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You Play to Win the Game

A Countdown of the 20 Worst Sports Fails

“You Play to Win the Game”

Former Jets coach Herman Edwards once said, “You play to win the game.” It’s such a simple, meaningless quote. Of course you play to win the game. That’s what all great players strive for. But over the course of the years, many players have forgotten this simple principle, seemingly playing to lose. These players had some of the most unthinkable, hilarious blunders in sports history. Here is a countdown of my top 20.

#20. Daniel Jones – Oct 22, 2020 – NFL – Third Quarter – Giants vs. Eagles

In week seven of the 2020 NFL season, the New York Giants met the Philadelphia Eagles for a divisional match. At this point in the season, both teams had only won one game. The Giants are at their own 12 yard line, meaning they have about 85 yards to go. Their quarterback, Daniel Jones called a designed run for himself. It worked. He managed to run 75 yards before going down. I say “going down” instead of “being tackled”, because he wasn’t. With just ten yards separating him and the end zone, with no Eagles between, he just had to run. He failed. Daniel Jones fell down before he reached the end zone. Since then, this infamous play has been known as the “Turf Monster”, as people joked the reason he fell was because of a monster attack from the grass.

#19. Tony Romo – 2006 – NFL – 1 Minute Left – Wild Card Round – Cowboys vs. Seahawks

In the wild card round of the 2006 playoffs, The Cowboys, led by quarterback Tony Romo, faced off against the Seahawks. You may recognize the voice of Romo, as he now announces for the NFL. With just over a minute left in the game, the Cowboys needed a field goal to take the lead. Fans were nervous about kicker Gramatica missing the kick, but I don’t think anyone saw this coming. Quarterback and holder Tony Romo, failed to receive the snap. The kicker had no chance, so Romo picked up the ball and tried to make a mad dash for the end zone. He was tackled at the two or three yard line, and the Seahawks won.

#18. Brandon Knight – NBA – Overtime – Tied Game – Bucks vs. Nets

In the NBA, unlike in many other sports, during the regular season, if a game goes to overtime, there are no ties. It keeps going until one team wins. With ten seconds left on the clock, the Nets made an errant pass that was intercepted by the Bucks player, Brandon Knight. Knight sprinted down the court. No one was in front of him. He went up for the most practiced shot in basketball. A wide open lay-up to win the game. He missed. The game then went into double overtime as the clock ran out while the ball was in the air. The Bucks threw away a huge opportunity to win the game.

#17. Dwayne Rudd – NFL – 1 Second Left – Browns Up by One – Browns vs. Chiefs

The Chiefs weren’t willing to let their kicker line up for the game winning kick. That’s how far they were from the end zone. They tried to go for a hail mary, but the quarterback was tackled, and the game was over. At least, that’s what Browns defender Dwayne Rudd thought. He took off his helmet, and slammed it on the ground in celebration. When in fact, the quarterback managed to lateral the ball to an offensive lineman, who chugged along for thirty yards. Not enough to score and win. There was no time left. But wait… flag on the play. Dwayne Rudd was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for the helmet throwing, and games cannot end on defensive penalties. The lineman’s run was long enough so they could now kick the field goal, and the Chiefs pulled out a victory.

#16. Javale McGee – NBA – 2012 – Raptor vs Wizards                                                       

While this example is certainly not as costly as the previous few, it’s just so hilariously fun, I had to put it higher. Javale McGee must be the silliest, most accident-prone NBA player there is. He is known for his wacky bloopers on the court. One of my favorite examples is when a teammate of his missed a shot, and instinctively, McGee ran down the court to play defense. He also managed to forget that offensive rebounds existed, so when his team grabbed one, he didn’t notice, as he already had his back turned on the play.

#15. Dan Orlovsky – NFL – 2009 – Lions vs. Vikings

Dan Orlovsky now has a career in NFL television analyzing others’ play. However, many people don’t know that he himself also played in the NFL. He was the quarterback for the first team in modern NFL history to finish a season without any wins. The 2009 Detroit Lions finished 0-16. Dan Orlovsky summed up their season in one play. Lining up close to the wrong end zone, Dan Orlovsky dropped back in the pocket, and began to scramble. He back-pedaled out of bounds out the back, and gave the opposition two points in a safety.

#14. Pete Carroll – NFL – The Super Bowl – Two Minutes Left – Seahawks vs. Patriots

The biggest stage imaginable. The Seahawks had just quickly driven down the field, capping it off with an incredible catch by Jermaine Kearse. I seriously mean incredible. This was insane, Odell Beckham Jr. level insane. But no one remembers it. Why? Because of what happened next. The Seahawks had a legendary running back. Marshawn Lynch was capable of doing things that no other running backs could do. His nickname was literally “Beast Mode”. You might think I’m leading up to saying, “He didn’t score on three attempts,” or something like that. No. Pete Carroll, the Seahawks coach, called a passing play. Then Patriots defenseman Malcolm Butler intercepted the ball, and in doing so, won the game, and the super bowl, for the Patriots.

