Plaxico Burress and the Most Surprising Moment in the History of Each NFL Team
The New York Giants defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. The Baltimore Colts relocating to Indianapolis. The Seattle Seahawks defeating the New Orleans Saints in this past year's playoffs.
What do all of these events have in common?
If anyone had predicted them, with the better odds on the other side, they would have become very rich.
There are many surprising moments in the NFL each season. Surprising wins, losses, catches and plays. There are also surprising moments off the field, typically negative.
Here are the most surprising moments for each team in the NFL.
Buffalo Bills: Kevin Everett
On September 9, 2007, Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett suffered a horrific injury to his spine. The injury was life-threatening and doctors said if Everett made it through, he would very likely be paralyzed.
Good news came two days later when Everett showed some arm movement. Following that, doctors said that Everett may be able to walk again.
During the Bills final home game on December 23, 2007, about three-and-a-half months after the injury, Everett walked for the first time in public, defying the odds against him.
In fact, he received the Jimmy V award for perseverance at the 2008 ESPY Awards, for defying the odds that he would never walk again.
Miami Dolphins: Perfect Season
The 1972 Miami Dolphins, under legendary head coach Don Shula, overcame the odds and won every game they played that season.
First, they went 14-0 during the regular season. Then, they went on to sweep the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. They are still the only team to complete the so-called perfect season, by winning every single regular season game, as well as each post-season game.
The team overcame an ankle injury to starting quarterback Bob Griese during Week 5. For most teams, an injury to the starting quarterback is a disaster. However, for the ’72 Dolphins, they were just fine under Earl Morrall, who led them through the rest of the season.
Griese returned to start the Super Bowl, where the Dolphins completed their perfect season by beating the Washington Redskins.
New England Patriots: Lost the Pursuit to Perfection
It appeared that the 2007 New England Patriots would finally be the next team to accomplish the perfect season. No one had accomplished this feat since the Miami Dolphins, 35 years earlier.
The Patriots went 16-0 during the regular season, despite many close games, such as in December versus the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots went on to win both AFC playoff games to head to the Super Bowl.
The odds were for the Patriots to win their fourth Super Bowl and complete the perfect season as they faced the New York Giants.
Then, in a shocking moment, Eli Manning miraculously broke a sack and David Tyree somehow manged to make a near-impossible catch, setting up the Giants’ winning touchdown.
The Patriots went home without the Lombardi Trophy and their perfect season.
New York Jets: Joe Namath Guaranteed the Super Bowl
The New York Jets faced the Baltimore Colts in the 1969 Super Bowl. Prior to the game, quarterback Joe Namath was really sure of the Jets' chances, as he guaranteed the win for the Jets.
Namath held true to his word though, as the Jets won the game 16-7. Namath was named the MVP of the game for his performance.
Namath went 17-28, with 206 passing yards, without a touchdown or an interception.
Baltimore Ravens: Art Modell Moves Cleveland Browns to Baltimore
In 1995, the Cleveland Browns were coming off a winning previous season, before losing in the playoffs. They began the ’95 season 3-1 and Sports Illustrated had the team poised to win the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately, owner Art Modell was battling the city of Cleveland regarding remodeling the stadium.
Then, Modell announced in November that he would be moving the team to Baltimore the following year. Fans in Cleveland were not pleased with this decision, with protests and lawsuits filed against the organization by the city.
The majority of stadium advertisers pulled their support of the team. However, the deal went through and the NFL returned to Baltimore.
The deal included Cleveland getting an NFL franchise back after a three-year period and the city of Cleveland allowed to keep the Browns name, logo and team traditions.
Cincinnati Bengals: Chris Henry Killed
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry had many off the field problems during his original tenure in Cincinnati. He was released from the team after many different run-ins with the law.
Broadcaster and former Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin said that he had talked to Henry about his behavior and was helping him get back on the right track. Henry returned to the Bengals in 2008.
During the 2009 season, Henry suffered a forearm injury in November. The next month, Henry was involved in an accident with his fiancée while they were in the middle of a domestic dispute.
