Worst Calls in NFL History
Blown calls in the NFL can be painful and even change lives.
Take the hideous tuck rule, for instance.
If referee Walt Coleman and his posse hadn’t taken that infamous rule out of mothballs, then the New England Patriots almost certainly wouldn’t have won that night. Or Super Bowl 36.
In that case, the Oakland Raiders might have been NFL champions. And Jon Gruden probably would have remained their head coach. And the Patriots might have picked Drew Bledsoe over young, inexperienced Tom Brady and his zero postseason wins at the time. And the Patriots might not have won Super Bowls 38. Or 39. Or 49. Or 51. Or 53. And Brady might not have become "Tom Terrific." And he might have married Maggie Gyllenhaal instead of Gisele.
See what we mean?
Here are the worst calls ever in NFL history, several of which changed more than just the outcome of a game.
25. Devin Taylor's Game-Ending Tackle That Wasn't
Date: Dec. 3, 2015
Scene: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan, Week 13
Situation: Detroit Lions 23, Green Bay Packers 21, six seconds left in the fourth quarter, Packers ball on their 21-yard line
Final score: Packers 27, Lions 23
Bottom line: One of Aaron Rodgers’ greatest miracles never should have happened. After a 19-yard pass to James Jones followed by a pair of laterals, Devin Taylor brought down the Packers' quarterback on what appeared to be the final play of the game.
But Taylor was flagged for a face-mask penalty that allowed for one more snap. Aaron and Richard Rodgers promptly hooked up on a 61-yard Hail Mary pass that was answered with no time on the clock.
After further review, however, Taylor had only grazed the bottom bar of the face mask with his right thumb and should not have been called for the infraction.
Afterward, league vice president of officiating Dean Blandino issued a vague response that neither confirmed nor denied that the correct call had been made.
24. Lenny Moore's Pass Interference That Wasn't
Date: Nov. 13, 1960
Scene: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois, Week 8
Situation: Chicago Bears 20, Baltimore Colts 17, 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Colts ball at the Bears’ 39-yard line
Final score: Colts 24, Bears 20
Bottom line: On fourth-and-14, his team in a need of a victory to keep pace in the tight West Division race, battered Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas lofted a deep ball down the right sideline.
Flanker Lenny Moore snatched it away from cornerback J.C. Caroline in the end zone, and the legend of Johnny U had another chapter.
Video replays confirmed what an angry bunch of Bears contended all along, though — "Spats" pushed off to gain separation. The football gods agreed, apparently.
The Colts never won another game that season.
23. Seferian-Jenkins' Touchdown That Wasn't
Date: Oct. 15, 2017
Scene: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey, Week 6
Situation: Patriots 24, New York Jets 14, 8:24 left in the fourth quarter, Jets ball on the Patriots' 4-yard line
Final score: Patriots 24, Jets 17
Bottom line: Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins took a short pass from Josh McCown, dove for the front corner of the end zone and dragged Patriots defenders Malcolm Butler and Duron Harmon with him. Down judge Patrick Turner raised his hands skyward.
Every touchdown is subject to review, and that’s when the dunderheadedness began.
After a five-minute delay, referee Tony Corrente announced that the ball had been fumbled into the end zone, and the result was a touchback, not a touchdown. True, ASJ momentarily lost control of the ball in midair when Butler hit him but clearly had regained possession before either hit the ground.
"I thought it was a B.S. call," teammate Jermaine Kearse didn’t mince words afterward.
Rest of the story: The Patriots finished one game ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers as the top AFC playoff seed.
22. Russell Wilson's Interception That Wasn't
Date: Sept. 24, 2012
Scene: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington, Week 3
Situation: Packers 12, Seahawks 7, eight seconds left in the fourth quarter, Seahawks ball at the 49ers’ 24-yard line
Final score: Seahawks 14, Packers 12
Bottom line: As bad as NFL officials are known to be, this travesty courtesy of replacement refs reminded us how much worse the games would be without real ones.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson rolled to his left and tossed up a jump ball to the corner of the end zone. Wideout Golden Tate shoved cornerback Sam Shields practically to Gig Harbor, then wrestled safety M.D. Jennings for the ball. Jennings had possession first and clutched the ball to his chest the entire time. Tate refused to give up on the play, however, and he wrapped his right arm around Jennings and the ball while the two were on the turf.
