Top 10 Best Kick Return Touchdowns in NFL History
The NFL has made a new ruling, pushing back the placement of kickoff teams from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line. Many believe this will hinder the amount of kick return touchdowns and will result in a monopoly of touchbacks.
Josh Cribbs, the NFL’s all-time kickoff return TD leader was quoted in a recent article by NBCSports.com’s Mike Florio.
“They always say in basketball, free throws win games,” Cribbs said. “Well, you know what? In football, special teams win games. It doesn’t matter how good your offense or defense is, if they give up one kickoff return, one fumble on punt return, that changes the whole game drastically.
"You win and lose games on special teams and that’s what me and Devin Hester have been able to do for our teams. So if you take that out of it, I mean, you lose the excitement [of] all these 100-yard returns.”
Cribbs’ sentiments were echoed by Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester in an interview with Chicago’s ESPN 1000 radio show “Waddle & Silvy.”
“They might want to put up the arena nets, because there are gonna be a lot of balls going in the end zone.”
Well, if this is effectively the end of highlight reel kickoff returns, let us take a look back at some of the more memorable kickoff return TDs in NFL history.
Super Bowls, record breakers, multiple runs in the same game, and none of them made number one. What did? Check out the slideshow and the videos provided to find out.
10. Leon Washington vs. San Diego (Sept. 26, 2010)
In a game against the San Diego Chargers, he scored not one, but two touchdowns off of kickoffs.
The video is taken from a fan who was live at the game. Excuse his quirkiness, but he had reason to celebrate after a gem performance by a new addition to the team!
9. Devin Hester vs. St. Louis (Dec. 11, 2006)
Devin Hester will probably go down in the book as the most prolific returner in NFL history. He has the most overall kick return TD’s already and he is only getting started.
I mean, kickoffs, punt returns, field goal miscues by the opposing side, you name it, if you put the ball in Hester’s hands, nine times out of 10, he is going to burn you.
In a game against the St. Louis Rams in his rookie season, Hester tied and broke the record for combined return TD’s in a single season in the same game.
A similar performance as Washington at No. 10, but with the broken records and as I said, then a rookie, earns Hester the No. 9 spot on this list.
The embedded video only shows the first touchdown that he scored that game. If you want to see the second and record-breaking TD, click the link below:
8. Woodrow Dantzler vs. San Francisco (Dec. 8, 2002)
Who remembers Woodrow Dantzler? I do, especially after this run in a game against the San Francisco 49ers on December 8, 2002.
It was his first career NFL touchdown and it was a beauty, as he breaks multiple tackles on the 15-yard line, sprints towards the sidelines, just as impressively tip-toes the sideline at around the 35-yard line and goes all the way to give the Cowboys a lead.
The Niners would end up winning the game by a score of 31-27, but a valiant effort by Dantzler gets him a spot on this list.
7. Antonio Brown vs. Tennessee (Sept. 19, 2010)
Without Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games of the season, the Steelers decided to step up their game with a bit of trickery to begin the game, and it worked in more ways then one. Antonio Brown ran the ball 89 yards for the TD.
They started strong and they finished off the Titans with a 19-11 victory in what would be a shocking 3-1 record without their starting pivot.
No wonder this team played in Dallas this past February. Anyway, the “reversal of fortune” makes the list. (I just coined that phrase, use it to your hearts' content, readers!)
6. Ellis Hobbs vs. NY Jets (Sept. 9, 2007)
What kind of top 10 list wouldn’t have a piece of the 2007 New England Patriots? They played perfect football up until Super Bowl 42 and broke multiple records.
While the rest of the world focused on Tom Brady and Randy Moss’ magic that year, Ellis Hobbs made some magic of his own against the arch-rival New York Jets in their Week 1 lock up by breaking the NFL record for longest kickoff return for a touchdown.
While some players choose to kneel in the end zone for a touchback, Hobbs chose history and he grabbed it as tightly as he did the football in this play.
I apologize for the quality of video. I would have embedded the nfl.com copy but I can’t. You can click on the link below to view the better quality video.
5. Devin Hester vs. Indianapolis (Feb. 4, 2007; Super Bowl XLI)
Super Bowl 41 saw Peyton Manning claim his first Super Bowl title for the Indianapolis Colts. You know when you watch the Super Bowl on TV and you see the flashing lights from the stands as the thousands of fans in attendance catch the opening kickoff on their cameras?
Well, Devin Hester gave them something to take a picture of, and that was the first Super Bowl-opening kickoff return for a TD. A great start for the Bears, but of course, as we all know, it was all for naught.
4. Duane Starks (Giants) vs. Jermaine Lewis (Ravens) (Jan. 28, 2001; SB XXXV)
Another Super Bowl moment sits at No. 4. This one comes from the 35th installment of “The Big Game” as the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants went to battle in Tampa, Florida to claim the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Number four on this list is another multiple kickoff return TD feat and one for the ages. Late in the third quarter, the Ravens’ Duane Starks intercepted a pass from Giants QB Kerry Collins and ran it into the end zone to give Baltimore a commanding 17-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ron Dixon returned the ball 97 yards and got into the end zone to cut the lead to 17-7. The fun doesn’t stop there.
On THAT ensuing kickoff by the Giants, Jermaine Lewis returned the ball 84 yards for a kickoff touchdown of his own. In 36 seconds and three plays, three touchdowns were scored (two by Baltimore and one by New York).
A pick 6 and two consecutive kickoff returns for touchdowns and No. 4 on the list.
The video enclosed shows the Giants’ reaction to Dixon’s return and then Lewis’ answer.
3. Desmond Howard vs. New England (Jan. 26, 1997; SB XXXI)
Late in the third quarter, the Patriots were playing a bit of catch up, down by 13 and driving down the field, Curtis Martin ran in an 18-yard TD to get the Patriots to within a possession of the Pack at 27-21.
Cue Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard’s heroics as he took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards back to the house and a two-point conversion later, the Packers sealed a 35-21 victory.
The video is a summation of the Packers’ victory, so if you go about 32 seconds in, you will see No. 3 on the list.
2. Josh Cribbs vs. Kansas City (Dec. 20, 2009)
Josh Cribbs deserves this spot as he is the all-time leader in kickoff TD returns.
He captured the record on the road in Kansas City in the 2009 season and a lucky fan captured the magic on video from Arrowhead Stadium and in the process, captured No. 2 on the list.
1. Music City Miracle vs. Buffalo (Jan. 8, 2000)
No. 1on the list is possibly the most controversial kickoff returns in recent memory. The Music City Miracle took place in the AFC Wildcard game between the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans.
Buffalo’s Steve Christie kicked a 41-yard field goal to give the Bills a slim 16-15 lead with 16 seconds left on the clock.
Christie kicked off the ball to a waiting Lorenzo Neal at the 25-yard line. Neal handed the ball off to Frank Wycheck who threw the ball to Kevin Dyson.
Most people will argue that it was a forward pass that Dyson caught from Wycheck, which is illegal on kick offs. However, the play continued as Dyson streaked down the sidelines and scored a touchdown with no time left on the clock to give the Titans a “miracle” 22-16 win.
The play was reviewed but ruled inconclusive as the Titans advanced and subsequently knocked off the Colts and Jaguars before Dyson was stopped one-yard short of another miracle and a Super Bowl championship in SB 34 against the Rams.
Anyway, when you think of memorable kickoff returns for touchdowns, this one definitely comes to mind. No time on the clock, in the playoffs, controversy, it’s all there and takes the No. 1 spot on the list.