The 25 Most Bone-Crushing Hits in NFL History

Brian WrightCorrespondent IIDecember 21, 2011

The 25 Most Bone-Crushing Hits in NFL History

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    Whether commissioner Roger Goodell likes it or not, some of the most thrilling plays during the course of an NFL game occur when a player delivers a scintillating hit. They're the tackles that draw the most attention from fans and are talked about long afterwards.

    Diverting away from the holiday spirit we're all in, here are the 25 instances in which those who delivered the hits provided their version of a stocking stuffer, while the unfortunate victims had their jingle bells rung to the max.

25. Anquan Boldin Knocked out of Action

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    Jets safety Eric Smith might have regretted launching himself into Anquan Boldin during a pass in a 2008 game versus the Arizona Cardinals.

    Smith flew toward Boldin, hit the wideout in the face mask and snapped his head backwards. Boldin lay motionless on the field before he was carted off. Smith, meanwhile, was suspended one game and fined $50,000.

24. Earl Campbell, the Battering Ram

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    Even an offensive player can provide pain to the opposing side. Earl Campbell made defenders shake in their boots. He would bowl over anyone who was in his way and wound up gaining many yards because of it.

    The best example came in 1978 at the expense of Isiah Robertson.

23. John Lynch's Finest Hit

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    Lynch was in the twilight of his career when he broke up this potential touchdown catch by the late Chris Henry in a contest between the Broncos and Bengals.

    He'll certainly end up in Canton one day, and plays like this one (which are violent yet clean) show just why.

22. Brandon Jacobs Grounded

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    After this poor decision, Giants running back Brandon Jacobs certainly thought twice about launching himself into the air.

    The vulnerable Jacobs was blasted and crashed back to Earth against the Eagles. Unfortunately, the ball didn't come with him.

21. Ryan Clark on McGahee

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    The 2008 AFC Championship Game was salted away by two Baltimore turnovers in the late going.

    One of those came from Willis McGahee—and his fumble came courtesy of a hit by Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark. Both players remained on the ground for several minutes. McGahee suffered a concussion and left the field on a stretcher.

20. DeSean Jackson Silenced

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    This is just one reason why it's unsafe to go over the middle.

    In 2010, DeSean Jackson and Dunta Robinson collided. It resulted in a violent crash and a concussion for the Eagles' prized receiver.

    Recent moments like this one were the impetus for the NFL's crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits.

19. Steven Jackson Pounded

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    The opening game of the 2008 regular season proved to be a rude awakening for the Rams running back. Steven Jackson was met by Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown as he caught a pass at midfield.

    His helmet was removed, but the ball stayed with him. Too bad it came in a losing effort.

18. Bad Break for Krumrie

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    The emotional leader of the Cincinnati Bengals defense was lost due to a broken leg suffered in the early moments of their Super Bowl XXIII encounter with the San Francisco 49ers.

    The way in which Tim Krumrie fractured his fibula and tibia is too gruesome for words, so watch the video with caution.

    Fortunately, Krumrie went on to play for six more years.

17. Ward Turns the Tables

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    Ed Reed has made a living out of breaking up passes and delivering the knockout blow to opposing receivers. It's unusual to see him get a taste of his own medicine.

    But that's what Hines Ward did in a Monday night rout.

16. Ray Lewis Sparks Long Return

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    Chris McAlister's 107-yard return of a missed Bronco field goal in 2002 was, at the time, the longest play in NFL history. It may not have been possible if not for Ray Lewis' block at the start of the run.

    The future Hall of Fame linebacker displayed perfect technique and extreme power when he leveled poor Keith Burns.

15. Pat White Doesn't Like Ike

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    Pat White learned the hard way that facing the Steelers defense is nothing like facing an opponent from the Big East.

    The former West Virginia quarterback scrambled near the sideline before being rudely greeted by Pittsburgh defensive back Ike Taylor. White left on a stretcher.

14. Hines Hammers Rivers

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    Hines Ward has a reputation of being one of the league's dirtiest players.

    After watching some of his blocks/hits, it's richly deserved. Take a look at a shot he delivered to Bengals rookie linebacker Keith Rivers in 2008.

13. Mo Lewis Makes Way for Brady

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    We had no idea that this would be the end of Drew Bledsoe's career as a Patriot—and we certainly had no idea that this hit by Mo Lewis would kick-start one of the greatest careers by a quarterback.

    The Jets linebacker crunched Bledsoe as he went toward the sidelines in a 2001 regular-season contest. Lewis' hit forced the then-unheralded Tom Brady to become's New England starting quarterback.

