Let’s call a spade a spade. What we witnessed from the New England Patriots on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, was one of the dumbest plays in NFL history. In addition, it could be one of the dumbest plays in all of sports history.
The sequence of events that took place was the result of dumb decisions that will leave this clip on blooper reals forever. It raises the question, “Has there ever been a play as dumb as that?”
The simple answer is “Yes.”
We’ve seen numerous dumb plays thanks to heat-of-the-moment mistakes, bad judgment calls, and poor decision-making. So let’s look at some of the dumbest plays in NFL history.
Honorable Mention: Patriots QB Hugh Millen “literally” runs out the clock – Oct. 27, 1991
This is a deep dive into New England Patriots fandom. This October midseason matchup with the Denver Broncos did not have the significance as Sunday’s game against the Raiders. However, what happened in the game could be considered the second-dumbest single play in franchise history.
A below .500 Patriots team was taking on John Elway and the Broncos. After a field goal put Denver ahead 9-6 with 1:56 left, quarterback Hugh Millen marched the Patriots 69 yards on six completions to the Broncos’ 15-yard line.
The Patriots called their last timeout, and head Coach Dick MacPherson told Millen to find an open receiver in the end zone or throw the ball away on the next play. The Patriots either would win the game or kick a potential tying field goal.
However, after the ball was snapped, Millen saw an opening in the middle of the field and took off running. He was tackled at the Denver 6-yard-line after a nine-yard gain without even making a move for the sidelines. And before the Patriots could run another play, time expired.
This play looked a lot like the Dallas Cowboys’ failed attempt against the San Francisco 49ers in the 2021 Playoffs. Except, the Cowboys called a designed run. Millen ignored his coach’s orders.
After the game, Millen said he acted on instinct. As mentioned, this play ended a middle-of-the-season contest in a year the Patriots finished 6-10. However, Millen’s major brain fart deserves a mention. Watch the play HERE.
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5. Dan Orlovsky runs out of the endzone….his own endzone – Oct. 12, 2008
The 2008 Detroit Lions are one of two teams in NFL history to go 0-16. There will be a few dumb plays when your team is that bad. The most obvious comes from Week 6.
QB Dan Orlovsky was making his first career start against the Minnesota Vikings. Late in the first quarter, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson fumbled at the Lions’ one-yard line.
Facing a 3rd and 10 from the shadow of his own goalpost, Orlovsky took the snap. However, pass rusher Jared Allen brought the heat and forced Orlovsky out of the pocket. The only problem was he ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety, allowing the Vikings to take a 2-0 lead.
The optics of this play make it look so dumb. Orlovsky takes about seven steps out of bounds before he realizes what happened. Allen is comically pointing at Orlovsky, trying to alert the official and the pity in play-by-play announcer Ron Pitts’ voice is unmistakable.
It is important to note that the Lions still put up a fight in this game. The Vikings needed a late field goal to win the game, 12-10. And Jimmy Garoppolo took some of the heat off Orlovsky when he stepped out of the back of the end zone this season during a game against the Denver Broncos.
That being said, Orlovsky has become one of the brightest minds in football and is a fantastic TV personality. Oct. 12, 2008, was just not his day. Watch the play HERE.
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4. “Colts Catastrophe” – Oct. 18, 2015
This is probably the weirdest-looking play we have ever seen on an NFL field. It is the trick play attempted by the Indianapolis Colts against the New England Patriots.
The play was called during a 4th and 3 on the Colts’ own 37-yard line. The formation saw most of the players on the Indianapolis punt team move from their positions to line up on the other side of the field. This left upback Colt Anderson set to receive the ball from gunner Griff Whalen.
However, the unusual formation did not fool the Patriots. But for some reason, Whalen snapped the ball, Anderson was almost immediately tackled for a loss, and New England took over on downs.
To make matters worse, an illegal formation penalty was also called on the Colts, which the Patriots declined. New England scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive, helping seal their eventual 34–27 win.
Former Colts punter and now popular sports personality Pat McAfee was on the field during that play. He says the goal of the play was to catch the Patriots with too many men on the field or going offside, which would have resulted in a penalty and a Colts first down. With the Patriots adjusting correctly, McAfee says they were supposed to let the play clock run out, but a “communications breakdown” led to the ball being snapped.
