We’ve all daydreamed about it. That one day, we wake up and suddenly we have superpowers, through a radioactive accident or dormant mutation becoming active or whatever. The details aren’t that important. All that matters is we have superpowers, and not just any superpowers. We now have the ability to change the past — but only for sports (this is our fantasy and we don’t want to think about baby Hitler, OK?).
Every fan of every team in every sport has at least one moment they wish they had turned out differently. The NFL has countless examples.
Maybe it was a play, and all you would need is to channel Quicksilver and move the ball or a player juuuuust so to prevent the heartbreak you know awaits: Malcolm Butler suddenly trips or Marcus Williams doesn’t whiff. Or maybe it was a call that nothing but mind control could change: Yes, Dez did catch it, Gene Steratore. No, run the ball, Kyle Shanahan.
And let’s say you only get one chance to do this. Which one play would you change if you could?
These are our picks
Here are a few wrongs we wish we could make right.
What if John Kasay just kicked it straight?
John Kasay kicked off to the Patriots five times in Super Bowl XXXVIII. On the first four, the Patriots had an average starting field position of their own 27-yard line. On the last one, with the game tied and 1:13 left to play, WOOF. Didn’t even come close to getting the ball in bounds, which gave the Pats the ball at their own 40. I’m not saying the Panthers would have won otherwise, but it would have been a hell of a lot more interesting to see New England have to mount more than a 37-yard drive that ended in a 41-yard field goal to win the game. — Ryan Nanni
Music City Miracle undone
As a Jaguars fan, the easy and chic answer right now is “Myles Jack wasn’t down.” But I’ll go back a couple decades instead and wish Frank Wycheck threw his lateral a couple inches further upfield. He was so, SO close to an illegal forward pass, but nope, instead he threw an absurdly perfectly parallel lateral. It turned into the Music City Miracle.
Why do I care as a Jaguars fan? They were 14-2 that season, only dropping two games in the regular season to who else but the Titans. A week after Tennessee’s miracle win over the Bills, the Jaguars DESTROYED the Dolphins, 62-7. You can’t convince me that if the Jaguars play the Bills or Colts in the AFC Championship they don’t go to the Super Bowl. Damn you, Frank Wycheck. — Adam Stites
Go forth and prosper, RGIII
I’ve been a Washington fan all my life, so I have seen my fair share of heartbreaks and headaches. But, Robert Griffin III’s injury in a game against the Baltimore Ravens is one moment I will never forget. Everyone remembers Griffin’s injury in the playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks. However, it was the leg injury he suffered following the hit delivered by former Ravens’ defensive end Haloti Ngata that started it all.
2012 brought me one of my favorite seasons as a fan. Washington went 10-6, won the division, earned a spot in the playoffs and Griffin was must watch television. I sometimes think where Griffin and Washington would be if he didn’t get hurt. — Ryan McFadden
Catch the damn ball, Asante Samuel
Look, I understand I deserve 0 percent of your sympathy as a Patriots fan. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been some regrettable moments, even in the Brady-Belichick era.
The worst came when the Giants derailed New England’s hopes of a historic 19-0 season (which also would have given us all reason to forget geriatric attention-seeker Mercury Morris exists). While everyone points to David Tyree’s insane, physics-defying helmet catch, the real game changer came one play earlier.
On second-and-5, Eli Manning overthrew Tyree on a deep out, lofting a ball to the outstretched arms of Patriot cornerback Asante Samuel. Samuel was a first-team All-Pro who made seven interceptions that season. This was not one of them. A game-ending pick caromed off his hands, Tyree redeemed himself, and the only thing I have left to be thankful for from this game is that Twitter didn’t exist yet. — Christian D’Andrea
WHY DID YOU CALL A FADE TO CRABTREE?
