!”. It was absolutely incredible, I had never seen anything like it. Williams had tried to blast Diggs and break up the catch when all he really needed to do was wrap up and the game was over, it was a rookie mistake made by a player who was having an outstanding rookie season. That rookie mistake just happened at the worst possible time. Even worse was Williams missed tackle ended up taking out his fellow teammate cornerback Ken Crawley and prevented him from making a tackle and ending the game.
It was a perfect storm of circumstances that ended with Diggs running down the sideline and into NFL history as the Vikings would move on to the NFC title game. Keenum lined up the offense to kneel down for the two point conversion attempt while the crowd was chanting “SKOL”. Keenum commanded them with his clapping hands over his head, it was an incredible moment and one I’ll never forget.
The Music City Miracle happened at the end of the 1999 AFC Wild Card round matchup between the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills. This was another one of those plays that was incredibly unlikely and something we’ll probably never see again. After a scoreless first quarter the Titans got first-blood by sacking Buffalo quarterback Rob Johnson in his own end zone for a safety giving the Titans a 2-0 lead. They would tack on a Steve McNair scramble for a touchdown and a Del Greco field goal to go into halftime with a 12-0 lead over the Bills.
The Bills made some halftime adjustments and started the second half with two rushing touchdowns by Antowain Smith, giving them a 13-12 lead with time running down in the fourth quarter. In a defensive struggle of a game where points were hard to come by the last two minutes of this game featured a flurry of scoring and one of the most exciting ends to a playoff game in NFL history.
With just under two minutes left in the game the Titans kicked a field goal to go up 15-13 but ended up leaving too much time on the clock. Johnson led the Bills down the field and got their Kicker, Steve Christie, a chance at a 41 yard field goal which he connected on, giving the Bills 16-15 lead with only 16 seconds left to play, this game was over.
The Bills lined up and kicked it deep to Lorenzo Neal who then turned and handed the ball to Frank Wycheck who started up the field then stopped and threw the ball laterally and across the field to a waiting Kevin Dyson. The Bills kickoff coverage team was so concerned with the initial lateral or hand off from Neal to Wycheck that no one was in position to stop Dyson, as his teammates ran out in front of him and made a lane down the sideline the speedster kicked on the after burners and scampered 75 yards up the sideline for a touchdown with only three seconds remaining in the game.
Instantly there were questions, the biggest one being did Wycheck actually lateral the ball or was it a forward pass or a parallel pass that didn’t travel backwards at all like it must to be a legal football play. Instant replay scrutinized every angle as both teams waited anxiously to see if the miracle would actually count.
It did. The Titans had pulled off a miracle, the Music City Miracle.
My memories from this game are cloudy if we’re being honest here, I remember it happening and know I saw it. In fact the 1999 season is one of my favorites of all time. I was only sixteen years old though so the exact details of how I reacted are hazy at best. I don’t think I realized how incredible that play was until years later. When I look back at it now I marvel at the design of that play and how well it was executed. You see these situations all the time being an NFL fan and the majority of the time a team that’s put in a position like the Titans were in does not pull out the win.
There’s a reason why the win probability percentage on ESPN score pages is usually correct, most of the time a team down one point with 16 seconds left and no timeouts is done for. This was one of those rare instances where not only was the miracle pulled off but it was done in a playoff game which automatically makes it far more unlikely and important. These two plays will be something I never forget.
Number 3: The First Guarantee
Football fans these days are used to some idiot wide receiver or cornerback running their mouth and guaranteeing a win before a game. Hell, even my favorite team did it with crazy Jimmy Johnson running his mouth before the 1992 NFC title game against the 49ers. This kind of thing is fairly common these days and as society becomes more about “clout” and being “savage”.
But a long time ago this game was played by quiet professionals who weren’t about “chirping” or “talking shit”. So when a young quarterback who was better known for being a playboy and for his looks rather than for his play on the field decided to make the “first” guarantee it took the league by storm and changed the culture of the league forever. That part most people know, what they don’t know is how crazy Namath’s guarantee was at the time. According to conventional wisdom the Jets stood no chance at all in that game.
It was the third year of what was now officially being called the “Super Bowl” or as it was known before that point, the AFL-NFL championship game. It was a common belief at the time that AFL teams like Namath’s Jets were less talented than NFL teams and the New York Jets would go into their game against the Baltimore Colts as 18 point underdogs. That’s a ridiculous point spread by the way, especially for a championship game.