It was hilarious to watch and played out in the Patriots’ favor. Watch the play HERE.
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3. Pete Carroll makes Malcolm Butler a legend – Super Bowl XLIX: Feb. 1, 2015
Some may not consider this a dumb play. However, the dumb decision that led to the play makes it a dumb play. It was the decision that potentially cost the Seattle Seahawks a Super Bowl.
The Seahawks and Patriots were already treating us to an instant classic. The action was fast-paced and exhilarating. Big plays, big stops, it was awesome. Then came the final moments.
Trailing 28-24, the Seahawks drove the ball into New England territory and had a 1st down at the Patriots’ five-yard line with 1:05 left in the game. We all know what happened next.
Marshawn Lynch runs to the 1-yard line, Russell Wilson gets picked off by Malcolm Butler, Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX. But it is when you dive into those sequences that really makes it dumb.
Let’s go back to first down, where Lynch runs to the 1-yard line. New England does not use one of their two timeouts, allowing Seattle to run the clock down to 26 seconds before taking the snap for the next play. Perhaps this move by Bill Belichick rattled the entire Seahawks team, including head coach Pete Carroll. He didn’t have a minute to really think about his next play call.
And that play call was to have Wilson throw the ball on 2nd down. Let’s think about that. Lynch was averaging over four yards per carry in that game. And even if he is stopped or takes a loss, you either force the Patriots to use a timeout or you can use your last timeout to stop the clock. There was a slight possibility that he could have fumbled. However, the odds of that happening seemed to go in your favor.
The decision to pass has three outcomes. One good, one bad and one ugly. The good is that you can score and basically seal the game. The bad is that there is an incomplete pass, stopping the clock and giving New England more time to beat you. The ugly is what we got. Now Butler is a hero, and that play is in the history books forever because of an extremely questionable play call. Watch the play HERE.
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2. Jim Marshall Runs the Wrong Way – Oct. 25, 1964
Jim Marshall was an amazing NFL player and should be in the Hall of Fame. However, he will likely be most remembered for one single play.
During his time with the Minnesota Vikings, Marshall was playing in a game against the San Francisco 49ers. After recovering an offensive fumble, he ran 66 yards the wrong way into his team’s own end zone. Thinking he had scored a touchdown, Marshall flung the ball in celebration. The ball landed out of bounds, resulting in a safety for the 49ers.
According to Marshall, when he approached Vikings head coach Norm Van Brocklin afterward, Van Brocklin said, “Jim, you did the most interesting thing in this game today.”
Despite the blunder, the Vikings won the game 27–22, thanks to a forced fumble by Marshall, which teammate Carl Eller returned for a touchdown.
It is hard to imagine a player not realizing that he is running the wrong way. I wonder what we would think about this play if it had happened during the age of social media. In 2019, Marshall’s miscue was ranked No. 54 among the NFL’s 100 Greatest Plays. In this case, the term “Greatest” may be a little tongue-in-cheek. Watch the play HERE.
1. Patriots lateral attempt fails miserably – Dec. 18, 2022
Many might call this recency basis, and maybe it is. However, there is no denying that what the Patriots pulled against the Las Vegas Raiders will be on blooper reels until the end of time.
If the Patriots were in a position where they needed a touchdown and did this, this wouldn’t even be worthy of writing this article. This is written because they did this during a tie game. If Rhamondre Stevenson takes the ball and goes down, they go into overtime. If Jakobi Meyers catches the lateral and steps out of bounds, they go to overtime.
The Raiders scored on a controversial touchdown pass with 32 seconds left to tie the game 24-24. New England then gets the ball back and ends up with a 3rd down with ten seconds left in the game. Let’s also point out that they were in their own territory. Quarterback Mac Jones doesn’t have the arm strength for a hail mary from that spot.
Running the ball with Stevenson is not a bad call. If he breaks loose, he could score. You can also win the game. However, his decision to pitch back to Myers is inexcusable. Myers then panics and heaves the ball backward toward Jones. Unfortunately, it was Chandler Jones that nabs the ball, truck sticks Mac Jones and returns it for a Raiders touchdown to win the game.
Given the circumstances, this could be the dumbest play in NFL history. There was no logical reason for Stevenson or Myers to do what they did. They are both great players and will likely have good careers. However, this is going to stick with them forever.