The two jamokes in vertical stripes closest to the play could only look at each other. What you say? No, what say you first? Both shot their arms into the air.
After a tedious replay review, referee Wayne Elliott ruled the two players had simultaneous possession of the ball, in which case the touchdown stood.
Rest of the story: A Packers victory would have given them the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. And they would have hosted the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round, a game that was lost on the road.
21. Calvin Johnson's Touchdown That Wasn't
Date: Sept. 12, 2010
Scene: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, Week 2
Situation: Bears 19, Lions 14, 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Lions ball at the Bears' 20-yard line
Final score: Bears 19, Lions 14
Bottom line: This was the play that started the interminable when-is-a-catch-a-catch nonsense. Shaun Hill arched a deep ball to wideout Calvin Johnson, who outjumped cornerback Zack Bowman to make the grab with two hands on the ball, then two feet on the ground in the end zone.
Side judge Mike Weatherford immediately showed the touchdown signal. But nooooo, when "Megatron" banged the ball on the ground before he got to his feet, it popped loose. So the call was reversed to an incompletion, then upheld because he didn’t complete the process.
Except the ambiguous rule didn’t specify whether the time frame for said process was one second or one day or somewhere in between.
Two more passes to Johnson failed, and the league had a full-blown controversy that would last years.
Rest of the story: The Packers would need this win for a wild-card playoff berth.
20. John Smith's Field Goal That Wasn't
Date: Dec. 12, 1982
Scene: Schaefer Stadium, in Foxboro, Massachusetts, Week 14
Situation: Miami Dolphins 0, New England Patriots 0, left in the fourth quarter, Patriots ball on the Dolphins' 23-yard line
Final score: Patriots 3, Dolphins 0
Bottom line: This was when the Patriots began to get their cheating reputation. While the officials stood around with their hands in their pants, coach Ron Meyer took it upon himself to send snowblower operator-convicted burglar Mark Henderson to clear a spot for Matt Cavanaugh, the placekick holder.
John Smith drilled a 33-yard field goal for what would be the only points of the game. While Henderson received a game ball for his thievery, the hacked-off Dolphins got nothing out of commissioner Pete Rozelle, who agreed the home team had benefited from an unfair advantage but declined to take action.
Rest of the story: The Dolphins got their just due in the AFC wild-card game in balmy Miami one month later.
19. Mike Renfro's Touchdown That Wasn't
Date: Jan. 6, 1980
Scene: Three Rivers Stadium, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, AFC championship game
Situation: Pittsburgh Steelers 17, Houston Oilers 10, 1:30 left in the third quarter, Oilers ball on the Steelers' 6-yard line
Final score: Steelers 27, Oilers 13
Bottom line: This was a toughie to call in the days before instant replay. Because Oilers wide receiver Mike Renfro had his back to the field in the far corner of the end zone when he and cornerback Ron Johnson vied for the ball, leaving the officials with an obstructed view.
Did Renfro land with two feet inbounds? Did he juggle the Dan Pastorini pass ever so slightly before he fell out of bounds?
At least referee Jim Tunney and his crew talked it over before they got it wrong.
Toni Fritsch kicked a 23-yard field goal to make it a four-point game, but the Super Steelers responded with the final 10 points to win rather handily.
18. Ron Green and Crew's Many Misadventures
Date: Jan. 10, 2010
Scene: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona, NFC wild-card game
Situation: Packers 45, Cardinals 45, 13:50 left in the first overtime, Packers ball on their 24-yard line
Final score: Cardinals 51, Packers 45 (overtime)
Bottom line: Michael Adams blew in on a corner blitz, knocked the ball out of Aaron Rodgers' right hand and into those of linebacker Karlos Dansby, who ran 17 yards for sudden victory.
Adams had tugged on Rodgers' face mask for several seconds on his follow-through, but the league pointed to a rules change of two years earlier that allowed for incidental contact. OK. Fine. Great.
But what about the uncalled helmet-to-helmet hit that end Bertrand Berry laid on Rodgers one play earlier? And the uncalled interference on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who shouldered cornerback Charles Woodson out of the way prior to his touchdown reception in the third period?