The 1968 NFL Champion Baltimore Colts had gone 13-1 during their regular season and had destroyed the Cleveland Browns 34-0 in the NFL Championship game, predecessor to the NFC title game, on their way to the “Super Bowl”. Their offense had ended the regular season second in the NFL and their defense was ranked number one overall in points allowed. With veteran quarterback Earl Morrall stepping in for the legendary Johny Unitas after a pre-season injury, the Colts were a team loaded with experience and talent and were predicted by many to dispatch the lowly Jets easily.
The Colts were the only NFL team to play a zone defense at this point in time and it had baffled and confused many of their conference opponents, what they didn’t count on or realize was that the zone defense was common in the AFL so their seeming advantage was really a disadvantage as the Jets had learned how to attack this style of defense over the season.
The AFL champion New York Jets finished their regular season with an 11-3 record and beat the Oakland Raiders in the AFC championship game, now known as the AFC title game. Led by good-looking and fast-talking Joe Namath the Jets offense was loaded with players cut by NFL teams who harbored a grudge and viewed this game against the Colts as a chance for payback.
Their defense had led the AFL in fewest rushing yards allowed but this would do them no good against the Colts as they still put up over 150 rushing yards against the Jets in Super Bowl three. They would need to find another advantage to use to overcome the imagined difference in talent that everyone from the analysts to Vegas thought existed between these two teams and also these two leagues.
While many people know that Joe Namath guaranteed the Jets would win earlier in the week, many believe that this happened by the pool, shirtless and in front of a pool of reporters. That is true, but he was just confirming a guarantee he had already made prior to that at the Miami Touchdown Club where he told a room full of fans the Jets would win the game. He would later say that he wouldn’t have even said it except a boisterous Colts fan had egged him on. Once he said it he was committed and didn’t deny it the rest of the week.
Coach Ewbank later joked that he “could have shot” Namath for the statement. An article in the Miami Herald made the comment known to all of America and instantly became bulletin board material for the Colts. When the coaching staff and teammates ripped into Namath for making this wild guarantee he would say to them “If they need press clippings to get ready then they’re in trouble.” The Jets bought into this mindset and along with the eighteen point spread they were predicted to lose by there was more than enough ammunition for the Jets to come out swinging in Super Bowl three.
The Jets secondary completely destroyed Colts quarterback Earl Morrall’s confidence by picking him off three times and holding him to only six completions for a meager 71 yards for the game. Morrall would eventually get the hook and Johnny Unitas would come into the game for the Colts. While Unitas did manage to lead the Colts to their only touchdown he was also picked off and held to eleven completions for 110 yards and no passing touchdowns.
On the legs of Matt Snell, who ran for 121 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown and the right leg of Jim Turner who had three field goals, the Jets offense put up sixteen points which proved to be more than enough as the Colts offense looked pathetic against their “inferior” AFL competition. Namath himself would back up his smack talk by leading four scoring drives and completing 17 passes for 206 yards with no sacks or interceptions. The Jets were never in danger of losing this game from the second quarter onward and would win their first championship, now known as the “Super Bowl”. Of course they did, after all Joe Namath told everyone they would earlier that week.
What I remember most about this was…nothing, I wasn’t alive yet. The precedent that Namath set with this move however is something I see every season now. Whether it’s Ryan Clark running his mouth and then getting embarrassed by Tom Brady or Jalen Ramsey on a microphone telling the home crowd that the Jaguars are going to the Super Bowl (then losing to the Patriots) these kinds of ridiculous guarantees are common place these days.
Sometimes it works out, like when Jimmy Johnson guaranteed the Cowboys would beat the 49ers in the NFC title game in 1992 and sometimes it goes the way of the previous two examples I just laid out. Regardless of how it plays out the guarantee is now a common part of NFL culture and will continue to be going forward. And just like anything there always has to be someone to do it the first time and for this that honor goes to crazy Joe Namath sitting shirtless by a pool and changing the culture of the NFL forever.
