NFC East: 2014 Memorable Plays
Date: Dec. 19, 2010 Site: New Giants Stadium
After the deeply frustrating exercise of picking three plays from the long history of the Philadelphia Eagles as the most memorable in franchise history, I could never second-guess the voters who selected the most recent "Miracle of the Meadowlands" play as No. 1.
It was a narrow vote, with DeSean Jackson's 65-yard, game-winning punt return edging out Herm Edwards' improbable game-winning fumble recovery in the 1978 "miracle" game. The bigger surprise was how far behind (9 percent of the vote) Wilbert Montgomery's touchdown run in the 1980 NFC title game finished.
But I think this gets at the issue pretty directly. Our top three had zero plays by Randall Cunningham or Donovan McNabb, zero by Reggie White or Brian Dawkins, zero by Chuck Bednarik or Steve Van Buren. And yet, every one of those players made any number of plays worthy of consideration.
When you see fans voting for great plays that led to championships, it’s a painful reminder that the Eagles haven’t won one of those since 1960. In their victory against the Green Bay Packers that season, Bednarik made a game-saving tackle of Jim Taylor. That play probably belonged on the short list, too, but how many fans have even seen it at this point?
Meanwhile, Jackson’s "miracle" return at the new Giants’ stadium in East Rutherford was voted best play in NFL history a couple years ago. That is pretty hard to ignore, even if you allow for the impact of Youtube and social media and being on an endless loop on SportsCenter.
Bednarik didn’t have any of that. Neither did Randall or Reggie. So what makes a play unforgettable?
It’s all in the eye of the beholder, and the beholders have spoken.
Date: Dec. 28, 1975 Site: Metropolitan Stadium
With nearly 40,000 votes cast, Roger Staubach’s Hail Mary pass to Drew Pearson was voted as the most memorable play in Dallas Cowboys' history by the ESPN.com readers.
Troy Aikman’s fourth-quarter pass to Alvin Harper in the 1992 NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers that set in motion the 1990s dynasty finished second. Bob Lilly's sack of Bob Griese in Super Bowl VI was a distant third even if it propelled the Cowboys to their first championship.
To recap the play: With time running out in a 1975 divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys had the ball at midfield and needed a miracle. They had dominated statistically, but the Vikings had a 14-10 lead.
Staubach pumped to his left after taking the shotgun snap, in hopes of moving safety Paul Krause away from the sideline. As he pumped, Staubach said he nearly lost the ball and as a result the pass was underthrown.
Subsequently, Pearson had to pull up and either knocked Nate Wright down (Minnesota's version) or made an excellent adjustment to the ball (Dallas' version) to score the winning touchdown, pinning the ball against his right hip.
Some of you wondered why Tony Dorsett's 99-yard run, Emmitt Smith's carry in which he broke Walter Payton’s rushing record or his stiff-arm of Lawrence Taylor playing with a separated shoulder, Clint Longley's Thanksgiving Day heave against the Redskins or even Leon Lett's miscue in Super Bowl XXVII didn’t make the list.
Two of my personal favorites: Marion Barber’s run out of the end zone against the New England Patriots breaking seven tackles and Tony Romo's first-down scramble vs. the St. Louis Rams after a shotgun snap sailed over his head didn’t make the list either.
There needed to be some historic value to the play. The Hail Mary had that, so did Aikman-to-Harper and Lilly’s sack.
But there’s no question which play had the most value.
Date: Jan. 30, 1983. Site: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
From the moment this project was announced, and before I tweeted a word on it, there was only one play in my mind that deserved top billing. When a team hasn't won an NFL title in more than 40 years ... and it trails by four points in the ultimate game ... and it's fourth-and-1 ... and the running back goes the distance? How exactly do you top that?
Fortunately and wisely, the fans agreed with my take. Which is why John Riggins' touchdown run against Miami in Super Bowl XVII was the runaway choice for the top spot. Riggins' run received 76 percent of the more than 30,000 votes and was solidly ahead shortly after the choices appeared on the blog.