You mean referee Ron Green and his gang actually got paid for this?
17. Jerome Bettis' Mixed-Up Coin-Toss Call
Date: Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 1998
Scene: Pontiac Silverdome, Detroit, Michigan, Week 13
Situation: Steelers 16, Lions 16, end of four quarters
Final score: Lions 19, Steelers 16 (overtime)
Bottom line: Did the Steelers co-captain Jerome Bettis call tails on the overtime coin toss, as he insisted? Did Bettis call heads, as referee Phil Luckett thought? Did Bettis call one thing and teammate Carnell Lake call another, as one Lions player claimed? Or did Bettis call something that sounded like heh-tails, as the audio seemed to confirm?
Whatever the mumbo jumbo, it wasn’t entirely clear. In which case, Luckett should have immediately picked up the coin before the result was known, then repeated the process.
At any rate, Lions placekicker Jason Hanson kicked a 42-yard field goal on the first possession, the Steelers were practically knocked out of the AFC Central race, and the league looked really dumb not to execute something this dadgum simple.
16. Chike Okeafor's Pass Interference That Wasn't
Date: Jan. 5, 2002
Scene: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, California, NFC wild-card game
Situation: 49ers 39, Giants 38, six seconds left in the fourth quarter, Giants ball at the 49ers' 23-yard line
Final score: 49ers 39, Giants 38
Bottom line: After the Giants gagged on a 24-point lead, they had a chance to bail this one out. But when a bad snap aborted a 41-yard field-goal attempt, holder Matt Allen had little choice except to throw a desperation pass downfield.
Guard Rich Seubert was grabbed by 49ers linebacker Chike Okeafor before the ball arrived at the 5-yard line, which was flagged for ... illegal man downfield?
Uh, one problem. Seubert had checked in as an eligible receiver. One day later, the league issued the obligatory mea culpa, but it didn’t give the G-Men the do-over they deserved.
15. Bill Leavy and Crew's XL-Sized Embarrassment
Date: Feb. 5, 2006
Scene: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan, Super Bowl XL
Situation: The whole game
Final score: Steelers, 21, Seahawks 10
Bottom line: This motley crew admittedly blew several calls that went the Stillers' way (Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren would suffer from Bill Leavy Acid Reflux even years later), but they were worse than given credit for.
Overlooked are the botched calls that went the Seahawks' way. Remember the Jerramy Stevens catch-and-fumble that was ruled an incompletion in the second quarter?
It’s open to debate what if any effect the gaffes had on the outcome, but we probably can agree on this much: This was the worst officiated Super Bowl ever.
14. Jerry Rice’s Fumble That Wasn’t
Date: Jan. 3, 1999
Scene: 3Com Park, San Francisco, California, NFC wild-card game
Situation: Packers 27, 49ers 23, 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter, 49ers ball at the Packers' 47-yard line
Final score: 49ers 30, Packers 27
Bottom line: "The Catch 2" should not have taken place.
After Jerry Rice gained six yards on a short cross pattern, Packers rookie safety Scott McGarrahan stripped the ball loose well before the wide receiver’s right knee touched the ground. Game over. No, game not over. After linebacker Bernardo Harris picked up the ball, referee Gerald Austin ruled the ballcarrier down by contact.
Four plays later, Steve Young and Terrell Owens hooked up on a memorable 25-yard touchdown, and the controversial victory was all but in the books.
13. Dave Casper's Touchdown That Wasn't
Date: Sept. 10, 1978
Scene: San Diego Stadium, San Diego, California, Week 2
Situation: Chargers 20, Raiders 14, 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Raiders ball at the Chargers' 10-yard line
Final score: Raiders 21, Chargers 20
Bottom line: Linebacker Woodrow Lowe was about to take down Ken Stabler at the 24-yard line when the desperate quarterback flipped an underhanded pass that rolled forward to running back Pete Banaszak, who knocked the ball ahead at the 13 to tight end Dave Casper, who muffed/kicked it at the 8, then fell on it in the end zone.
While rules allowed for the advancement of a forward fumble at any time? The incomplete pass should have negated the nonsense that followed it. Yet after bewildered referee Jerry Markbreit took off his blinders, the touchdown was allowed to stand.
