The New York Giants needed a long snapper before their wild-card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers in 2002, so they called veteran Trey Junkin out of retirement, giving Junkin an opportunity to end his career in storybook fashion. But what happened to Junkin falls under the horror category.
The Giants took a 38-14 lead late in the third quarter behind 342 passing yards and four touchdowns by Kerry Collins. But Jeff Garcia and the 49ers launched a historic comeback, eventually taking a 39-38 lead on a touchdown pass to Tai Streets with just 1:05 remaining.
Collins and the Giants still had time to drive for a game-winning field goal though, and that's exactly what they did. The game's final play came down to a 41-yard field goal attempt by Matt Bryant, who had missed a 42-yard field goal three minutes earlier following a bad snap by Junkin.
This time, Bryant never even got his chance. Another bad snap by Junkin led to a scramble and a desperate heave downfield by punter Matt Allen. The pass, intended for guard Rich Seubert, fell incomplete, but a penalty should have been called on defensive end Chike Okeafor, who clearly pulled Seubert down before the ball reached either player.
Instead a penalty was called on guard Tam Hopkins for being an illegal man downfield, which was the correct call. Since no penalty was called on the 49ers, the game ended. Yet offsetting penalties would have given the Giants another chance at a game-winning field goal had the referees made the right call.
The NFL admitted its mistake the next day, but the damage had been done, and the 49ers advanced to the divisional round of the postseason.
Ironically, three of the key members of the play would never again play in the NFL: Hopkins, Allen and Junkin. For Junkin, the snap was just the fourth bad snap of his career. Two had come in the previous 19 seasons. Two came in the same game on consecutive snaps.