Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the smartest, wildest, and most unexpected NFL plays that left defenses scratching their heads.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took the Steelers to the Super Bowl in just his second year in the league. But it was a wide receiver who threw the pass that put the game away in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks. Randle El played quarterback at Indiana University, where he proved that he could run, pass, and catch. He was drafted by Pittsburgh as a receiver in 2002, and got to put his passing talent to work again in Super Bowl XL. With the Steelers up 14-10 and just under nine minutes left to play, Roethlisberger handed the ball off to Randle El, who launched it 43 yards downfield to Hines Ward. From there, it was a very short trip to the endzone.
The score was tied after halftime of this 2007 AFC Divisional playoff game between the Patriots and the Jaguars. At the beginning of the third quarter, Brady led the Pats on an 82-yard drive that culminated in his unique spin on this classic trick play. The Jags were expecting either a direct snap or a handoff to running back Kevin Faulk. Instead, Brady took the snap and held onto the ball, leaving the defenders totally confused. With zero pressure on the QB and wide receiver Wes Welker open in the endzone, the touchdown completion was a cinch.
It’s the second quarter, you’re down 13-7 and it’s fourth and goal at the one yard line. Do you kick a field goal or try for a quarterback sneak? How about neither? Instead, the Dolphins line up in an unusual formation, with the center snapping the ball directly to punter Matt Haack. Kicker Jason Sanders lines up on the left side of the field. You can almost see the looks of confusion on the defenders’ faces. After the snap, no one bothers to cover Sanders, and he strolls into the endzone almost untouched. Haack easily lobs the ball to him, completing the first ever punter to kicker touchdown pass in the NFL. The Dolphins would go on to win this 2019 matchup in a shootout.
Near the end of this AFC Wild Card game, the Bills scored a field goal to put them up by one point. With 16 seconds left, it looked like the Titans’ playoff run was over. Then, a miracle happened. Fullback Lorenzo Neal fielded the kickoff and handed the ball off to tight end Frank Wycheck. He then threw a lateral pass to wide receiver Kevin Dyson, who ran 75 yards untouched to the endzone. For a while, there was some controversy over whether the pass was indeed a lateral, but later analysis showed that the refs made the right call. Just a few weeks later, the Titans took their first and only trip to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Saint Louis Rams.
Also known as the Fumblerooski, some version of this play has been kicking around for decades. In the family classic “Little Giants,” Rick Moranis’s pee-wee team gave it a new name and used it to score a 99-yard touchdown in the final seconds of the game. The Panthers ran their own take on it in 2011. Cam Newton took the snap and handed it off to fullback Richie Brockel between his legs. Newton then executed a spin move to the right as Brockel ran to the left and into the endzone. To be fair to the Texans, most of them didn’t bite on the fake out. But they also didn’t react fast enough to the hand off, allowing the runner to score.
The Rams had a two-score lead on the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks when they pulled off this incredibly sneaky punt return in 2014. Both the blockers and the defenders swarm to one side of the field, where Tavon Austin pretends he’s about to catch the punt. But the ball is actually headed toward the far sideline, where Stedman Bailey waits for it. Thanks to Austin’s Oscar-worthy fake out, no one is anywhere near Bailey when he catches the ball, and he sprints 90 yards for a touchdown. The Bears almost pulled off an identical play three years earlier, but it was called back on a holding penalty.
This might be one of the most complicated executions of this classic trick play. Named after former Oilers and Saints coach Bum Phillips, the Bumerooski is another variation on the Fumblerooski. In their second matchup against the Broncos in 2006, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers took the snap and handed off the ball between the legs of Lorenzo Neal. Rivers then faked a handoff to running back Vincent Jackson and both he and Rivers ran to the right. Neal, meanwhile, ran to the left, barrelling through defenders and in for the touchdown.
In this 1994 matchup against the Jets, the Dolphins were down three points with less than a minute left in the game. They got a first down on a Marino pass to Mark Ingram, Sr., setting up first and goal on the Jets’ eight yard line with 38 seconds to go. The offense then rushed to get set at the line of scrimmage as Marino motioned for a spike to stop the clock. At the snap, the defensive line barely moved, assuming Marino would throw the ball to the turf. Instead, he floated an easy pass to Ingram in the endzone, leaving the Jets – and the commentators – stunned. It was a brilliant piece of deception that sealed the win for the Dolphins.
This might be the gutsiest play ever called in a Super Bowl. Down 10-6 at the half, New Orleans shocked everyone by starting the third quarter with an onside kick. Head Coach Sean Payton later revealed that the team had practiced the play all week ahead of the big game. It was a huge risk, because if the Colts recovered the kick, the legendary Peyton Manning would get the ball at mid-field. And the Colts almost did recover it. As players from both teams piled on top of the ball, it was unclear which side had possession. After what seemed like an eternity of pushing, shoving, and yelling, the refs finally made the announcement: Saints’ ball. The Saints would go on to win 31-17. Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions. Pat McAfee Recovers His Own Onside Kick No Other Kicker Could Have Made This Look So Easy Seahawks Fake Field Goal Punter Jon Ryan Finds Rookie Tackle Garry Gilliam for the Seahawks’ First Score Robert Newhouse’s Pass to Golden Richards It Was the First Touchdown Ever Thrown by a Non-quarterback in a Super Bowl Fake Punt Sleight of Hand Oilers Punter Reggie Roby Pulls off a Magic Trick to Get a First Down Ty Montgomery’s Kick Recovery Out of Bounds This Smart Move Gave the Packers an Extra 15 Yards for Free
Super Bowl LII felt like a David and Goliath matchup if there ever was one, with Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles facing off against all-time great Tom Brady. But Philadelphia held their own against New England, and pulled off one of the most brilliant trick plays of all time in the process. At the end of the first half, at fourth and goal with 38 seconds on the clock, the Eagles center snapped the ball directly to running back Corey Clement. He then pitched it to tight end Trey Burton, who launched a perfect pass to the QB in the endzone. Foles became the first quarterback to catch a touchdown in a Super Bowl, and got to hoist the Lombardi Trophy not long after. Which trick play had you yelling at your screen? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.