Henry fell off the back of a pick-up truck and suffered head trauma. He passed away the next day.
The Bengals organization, fans as well as the public in general were horrified by Henry’s sad demise. It was especially tragic since Henry had seemed to turn his life around.
Cleveland Browns: Red Right 88
In the 1980 playoffs, the Cleveland Browns faced the Oakland Raiders. The Browns were down 14-12 with less than a minute in the fourth quarter and had the ball on the Raiders’ 13 yard line.
The Browns went with a play that has been dubbed Red Right 88. The play had quarterback Brian Sipe throwing into the end zone, instead of going for the field goal.
The reason was that kicker Don Cockroft had had a rough game. First, Cockroft missed two field goal attempts. He had trouble with the extra points as well- one was aborted following a poor snap and another extra point attempt was blocked.
These were the reasons the Browns put the game in Sipe's hands, instead of Cockroft's feet. Brian Sipe was intercepted and the Browns lost the game.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Immaculate Reception
With 1:17 left to go in an Oakland Raiders-Pittsburgh Steelers game, Raiders' quarterback Ken Stabler ran for a touchdown to take the lead 7-6. The Steelers took over from there.
With 22 seconds remaining, it seemed to be over for Pittsburgh. They had the ball on their own 40-yard line. They were facing a fourth and ten and had no timeouts left.
Quarterback Terry Bradshaw was under pressure from Oakland linemen and running out of options. Bradshaw heaved the ball toward “Frenchy” Fuqua on the 35 yard line. Oakland safety Jack Tatum ran into Fuqua and sent the football backwards.
Somehow, fullback Franco Harris caught the ball, just before it touched the ground. Harris ran for a touchdown, thus winning the game for the Steelers.
"The Immaculate Reception" play will forever be remembered as one of the greatest in NFL history.
Houston Texans: First Winning Season
The Houston Texans experienced their first, and only to date, winning season in 2009. Despite the winning season, they still failed to qualify for the playoffs.
The most surprising part was that they beat the New England Patriots in their final game. In beating the Patriots, the Texans finally achieved their first winning season. If the Texans would have lost, they would have finished an even 8-8, as they had the previous two seasons.
Instead, the Texans rallied back from a deficit to score 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. With that win, the Texans finished 9-7, the franchise’s first winning record.
Indianapolis Colts: Leave Baltimore in Middle of Night
Robert Irsay, the owner of the Baltimore Colts, was desperate for the city of Baltimore to build a new stadium for his team. The city repeatedly refused, saying that the taxpayers of Baltimore could not afford the expense.
Irsay began looking for a place to relocate the Colts. The final two options were either Phoenix or Indianapolis. When Phoenix fell through, Irsay worked out a deal with Indianapolis. The city would loan the team $12.5 million, build them a $4 million training complex and give them the use of the newly built Hoosier Dome.
Irsay accepted and Indianapolis finally reached an official agreement on March 28, 1984. After it was official, the city of Indianapolis immediately sent Mayflower moving trucks to move the team before Baltimore officials could prevent the move. At 2 a.m. on March 29, the Colts began to be packed up and moved. They were gone by mid-morning.
Each of the trucks apparently took a different route out of the city, so that it would be difficult for Maryland state troopers to stop them if they had tried. When the trucks reached Indiana state lines, Indiana state troopers escorted the trucks to Indianapolis.
When they heard about the move, the people of Baltimore were understandably upset. The mayor of Baltimore was even featured on the front page of The Baltimore Sun with a tear running down his face.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Making the Playoffs in 1996
The 1996 season was just the second season of the franchise. The team finished 9-7, which earned them the fifth spot in the playoffs. They beat Buffalo in the first round.
Their next game was against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos were heavily favored to win and had finished 13-3 that year and had not had much trouble against AFC opponents.
The Jaguars held their own against the Broncos. They dominated the second quarter, but the Broncos tried to comeback. The Jaguars eventually won the game, 30-27.
They went on to lose in the AFC Championship Game to the New England Patriots. However, their win against the Broncos is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in playoff history.