— Grant Brisbee
Ted Ginn’s knee injury vs. Saints in January 2012 postseason
This was also the game that yielded the audio smoking gun of Gregg Williams’ bounty scandal. Ginn got his knee injured and couldn’t return punts in the NFC Championship Game the following week, forcing Kyle Williams into that role. Williams would then proceed to fail to get out of the way of one punt — and, unlike Lloyd Christmas, he did not totally redeem himself when in overtime he fumbled away another one, setting the Giants up for a chip shot field goal and the wrong team representing the NFC in Super Bowl XLVI. — Alex Rubenstein
A year after losing in the exact same game to the exact same team in a different but still heartbreaking fashion, the Browns did it again. With just over a minute left in the 1988 AFC Championship, Earnest Byner infamously lost the ball before reaching the goal line. The Browns could’ve tied it with a touchdown and an extra point, or won with a touchdown and two-point conversion.
It would have been extra sweet if the Browns had been able to come back for the win after they fell behind 21–3 early. They could have handed Denver the same type of defeat they had been dealt a year before. The Browns could’ve been in the Super Bowl!
Maybe John Elway comes back on the field and puts together another drive to wreck the soul of Cleveland, anyway. But at least it would’ve saved Byner from the pain of a play he still regrets today. — Sarah Hardy
Leave poor Matt Schaub alone, Albert Haynesworth
The Texans had one of the NFL’s best defenses and best rushing attacks during the 2011 season, but the team’s 37-9 win against the Buccaneers to improve to 7-3 also put a stake in their playoff hopes.
Tampa Bay defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth gave Matt Schaub a season-ending foot injury in the win, and the Texans were forced to turn to Matt Leinart, T.J. Yates, and Jake Delhomme for the remainder of the year.
The season ended in the Divisional Round of the playoffs when the Ravens intercepted Yates three times in a 20-13 loss for Houston. Things may have looked much different if Schaub was still under center. Here’s what Battle Red Blog had to say:
I’ll always wonder how the 2011 season would have ended for your Houston Texans if Albert Haynesworth had not injured Matt Schaub. Although they’d win twelve games in 2012, I don’t think there’s any doubt that 2011 Texans squad was superior. The defense, in Wade Phillips’ first year in Houston, was otherworldly. The offense featured Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, and a two-headed rushing attack of Arian Foster and Ben Tate, along with a stout offensive line. Seven years later, I firmly believe that 2011 team was the best and most talented squad in franchise history.
Marlon McCree’s fumble in the playoffs in 2007
After a dominant 14-2 season, the Chargers earned a postseason bye and opened up their playoff slate against the Patriots. San Diego took a 21-13 lead in the fourth quarter with a LaDainian Tomlinson touchdown and — with 6:25 minutes left in the game — the Chargers appeared to put the game on ice.
Safety Marlon McCree intercepted Tom Brady, but fumbled the ball after taking just a few steps when he was stripped by Patriots receiver Troy Brown.
Brady took advantage of his second chance and led the Patriots to a game-tying touchdown less than two minutes later. A Stephen Gostkowski field goal with 1:10 left sent the Patriots to the AFC Championship.
While it is tough to assume the Chargers would top the Colts in the AFC Championship game, the team did top a similar Colts team in the 2007 AFC Divisional round and were by far a more talented team. After beating the Colts, the Chargers would play the Rex Grossman-led Bears in Super Bowl XLI. Again, it is tough to assume the Chargers beat the Chicago Bears, but I didn’t write this article just to have them lose in heartbreaking fashion again. After demolishing the Chicago Bears, the Chargers bring the Lombardi trophy home to the city of San Diego for the first time in team history.
Throw the damn delay of game flag
It’s easy to find mistakes and things that could be done differently in low-scoring games. But for the Titans, it was the officials’ brain fart that proved costly in a 2009 playoff loss to the Ravens.
With the score tied 10-10 in the fourth quarter and Baltimore facing a third down in their own territory, Joe Flacco found Todd Heap for a crucial 23-yard gain. It set up a 43-yard field goal for Matt Stover that sent the Ravens on to the AFC Championship.
