Wednesday, July 16, 2014
#NFLMostMemorable plays getting serious
By Kevin Seifert
Whoever did the seeding for ESPN.com's Most Memorable NFL plays project seems to have done an OK job. The final eight plays include four No. 1 seeds, two No. 2 seeds, a No. 3 and one resilient No. 7.
I'm not totally sure on the big-picture appeal of DeSean Jackson's 2012 game-winning punt return -- other than the fact that it happened just two years ago -- but it has already upset two of the most well-known plays in NFL history. It dispatched Earnest Byner's fumble in the 1987 AFC Championship Game in the first round, and in the second round, it put to bed Marcus Allen's weaving touchdown run in Super Bowl XVIII.
DeSean Jackson's game-winning punt return continues to advance as a No. 7 seed.
You would think its run will end here in the third round, considering it's up against one of the greatest catches ever made in the Super Bowl -- David Tyree's grab for the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII -- but we've been wrong before. Instead, let's consider two other matchups to keep an eye on as this tournament rolls on:
49ers vs. Seahawks: There is no more bitter rivalry in today's NFL than the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Fan allegiance surely will play a role in whether The Catch or the Beastquake advances to the semifinals. What's more memorable? A leaping touchdown catch with 38 seconds remaining that put the 49ers into the Super Bowl? Or a winding, tackle-breaking, adrenaline-laced rushing touchdown in the divisional playoff game? Consider that 33 years later, there is still only one "Catch." Lynch's run was spectacular and could well have the same staying power. But it didn't mean as much to his team at the time. My vote is for The Catch, but Seahawks fans might have something to say about that in Wednesday's voting.
Immaculate Reception vs. Music City Miracle: If nothing else, we have a fun matchup of totally improbable plays. In 1972, Harris scooped up a pass that had been deflected more than 10 yards -- presumably without hitting the ground -- and scored the winning touchdown in a divisional play game against the Oakland Raiders. Twenty-seven years later, the Tennessee Titans won a playoff game on a lateraled kickoff return in the final seconds. We might never see a playoff game end in either fashion again. The Immaculate Reception has stood for decades as one of the NFL's most famous plays, but we might never see a team win a playoff game the way the Titans did again. This project wouldn't be complete without the Immaculate Reception approaching the finals, but the Music City Miracle is formidable challenger.