Tennessee Titans: The Music City Miracle
With under two minutes left in a Wild Card playoff game, the Tennessee Titans scored to take a 15-13 lead over the visiting Buffalo Bills.
Then, with just 16 seconds left, the Bills took the lead 16-15. To maintain the lead and win, all the Bills had to do was kick the football away and leave town with an impressive win.
However, after the Bills kicked, Lorenzo Neal received for the Titans. Instead of being tackled, Neal caught the ball and handed off to Frank Wycheck. Wycheck then made a lateral pass to Kevin Dyson.
Dyson ran the length of the field to score a 75-yard touchdown and advance the Titans to the next round. The Titans would eventually advance to the Super Bowl.
Denver Broncos: The Drive
There were just over 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter of the 1987 AFC Championship Game. The Denver Broncos were down 20-13 to the Cleveland Browns with 5:32 remaining.
The Broncos got the ball on the two-yard line and had to go 98 yards to tie the game. John Elway led the team on a perfectly-timed 15-play drive.
The Browns could not force one fourth down on the drive. The Broncos scored in just over 5 minutes to tie the game, giving the Browns no time to come back in regulation.
The Broncos went on to win the game in overtime and advance to the Super Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs: 2010 Season
Prior to the 2010 season, the Kansas City Chiefs had been through a rough few years. The team had not had a winning season since 2006. The seasons that followed, the team went 4-12, 2-14 then another 4-12.
Coming into 2010, not much was expected of the Chiefs. However, Kansas City surprised many by beginning the season 3-0. The team had not started a season off so well since the 2003 season, when they went 13-3.
Suddenly, the outlook on the Chiefs went from nothing to pretty good. In the end, the Chiefs went 10-6, winning the AFC West.
The team did not go far in the playoffs though, losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round.
Oakland Raiders: Bo Jackson Injury
During a 1990 playoff game versus the Cincinnati Bengals, Bo Jackson suffered a horrific injury that would end his football career. Bengal Kevin Walker tackled Jackson, causing a very bad hip injury.
According to Jackson’s baseball teammate George Brett, Brett spoke with the trainer, who told him that Jackson said he felt his hip pop out of the socket and then popped it back in. The trainer however refuted this claim, saying “That’s impossible, nobody is that strong.”
Regardless, the hip injury was very bad. After rehabilitation, doctors discovered that Jackson had avascular necrosis, a condition that cuts off the blood supply to the femur. This required hip replacement surgery.
Shockingly, despite the injury ending his football career, Jackson would eventually return to the baseball diamond.
San Diego Chargers: The Epic in Miami
The 1981 AFC divisional playoff game between the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins was one of the greatest in NFL history.
The game was very long. It lasted through almost five quarters, going 13 minutes and 52 seconds into overtime. The Chargers finally prevailed in the close game, 41-38.
It was just in time too. Players were becoming dehydrated because of the hot conditions of the southern Florida city.
Both teams played a well-fought game. Sports Illustrated called it “The Game No One Should Have Lost.”
Dallas Cowboys: Jimmy Johnson Departure
Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys parted ways after he and owner Jerry Jones mutually decided that they couldn’t work together.
The Cowboys had just won back-to-back Super Bowls and were looking for the three-peat. No head coach in the NFL had won three consecutive Super Bowls (and still hasn't). Legendary coach Vince Lombardi however, led the Green Bay Packers to win three consecutive NFL Championship Games.
Speculators say that Johnson could have accomplished the three-peat and probably more Super Bowl wins with the all-star trio of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.
We’ll never know. Barry Switzer succeeded Johnson as head coach and won a championship two years later with virtually the same team, so it is very possible.
New York Giants: Plaxico Burress
The year 2008 began pretty well for the New York Giants. They won the Super Bowl, beating the formerly undefeated New England Patriots. The game-winning touchdown was caught by wide receiver Plaxico Burress.
Then, in the fall of the next season, Burress was injured. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the worst that would happen to Burress and the Giants.