Number 2: 1972 Dolphins
While I was just a twinkle in my fathers eye in 1972, I was most definitely alive for the 2007 season where we all came within a fart of watching the Patriots go 19-0 and becoming the greatest team in NFL history. They would have dethroned the only other undefeated Super Bowl Champion, the 1972 Dolphins. With a little intervention from God, David Tyree and Eli Manning we were all spared from that unimaginable fate and were left with just the one NFL team to ever go undefeated throughout the regular season and win the Super Bowl, this is their story.
The 1972 version of the Miami Dolphins possessed the number one defense in both points and yards allowed and number two overall in turnovers for the season. They also had the number one offense in the league in both points scored and yards gained. On defense they forced 46 turnovers including 26 interceptions. Offensively they led the league with 2,960 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns with running backs Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris combining for 2,117 of those yards and 18 of the league leading 26 ground touchdowns.
At quarterback Earl Morrall and Bob Griese combined to lead the Dolphins to an undefeated season with a total of 1,998 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. This team was a run and play defense old fashioned smash mouth football kind of squad, their quarterback play was mostly team management and move the sticks with not a lot of flash.
Of the fourteen regular season games that year the Dolphins won eleven of them by double digits with the other three ending as nail biters. The Buffalo Bills gave them the biggest scare of their season with the Dolphins only beating them by one point at home, 24-23. They won by two points at Minnesota early in the season and by four points at home against the Jets.
Besides those three games, this Dolphins team pretty much murdered everyone they played all season, including at home against the Patriots 52-0 and at the Baltimore Colts 23-0. The rolled into the playoffs as the overall one seed for the AFC and would play the Cleveland Browns in the divisional round of the playoffs.
In a back and forth affair that featured an action-packed fourth quarter the Dolphins would cash in on a Jim Kiick eight yard touchdown scamper in the closing minutes of the game to seal a 20-14 victory and send them on to the AFC title game. Their opponent would be the Pittsburgh Steelers and their vaunted defense. Despite the 21-17 final score this game was never really in doubt as the Dolphins had built a commanding lead going into the final quarter. Terry Bradshaw tacked on a late score to make the final respectable but the Dolphins were on their way to the Super Bowl.
The final game of the 1972 season was a defensive struggle and the kind of game the Dolphins had been playing all year, they were built for this and had to win just one more game to take their place in NFL history as the only undefeated team to win the Super Bowl. In their way were the Washington Redskins who had gone 11-3 in the regular season and caught fire during the playoffs to make it to the final game.
Washington quarterback Billy Kilmer was picked off three times and stud running back Larry Brown was held to 72 rushing yards and fumbled once. While the Dolphins offense only managed fourteen points the Miami defense held the Skins scoreless on offense ensuring that the only Washington points on the day were scored on special teams fluke score by Mike Bass. The final score was 14-7 and history was made. The 1972 Miami Dolphins had gone wire to wire and completed the undefeated season with a 17-0 record.
Since this accomplishment several teams have come close, most recently the 2007 Patriots who went undefeated in the regular season before ultimately losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
What I remember most about this team is also nothing, I wasn’t alive yet for these guys either. There is something to be said for this team and their accomplishment though. In my many years as an NFL fan I’ve seen many teams come close to going undefeated in the regular season but it usually doesn’t happen. With so many teams resting starters in the final game of the season or even sooner if their division title and playoff seeding is already locked in I think the chances of seeing another team go undefeated into the playoffs gets farther and farther away as time goes on.
Player health and wear and tear have become much larger factors in the modern NFL and the only reason the Patriots in 2007 even went for the undefeated season has a lot to do with their head coach and his attitude. The Panthers came close a couple years back, the Colts did a few times during their runs with Manning but the bottom line is it remains an extremely tough thing to do.
Winning all sixteen games in a season comes down to more than just talent and coaching, player health and luck play an equally large part in this equation and I think the odds of seeing a team go 16-0 and then win the additional three games to bring home a title after all that is unlikely at best. For the time being the 1972 Dolphins have their place in NFL history secured with no challengers in sight, long live the king.
Thank you for reading and please check out parts one and two if you missed them and keep an eye out for part four dropping next weekend. I’ll be writing about all kinds of random NFL topics this offseason so if you’re in the mood for some NFL history or other topics of interest related to football stay tuned to idpguys.org. When the new season kicks off I’ll be back to writing the weekly instant reaction and defensive waivers articles and also the weekly IDP start or sit but for now please enjoy my rantings into the void found at your one stop shop for all things IDP and football, idpguys.org