The so-called "Holy Roller" cost Chargers head coach Tommy Prothro his job (he was fired less than three weeks later), deprived the Bolts of a wild-card playoff berth and furthered the Raiders' reputation as low-life cheaters.
12. Chris Jones' Personal Foul That Wasn't
Date: Jan. 20, 2019
Scene: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri, AFC championship game
Situation: Chiefs 21, Patriots 17, 7:10 left in the fourth quarter, Patriots ball at their 28-yard line
Final score: Patriots 37, Chiefs 31 (overtime)
Bottom line: On second-and-10, Tom Brady’s short pass to Julian Edelman fell incomplete. But end Chris Jones failed to count to 12 Mississippi before he rushed the passer, also known as "The Brady Rule," which resulted in a 15-yard penalty.
No, I made that up.
What happened is that referee Clete Blakeman called roughing the passer, even though Jones did little more than whack the quarterback's left shoulder pad in an attempt to disrupt a throw.
Nine plays after this terrible act of violence, the Patriots had the lead en route to yet another victory*.
11. Dez Bryant's Catch That Wasn't
Date: Jan. 11, 2015
Scene: Lambeau Field, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, NFC divisional playoffs
Situation: Packers 26, Cowboys 21, 4:42 left in the fourth quarter, Cowboys ball at the Packers' 32-yard line
Final score: Packers 26, Cowboys 21
Bottom line: Two years after the Calvin Johnson fiasco (see above), the NFL still didn’t have a simple, logical definition of a legal catch.
On fourth-and-2, Dez Bryant outjumped Packers cornerback Sam Shields for the ball at the 4-yard line. As the wideout attempted to extend the ball to the goal line, it momentarily came loose inside the 1-yard line, but he never lost control of it.
After further review, the officials ruled that Bryant had not maintained possession of the ball and changed the 31-yard gain to an incompletion. The visitors never got off another snap, and the league had another mess on its hands.
Not long afterward, the rule was revised to require a receiver to establish himself as a runner rather than make a "football act," whatever the hell that meant.
10. Kevin Dyson’s Touchdown That Wasn’t
Date: Jan. 8, 2000
Scene: Adelphia Coliseum, Nashville, Tennessee, AFC wild-card game
Situation: Bills 16, Titans 15, 16 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Bills kick off at their own 35-yard line
Final score: Titans 22, Titans 16
Bottom line: "The Music City Miracle"? No, more like "The Music City Mirage."
After Steve Christie kicked a 41-yard field goal to put the visitors in front, wedge blocker Lorenzo Neal fielded the pooch kickoff at the 24-yard line. The ball was handed to tight end Frank Wycheck, who took six short steps to his right, then suddenly pivoted to make a long heave to a wide-open Kevin Dyson at the other side of the field. The wide receiver ran untouched for six points while the grounds shook around them.
Yet something didn’t seem quite right here. Wycheck’s arm appeared to release the ball either on or just inside the 25-yard line. Dyson caught it about a foot past the 25-yard, which would have made it an illegal forward lateral.
In a lengthy video review, the evidence was ruled to be inconclusive, and the call of line judge Phil Luckett was allowed to stand. The Titans got their gift pass to the Super Bowl.
The Bills? They got an excrement sandwich.
9. Ray Hamilton's Personal Foul That Wasn't
Date: Dec. 18, 1976
Scene: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, California, AFC divisional playoffs
Situation: Patriots 21, Raiders 17, 52 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Raiders ball at the Patriots' 28-yard line
Final score: Raiders 24, Patriots 21
Bottom line: The Raiders were in a third-and-18 crater when a Ken Stabler rainbow to running back Carl Garrett missed badly, only to have referee Ben Dreith bail them out on an alleged roughing the pass call.
Replays showed that nose tackle Ray Hamilton’s outstretched right hand struck the quarterback on the left shoulder — he also got a piece of the ball — but Dreith erroneously believed there was contact to the head.
Stabler scored on a 1-yard run with 10 seconds on the clock, and the wrong team advanced to the AFC championship game. If it wasn’t the Patriots who got screwed over, you could feel sorry for them.