On November 28, Burress was out in a New York City club and accidentally shot himself in the thigh. Havoc ensued. It turned out that Burress did not have a license for his gun in New York or New Jersey, a criminal offense.
Burress was convicted of criminal charges and sentenced to two years in prison. The Giants released him, due to the negative shadow he cast upon the team.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Miracle at the Meadowlands
The Miracle at the Meadowlands occurred during a 1978 divisional game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants.
The Giants were winning 17-12 and the clock was running out. The Eagles had no timeouts left and it seemed that the Giants would win. All quarterback Joe Pisarcik needed to do was take the snap and kneel to run out the clock.
However, Pisarcik attempted a handoff. Unfortunately, instead of completing the handoff, Pisarcik fumbled.
In a stunning turn of events, Eagles’ cornerback Herman Edwards recovered the football and ran it back for a touchdown.
Unfortunately for Giants' fans, this would not be the only Miracle at the Meadowlands. The Eagles would stage another miraculous comeback in the New Meadowlands during the 2010 season.
Washington Redskins: Sean Taylor
Sean Taylor had past run-ins with the law, following his tenure at the University of Miami. However, Taylor was starting to get his life on the right track after his daughter was born.
In 2007, the Washington Redskins safety returned to Miami, where he was recovering from a football injury. His house was broken into on November 26 and Taylor was shot in the leg, as he tried to defend his family against the burglar.
Taylor had been a fan favorite in his NFL town of Washington and college town of Miami. He will be missed.
Chicago Bears: Brian Piccolo Cancer Diagnosis
In 1969, Brian Piccolo had finally become the starting fullback for the Chicago Bears. During a November game, Piccolo removed himself from the game. He had never done this before. His teammates and Chicago fans were very concerned.
Piccolo had evidently experienced difficulty breathing on the field. When he returned to Chicago, he went in for a medical examination. He was diagnosed with embryonal cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer.
Piccolo traveled to Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City to have his tumor removed. In bApril of the following year, Piccolo needed surgery to have his left lung and pectoral muscle removed as well.
He continued to experience chest pains even after these surgeries and was admitted to a hospital in June.
Tragically, Piccolo passed away on June 16, 1970 at the young age of 26.
Detroit Lions: Chuck Hughes
It started as just a regular game. The Detroit Lions were playing the Chicago Bears on October 24, 1971.
Suddenly, Lions wide receiver Chuck Hughes collapsed during the game.
No one had come into contact with Hughes on the play. Initially, people believed that Hughes was faking an injury to stop the clock.
However, a Bears defensive player was signaling frantically for the medical staff.
Hughes had suffered a heart attack on the field, due to hardening of the arteries. The condition had been hereditary. Sadly, Hughes did not make it and is to date the only football player to die on the field.
Green Bay Packers: Brett Favre
Most people probably expected Brett Favre to remain a Green Bay Packer for life. After all, when one thought of the Green Bay Packers, at some point Favre probably came to mind.
It wasn’t meant to be though. Favre surprised everyone with his retirement saga. First, he announced he would retire from football. The reason was that if he played another year, he wanted to win another Super Bowl, but that he didn't think it would happen with the Packers.
Then, following his initial “retirement,” in July 2008, Favre contacted the Packers asking for his release so that he could play for another team.
Instead, the Packers traded Favre to the New York Jets for a fourth-round draft pick.
Minnesota Vikings: 1969 NFC Championship Game
In the 1969 NFL Championship game, the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Cleveland Browns to advance to the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
It was the Vikings first appearance in an NFL Championship game. It was the Browns second straight appearance and fourth in that decade.
The Vikings won handily, 27-7, over the Browns.
One of the great moments of the game was quarterback Joe Kapp’s 75-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Gene Washington.
Atlanta Falcons: Michael Vick Arrested
The Atlanta Falcons made Michael Vick the number one overall selection in the 2001 NFL Draft.
Vick became known for being a running quarterback, who could pass too. He was voted to three Pro Bowls during his time with the Falcons.