But the right three were on the board. A Hall of Famer in Darrell Green making one of the biggest plays of a 20-year career. That garnered 16 percent of the vote. A clinching touchdown on an unlikely play -- an interception return by defensive tackle Darryl Grant -- to win the NFC Championship Game at home, providing a moment that likely still brings chills to those in attendance. But it wasn't big enough, receiving just 8 percent of the votes.
Riggins' run happened in the ultimate game. It happened on a fourth down. It gave Washington the lead. Shall I keep going? Based on the votes, the answer is no. You got it. And you got it right.
@john_keim These are great memories, but the list is (1) 70 Chip with John Riggins in Super Bowl and (2) everything else :)— Dave Scarangella (@DullesDistrict) July 10, 2014
Date: Feb. 3, 2008. Site: University of Phoenix Stadium.
This was not a difficult call for me. The third-down Eli Manning pass that David Tyree caught against his helmet in the waning minutes of the Super Bowl XLII victory over the New England Patriots had to be the winner for most memorable play in New York Giants history.
The helmet catch was a runaway winner in fan balloting, pulling in more than 70 percent of the votes.
So what are the possibilities? The Phil Simms Super Bowl doesn't really have a standout play. It was a thrashing from the start. The most memorable play from the second Bill Parcells Super Bowl win was a missed field goal by the Buffalo Bills' Scott Norwood at the end of the game. And while Mario Manningham's sideline catch in Super Bowl XLVI was an all-time play, I rate the Tyree play ahead of it because of the difference in the significance of those two Super Bowls in NFL history.
The first Manning/Tom Coughlin Super Bowl was one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports, the Giants coming from behind against a Patriots team that was 18-0 and had set multiple offensive records. Also, the play had more to it than the helmet catch, as Manning had to escape what looked like a sure sack in order to get the throw off.
The Giants converted a fourth down earlier in that drive and would have to convert another third down later in it to keep their hopes alive before Manning connected with Plaxico Burress for the game-winning touchdown. But the Tyree play was so brilliantly improbable, so incredibly clutch on both ends and so significant in changing the history of the NFL (the 2007 Patriots would have plausibly been able to call themselves the greatest team ever) that it had to be the winner.
This is the third of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in team history. We've already featured Darryl Grant's interception return for a touchdown in the 1983 NFC Championship Game and Darrell Green's punt return to beat the Chicago Bears in a 1988 playoff game. Please vote for your choice as the Redskins’ most memorable play.
Score: Redskins 27, Dolphins 17
Date: Jan. 30, 1983 Site: Los Angeles Coliseum
To understand the moment, why it carried the weight that it did, it’s important to first look back. Like to the 1950s, when the Redskins posted two winning seasons. Or the 1960s, when they could score but not win. They managed a winning record once, in the final year of the decade. This despite several Hall of Famers on offense.
There was hope, though, with new coach Joe Gibbs, who led the team to an 8-1 mark in the strike-shortened 1982 regular season (his second in charge). Then three double-digit playoff victories put Washington into Super Bowl XVII.
But no titles ever come easy, and the Redskins trailed Miami 17-13 when they took over the ball at their own 18 early in the fourth quarter. They drove to the Dolphins’ 43, where they faced fourth-and-1 with 10 minutes, 10 seconds remaining.
John Riggins and the Redskins’ run game already had posted good numbers. So everyone had to know what would happen next: a handoff to Riggins. The Dolphins used a six-man front, which meant the play would either be stuffed or a huge one. The Redskins got the latter as tackle Joe Jacoby buried linebacker Kim Bokamper and fullback Otis Wonsley helped seal the end.
That left Riggins one-on-one with corner Don McNeal. Mismatch. Riggins swatted him away and the man nicknamed The Diesel chugged toward the end zone, running for the lead and a place in history. Diesel horns blared in the stands, a signature sound that season. And it became a run that is mentioned seemingly every Super Bowl week. It was the first of three Super Bowl victories under Gibbs, giving Redskins fans a taste of success that had eluded them forever.
