Philadelphia and Detroit played a game in blizzard-like conditions for most of the game. Neither team scored points with a kick, which is the first time no points have been scored kicking since 1957, when Pittsburgh beat Philadelphia on a lone touchdown and a missed extra point. This game, on the other hand, featured 54 points, eight two-point conversion attempts, and only one attempted kick that ended badly for David Akers. Yes, for the first time in football history, it was too early to go for 1.
The Eagles flew past the Lions with 34 points in the second half, there were big plays and dance routines and plenty of great images, including Calvin Johnson’s snowman impression.
And it was probably only the fourth wildest game among the early games on Sunday.
There have been wilder, more memorable games in NFL history. We could run down games known by their nicknames, like The Catch, or The Immaculate Reception, The Drive, or The Fumble. Their have been compelling playoff games, and memorable closes to a season when the impending finish and urgency brought pressure. The ending in 2003, when Josh McCown hit Nate Poole in the corner of the end zone to knock the Vikings out of the playoffs, comes to mind.
I’m not sure, though, that there has been a wilder five hour period of games than what took place starting at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, blowing in with the wintry conditions in the Northeast. How wild was it? In addition to the Eagles game not being the biggest story, consider that Jeff Triplette made a terrible call in reversing a touchdown. On most other Sundays, he would be topic #1 or at least #1A.
Triplette ruled Benjarvus Green-Ellis scored a touchdown because he was untouched and rolled in on fourth down, even though the ruling on the field was he was done. After the game, he acknowledged his incompetence by not even looking to see if Green-Ellis had been contacted in the backfield, starting his stumble.
He does, though, have good timing. After botching the end of the Washington-New York game just a week ago, Triplette got a game where the final margin was 14 (so those looking at results and not process are not as upset) and where so many other things happened.
How wild was it?
The record for the longest field goal of all-time was set yesterday. Matt Prater broke the record first established by Tom Dempsey that has stood since 1970.
Okay, not a yawn, but not even the most improbable thing to happen yesterday.
Where do you even begin to rank the wild-ness? Pittsburgh almost won a game on the lateral drill. Almost, as in a toe on the line almost. Had Antonio Brown’s foot not hit the sideline as he raced for the winning score, it would have been a top ten game ending play of all-time.
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, right?
Well, the Ravens and Vikings were lobbing hand grenades at each other over the last two minutes of what would be the wild finish of the year in pretty much any season. Six lead changes in the fourth quarter is the most ever, and five of those came in the last two minutes and seven seconds.
For the first 57 minutes and 53 seconds, the teams had combined for 19 points. Joe Flacco completed the touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta on 4th and 1 just before the two minute warning to give Baltimore a 15-12 lead.
Toby Gerhart then scored two plays later on a 41 yard run. Over the last fifteen years, here is a list of the running backs who have scored a touchdown to take a lead from 40 or more yards out in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter:
The longest touchdown run to give a team the lead in last two minutes in the last fifteen seasons was Frank Gore, with a 35 yard run in this game in 2007 to give San Francisco the lead over Arizona with 1:25 remaining.
Of course, we weren’t done. Toby Gerhart being the only running back in fifteen years to break a long touchdown run inside the two minute warning to erase a deficit is not ridiculous enough. No, then Jacoby Jones, already prominently in the news for his kick return against Pittsburgh a week ago that cost Mike Tomlin $100,000, returned the kickoff for a touchdown to put Baltimore back in the lead.
You want to know the last time a team returned a kickoff for a touchdown to take the lead in the last two minutes of a game? Turn away, Buffalo fans.
Of course, getting a long run and a kickoff return touchdown was not enough. Cordarelle Patterson scored on a 79 yard touchdown reception just a few plays later. In comparison, that kind of explosive potentially game winning play is common place. It’s been done three times in the last fifteen years, most recently when Eli hit Victor Cruz last year against Washington for a 77 yard touchdown to take the lead.
Three highly improbable outcomes, each of which would have made for a fantastic ending, were not enough. Baltimore score on your garden variety, ho-hum, toe drag catch in the back of the end zone by Marlon Brown with 4 seconds left, after going the length of the field in less than a minute.
I am now exhausted all over again. We won’t even get to detailed to the New England game. You know what happened. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and whatever sorcerer’s magic they possess. The first time New England has recovered an onside kick and gone on to win a game ever, according to Aaron Schatz. It wouldn’t be a Patriots’ ending if an official’s ruling was not involved, as a very questionable pass interference call put the ball on the goal line for the winning touchdown.
In the end, the most improbable thing on a day of improbabilities was this: the New York Jets were involved in none of it.