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10 Dumbest Plays in NFL History

| December 18, 2021 6:11 am PDT

The NFL features the best football players in the world. Even so, no one is perfect, and we see a lot of questionable plays.

These plays take it to another level. It’s hard to explain what was going through the head of these players and coaches. I apologize in advance if this involves one of your favorite teams.

Here are the dumbest plays in NFL history.

10. Kirk Cousins Tries to Stop the Clock by Taking a Knee

In Week 16 of the 2015 season, the Washington Redskins traveled to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles. A victory would give Washington their first NFC East title since 2012.

Washington led 16-10 late in the first half. Kirk Cousins put together a nice little drive to move into field goal range.

  • 22-yard pass
  • 25-yard pass
  • 13-yard pass

They were on the Eagles six-yard line with six seconds remaining.

Cousins could’ve taken one shot into the end zone, but they had to be careful with the clock.

Instead of taking a quick shot or spiking the ball, Cousins took a knee. The problem was Washington didn’t have any timeouts.

The final six seconds ran off the clock, and Washington came up empty.

Head coach Jay Gruden didn’t know what Cousins was thinking. Cousins himself said he had a lapse in his decision-making.

Luckily, the play didn’t cost Washington. They went on to win the game 38-20 and clinch the NFC East.

That may have been a little foreshadowing not to bet on Washington in the playoffs. Unsurprisingly, they lost in the first round.

9. Aaron Brooks Backwards Pass Leads to Big Loss

Aaron Brooks was a quarterback for the New Orleans Saints for those who aren’t familiar. Brooks was never a great player, but he had a solid eight-year career.

In 2004, the Saints matched up with Drew Brees and the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers walked down the field, scoring a touchdown on their first drive.

New Orleans began their first drive with back-to-back incompletions.

On 3rd and 10, Brooks dropped back to throw. He was under pressure and needed to get rid of the ball or take a sack. Well, Brooks got rid of the ball, but it went in the wrong direction.

Brooks threw the ball backwards towards an offensive lineman. It went right by the offensive lineman and 25 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Running back Deuce McAllister recovered it at the Saints 23-yard line. All in all, it was a loss of 23 yards.

I don’t know what Brooks expected the offensive lineman to do. Even if he caught it, I can’t imagine he picks up the first down.

San Diego came into the game as (-6.5) point favorites, and that play showed the spread should’ve been bigger. They went on to win 43-17.

8. Mike Gillislee’s Kickoff Error

In 2016, the Buffalo Bills nearly made the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Unfortunately, a Week 16 loss eliminated them from contention.

They fired head coach Rex Ryan, leaving Anthony Lynn as their interim head coach for a meaningless Week 17 game.

The New York Jets dominated the game, as a late field goal gave them a 23-3 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, there was some miscommunication with who would return the kick. Even so, Mike Gillislee made his way to the ball and had a chance to recover it.

Instead, he let it bounce into the end zone, allowing the Jets to recover it for a touchdown. Announcer Ian Eagle seemed baffled by the play and had this to say.

“What are the Bills doing?”

Who knows what went through Gillislee’s head. Maybe he thought the Jets couldn’t recover it? It was a head-scratcher.

Gillislee scored a one-yard touchdown with 39 seconds remaining, so I guess he made up for it. Either way, the play only added to a humiliating run for the Bills franchise. One that I hope you didn’t bet on.

Since then, they’ve changed the narrative and become one of the league’s best teams.

7. Washington’s Weird Fake Field Goal

You want to talk about a bad team to bet on. I present to you the 2009 Washington Redskins.

The team was in the midst of a terrible season when they hosted the New York Giants. The matchup took place in Week 15 on Monday night football.

New York scored 24 points on their first four drives of the game. It was a different story for Washington.

  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Punt

They accumulated six total yards in those four drives.

On their final drive of the first half, Washington had an opportunity to kick a field goal. Instead, they tried a weird trick play where their punter lined up as the quarterback. They also sent eight blockers to the left side of the field.

Washington motioned their kicker to the left and hiked the ball.

Nobody blocked for the punter as he heaved the ball into a crowd of Giants players. Bruce Johnson intercepted it on the final play of the first half.

The funniest part about the play was the announcer’s reactions. Mike Tirico called it an embarrassment, while Jon Gruden said he hopes he never sees a play like that again.

Head coach Jim Zorn lost his job at the end of the season.

6. Dan Orlovsky Loses Track of the Boundaries

The 2008 Detroit Lions are one of two teams in NFL history to finish the season 0-16. There will be a few dumb plays when your team is that bad. The most obvious comes from Week 6.

Dan Orlovsky made his first career start against the Minnesota Vikings.

Late in the first quarter, Adrian Peterson fumbled on the one-yard line. That gave Detroit the ball, but they were on their one-yard line.

Following a pair of incompletions, Orlovsky faced a 3rd and 10. Jared Allen broke through the line, forcing Orlovsky to move out of the pocket. The only problem was he ran out of the back of the end zone. That allowed the Vikings to take a 2-0 lead.

It’s tough being in that position, but you have to know where you are on the field.

What makes it even tougher is the Lions had a chance to win this game. They held a 10-2 lead in the third quarter. Minnesota responded with ten straight points, including a last-second field goal to win by two.

If you want to look at a positive, they performed better than expected. The Lions came into the game as (+13.0) point underdogs.

5. Leon Lett Makes Two Mistakes in Ten Months

Poor Leon Lett. The defensive tackle made two Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowls, but everyone remembers him for his blunders. The first of which came in Super Bowl XXVII.

The Dallas Cowboys had a big lead on the Buffalo Bills. Bills quarterback Frank Reich fumbled in the fourth quarter, with Lett picking up the ball. Lett had over 60 yards to run, but no one was in front of him.