    All he's done since...three Super Bowl rings and a laundry list of accomplishments.

12. Bart Scott Blasts Big Ben

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    Scott, then with Baltimore, couldn't wait to get to Ben Roethlisberger.

    The great modern-day rivalry between the Ravens and Steelers added another chapter when the linebacker took down Pittsburgh's prized quarterback in ferocious fashion in Nov. 2006.

11. Dallas Clark Feels the Pain

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    Dallas Clark is bigger than Tanard Jackson. When you build up speed, however, you can become a powerful weapon.

    The Tampa Bay safety leveled the All-Pro tight end of the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 during a play-action pass play in which Clark cut towards the middle of the field.

10. George Wilson Takes Two

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    In the 1940 NFL championship game between the Bears and Redskins, Bill Osmanski's long touchdown run was sprung by a devastating block.

    That blow was delivered by George Wilson, who took out two members of the Washington defense.

    It really didn't matter, as Chicago went on to a 73-0 dismantling of the Redskins.

9. Darrell Reid on Chris Henry

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    Tennessee's Chris Henry probably never wanted to return another kick again after what he endured in the RCA Dome in 2007.

    The Colts' Darrell Reid came full speed—and connected. Four years ago, it's a legal hit. Today, Reid would have to open up his wallet. Either way, it's scary to watch.

8. Steve Largent Gets Revenge

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    Steve Largent will forever be known as one of the all-time best wide receivers.

    In 1988, he delivered one of the best tackles ever by an offensive player. On opening day of that season, the Seahawk legend was knocked out of a game against the Denver Broncos on an illegal hit by Mike Harden (who was fined by the NFL).

    In the year's rematch, Largent returned the favor when shortly after Harden hauled in an interception.

7. Marshall's Law Rules Montana Senseless

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    The 1990 NFC Championship Game turned on this play.

    Early in the fourth quarter with San Francisco up 13-9, Joe Montana was blindsided by Giants defensive lineman Leonard Marshall, who knocked the Niners QB out of the game—and out of action for more than a year.

    The Niners failed to gain a first down the rest of the way, and New York went on to end San Francisco's hopes of a three-peat with a 15-13 upset.

6. Super Hit in Super Bowl XI

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    Some believe that Jack Tatum is the NFL's all-time most feared tackler.

    Sammy White would probably agree with that statement. The Vikings wide receiver was separated from his helmet (and senses) after being obliterated by the Raider defensive back.

    There's a reason why Tatum's called "The Assassin."

5. Reggie Bush Jacked Up

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    The opening moments of a 2006 NFC Divisional Round contest between the Saints and Eagles in the Superdome resulted in a breathtaking collision.

    Sheldon Brown delivered the blow, and Reggie Bush never knew what hit him.

4. Brian Moorman Meets Sean Taylor

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    Even the Pro Bowl has nasty hits.

    Just ask punter Brian Moorman. In the 2006 edition, the representative from the Buffalo Bills was trying to make good on a fake.

    The late Sean Taylor made sure he didn't get the first down.

3. Jack Tatum on Darryl Stingley

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    It's a play that defined both involved and turned out to be one of the darkest moments in NFL history.

    During a preseason game between Oakland and New England, Tatum collided with the Pats receiver. Stingley's spinal cord was compressed, and he was a quadriplegic until his death in 2007. 

    In response to the hit, the league changed its rules to curtail aggressive plays such as this one.

2. Gifford Leveled by Bednarik

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    In 1960, New York Giants running back Frank Gifford was the golden boy of the NFL. Of much different description was the Philadelphia Eagles' Chuck Bednarik.

    During a regular-season meeting at Yankee Stadium in late November, the Giants were on offense behind by a touchdown in the game's waning moments.

    Gifford caught a pass over the middle and tried to get out of bounds to stop the clock. But that route was short-circuited by a savage Bednarik tackle that sent Gifford straight to the ground and the ball into the air (at 2:15 in the video). Chuck Weber fell on the loose ball to preserve a 17-10 win that helped Philadelphia capture the 1960 NFL championship.

    Bednarik's hit knocked Gifford out of football for 18 months and probably made him contemplate going into television.

1. L.T. Breaks Theismann's Leg

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    In real speed, this sack by Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor on Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann in 1985 looks rather ordinary.

    But the slow-motion cameras on Monday Night Football and Taylor's waving to the Washington sideline immediately after the tackle prove that it is one of the most gruesome moments to ever occur on a professional football field. The broken leg forced the end of Theismann's career.