Then, in April 2007, Vick and several others were indicted in a dogfighting case in Virginia. Vick went from being a popular quarterback to the face of animal abuse.
Some people, most recently Chicago White Sox pitcher, Mark Buehrle, will never forgive him for it.
Carolina Panthers: Beat the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003 NFC Championship Game
The third seed Carolina Panthers faced the top seed Philadelphia Eagles in the 2003 NFC Championship game.
The odds were against the Panthers, since the Eagles were no stranger to the NFC Championship.
However, the Panthers pulled off a win, beating the Eagles 14-3, to advance to the Super Bowl.
Perhaps it should not have been such a surprising moment considering the Eagles' track record in NFC Championship games (only winning one).
New Orleans Saints: Super Bowl Second Half Onside Kick
At halftime of the Super Bowl, the New Orleans Saints were trailing the Indianapolis Colts 10-6. The Colts were set to receive the ball at the start of the second half.
The Saints decided to try a trick play, going for an onside kick in hopes of surprising the Colts. They succeeded.
Colts receiver Hank Baskett couldn’t hold on to the ball and New Orleans recovered on the 40 yard line.
The Colts couldn’t overcome that stunning change in momentum and lost to the Saints. If the Saints hadn’t tried that onside kick, they may not have become Super Bowl champions.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2010 Season
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers home games were blacked out this past season. Fans didn’t want to go to Buccaneers games because they were tired of all the losing.
The fans expected another losing season and didn’t need to go to the games to watch the disappointment.
Apparently, the Bucs didn’t need fans in the stands though. They shocked most people by going 10-6, their first winning season since 2008, and their best season since 2005. The previous season the Bucs had gone 3-13.
Unfortunately, 10-6 was not enough to qualify them for a spot in the playoffs, however the Bucs hope they will be able to continue the success into the next few seasons.
Arizona Cardinals: The End of Super Bowl XLIII
The end of Super Bowl XLIII between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals was exciting. With a few minutes left, the Steelers held the lead 20-14.
The Cardinals got a safety on a holding in the end zone penalty against the Steelers, which made the score 20-16. The Cardinals then got the ball back, and Larry Fitzgerald caught a touchdown pass from Kurt Warner to give Arizona a 23-20 lead.
The Steelers got the ball back with 2:37 left in the game. The Steelers scored within two minutes, changing possession yet again. The Cardinals got the ball back with 35 seconds left and four points behind.
Warner attempted a Hail Mary pass, but it was blocked and fumbled. The Steelers won. The Cardinals had a chance, but just couldn’t beat the Steelers.
St. Louis Rams: Super Bowl XXXVI
Going into the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXXVI, the St. Louis Rams faced a two touchdown deficit against the New England Patriots. The Rams forced their way back into the game, eventually tying the contest at 17.
The Patriots got the ball back with a minute and a half left and managed to get the ball to the St. Louis 31 yard line with seconds remaining.
Up stepped kicker Adam Vinatieri to attempt a 48-yard field goal. The kick sailed through the uprights.
The St. Louis Rams came back, only to lose in the final seconds.
It was the second time the Rams’ played in a Super Bowl that was determined by the final play. This time however, the ending wasn’t as good as the first.
San Francisco 49ers: Traded Joe Montana
In April 1993, the San Francisco 49ers traded Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs.
One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Montana had led the team to three Super Bowls.
During the 1991 and most of the 1992 seasons, Montana did not play due to an injury. His backup, Steve Young, was the starter during that time and obviously wasn’t too shabby himself.
It was Young that perhaps prompted the 49ers to trade Montana. If they had a great quarterback in Young, they didn’t need Montana.
Seattle Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch
The Seattle Seahawks went 7-9 this past season to win the NFC west.
They may have had a losing record in the regular season, but they played host to the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the opening round of the playoffs. It seemed lopsided, since the Saints had gone 11-5 during the season.
Statistically, the Saints should have dominated that game, but the Seahawks prevailed.
The highlight of the game was a spectacular touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch, where he broke eight Saints’ tackles.