New York Jets: 2014 Memorable Plays

Jets' top play winner: The Butt Fumble

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
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Mark SanchezWilliam Perlman/USA TODAY Sports
Score: New England Patriots 49, New York Jets 19
Date: Nov. 22, 2012. Site: MetLife Stadium

The people have spoken. The voters picked the Butt Fumble as the New York Jets' most memorable play. My take? Give yourselves a round of applause.

"Memorable" doesn't mean the best, it means something that will be remembered. If the objective was to determine the best play, it would've been Joe Namath-to-Don Maynard in the 1968 AFL Championship Game or Ken O'Brien-to-Wesley Walker in the 1986 classic against the Miami Dolphins. Those were tremendous plays displaying great skill and poise under pressure. We could probably add a few more to a great-play list. Truth be told, the franchise's most iconic image is that of Namath, flashing the No. 1 sign as he trots off the field at Super Bowl III -- a picture that transcends a simple photo caption.

But like I said, we're talking memorable plays here, folks.

The Butt Fumble will be talked about for years, decades probably. It will have a permanent place in blooper lore. Who knows? Maybe some day you will see it featured on an ESPN Films "30 for 30" documentary. The play contained the necessary ingredients to endure the test of time. You had a big-name player (Mark Sanchez), a slapstick moment (Sanchez crashing into the buttocks of guard Brandon Moore), a significant outcome (a fumble recovery for a touchdown), a national stage (Thanksgiving night, 2012) and two bitter rivals, the Jets and the New England Patriots.

The ramifications of the Butt Fumble were significant. It fueled an epic meltdown in the second quarter, which led to an embarrassing loss, which all but ruined the Jets' playoff hopes and led to the demise of general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

Oh, did we mention the hilarity of the play?

In many ways, the legend of the Butt Fumble was enhanced by the social-media landscape. It blew up on Twitter and YouTube, and ESPN contributed by playing it over and over and over. It topped the "Not Top 10" list for 40 consecutive weeks before it was mercifully retired. Of course, the fans voted, so don't place all the blame on us. The point is, if Namath had run into Randy Rasmussen's rear end in 1968, the fallout wouldn't have been anything close to the Butt Fumble.

I was there for the other two nominees, Dan Marino's fake spike in 1994 and Jumbo Elliott's improbable touchdown catch in 2000. The impact of Marino's play can't be overstated because it shattered the psychologically fragile Jets, who never won again that season, costing Pete Carroll his job. I was happy for Carroll when he won the Super Bowl last February at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where the fake spike occurred in the old Giants Stadium. Elliott's touchdown was a terrific moment, no doubt, but I don't consider it an all-timer.

Anyway, the fans got it right. It had to be the Butt Fumble. Anything else would've been a butt ... well, you know.

Jets' top plays: The Butt Fumble

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
10:00
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Mark SanchezWilliam Perlman/USA TODAY Sports
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This is one of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in New York Jets history. Previously, we featured Dan Marino's infamous fake spike against the Jets in 1994 and Jumbo Elliott's improbable touchdown catch in 2000. Please vote for your choice as the Jets' most memorable play.

Score: New England Patriots 49, New York Jets 19
Date: Nov. 22, 2012 Site: MetLife Stadium

The mere mention of the play -- "The Butt Fumble" -- causes people to smile. You can't help it; it just sounds funny -- unless, of course, you're a diehard Jets fan. Or Mark Sanchez and Brandon Moore.

On Thanksgiving night, before a national TV audience, the Jets staged a botched play that became an instant YouTube sensation, a blooper for the ages. After all, how many plays have their own Wikipedia page?

It was supposed to be an inside handoff to the fullback, Lex Hilliard, but Sanchez turned the wrong way as he stepped away from the center. Trying to salvage something, he tucked the ball and ran toward his right side of his offensive line. When the hole closed, Sanchez did the right thing: He slid. Incredibly, he slid into the rear end of right guard Brandon Moore, who was trying to fight off the Patriots' massive defensive tackle, Vince Wilfork.

Sanchez crashed into Moore's buttocks with such force that it jarred the ball loose. Naturally, Moore fell on top of Sanchez, almost completing the slapstick moment. But there was more: The ball bounced up for Patriots safety Steve Gregory, who made the scoop-and-score, returning it 32 yards for a touchdown. Sanchez later said the entire play was like "a car accident."

The short- and long-term ramifications were significant. The Jets entered the game with a 4-6 record, hoping to jump back into the race with a win against their top rival. It was scoreless after one quarter, but the Butt Fumble helped fuel an epic second-quarter meltdown. Gregory's touchdown made it 21-0, and it became 28-0 seconds later when the Patriots' Julian Edelman recovered a mid-air fumble on the ensuing kickoff and returned it for a score.

By halftime, it was 35-3. It was so embarrassing that "Fireman Ed," the Jets' celebrity fan, walked out on the game and his beloved team at the half. He has yet to return to the stadium for a game. The loss ruined the Jets' playoff chances, prompting owner Woody Johnson to fire general manager Mike Tannenbaum at the end of the season. Some people feel the Butt Fumble game sealed Tannenbaum's fate.

