The Nearly Men: The Top 5 Almost-Touchdowns of All Time (Video)
I think everyone will agree that success is great. For some people, it comes easy, while others never get to taste it.
What's worse, though, is being allowed to bask in your success for a split-second before having it cruelly snatched away from you.
The men on this list know exactly how that feels.
5. Chris Cooley: Washington Redskins vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, Week 16, 2010
If any 12 seconds of footage could be used to sum up the recent fortunes of the Washington Redskins, it would be these.
2010 was not a good year in Washington. Even before this game. Donovan McNabb had sunk to depths so low that even archaeologists couldn't find him. Washington was 5-9 after a 30-33 loss to Dallas, with Rex Grossman starting that game in place of McNabb.
Chris Cooley isn't the sort of guy who drops a lot of passes—he sits ninth on the Redskins list of all-time receivers—but this game he would drop at least three that regular NFL viewers would expect him to catch.
The problem with the play on this list is that regular NFL viewers would expect themselves to make it, as well.
With Cooley wide open in the end zone, Grossman threw a short pass that couldn't have been simpler for a receiver of Cooley's caliber. It had minimal velocity, and Cooley had plenty of time to see the angle and adjust accordingly. But he inexplicably dropped the pass, then scrambled on his knees before getting up and looking thoroughly embarrassed as the cameras seized upon his face.
Fred Davis caught a pass for a touchdown on the next play and the Redskins won the game, sparing Cooley even more embarrassment.
But when you make mistakes like that, they have a tendency to take on a life of their own.
4. Tony Romo: Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks, Wild-Card Game, 2007
This shouldn't have been anywhere near a list with the word "touchdown" in its title.
Tony Romo had been holding on kicks long before he became a starter in the NFL. Although not the regular kicker, Martin Gramatica must have thought he could be a playoff hero. He was facing a potential game-winning 19-yard field goal with 1:19 remaining.
The first part of Romo's role went without a hitch. He caught the snap. It was when he tried to place the ball that his world fell apart.
With Gramatica approaching, Romo fumbled the ball on the way down and made the decision to get up and run with it toward the end zone. A gap opened up as he cut left, glory still within his grasp. He made it to the 2-yard line before suddenly he was down.
Jordan Babineaux flung himself at Romo's heels and held on for the tackle, ending the run of both Romo and the Cowboys.
Romo would take no comfort in the fact that he had led his team to that position. His five wins on his first six starts enabled the Cowboys to sneak into the playoffs. He would walk disconsolately from the field with his head feeling heavier than it ever had. He would remember this misplay for the rest of his career.
Everyone else would remember, too.
3. DeSean Jackson: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys, Week 2, 2008
DeSean Jackson isn't a stranger to this sort of list.
At the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in 2005, Jackson sprinted for a certain touchdown—then made the decision to swan dive from the 5-yard line to finish it and ended up leaving the ball a yard short. Bizarrely, he decided to celebrate anyway.
He was named MVP of that game, but the reason this one trumps it is because it took place three years later and he obviously still hadn't learned that you have to get the ball across the goal line in order for it to be called a touchdown.
Donovan McNabb spotted Jackson and threw a perfect pass over the top as he powered past the Cowboys defense with ease, throwing the ball to the ground as he went into the end zone. Everyone celebrated and the rookie from California was stamping his name onto the league in Week 2 with his first touchdown.
A 62-yard touchdown then became a 61-yard pass as the original decision was challenged and overturned. It seemed that Jackson was in such a hurry to celebrate that he couldn't wait to get across the goal line, disdainfully throwing the ball behind him as the revelry began around him.
Philadelphia got the ball at the 1-yard line and scored from there, but Jackson's first touchdown would have to wait a little longer, two weeks longer when he finally remembered to cross the goal line at Soldier Field.
2. Leon Lett: Dallas Cowboys vs. Buffalo Bills, Super Bowl XXVII, 1993
A true classic is up next, courtesy of Leon Lett, the man with the dubious honor of having two of his plays in the top three of ESPN's "25 Biggest Sports Blunders" poll. Either of the two could have made this list, but this one takes precedence as it was in a Super Bowl, the biggest stage of them all.
Lett wasn't exactly known for his scoring prowess, having scored a grand total of zero touchdowns leading up to Super Bowl XXVII. But his time of glory was upon him as the game moved into its final quarter.
The Cowboys had already amassed a 52-17 lead when Frank Reich fumbled at the Dallas 35-yard line. Lett seized upon the loose ball and almost had the field to himself as he made his way to the end zone.
But when he got to the 10-yard line, he decided to watch some TV.
Determined to enjoy the moment for all it was worth, Lett slowed down to watch himself on the Jumbotron as he made his way past the goal line, throwing his right arm out and imitating Michael Irvin on the way to his first career touchdown.
What Lott failed to notice was Don Beebe chasing him down from behind with as much heart as you'll ever see in professional sports. Beebe arrived just in time to swat the ball from Lott's hand and out the back of the end zone for a touchback.
Lott never scored a touchdown in his career, but at least he failed in spectacular style.
1. Jackie Smith, Pittsbugh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl XIII
The previous slides have featured plays of varying degrees of importance, with their position on the list eventually decided by a combination of incompetence, impact within the context of the game and the game's impact upon the season. This one makes the top of the list as it ranks high on all counts.
A player's final game should be one that they always remember. After all, there's no better way to bow out than with a Super Bowl victory. In many ways, Jackie Smith's final game would prove even more memorable than if his Dallas Cowboys had won the game.
Momentum is an integral part of sports—seemingly down-and-out teams can be revived by a late surge of hope and claw their way back into contention, sometimes even to victory. Who knows what would have happened if Smith had caught Roger Staubach's pass in the end zone late in the third quarter at the Orange Bowl. But the momentum certainly would have swung back to the Cowboys.
He was wide open as Staubach threw him the ball.
Maybe he was expecting more power on the pass and was trying to check his momentum as his legs went out from underneath him. Maybe he just lost his concentration at a vital time and took his eye off the ball.
Whichever way you look at it, the first and only time Smith was thrown the ball in his Dallas Cowboys career was in a Super Bowl—and it bounced off his chest and fell to the ground in the end zone.
Honorable Mention: Jim Marshall, Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers, 1964
Jim Marshall played on four NFC Championship teams, went to two Pro Bowls and was a member of the Minnesota Vikings' infamous "Purple People Eaters" defense, the scourge of the NFL. He was a consummate athlete who started a then-record 270 consecutive games and was a Hall of Fame finalist in 2004.
Despite all that, however, he is often remembered for one of the most embarrassing plays in NFL history, a play that is worthy of inclusion here by the sheer ridiculousness of its nature.
The Vikings were leading 27-17 at Kezar Stadium when Niners quarterback George Mira threw a pass to Billy Kilmer, who took a hit and fumbled the ball. Marshall was the first to react, pouncing on the loose ball and turning to run 66 yards to the end zone. When he turned to receive the adulation of his teammates, he was instead greeted by 49ers center Bruce Bosley.
"Thanks a lot, we could use more like that," Bosley reportedly said with a grin, as the reality of the situation dawned on the Vikings defensive end.
Marshall responded with a sack that forced a fumble and resulted in the touchdown that ensured the win for the Vikings. But that is conveniently forgotten when the tale of "The Wrong Way Run" is told.
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