For Riggins, it enabled him to post a Super Bowl record 166 yards rushing and then to make this statement after a congratulatory phone call from President Ronald Reagan: “At least for tonight, Ron’s the president, but I’m the king.” Decades of frustration had ended for Redskins fans. They, too, finally felt like football royalty.
@john_keim The Riggins play will never be matched because it was the game deciding play when we were down in our first SB win. If he had not— Riggo (@dmoore2004) July 2, 2014
@john_keim made the 1st down (let alone TD) Dolphins would have had the ball with all the momentum with little time left.— Riggo (@dmoore2004) July 2, 2014
This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in New York Giants history. On Monday we looked at David Tyree's "helmet catch" from the Super Bowl XLII victory over the New England Patriots, and on Tuesday we looked at the Lawrence Taylor sack that broke Joe Theismann's leg in 1985. Please vote for your choice as the Giants' most memorable play.
Score: Eagles 19, Giants 17
Date: Nov. 19, 1978 Site: Giants Stadium
Instead, on third down, offensive coordinator Bob Gibson called another handoff to Csonka. But the exchange between Pisarcick and Csonka wasn't clean, and the ball came loose. Eagles defensive back Herman Edwards, who was blitzing on the play, picked it up and ran it back 26 yards for a stunning touchdown and an Eagles victory.
It was the fourth straight loss in what would be a six-game losing streak in the second half of a 6-10 Giants season. Gibson was fired the next day. The Eagles would go on to finish 9-7 and reach the playoffs, and since the winners write the history books, "Miracle at the Meadowlands" became the name by which the play would forever be called by everyone but Giants fans. They refer to it, simply and grumpily, as "The Fumble."
This is the last of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in team history. In the previous two days, we featured the first Miracle at the Meadowlands against the Giants in 1978 and Wilbert Montgomery's touchdown in the 1980 NFC Championship Game. Please vote for your choice as the Eagles' most memorable play.
Score: Eagles 38, Giants 31
Date: Dec. 19, 2010 Site: New Giants Stadium
When Kevin Boss scored on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning, the New York Giants had a 31-10 lead with 8:12 left in the fourth quarter. That gave the Giants, according to the formula, a 100 percent win probability for that game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
When Michael Vick hit tight end Brent Celek for a 65-yard touchdown a couple of minutes later, the Giants’ win probability stayed at 99.9 percent. When Vick ran 4 yards for a touchdown with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter, the Giants still had a 97.8 percent chance to win the game. Even after Vick tied it with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin with 1:16 to play, the Giants had the ball with a chance to win. But two incomplete passes and a sack later, New York had to punt with 14 seconds left.
This time around, the winning play itself was almost as improbable as the three-touchdown spree that set it up. Giants punter Matt Dodge was kicking from his own 29-yard line. All he had to do was avoid Eagles return man DeSean Jackson. Instead, Dodge kicked it right to Jackson, who fumbled the punt, picked it up at his own 35-yard line and started to run. He didn’t stop until he was approaching the goal line, where Jackson changed his course of approach to make sure the clock ran down to zero before he crossed the line.
"I was thinking to myself, like, 'They're not going to kick it to me,'" Jackson said. "I was thinking he was going to kick it out of bounds. But it got to me. From there, I just used my instincts and my speed to get into the end zone."
The 65-yard return ended a 28-point Eagles comeback rally and gave them a tiebreaker edge on the Giants for the NFC East title. That meant Jackson’s return contributed to the last of Eagles coach Andy Reid’s nine playoff appearances with the team.
An era was ending, but it was delayed by Jackson’s improbable return and the Eagles’ statistically impossible comeback.
@SheridanScribe Miracle at the Meadowlands, DeSean edition.— Brennen Dickerson (@CaptainCutlery) June 10, 2014
This is one of three finalists for the most memorable plays in Cowboys history. We already discussed the Troy Aikman-to-Alvin Harper pass in the 1992 NFC Championship Game and the Hail Mary from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson.
Please vote for your choice as the Cowboys’ most memorable play.