The play defined a lost season and the Jets' long and hapless effort to overtake the Patriots. It remained in the national consciousness, thanks to ESPN's "SportsCenter." Voted by fans online, the play led the "Not top-10" blooper reel for 40 straight weeks before it was mercifully retired.
Jumbo ElliottCorey Sipkin/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in New York Jets history. Previously, we featured Dan Marino's infamous fake spike against the New York Jets in 1994. Coming next is the unforgettable Butt Fumble on Thanksgiving night, 2012. Please vote for your choice as the Jets' most memorable play.

Score: Jets 40, Dolphins 37, OT
Date: Oct. 23, 2000 Site: Giants Stadium

Your first inclination is to ask, "What's the big deal about a lineman catching a touchdown?" After all, it happens every so often, a team scoring near the goal line on a tackle-eligible play. But Jumbo Elliott's catch ... well, it was the game, the night, the circumstances and the reaction that made it so memorable. And, of course, the opponent. Crazy things happen when the Jets and Dolphins play.

For the record, Elliott caught a game-tying, 3-yard touchdown pass from Vinny Testaverde with 47 seconds left in regulation. The Jets won in overtime, 40-37. Those are the cold facts. What happened before Elliott's improbable touchdown made it one of the wildest games in NFL history. It will forever be known as "The Midnight Miracle."

Playing before a national TV audience on Monday night, the Jets embarrassed themselves by falling behind 30-7 at the start of the fourth quarter. Testaverde got hot and threw four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, surprising the Dolphins with a gadget pass to the 6-foot-7, 325-pound Elliott. With his hands heavily taped, Elliott -- a backup at that stage in his career -- made a bobbling, falling-down catch in the end zone.

"I caught it several times," he likes to joke. "I think I was the leading receiver that night."

There was a relay review and, when the call was upheld, there was Elliott's face -- with a big, goofy grin -- on the stadium's JumboTron. His reaction, some teammates said, was just as memorable as the catch. It took only five seconds out of a 14-year career, but it became his signature moment. To this day, he still gets stopped by strangers that ask him to autograph pictures of the play.

It was the first and last catch of Elliott's career. On TV, comedian-turned-analyst Dennis Miller cracked that the Jets "had their hands team in" and that opposing defenses "couldn't keep him down forever." More than anything, it sustained the Jets' historic comeback. The game finally ended at 1:20 a.m. in a half-empty stadium.

The wacky play overshadowed the importance of the game, as the Jets improved to 6-1 under first-year coach Al Groh. In retrospect, it was the pinnacle of the season. The Jets stumbled to a 9-7 record and Groh left the team to coach his alma mater, Virginia. For one night, though -- one crazy night -- they were unbeatable, thanks to a big, little catch by a man named Jumbo.

Jets' top plays: Marino's fake spike

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
10:00
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Dan MarinoSimon Bruty/Allsport/Getty Images
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days we'll feature: Jumbo Elliott's improbable touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the 2000 "Midnight Miracle" and the infamous Butt Fumble on Thanksgiving night, 2012. Please vote for your choice as the New York Jets' most memorable play.

Score: Dolphins 28, Jets 24
Date: Nov. 27, 1994 Site: Giants Stadium

It was a once-in-a-lifetime play and it took the Jets nearly a lifetime to recover -- or so it seemed.

With 22 seconds remaining in a critical AFC East game, Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino fired an 8-yard touchdown pass to Mark Ingram for the go-ahead score -- but this was no routine touchdown. Marino used a sleight of hand to trick the Jets. Behind center, he called for a "clock" play, giving the spike motion. The Jets relaxed, thinking Marino was going to fire the ball into the ground to stop the clock. That's what 20 players expected -- all except Marino and Ingram, both of whom performed their own ad lib. The ball was snapped and, against an unsuspecting defense, Marino found Ingram in the end zone for the game winner. They picked on rookie cornerback Aaron Glenn.

For the Jets, it was devastating on a few levels. For one, they lost a game they should've won. They should've finished the day in a first-place tie, but they blew a 24-6 lead in the final 16 minutes. In one of the most memorable games of his legendary career, Marino tossed three late touchdowns to rally the Dolphins. The psychologically fragile Jets never recovered, losing their final four games to finish 6-10. Their coach, Pete Carroll, was fired after only one season. The losing didn't stop, as they dropped 28 of 32 games under Rich Kotite, a sorry era that made the Jets a national laughingstock.

The Fake Spike was one of the turning points in team history, a demarcation point that separated hope and hopelessness. Finally, after two-plus years in the dark, the Jets got it right, hiring Bill Parcells, who resurrected the franchise. But the Fake Spike lives on, haunting those who were duped by Marino's chutzpah and creativity. Carroll still is asked about the play, and he doesn't particularly care to reminisce. He vanquished the demon last February, winning the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, the site of the old Giants Stadium -- wonderful symmetry. Sure enough, the Fake Spike came up in the Seahawks' post-celebration.

"Is this vindication for the 'spike' play?" Carroll asked rhetorically at his news conference.

Looking into the cameras, he continued, "Hey, Marino, you got a lucky freaking play, all right? It happened. That was a long time ago."

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