The Top 20 Most Ridiculous Catches in NFL History
Well thankfully, the lockout is almost over, and by Friday I can hopefully get back to writing about current football.
Regardless, I figured it would a nice way to end the lockout with a fun piece, taking a video look back at the most ridiculous catches in NFL history.
Perhaps, the best part of this assignment was that these catches have so little in common. Some of the catches won ball games and others had very little relevance to the final outcome. Some of the catches were made in the end zone; some were made in the middle of the field or on the sideline.
Finally, some were made with two hands, one hand, or with the use of other body parts or equipment.
I hope you enjoy this piece half as much as I enjoyed putting together.
20. Marvin Harrison Was Simply Mahvelous!
Former Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison is unquestionably one of the greatest receivers ever to play the game of football.
This ridiculous touchdown catch against the New England Patriots is just a small sample to whet your appetite for what's ahead.
Harrison turns away from the defender just in time to use his left hand to tip the ball so that he can latch on with both hands just before he leaves the endzone.
19. Ronald Curry Makes "Snow" Excuses
When I was coaching, if I had a nickel for every time a receiver made an excuse as to why he didn't catch the ball, I would be one rich guy.
"I didn't have my gloves."
"The sun was in my eyes."
"I was interfered with."
But my favorite excuses were always the ones having to do with the weather, as if I had some control over Mother Nature.
"The wind took it."
"The ball is too wet."
Well, Ron Curry put the elements excuses to shame with this one-handed end zone catch in the snow that helped preserve an Oakland Raiders victory over the Denver Broncos in 2004.
Unfortunately, a couple of subsequent Achilles tendon injuries took the starch out of Curry's career.
18. Hail Mary!
There will be more physically impressive catches then this on the list. But, you can't have a list of ridiculous catches without the catch that gave football the "Hail Mary."
Down 14-10 to the Minnesota Vikings with 24 seconds left in a 1975 NFC playoff game, the Cowboy's Roger Staubach made the play that we have seen attempted so frequently since.
Staubach said afterwards, "I just threw and prayed." Hence the moniker "Hail Mary".
He chucked the ball up for grabs and wide receiver Drew Pearson simply outfought the Vikings' Nate Wright for a slightly under-thrown ball.
17. Chris Carter: Can You Pick Just One?
Chris Carter made so many incredible catches - often with one hand - that is was really difficult to just pick one, but I felt that his grab against the Falcons at 0:28 of this video is arguably his best reception.
He holds off the defender with one hand, grabs a bomb with the other, and for good measure rolls into the endzone untouched.
16. Butch Johnson Dives and Hangs on in Super Bowl XII
Cowboys wide receiver Butch Johnson put Dallas' 27-10 Super Bowl XII victory over the Denver Broncos essentially out of reach with a diving 45-yard touchdown grab. Johnson's full out sprint against double-coverage actually sent him rolling over on his shoulder.
15. Reggie Wayne Adds to His Legacy
One-handed catches are not the way you want to build career as a wide receiver. However, sometimes to make a sensational play it is necessary.
Being off balance and going out of bounds might be one of those times we can forgive Reggie Wayne for not using both hands.
Take a look see.
Oh, and Wayne got both feet in bounds. Just sensational.
14. Joe Jurevicius: Part I
Joe Jurevicius made a living out of making the lives of Philadelphia Eagles fans miserable.
The play that broke their heart was a 71-yard crossing pattern that helped the Buccaneers win the 2002 NFL Championship game.
But adding insult to injury were two far more spectacular touchdown catches he made the following season in a rematch between the two teams on September 8th, 2003.
On the first play, Jurevicius elevated his 6-5 frame even higher to snare a pass out of the outstretched hands of an Eagles defender. The Penn State product then ever so narrowly got toes on both feet down in bounds.
13. Joe Jurevicious: Part II
No, this is not Ground Hog Day.
Later in the game, Jurevicius decided that he was going to play volleyball by himself.
He tipped the ball up in the air near the goal line and then spun around to dive for the catch.