Score: Cowboys 24, Dolphins 3
Date: Jan. 16, 1972 Site: Tulane Stadium
The Cowboys were known as "Next Year's Champions" after losing the 1966 NFL championship to the Green Bay Packers, the ’67 title game (better known as the Ice Bowl) to the Packers and Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts.
After taking a 3-0 lead, the Cowboys forced Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese into retreat mode. Larry Cole had the first chance at Griese but jumped in the air, allowing the quarterback to escape. Briefly. And in reverse. Eventually, Bob Lilly, Mr. Cowboy, was able to bring Griese down for a 29-yard loss.
Doomsday had dominated, and with their 24-3 victory, the Cowboys were “This Year’s Champions,” becoming the first team to win a Super Bowl the year after losing one.
The Cowboys lost Super Bowl V to the Colts on a Jim O’Brien field goal that led Lilly to flinging his helmet in disgust. A year later, Lilly had his championship moment.
The sack remains the largest negative play in Super Bowl history. The Cowboys are the only team not to allow a touchdown in a Super Bowl. A Miami offense built around Larry Csonka, Paul Warfield and Jim Kiick was shut down. Csonka and Kiick had 40 yards rushing each. Warfield had 39 receiving yards, with 23 coming on one play.
Roger Staubach was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl VI with two touchdown passes, completing 12 of 19 passes for 119 yards. But it was the defensive dominance, highlighted by Lilly’s sack, that brought Tom Landry and the Cowboys their first championship.
@toddarcher it was just the sheer dominance of that defense. That was the play where you KNEW Dallas was going to win that game.— Bess Maxwell (@LaSpiritsBess) July 2, 2014
This is the second of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in team history. We already featured Darryl Grant's interception return for a touchdown, and on Wednesday we'll feature John Riggins' game-winning touchdown run in Super Bowl XVII. Please vote for your choice as the Redskins' most memorable play.
Score: Redskins 21, Bears 17
Date: Jan. 10, 1988 Site: Soldier Field
Redskins cornerback Darrell Green had burst onto the scene in a much different situation. Dallas running back Tony Dorsett sped down the field, and as anyone knew at the time, no one caught him from behind. Then Green did just that, a rookie coming out of nowhere -- shot like a bullet -- to tackle Dorsett. Green denied Dorsett an 83-yard touchdown run, tackling him at the 6-yard line and forcing a Cowboys field goal.
It didn’t matter that Dallas ended up winning the game. Green announced himself to the NFL, flashing his speed and creating a memory. But it wasn’t as big as the one he created in 1988 in a much tougher spot: a first-round playoff game at Chicago.
But they had a rough assignment: win at Chicago for a second straight year in the playoffs. This time they faced bitterly cold conditions. Former defensive end Charles Mann once said the Vaseline he had applied froze to his body that day.
Chicago, just two seasons removed from Super Bowl glory, led 14-0. But the Redskins rallied to tie the game, and, with 11:40 left in the fourth quarter, Green started a punt return for the ages. He retreated to the Redskins' 48-yard line to field Tommy Barnhardt’s punt and started up the right sideline.
Out of the corner of his eye, Green spotted Cap Boso diving at his legs around the 34. Green then created the memory: He hurdled Boso, then cut back inside and, within a few yards, grabbed his left side. He clutched his side for the final 30 yards en route to a 52-yard game-winning punt return.
Green had torn his rib cage on the return and could play only one more snap. But his efforts on this play led to not only a 21-17 win but also a moment that was hard to top in Redskins history. A week later, he defended the final pass at the goal line in the NFC Championship Game victory over Minnesota. But his play against the Bears was more impressive. It required vision, athleticism and toughness. In a Hall of Fame career, it’s hard to believe one moment can stand out. The return against Chicago did.
@john_keim Green's punt return for TD at Bears capped off a wild week of trash talk between Dexter Manley & Coach Ditka— David Devall (@McNubian) July 2, 2014
This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in New York Giants history. On Monday we looked at David Tyree's "helmet catch" from the Super Bowl XLII victory over the New England Patriots. Wednesday, we will look at the Joe Pisarcik-Herman Edwards "Miracle at the Meadowlands" play from 1978. Please vote for your choice as the Giants' most memorable play.