#13. Blake O’Neill – NCAA Football – 1 Minute Left – Michigan Up by 2

Michigan is up by 2 points with only 9 seconds left against their in-state rivals, Michigan State. Michigan will punt it away. Blake O’Neill takes the snap and decides to drop the ball. Michigan State picks it up and returns it for a touchdown. Michigan went from winning to losing on a punt, where there was no punt return. Yes, this really happened and it was absurd. 

#12. Russell Westbrook – NBA – Thunder vs. Warriors

Russell Westbrook is an all-star, holds the record for triple-doubles, and occasionally forgets to dribble the ball. When playing against the Golden State Warriors, Westbrook received an inbounds pass, and began figuratively directing traffic. With one hand, he was pointing to his teammates, telling them where to go. With the other, he was dribbling. Then he wasn’t. I guess he decided to take a break from that, picked up the ball, took six steps before anyone noticed, and then got called for a travel. Well, someone noticed. Warriors player Kevin Durant certainly did. He screamed, “Woooooah!” and then the refs proceeded to call the travel. This play serves as a great reminder that even those who are the best at what they do, are still prone to making mistakes.

#11. John Carney – NFL – Saints Down Seven – 6 Seconds Left – Saints vs. Jaguars

Have you ever seen a play in the NFL, where the players try to score at the last second, by passing the ball backwards to an open player. It’s an amazing spectacle. That is, when it works. The Saints had just completed one of these fantastical plays. Multiple laterals to get the ball into the end zone. Then, their kicker John Carney just had to make the extra point, and we would be going to overtime. The snap is good, and the kick is up… oh no. Carney, who was a 98% extra point kicker, had just missed one at the worst possible time. The Saints lost, and the Jaguars won.

#10. Mark Sanchez/Brandon Moore – NFL – Third Quarter – Jets vs. Patriots

This is one of the most iconic blunders in recent sports history. It’s Jets vs. Patriots. In this game, the Jets are simply no match for the Pats. Tom Brady, the NFL legend, against mostly unknown Jets QB Mark Sanchez. In fact, I wouldn’t even know his name if not for this play. It’s a blowout win for the Pats. The Jets, at this point, are just trying not to get embarrassed. They fail dramatically. Sanchez receives the snap, and scrambles towards the line of scrimmage. He trips, and runs into lineman Brandon Moore. Sanchez fumbled the ball after making contact with only teammates, Pats defender Steve Gregory scoops it up, and returns it for a touchdown. Announcer Al Michaels is known for his world famous call, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” at the 1980 winter Olympics, but this call stands out even more to me. “Sanchez gets hit, the ball is loose, and then going into the end zone is Steve Gregory?!” This play has been affectionately referred to as “The Butt Fumble”.

#9. Jakobi Meyers – NFL – 5 Seconds Left – Patriots vs. Raiders

This play is the most recent of all of the plays on this list. Therefore, it’s still fresh in my mind, and as I write this, I still vividly remember the night this occurred. The game is tied, likely going into overtime. The Patriots only chance is to attempt a lateral play. They don’t. They call a run, just because they are nervous about an interception, and a regulation loss. Rhamondre Stevenson struggles for 20 or so yards, then laterals to Jakobi Meyers. He then laterals back to the line of scrimmage to Mac Jones. Keep in mind, Bill Belichick called the play so the game would end, and go to overtime. Before Mac Jones catches the ball, former Patriot but current Raider Chandler Jones grabbed the ball. He proceeded to stiff arm Mac Jones, and score the game-winning touchdown.

#8. DeSean Jackson – NFL – Eagles vs. Cowboys

DeSean Jackson made a blooper in college football that didn’t quite make the list. He had a free touchdown, but dropped the ball before he walked in. Such a bad mistake, you’d think he’d never do it again. In a game against the Cowboys, DeSean Jackson let history repeat itself. He had just hauled in an incredible catch, and waltzed into the end zone. Eagles fans stared in amazement at the madness that ensued. The play went under review, and the touchdown was overturned.

#7. Bill Buckner – MLB – Red Sox vs. Mets – Game 6 of the Championship

This is arguably the most famous blunder in sports history. The Red Sox have been searching for a World Series title ever since 1918 when they traded Babe Ruth. This has been known as “The Curse of the Bambino”. The Red Sox think this might be their chance to win. Mookie Wilson is at the plate for the Mets. What happens next has been stuck in the minds of Red Sox fans for decades. He hits a slow roller to Bill Buckner, the first baseman. Buckner had probably fielded thousands of these in his lifetime. The ball rolled between his legs, and Wilson was safe. The Red Sox went on to lose the game, and the series. The curse would later be broken in 2004.