Truly ridiculous, but the two plays led the Bucs to a 17-0 win. You can start this video clip at about 1:21.
12. T.O. Arrives
In 1998, Terrell Eldorado Owens was a young pup receiver who just recorded his first 1,000 yard receiving season.
In the NFC wild-card game against the Green Bay Packers, the Niners were trailing 27-23 when Steve Young threaded the ball between several defenders into the waiting arms of Owens for the 25-yard game-winning touchdown.
The catch itself probably was necessarily deserving of this list, but considering that Owens was having trouble catching passes all day and knowing that he was about to get smacked by two defenders with the game on the line was just incredible.
11. Tony Moeaki Makes a Name for Himself
If you want the best catch of last year in terms of pure athleticism it's this ridiculous touchdown grab by Kansas City Chief's tightend Tony Moeaki in week three against the San Francisco 49ers.
Moeaki is fully extended and probably should be higher on this list but it looks as though he uses his hand to stop the ball before gathering it in with two hands.
I'm nitpicking here, folks.
10. Randy Moss Needs Just One Hand to Beat the Best CB in the League
As many great catches as the ultra talented, but equally enigmatic Randy Moss has made over his career, this just might have been the most ridiculous.
It happened on September 19, 2010, with the Patriots and Jets tied at seven with about a minute to go to halftime. Moss simply ran past arguably the best cornerback in the NFL in Darrelle Revis and casually stuck out his right hand to haul in the pass without breaking stride as he strode through the back of the endzone.
Could Moss have used both hands?
Yup, and he probably should have, but the arrogance of Moss' talent is part of what makes him unique and ridiculous.
One more thing. To anticipate any venom from New York Jets' fans, I acknowledge Revis was playing with a hurt hamstring. That doesn't make the catch any less impressive.
9. Santonio Holmes Wins a Super Bowl
On February 1st, 2009, Santonio Holmes' six-yard touchdown catch to give Pittsburgh a 27-23 victory over Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII was certainly very sweet for Steelers fans, but the tight rope job he did in the corner of the endzone is what puts it firmly on the list of the 25 most ridiculous catches of all time.
Of course, Cardinals fans and the anti-Steelers contingent will argue that Holmes never had both feet down and possession, but that probably adds to the play's mystique.
8. Lynn Was as Graceful as a Swann
Ok, maybe Lynn Swann's famous falling down catch in Super Bowl X wasn't as graceful as a swan, but it was pretty ridiculous.
On January 18, 1976, with Pittsburgh deep in its own territory during the second quarter, against an all-out Cowboy blitz, quarterback Terry Bradshaw heaved the ball downfield.
Swann became entangled with cornerback Mark Washington as he lept for the ball but never took his eyes off of it as he hauled it in and fell to the turf.
Ironically, the Steelers didn't score on the drive, but Swann caught four total passes for 161 yards and a touchdown as Pittsburgh defeated Dallas 35-31.
7. Old School with Harlon Hill
The Harlon Hill Trophy goes to the most valuable player in Division II college football.
But, do you know that Harlon Hill was a heck of a receiver in the NFL. Here's an example, Chicago Bears wide receiver Harlan Hill layouts and plays the tip game as he breaks a 17-17 tie in a 1956 regular season game between the Bears and the New York Giants.
Hill caught 47 passes for 1128 yards (an astonishing 24 yard per catch average for any receiver in any age) and 11 scores.
6. The Immaculate Reception
Where do you start with this play? It has its own nickname. It won a playoff game and arguably symbolized the start of a decade of dominance by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Oh, and the play is still steeped in controversy.
With the Steelers trailing the Oakland Raiders 7-6 and facing 4th and 10 with 1:22 to go in an AFC divisional playoff game on December 23rd, 1972, Terry Bradshaw barely eluded a rush to pitch a ball forward.
This is where the controversy comes in.