Score: Redskins 23, Giants 21
Date: Nov. 18, 1985 Site: RFK Stadium
Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann.
Everyone remembers this one because they remember what it sounded like and, unfortunately, what it looked like. This was a "Monday Night Football" game being watched all around the country, and the gruesome details of the play stick in the memory of anyone who happened to be watching.
It was early in the second quarter with the game tied, and the Redskins called a flea flicker. Theismann handed the ball to running back John Riggins, who ran up toward the line before turning and flipping the ball back to Theismann. The Giants were not fooled. Harry Carson got there first, but Theismann wriggled away from him only to find Taylor waiting. Taylor brought him down, Gary Reasons jumped on the pile, everyone nearby heard a loud "crack" and, suddenly, Taylor was up and waving to the Redskins sideline for someone to come in and help Theismann.
The TV replays were horrendous, clearly showing the bone protruding through the skin of Theismann's leg. Theismann left the field on a stretcher, giving way to Jay Schroeder, who would lead the Redskins to a fourth-quarter comeback victory later that night. But the play stands among the most memorable in the history of both franchises. From the Giants' end, it has come to symbolize Taylor's ferocity as the best defensive player in NFL history. But, while both he and Theismann, who never played again, obviously remember the play, each has said in the intervening years that he has never watched the replay.
Taylor had greater moments as a Giant. For example, fans undoubtedly remember him ripping the ball out of Roger Craig's hands in the 1990 NFC Championship Game. And he helped deliver two Super Bowl titles. But there's little doubt that, if you're making a "most memorable plays" list, the devastating 1985 sack that wrecked Theismann's career meets the criteria.
This is the second of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in Philadelphia Eagles history. We’ve already featured "The First Miracle" at Giants Stadium in 1978, and tomorrow we'll go over "Miracle II," DeSean Jackson's 65-yard return against the Giants. Please vote for your choice as the Eagles' most memorable play.
Score: Eagles 20, Cowboys 7
Date: Jan. 11, 1981 Site: Veterans Stadium
Dallas Cowboys blossomed in the 1970s, when the Eagles were perennial losers and the Cowboys ascended to “America’s Team” status. That loathing raised the 1980 NFC Championship Game to mythic proportions for the fans packed into Veterans Stadium on a frigid January Sunday.
Going to a Super Bowl would be a first for the Eagles. Getting there at the expense of the Cowboys would mean everything to Eagles fans, while losing would be that much harder to swallow.
Wilbert Montgomery was injured and was not on the field for the first play of the game. But he ran out for the second snap at the Dallas 42-yard line.
Quarterback Ron Jaworski took the snap and handed the ball to Montgomery. He cut to his right, where a huge hole had been opened. Montgomery broke through and was gone. Just like that, the fans in the stadium and, just maybe, the Eagles themselves believed victory was possible.
The Cowboys came back and tied the game at 7. But the Eagles' defense held firm, creating turnovers and preventing America’s Team from ever getting control of the game. On a day the wind and cold made throwing the ball difficult, Montgomery racked up 194 yards on 26 carries.
The Eagles would get smashed by the Oakland Raiders 27-10 in the Super Bowl. That made Montgomery’s performance against the Cowboys, especially that touchdown run, the high-water mark of the Dick Vermeil era in Philadelphia.
@SheridanScribe Easy! Wilbert's 42 yd td against Dallas. I was 9 and remember it like yesterday. An example of sports lifting up a city.— Jim rush (@Jpru30Rush) June 10, 2014
This is one of three finalists for the most memorable plays in Dallas Cowboys history. We already discussed the Troy Aikman-to-Alvin Harper pass in the 1992 NFC Championship Game. On Wednesday, we will include Bob Lilly's sack of Bob Griese in Super Bowl VI.
Please vote for your choice as the Cowboys' most memorable play.