But that Flacco pass should’ve never happened. The play clock was clearly at zero and the officials inexplicably didn’t call a delay of game. Tennessee made other mistakes, but Music City Miracles wrote about the penalty that wasn’t:
It wasn’t THE reason the Titans lost the game, but it was certainly a contributing factor. Of course the fumbles deep in Ravens’ territory by LenDale White and Alge Crumpler didn’t help things.
I believe that if any one of those things hadn’t happened, the Titans would have gone on to win the Super Bowl, but for some reason it has always been the non-delay of game call that has hurt the most.
And here are your responses
On Friday, we asked Twitter which play they’d change:
Congratulations, you have the power to change the outcome of any one play in NFL history.— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) June 15, 2018
Which moment are you changing?
There were many moments that drew a response, but there were a few that stood out most (you can check out all the replies here):
Long before Tom Brady was ever called the GOAT, he was trying to lead the Patriots to a win against the Raiders in his first ever playoff game. With less than two minutes to go on a snowy day, Oakland was protecting a 13-10 lead when Brady was sacked and appeared to fumble.
A replay review determined his arm was moving forward and the play was ruled an incomplete pass, setting up a game-tying field goal to force overtime. Another field goal then won it for the Patriots.
The tuck rule. That's nearly 18 years of NFL history that could be completely different. https://t.co/tTgXNcsKxm— Dave Medina (@DiningwithDave) June 15, 2018
Tuck rule. I am still not over it.— M Baum (@MDBaum44) June 15, 2018
Also, a lot of you just wish the Jets spared Drew Bledsoe earlier in the year and never gave way to Brady:
Drew Bledsoe doesn’t get injured by Mo Lewis.— Robert Żeglinski (@RobertZeglinski) June 15, 2018
Didn’t even hesitate. https://t.co/RETmTwUBYi
Another. Speaking for 31 NFL teams, Drew Bledsoe never gets injured... https://t.co/l1gHSE0wnO— Vincent Frank (@VincentFrankNFL) June 15, 2018
The hit from Mo Lewis on Drew Bledsoehttps://t.co/oWyYOy5OYu— Tim Morris (@DodgerCentral) June 15, 2018
Lee Evans’ drop
Another fortunate moment for the Patriots came in January 2012 when Evans dropped a strike from Joe Flacco that likely would’ve sent the Ravens to the Super Bowl.
Lee Evans catches Joe Flacco's pass in the 2011 AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. Would've sent the Ravens to the Super Bowl.— Evan Mazza (@Evanmazz) June 15, 2018
Lee Evans drops a wide open easy td to beat the Pats in the 2011 afc title game. Flacco would have 2 rings— Matt Dimarco (@mattdimarco5) June 15, 2018
Myles Jack wasn’t down
This year in the AFC Championship, the Jaguars blew a 20-10 lead in the fourth quarter. But things probably would have turned out much differently if officials hadn’t blown the whistle after Myles Jack scooped up a Dion Lewis fumble.
Replay showed possession was rightfully awarded to Jacksonville, but it also showed the Jaguars linebacker should’ve been able to return the fumble for a touchdown to give the Jaguars a 27-10 lead.
Myles Jack wasn't down.— Mr. Stephen (@IrishJaguar) June 15, 2018
Make your kicks
A few of the most famous missed field goals also haven’t been forgotten.
There was Gary Anderson’s miss in the 1998 NFC Championship that likely would’ve sent the Vikings to the Super Bowl:
Gary Anderson splits the uprights https://t.co/kinIqqcXQe— Better Off Ted (@purplebuckeye) June 15, 2018
Gary Anderson makes that fg.— Ali Siddiqui (@asiddiqui15) June 15, 2018
Still stings https://t.co/1SHV0wvWii
Gary Anderson doesn't choke— Merk (@Merk8443) June 15, 2018
And then there was “Wide Right,” Scott Norwood’s miss in the final seconds of Super Bowl 25 that meant a win for the Giants instead of the Bills.
Wide right.— Dominic Biondi (@DominicABiondi) June 15, 2018
Bills win the Super Bowl.
What would you change?