8. Bobby McCray's Personal Foul That Wasn't
Date: Jan. 24, 2010
Scene: Louisiana SuperDome, New Orleans, Louisiana, NFC championship game
Situation: Vikings 21, Saints 21, 2:06 left in the third quarter, Vikings ball at the Saints' 34-yard line
Final score: Saints 31, Vikings 28 (overtime)
Bottom line: One didn’t have to be Booger McFarland to sense the Saints were out to maim Brett Favre from the start. The home team was flagged for two personal foul penalties on the Vikings' signal-caller, but the one that wasn’t called turned out to be the most crucial of all.
End Bobby McCray took a direct shot to the back of Favre's legs, and the gimpy quarterback played with a severely bruised left ankle the rest of the way. Had the penalty been flagged, a Jonathan Vilma interception would have been negated, and the Vikings would have had the ball at the Saints' 19-yard line.
"We just missed it," vice president of officiating Mike Pereira fessed up afterward.
Rest of the story: Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and head coach Sean Payton were suspended for their "Bountygate" scandal roles two years later.
7. Mike McCoy's Fumble Recovery That Wasn't
Date: Jan. 1, 1978
Scene: Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado, AFC championship game
Situation: Broncos 7, Raiders 3, in the third quarter, Broncos ball at the Raiders' 2-yard line
Final score: Broncos 20, Raiders 17
Bottom line: Broncos rookie back Rob Lytle took a handoff on a dive play, only to lose the ball on a head-on collision with safety Jack Tatum at the line of scrimmage. The Raiders' Mike McCoy emerged from the pack seconds later, ball in hand, but the play was whistled dead.
Head linesman Ed Marion never saw the fumble amid the mass of bodies, and after a lengthy discussion between him and his crew, the Broncos retained possession. The botched call turned out to be huge, as Jon Keyworth scored from one yard out seconds later.
Not only that, but it probably deprived us of a Raiders-Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl matchup, and wouldn’t that have been fun?
6. Bert Emanuel’s Catch That Wasn’t
Date: Jan. 23, 2000
Scene: TWA Dome, St. Louis, Missouri, NFC championship game
Situation: Rams 11, Buccaneers 7, 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Buccaneers ball at the Rams' 35-yard line
Final score: Rams 11, Buccaneers 7
Bottom line: Who started this catch-or-no-catch nonsense? Pin the tail on Bill Carollo, that’s who.
The Buccaneers were on the move when wideout Bert Emanuel made what looked to be a fairly routine diving catch of a Shaun King pass at the 23-yard line. The ball moved slightly upon contact with the artificial turf, but his hands never lost firm grasp of it. Hadn’t that always been a legal catch?
"I don’t think you can take that one away from him," John Madden assured all on the CBS telecast.
Ohhhhh, yes, they can. After a review, Carollo and his co-conspirators agreed that the tip of the ball had hit the ground, which made for an incomplete pass.
Two plays later, the Rams were headed to the Super Bowl, and the Buccaneers were headed home. The play led to the so-called Bert Emanuel Rule that made the catch legal, but it was merely a Band-Aid on a double hernia.
5. Drew Pearson's Pass Interference Penalty That Wasn't
Date: Dec. 28, 1975
Scene: Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota, NFC divisional playoff
Situation: Vikings 14, Cowboys 10, 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Cowboys ball at midfield
Final score: Cowboys 17, Vikings 14
Bottom line: Roger Staubach coined the term "Hail Mail pass" on this day. The "Pious Push" was more like it.
After Staubach launched a long jump ball down the right sideline, Cowboys wideout Drew Peearson did the only thing he could do — use his right arm to leverage cornerback Nate Wright out of the way. Pearson caught the ball on the 4-yard line, then waltzed into the end zone while safety Paul Krause frantically pointed at him to be penalized.
"I thought I might have gotten pass interference," conceded Pearson, who immediately looked around for a flag after he struck paydirt. "It could have gone either way."
Wait, there’s more. D-lineman Mark Mullaney clearly was tackled in his pursuit of the quarterback on the play. The homies were pissed off then — field judge Armen Terzian was knocked unconscious by an airborne bottle that required 11 stitches — and they’re pissed off now.
After all, this might have been the best Vikings team ever, and the non-call deprived it of a potential Super Bowl rematch with the Pittsburgh Steelers three weeks later.