Score: Cowboys 17, Vikings 14
Date: Dec. 28, 1975 Site: Metropolitan Stadium
What if Roger Staubach didn't grow up Catholic? Would "Hail Mary" be part of today's lexicon?
With 24 seconds left in a 1975 divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys had the ball at midfield and needed a miracle. They had dominated statistically, but the Vikings had a 14-10 lead.
With 32 seconds left, Staubach mentioned in the huddle a double-move route Drew Pearson used against the Washington Redskins earlier and to do it again on this play. Pearson took a couple of steps to his left, then sprinted down the right sideline to create separation.
Staubach pumped to his left after taking the shotgun snap in hopes of moving safety Paul Krause away from the sideline. As he pumped, Staubach said he nearly lost the ball, causing the pass to be underthrown.
And here's where allegiances matter. Vikings players, coaches and fans will forever believe Pearson pushed cornerback Nate Wright. Cowboys players, coaches and fans will forever believe Wright slipped.
Wright went down. Pearson pinned the ball against his right hip and backed into the end zone. Replays show Krause pointing at Pearson, expecting a pass interference penalty. An orange flew past Pearson in the end zone, and soon he was surrounded by celebrating teammates after heaving the ball over the scoreboard.
"It was just a Hail Mary pass; a very, very lucky play," Staubach said after the game.
Staubach's Hail Mary was answered ... and born.
This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in New York Giants history. In the next two days, we'll feature Lawrence Taylor's sack that broke Joe Theismann's leg in 1985 and the Joe Pisarcik-Herman Edwards "Miracle at the Meadowlands" play from 1978. Please vote for your choice as the Giants' most memorable play.
Score: Giants 17, Patriots 14
Date: Feb. 3, 2008 Site: University of Phoenix Stadium
Eli Manning was as close to being sacked as a quarterback can possibly be without actually being sacked. The Giants trailed the undefeated New England Patriots 14-10 with a little more than a minute left in Super Bowl XLII. It was third-and-5 on the Giants' 44-yard line, the eighth play of a drive on which the Giants already had converted a fourth down and would later need to convert another third. The play broke down and it appeared as though the Giants would have to pick up a long fourth down to keep their hopes of the upset alive. But Manning slipped out of the grasp of New England defensive end Jarvis Green, stepped forward in the pocket and fired the ball over the middle, where little-used Giants wide receiver David Tyree and Patriots defensive back Rodney Harrison were jumping for it at the same time.
Replays would show that Tyree caught the ball with both hands but that Harrison's hand got there too and knocked Tyree's left hand off the ball. As the two fell to the ground together, Tyree pinned the ball against the forehead of his helmet with his left hand, then managed somehow to get his left hand back on the ball and maintain possession all the way to the ground.
The result was a miraculous 32-yard gain and a first down that kept alive the Giants' chances. Three plays later, Manning found Steve Smith to convert a third-and-11, and on the play after that, he connected with Plaxico Burress for the 13-yard touchdown catch that gave the Giants the 17-14 lead.
The Giants kicked the ball back to New England, but with only 29 seconds left on the clock, Tom Brady couldn't get the ball out of his own end, and the Giants secured the third, and most astounding, Super Bowl title in their history. Tyree's catch was improbable enough to fit the moment. No one thought the Patriots, who carried an 18-0 record into the game and would have been only the second team in NFL history to finish a season undefeated, would lose. Most expected this to be a coronation of the best team in the history of the game. Manning, Tyree and the Giants did everything they possibly could to deny it.
@DanGrazianoESPN been a fan all my life and I gotta say the helmet grab. From Eli's scramble to Tyree's catch, just flat amazing!— KeithMichaud (@keithmmichaud) June 5, 2014
This is the first of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days, we’ll feature Darrell Green’s punt return to beat the Chicago Bears in a 1988 playoff game and John Riggins’ fourth-down, game-winning touchdown run in Super Bowl XVII against Miami. Please vote for your choice as the Redskins’ most memorable play.