As he moved closer to the end zone, Lett began to hold the ball down low. Bills wide receiver Don Beebe knocked the ball out just before Lett crossed the goal line, resulting in a touchback.

Ultimately, it didn’t impact the outcome, as the Cowboys won 52-17 in one of the highest-scoring Super Bowls.

The following season, Lett had a mistake that cost his team the game.

Dallas hosted the Miami Dolphins on Thanksgiving Day. Miami had the ball in field goal range in the final minute. The Cowboys blocked the field goal that should’ve won the game. Unfortunately, Lett touched the ball, giving the Dolphins another opportunity.

Miami kicked the game-winning 19-yard field goal in a crazy storm.

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4. DeSean Jackson Gives Away a Touchdown

In the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected speedster DeSean Jackson. Jackson had a big debut and was looking to build off that in Week 2.

It was a crazy start to the game, as the Dallas Cowboys held a 21-20 lead five minutes into the second quarter.

Philadelphia was looking to reclaim the lead when Donovan McNabb found Jackson for a 61-yard touchdown. Well, at least we thought it was a touchdown.

Dallas challenged the play, and the replay showed that Jackson dropped the ball before crossing the goal line. That was enough for the refs to overturn the touchdown. Luckily for Philadelphia, they retained possession at the one-yard line and scored on the next play.

I understand being excited, but there’s no reason to do that before reaching the end zone. You can celebrate all you want after you score the touchdown.

That wasn’t the first time Jackson lost a potential touchdown.

In the 2005 Army Bowl, Jackson tried to flip into the end zone, but the ball fell on the one-yard line. You think he would’ve learned from his mistake.

We’ve seen that mistake numerous times, but Jackson’s stands out.

3. Indianapolis Colts Terrible Fake Punt

If you’ve been a football fan for over three years, I’d say you’re familiar with this play.

The Indianapolis Colts began the 2015 season 3-2. In Week 6, they faced off with the undefeated New England Patriots. Despite being (+9.5) point underdogs, the Colts hung with the Patriots.

In the third quarter, Indianapolis lined up to punt on their 37-yard line.

They tried a bit of trickery, shifting the majority of their line to the right side of the field. Gunner Griff Whalen lined up at center, with upback Colt Anderson behind him.

Whalen snapped the ball, and the Patriots quickly tackled Anderson. A few years later, punter Pat McAfee explained the point of the play.

To sum it up, the point was to either draw the Patriots offsides or catch them subbing, resulting in too many men on the field. They weren’t supposed to snap the ball, but Whalen wasn’t present when they practiced the play.

The play proved costly, as the Patriots scored on the next drive. They won the game 34-27.

Nowadays, people know the play as “Colts Catastrophe.” Imagine how bad a play must be to have its own name.

2. The Butt Fumble

I don’t need to tell you the player or team that this one involves. Everyone knows about Mark Sanchez and that dreaded play.

On Thanksgiving night in 2012, the New York Jets hosted the New England Patriots. The Patriots hit an 83-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to give them a 14-0 lead. On the first play of the next drive, we all witnessed the Butt Fumble.

Sanchez went to hand his running back the ball, but the running back was running off to the side. Confused, Sanchez kept the ball and ran up the middle.

The only problem was Sanchez ran right into the butt of his offensive lineman. Sanchez fumbled the ball, with Steven Gregory returning it for a touchdown.

Most people don’t know this, but the Butt Fumble was a part of a remarkable four-play stretch by the Patriots.

  • 83-yard touchdown
  • Kickoff
  • 32-yard fumble return touchdown
  • 22-yard fumble return touchdown

Sanchez’s fumble was foreshadowing of how bad the night would be.

New England scored 35 points in the second quarter en route to a 49-19 victory. I don’t think anyone successfully bet on Mark Sanchez from that moment on.

1. Jim Marshall Runs the Wrong Way

Just about every dumb play we’ve gone over happened in the last 10-15 years. We’re going back to 1964 for the dumbest play in NFL history.

The San Francisco 49ers were looking to mount a comeback against the Minnesota Vikings. In the fourth quarter, 49ers running back Billy Kilmer fumbled the ball.

That’s when Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall picked up the ball. Instead of going for a touchdown, Marshall ran the wrong way into his own end zone. He threw the ball into the air, thinking he scored a touchdown. In actuality, it was a safety.

Luckily, his mistake didn’t cost the Vikings. They won the game 27-22.

Unfortunately, everyone remembers Marshall for this but he was a great player. Check out some of his accolades.

  • Three-time Second-team All-Pro
  • Two-Time Pro Bowler

He is also among the greatest players in Vikings history.

Marshall was a member of the “Purple People Eaters.” That was the defensive line when they dominated the late 1960s. The 1969 Vikings were one of the greatest teams not to win a title.

I know he had a great career but at the end of the day, running the wrong way is one of the dumbest things a football player can do.

Other Dumb NFL Plays

  • Carson Wentz Questionable Interception
  • Ronnie Brown Tries a Lateral on the Goal Line

In his first season with the Indianapolis Colts, Carson Wentz has had his highs and lows. He had one play against the San Francisco 49ers where he threw it into the arms of the 49ers linebacker.

He threw a left-handed interception a few weeks later with a minute remaining in a tie game.

In a 2011 game against the San Francisco 49ers, Ronnie Brown had a carry inside the five-yard line. While being tackled, Brown tried to throw the ball. It resulted in a fumble recovery for the 49ers.

It’s nice to switch things up from the usual seriousness of sports action and betting. These dumb plays should give everyone a laugh. It’s also a reminder that even professionals make mistakes.

For more lighthearted articles, check out the articles below.

Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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