NFL: 10 Most Crowd-Silencing Moments in League History
Could there a better feeling than to be an athlete playing amidst a crowd screaming against you...only to make a play that stuffs the cheers right back in their throats and leaves them with their mouths ajar?
Some of the moments in NFL history that quiet the fans in the stands are among the most stunning. All of them are among the most dramatic as well.
Here are 10 that made libraries seem noisy.
10. Chuck Hughes Dies of Heart Attack During Game
Courtesy of detnews.com
Unfortunately, moments that leave a crowd in stunned silence can also be due to tragedy. Darryl Stingley, Mike Utley and Dennis Byrd are three that suffered debilitating injuries on the playing field.
But the only time in which a player died occurred on Oct. 24, 1971, at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Lions' wide receiver Chuck Hughes was jogging back to the huddle in the final minutes of their game with the Chicago Bears when he suffered a heart attack and collapsed on the 15-yard line without contact.
Hughes was rushed to nearby Henry Ford Hospital and the game concluded with nary a cheer from the stands.
9. Ronde Barber Closes the Vet
Barber's interception at 7:21
The Buccaneers appeared to have history working against them.
The 2002 NFC Championship was at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, prepared to close after 30-plus years. And what better way to shut it down than for the home team clinch a trip to the Super Bowl in the arena's final show?
Add the fact that the Bucs had never won in games in which the temperature was below 32 degrees, and it's even more reason for the rowdy Eagles fans to scream in anticipation of the inevitable.
Tampa, though, "Buc'd" the odds. It led 20-10 in the fourth period. Donovan McNabb was marching Philly toward a potential score that could narrow the gap. With 3:27 to go, McNabb's heave was intercepted by Ronde Barber, who ran it back 98 yards to seal it.
8. Steve Smith's Catch and Run
Doug Benc/Getty Images
It's hard to imagine a time when both the Panthers and Rams were playoff teams.
In 2004, they produced a postseason game with several momentum swings. The favored Rams tied the score at 23 apiece at the end of regulation with a Jeff Wilkins field goal.
In overtime, both kickers missed opportunities to win. Near the end of the first extra session, St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger made the biggest mistake of them all, as his pass sailed wide of his intended target and landed in the hands of Carolina cornerback Ricky Manning Jr.
On the first play of the second OT, Delhomme and Smith connected for a 69-yard touchdown that ended the run for "The Greatest Show on Turf."
7. Matt Bahr and the Giants Halt the Niners Three-Peat
San Francisco was a heavy favorite to return the Super Bowl, especially since the team it was facing in the NFC Championship – the New York Giants – had backup Jeff Hostetler under center after having lost starting quarterback Phil Simms to injury late in the regular season.
But the 49ers were about to suffer a more crippling loss. When New York defensive lineman Leonard Marshall jarred the ball loose from Joe Montana, he also knocked the perennial All-Pro signal-caller out of commission.
Still, San Francisco was ahead 13-12 in the waning moments when running back Roger Craig fumbled. Lawrence Taylor recovered. Hostetler showed incredible poise, leading the Giants into field goal range.
Kicker Matt Bahr, who had already connected four times in the game, did so again in the final seconds. It kept New York on its road to a Super Bowl championship while sending the Niners and its fans home without a chance at a third straight title.
6. Red Right 88
Interception at 6:40
The 1980 Cleveland Browns were known as the “Kardiac Kids” thanks to last-minute heroics. That heart-stopping play resulted in 11 wins and a home playoff contest against the wild-card Oakland Raiders.
In a wind chill measured at minus-36, the Raiders led 14-12 with time running out. But yet again, quarterback Brian Sipe was leading the Browns on another dramatic finish.
At the 13-yard line with under a minute to go, Cleveland called timeout. Instead of a field goal that would lock up the win, head coach Sam Rutigliano decided to go for six. He called the play “Red Right 88,” one that’s now infamous in Cleveland sports history due to its results.
Sipe’s pass, intended for Ozzie Newsome, was intercepted by Mike Davis, abruptly ending the Browns’ dream for a title. The Raiders went on to win Super Bowl XV.
5. Replacement Players Cause Fans' No-Show
Mike Powell/Getty Images
This is what happens when no labor agreement is made. A 24-day players strike in the middle of the 1987 season saw the use of replacement players.
For four weeks, these "scabs" weren't much of an attraction. Attendance dipped significantly as they awaited the real stars to return - and those who did show up weren't too happy about the players they were watching.
It is one of the dark moments in the NFL and one that the league shouldn't let happen again.
4. Miracle at the Meadowlands
While DeSean Jackson's dramatic punt return is obviously the most recent incarnation, the 1978 original is the most shocking.
Up 17-12, the Giants were in control with under a minute to play. The Eagles had no timeouts. All New York quarterback Joe Pisarcik had to do was fall on the football and the Giants fans would savor a win over their nearby rivals.
Unbelievably, they called a running play.
And then, disaster ensued. Pisarcik botched a handoff attempt to Larry Csonka. Philly cornerback Herm Edwards scooped up the unexpected fumble and ran it back for a stunning turn of events.
3. Metrodome Is Muted
With Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter and Randy Moss leading a lethal air attack, the Vikings racked up a record-amount of points and coasted to a 15-1 regular season mark in 1998.
With a boisterous Metrodome crowd behind him, an NFC Championship win over the underdog Atlanta Falcons seemed imminent. That was especially true, considering the fact that Minnesota had won its last nine home games by an average of 23 points.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Vikings appeared to have the game wrapped up. Leading by seven and at the Atlanta 20-yard line, they called on the ultra-reliable Gary Anderson for a field goal that would all but clinch a Super Bowl berth. Anderson’s kick went wide – his first miss of the season – and the Falcons had a second chance.
They took full advantage – and proceeded to stun the dome crowd. First, they tied the game with a Terance Mathis touchdown. Then, in overtime, Atlanta’s Morten Anderson was on line from 38 yards out. The 1998 Vikings squad remains one of the best to miss the Super Bowl.
2. Roger Staubach and the "Hail Mary"
Before the climate-controlled Metrodome, the Vikings saw much more success outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. With “The Met” as their home field, Minnesota won seven division titles and four NFC Championships.
However, the most memorable contest came in a losing effort for the Vikings. In a 1975 NFC Divisional Playoff, the Dallas Cowboys trailed 14-10 with 1:51 left. Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach staved off defeat with a fourth-and-17 connection to Drew Pearson.
Later, at midfield with 24 seconds, Staubach sent a prayer of a pass downfield. Pearson, being covered by Minnesota cornerback Nate Wright, came back to the under-thrown ball and trapped it between right hand and his right hip as Wright was falling down.
Pearson then waltzed the remaining five yards and into the end zone with the stunning touchdown.
1. John Elway Engineers "The Drive"
It was a moment that helped turn John Elway into a legend and a moment that has kept Browns fans feeling snake-bit.
With just over five minutes remaining in the 1986 AFC Championship Game and behind by seven points, Elway led his Broncos into the teeth of the ‘Dawg Pound’ at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on a memorable 98-yard march.
Neither the magnitude of the moment or a crowd poised to celebrate a first trip to the Super Bowl was fazing the young Elway.
As the Browns yielded more and more yards to the Broncos, their fans grew quieter. The final silencer was Elway’s five-yard bullet pass to Mark Jackson in the end zone on third-and-one.
Jackson’s touchdown and Rich Karlis’ subsequent extra point knotted the game at 20 apiece. The Broncos won the game in overtime on a Karlis field goal – earning them a berth in Super Bowl XXI.