Score: Redskins 31, Cowboys 17
Date: Jan. 22, 1983 Site: RFK Stadium
The day, and the game, were big enough already. Fans inside RFK Stadium started the chant long before kickoff, energizing the players and creating a lifelong memory. The chant, which started earlier that postseason in wins over Detroit and Minnesota, is brought out on occasion -- “We want Dallas!” -- but never was it said with more gusto than on Jan. 22, 1983, in the NFC Championship Game against the Cowboys.
There was a sense of excitement, a sense that perhaps the franchise was in the early stages of a good run under second-year coach Joe Gibbs.
“It sent a chill down your spine,” Hall of Fame guard Russ Grimm said in "America’s Rivalry" (a book I helped write).
Redskins fans who lived through the 1950s and '60s were used to disappointment. More accurately: They were used to bad football. From 1950 to '70, the Redskins managed three winning seasons. But a strong run in the 1970s under coach George Allen elevated expectations.
However, although they got close -- a Super Bowl loss that capped Miami’s perfect 1972 season -- they never pushed through. And they had not been to the postseason since 1976.
So, with 7 minutes, 12 seconds left against Dallas, the Redskins clung to a 24-17 lead, but the Cowboys had hope. With backup quarterback Gary Hogeboom having earlier entered for a concussed Danny White, they had moved the ball and, after all, they had won six straight over their hated rivals. Fans were understandably nervous, still stung by the memory of another Cowboys backup passer: Clint Longley and his 50-yard bomb to beat the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day 1974.
But in this game, from their own 20, the Cowboys called for a screen that Washington had correctly anticipated. That led defensive tackle Darryl Grant to run to the area he knew the ball would be thrown. And when rushing defensive end Dexter Manley tipped the ball, Grant plucked it out of the air and high-stepped 10 yards into Redskins history. It's easily one of the most memorable plays in franchise history for what it represented and when it occurred. It clinched a victory and sent Washington to its second Super Bowl. Grant’s spike landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
And the city, and franchise, started a party that lasted a decade.
@john_keim Grant TD most memorable cause that game biggest (?) win in franchse history. All thought 'Boys would win. Charlie Brown syndrome.— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) July 2, 2014
This is one of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days, we’ll feature Wilbert Montgomery's 42-yard touchdown run against Dallas in the 1980 NFC title game that helped send the Eagles to their first Super Bowl and DeSean Jackson's 65-yard punt return for a touchdown that beat the New York Giants in 2010. Please vote for your choice as the Eagles' most memorable play.
Score: Eagles 19, Giants 17
Date: Nov. 19, 1978 Site: Giants Stadium
The play itself was almost slapstick, a head-slapping combination of poor play calling and clumsy execution. For the Philadelphia Eagles, though, the play meant so much.
The Eagles were on their way to a 17-12 loss to their NFC East rivals after a Giants interception late in the game. New York quarterback Joe Pisarcik took a knee on first down, but Eagles linebacker Frank LeMaster crashed through the line and hit him. The Giants didn’t like that, so they responded by calling for a handoff to bruising running back Larry Csonka on second down. Csonka ran for 11 yards. That made it third-and-2, and the Giants again called Csonka's number.
It was an all-time mistake. Pisarcik bobbled the snap and, turning toward Csonka, lost the ball. Pisarcik dived for the bouncing ball, knocking it right to Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards. The future NFL head coach and ESPN commentator scooped the ball up and ran it 26 yards for a game-winning touchdown.
The play lives on in fans’ memories because it represented a turning point. For years, it was the Eagles who let victory turn to bitter defeat with a mental error. It was the Eagles who fumbled games away, who lost when they should have won. It was the Eagles fans who waited in the parking lot to jeer at departing players.
Now it was the other way around. By winning, the Eagles stayed alive and went on to their first playoff berth under coach Dick Vermeil. Two years later, they were in the Super Bowl.
The morning of the game, Eagles owner Leonard Tose had open-heart surgery (a new procedure at the time) in Houston. A few hours later, Tose listened via radio hookup as his moribund franchise was given a jolt of life by “The Miracle of the Meadowlands.”