The ball either hit Pittsburgh halfback John "Frenchy" Fuqua, Oakland lineback Jack Tatum, or some combination of both. If the ball only touched Fuqua without touching Tatum, the play would have been illegal.
Regardless, the ball caromed directly into the hands of Steelers rookie running back and future legend Franco Harris who never broke stride on his way to the endzone for the game-winning touchdown.
5. David Tyree's Career Making Grab
New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree, by most accounts, had a pretty pedestrian seven year career. He had 54 regular season catches for 650 yards and four touchdowns.
Okay, that's actually a sub-pare season for an elite receiver.
But, Tyree will be remembered years from now in NFL lore for his improbable "helmet catch". With the Giants trailing the New England Patriots 14-10 and just a little over a minute remaining in Super Bowl XLII, quarterback Eli Manning threw what can only be described as a jump ball down the middle of the field.
Tyree jumped and with his right hand pinned the ball against his helmet. Despite, the best efforts of Pats' defensive back Rodney Harrison, Tyree did not let go.
Four plays later, Manning connected with Plaxico Burress on the game-winning touchdown, but it's Tyree's miraculous catch that lives on.
4. Montana to Clark
Very few plays are simply know by a combination of player's last names.
But virtually any football fan with some knowledge of the history of the game knows what you are talking about when you say Montana to Clark.
For those fuzzy on the details, with 58 seconds left and San Francisco trailing Dallas 27-21 in the 1981 NFC Championship Game, Joe Montana threw the ball off his back foot as he was about to be tackled.
All 6'4" of receiver Dwight Clark soared into the air and caught the ball with both arms and hands high in the air as he ran across the back of the endzone.
The image of Clark grabbing the ball is one that will last in many minds for the rest of their lives.
3. Brandon Lloyd Twists His Body for Sideline Snatch
It's kind of funny actually, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd has finally become a breakout player with the Denver Broncos.
But, it's two catches he made as a member of the San Francisco 49ers that defy the laws of gravity.
As impressive as the one-handed downfield catch is later in this video, you really need to go no further than the first play in this clip in a game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Lloyd changes the direction of his body in mid-air, gets one hand on the ball, and then gathers it in with two as toes just tap in bounds.
The play was ridiculous that you need to see Lloyd limping off the field after the play because of what he just did to the human body.
2. Oronde Gadsden Owns a Football with One Hand.
There are two one handed catches by former Miami Dolphin wide receiver Oronde Gadsden that arguably belong this high on the list.
I remember seeing both of these catches live on televison and cursing that I didn't have videotape of the catches. For the youngsters out there, videotaping games was how older people relived unforgettable moments before DVR's, youtube and the like.
Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions, I can only show you the one which will have to be the one I pick for this list.
Losing to the Raiders 27-0 in a 2001 AFC divisional playoff, Gadsden was falling backward and somehow reached back with his right hand to haul in a 34-yard pass from Jay Fiedler. Unlike some other one-handed grabs, Gadsden pulled the ball entirely into his body with the one hand.
To be honest, some people feel that Gadsden's other one-handed catch was ever so slightly better so I am going to include an animated gif file of the play here.
Up 13-3 against the New York Jets, Damon Huard threw a pass over the middle to Gadsden, an import from the Arena Football League. With every limb stretched in different directions, Gadsen's right hand seemed to resist the natural force of the pass as he appeared to actually push Huard's laser backwards.
Gadsden had enormous hands. But, neither catch was a touchdown or a game-winner, which brings us to the one play left at the top of this list.
1. Freeman Fools Everyone
When virtually no one realizes that you caught the ball except you, it's a pretty amazing catch.
When the play spawns announcer Al Michaels to ask famously, "He did WHAT?", it's even more special.
On November 6, 2000, with the Packers and Vikings tied at 20 in overtime, when a Brett Favre pass goes through the hands of defensive back Chris Dishman, bounces off the back and then hands of wide receiver Antonio Freeman who then catches the ball while lying on his back and gets up untouched a races for the-game-winning touchdown, well that's the most ridiculous catch of all time.