By Steve Silverman
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In the annals of football and all professional sports, it’s a play that will never be forgotten.
I’m talking about the “Minneapolis Miracle,” of course.
It was 10 seconds that lifted the hearts of the people of Minnesota and tore the souls out of the folks down in New Orleans.
When Vikings quarterback Case Keenum dropped back from his own 39-yard line on what he hoped wasn’t the final play of Sunday’s Divisional Round playoff game, the idea was to have a receiver work the sideline downfield, make the catch and get the heck out of bounds.
In a perfect world, that confluence of events would have allowed Kai Forbath to attempt a long, game-winning field goal that, if made, would send the Vikings to the Philadelphia for the conference championship game.
Well, the men in purple are going and it turns out they didn’t need a lot of that stuff to happen.
As everyone now knows, Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs, with some help from Saints cornerback Marcus Williams, turned that desperation heave into a 61-yard touchdown that gave Minnesota an improbable 29-24 victory.
It was as shocking a finish as there has ever been in an NFL game. Older Vikings fans had seen something like that before, but their team was on the wrong end of it.
With all that said, let’s take a look at some of the greatest plays in NFL history.
“The Immaculate Reception”
Pittsburgh 13, Oakland 7 (1972 Divisional playoffs) — The Steelers were trailing one of the hardest-hitting games in memory after Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler snaked his way into the end zone on a 30-yard touchdown run with 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The ensuing possession for the Steelers was not going well. After getting his team to its own 40, quarterback Terry Bradshaw failed on three consecutive passes. The Steelers were facing fourth and 10 with 22 seconds remaining.
Bradshaw launched a pass in the direction of running back John “Frenchy” Fuqua down near the Oakland 35. Leading with his shoulder, Raiders safety Jack Tatum connected with Fuqua as the ball arrived. The impact forced the ball to bound back about 10 yards.
Franco Harris, who was trailing the play, saw the pigskin moving in his direction and made a shoestring catch inches off the turf. He then took off to the end zone for what proved to be the winning score.
The play was steeped in controversy as the NFL had a rule at the time that said no two offensive players could touch the ball consecutively. That appeared to be what happened as the ball ricocheted off Fuqua before Harris caught it.
However, officials ruled that the ball had also hit Tatum’s shoulder pad simultaneously and as a result was legal. There was also a question about whether Harris caught the ball cleanly or if it had skimmed the surface of the artificial turf at Three Rivers Stadium.
There were five seconds remaining after the extra point was kicked.
The win was the first in what would become a glorious postseason history for the Steelers.
“The Hail Mary”
Dallas 17, Minnesota 14 (1975 Divisional playoffs) — The Vikings’ mean and marauding defense had punished the Cowboys for nearly 60 minutes.
The Vikes were seconds away from a 14-10 victory at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, when disaster struck.
On a play that started at midfield, Roger Staubach launched a long pass that receiver Drew Pearson hauled in at the 4-yard line. He then eluded Vikings defensive back Nate Wright and made his way into the end zone.
The Vikings argued that offensive pass interference should have been called, but their protestations fell on deaf ears. The touchdown gave the Cowboys the lead with 22 seconds remaining. Back-to-back sacks of Fran Tarkenton on Minnesota’s ensuing drive gave Dallas the upset.
“Music City Miracle”
Tennessee 22, Buffalo 16 (1999 Wild Card playoff) — The Bills had just taken a one-point lead on a Steve Christie field goal with 16 seconds remaining, and appeared to be a lock to advance to the Divisional Round.
However, the Titans had a special teams trick for the ages up their sleeves.
On the ensuing kickoff, fullback Lorenzo Neal ended up with the ball. Since Neal was known for his blocking above all else, he handed the ball to Frank Wycheck, who drifted to his right by design.
The veteran tight end then lofted a long pass across the field, seemingly along the 25-yard line. The officials would later rule that the pass never went forward, which if it had would have made it illegal.
Receiver Kevin Dyson caught the ball near the sidelines, picked up blockers and made it 75 yards for the game-winning TD.
In disbelief, the Bills questioned the play — called “Home Run Throwback” – claiming Wycheck’s throw was not a lateral. However, the call on the field stood and the Titans had a stunning victory.
Where do all of these memorable plays rank? That’s for you to decide.
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