4. Robey-Coleman's Pass Interference That Wasn’t
Date: Jan. 20, 2019
Scene: Louisiana SuperDome, New Orleans, Louisiana, NFC championship game
Situation: Rams 20, Saints 20, 1:48 left in the fourth quarter, Saints ball at the Rams' 13-yard line
Final score: Rams 26, Saints 23 (overtime)
Bottom line: Drew Brees threw a sideline pass behind Tommylee Lewis, and with Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman's back to the play, he laid a shoulder into the wideout just before the ball arrived at the 6-yard line.
The obvious pass interference on third-and-10 would give the Saints a new set of downs and the chance to run down the clock. Unh-uh.
Referee Bill Vonivich (rhymes with something else in N'awlins) and company saw no problem with the play, and the Rams soon punched their Super Bowl ticket.
After days of silence amid foolish threats of a lawsuit, commish Roger Goodell said more rules and video replay changes would be considered. It never ends, girls and boys.
3. Don Chandler's Missed Field Goal That Wasn't
Date: Dec. 26, 1965
Scene: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin, West divisional playoff
Situation: Colts 10, Packers 7, early fourth quarter, Packers ball at the Colts' 15-yard line
Final score: Packers 13, Colts 10 (overtime)
Bottom line: Seldom can it be said that one play decides a game. Well, you’re lookin' at one. Because if not for back judge Jim Tunney, the Packers would have one fewer championship banner.
Don Chandler attempted a 22-yard field that would send the game into overtime. The ball faded badly to the right, at least a half-foot wide when it fluttered past the right upright. Even Babe knew he bricked the kick — his head and shoulders snapped around in disgust after the fact.
Centered between the uprights, Tunney was not in a position to make the call and immediately signaled otherwise. When Chandler converted a 25-yarder in the extra session, the wrong team advanced to the league championship game.
Worse yet, Tunney refused to admit that he gagged on the momentous call. A game Colts team received this token gift for their agony — the uprights were extended from 10 to 20 feet before the next season.
2. Tom Brady's Fumble That Wasn't
Date: Jan. 19, 2002
Scene: Foxboro Stadium, AFC divisional playoffs
Situation: Raiders 13, Patriots 10, 1:50 left in the fourth quarter, Patriots ball on the Raiders' 42-yard line
Final score: Patriots 16, Raiders 13 (overtime)
Bottom line: Few had heard of the tuck rule until Raiders safety Charles Woodson strip-sacked Tom Brady on first-and-10.
"When (an offensive) player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass ... "
Yet at least one camera angle showed the quarterback with both hands on the ball when he lost control of it.
Now for the rest of the rule: "Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble."
Aha! At worst, the video evidence was inconclusive, and linebacker Greg Biekert’s recovery should have held up.
Instead, referee Walt Coleman and his crew switched the call to an incomplete pass, Adam Vinatieri booted a pair of field goals and the tainted Patriots dynasty had its first asterisk.
1. Frank Gifford's Fumble That Wasn't
Date: Dec. 14, 1958
Scene: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, Week 12
Situation: Browns 10, Giants 10, 2:17 left in the fourth quarter, Giants ball on the Browns’ 42-yard line
Final score: Giants 13, Browns 10
Bottom line: Never heard of this one? Well, listen up then. It did more to change the face of pro football than any other.
The visitors were one stop away from the Eastern Division title when Giants halfback Frank Gifford caught a short pass over the middle, then took a step-and-a-half upfield. Boom! Linebacker Galen Fiss jarred the ball loose from the side, teammate Walt Michaels picked it up and headed to the goal line.
At that point, head linesman Charlie Berry frantically waved off the play.
"The ball hit [Gifford] on the chest," Berry explained his minority opinion afterward. "He never had complete control."
Yet not even some Giants players were convinced, as several members of their defensive unit were already on the field.
Gifford? When I asked him about the play years later, he feigned memory loss.
Pat Summerall booted a 49-yard field through the snowflakes on the next play, and the Giants won the winner-take-all rematch the next week.
That set the stage for the first-ever overtime NFL championship game, the so-called "Greatest Game Ever Played," one that wouldn’t have come off if not for an ill-advised whistle.