#6. Jim Marshall – NFL – 1964 – Vikings vs. 49ers

This is one of the most hilarious fails in the NFL’s history. Jim Marshall’s wrong-way run in 1964 is one of the first notable failures in sports history. The Vikings forced a fumble, and it was recovered by Jim Marshall. When Marshall scooped the ball, he started running for the end zone. But sadly, Jim Marshall was running the wrong way! That’s correct, he ran into his own end zone while all his teammates were hollering at him to stop. The play ended up a safety, with Marshall scoring for the other team.

#5. Leon Lett – NFL – Cowboys vs. Bills – Super Bowl — Cowboys vs. Dolphins

Leon Lett, a Cowboys defender, had not one, but two fantastic bloopers in his career. One was on the biggest stage: The Super Bowl. The Cowboys had a blowout win, so the play didn’t matter, but it was still unimaginable. Similarly to the DeSean Jackson game, Leon Lett had a touchdown handed to him on a platter, and he threw it away. Bills player Don Beebe caught up to Lett, who had slowed down in celebration, and knocked the ball loose. Lett’s touchdown didn’t count. His other game was lost due to the failure. All Lett had to do to win was stand still. As simple as that. After a blocked kick, the Cowboys had won. The game was over. Why? Leon Lett chased after the ball, touched it, and the Dolphins recovered, and won. It’s difficult to explain the rule, but just know that the Dolphins couldn’t pick up the ball unless a Cowboy touched it. For having two insane blunders, Leon Lett had to make the top five on the list.

#4. J.R. Smith – NBA – Finals – Cavaliers vs. Warriors

The Cavaliers and Warriors were in a tight game late in the finals series. The Warriors made a free throw, and tied the game. Then, missed their second free throw. J.R. Smith rebounded the ball and began dribbling out the clock. He had forgotten the score. Smith thought the Cavaliers were winning. His teammates were screaming at him to pass, shoot, or do something. LeBron James, teammate of Smith, tried to call a timeout which didn’t work either. Seriously, in the final moments of an important game, how do you forget the score?

#3 Chuck Pagano – Colts vs. Patriots – 2015

The Colts knew that this game wasn’t good for them. The Colts for no match for the Patriots and Tom Brady. In desperation, the Colts tried a fake punt. They set up a punt, then shifted, so everyone was overloading one side of the field except for the center and the player planning on throwing the ball. The pass never even got out. The passer was tackled immediately, as there were five people surrounding the two players. On top of all of this, all nine receivers lined up in the neutral zone, making the play useless anyway. Chris Collinsworth nationally broadcasting the game was utterly confused, as were fans of both teams.

#2 Michael Ruffin – Raptors vs Wizards – NBA

This game was almost as easy to win as the Leon Lett game. With three seconds left, winning by three with three seconds left, the losing team’s inbound pass was intercepted. That was it. The ball was thrown in the air in celebration of the victory. Wait, what? Before the clock ran out, the ball was grabbed and chucked up in desperation. How did that go in? Not only is this another premature celebration, it’s one of the most impressive NBA shots I’ve ever seen. He was off balance, his arms flailing about, probably being fouled, and in great perimeter defense. This team did everything right, they intercepted a pass while winning, and just didn’t realize how much time was left. 

#1. Joe Pisarcik/Matt Dodge – Giants vs. Eagles – “The Miracle at the Meadowlands”

The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles face off at least twice a year, being in the same division. One play has been known as “The Miracle at the Meadowlands”, and history repeated itself years later. This is why the two players listed played decades apart from one another. DeSean Jackson, yes the same one from before, was returning a punt with seconds left. He drops it. That’s not even the blooper. He picks it back up, and returns it all the way to the end zone, making sure to run out the clock before scoring. Decades earlier, these two teams played a historic game. The Giants were going to win. They just had to kneel the ball down, and run out the clock. Their coach however, didn’t want to, so he called a running play. The snap was fumbled, and Herman Edwards returned it for the game winning touchdown. Let me remind you, this could have been avoided if the ball was knelt down. Now if you’ve been paying attention, you know Herman Edwards already. Reread the introduction. “You play to win the game”.



We got inspiration for this list from a video by Emplemon, which is also where the idea for including the “You Play to Win the Game,” quote.

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  • C

    Cooper QuistDec 5, 2023 at 2:35 pm

    wow this article is amazing, this is a super unbias review!

    • L

      Layth BoulonDec 6, 2023 at 1:31 pm

      Agreed! Completely unbiased!

      • A

        AneeshJan 9, 2024 at 2:14 pm

        I like this article, it has good info