How quickly we forget, or let incredible plays from only one season ago recede to back of mind. Surely you can recount indelible plays like Von Miller’s Super Bowl strip sack of Cam Newton, Newton’s flip into the end zone early in the season, Aaron Rodgers' Divisional Round Hail Mary against the Cardinals, Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-handed full-extension touchdown grab against the Redskins and so on. Here are some of the best and craziest plays from the 2015 NFL season (in no particular order) that you probably haven’t thought about in a while. Consider it a primer for the approaching season. I certainly got pumped up putting this piece together.
Getty ImagesOtto Greule Jr
Broncos take a Jamaal Charles fumble to the house for a stunning comeback win (Week 2)
After surrendering a touchdown lead with 36 seconds left in regulation, tied 24-24, we expected that the Chiefs would kneel down for overtime with the ball on their own 20-yard line. Or perhaps attempt a couple sideline routes to set up a long field goal try. Then Charles took the ball on a draw and got whacked and stripped at the line of scrimmage. Broncos DB Charles Roby scooped up the loose ball and took it 21 yards the other way for a game-winning touchdown. "I'm not quite sure I'd ever been in one quite like that," Peyton Manning said. "That was a new one."
The Indianapolis Colts' fake punt goes spectacularly wrong (Week 6)
Poor Colt Anderson and Griff Whalen got stranded on an island after their nine teammates set up on the outside on a trick play attempt. It ended badly as Whalen was not supposed to snap the ball. “I’ve never seen anything more bizarre than that” announcer Cris Collinsworth exclaimed. Then Twitter blew up. Said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano: "The (play) design was to actually maybe get them to burn a timeout that they might need later on at the end of the game or catch them with too many man on the field, yada yada yada. Didn't work out that way," he said. "I obviously didn't do a good enough job of getting the thing coached up correctly to handle every scenario that could come up. Again, that's on me. That ain't on these players."
The ‘Kick Six’ (Week 12)
Oh, Browns. At least LeBron James and the Cavaliers came through so the Cleveland mood should be improved for a few years. The Ravens and Browns were tied at 27 with just enough time for a 51-yard field goal try when Baltimore’s pressure up the middle led to a block that bounced wide, where Will Hill was able to field it and then race down the sideline for a 64-yard touchdown as time expired. You may recall that one poor Browns fan’s in-stadium video that went viral -- the one where he hoped to record the game-winning FG. It turned into a video showing his depressing walk to the parking lot with a blank stare as the misery began to wash over him.
The Patriots won the overtime coin flip and elected to kick (Week 16)
It was no accident, just a surprising decision that didn’t work out for Darth Belichick, who might be the only coach in the league who can make such a call without much scrutiny. “We were looking at field position,” Belichick later explained. “I thought it was the best thing to do." Of course the Jets offense never gave the Patriots possession as they took the ball 80 yards for a touchdown to end the game. Said Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater of the decision: "I just asked (Belichick) three or four times just to make sure I'm not the guy that goes out there, 'Yeah, we want to kick off.' So I double-checked three or four times. I think he was looking at me like 'Are you concussed?' because I kept asking him. But that's what we wanted to do. You never question a coach's decision-making. He's the best in the business and we trust him fully, so that's what we do."
Getty ImagesAl Bello
The Rodgers to Rodgers game-winning Hail Mary in Detroit (Week 13)
The Lions’ three-man pass rush allowed more time for Rodgers to set up (and for his receivers to get downfield) than you want to allow Aaron Rodgers. The QB heaved the ball from the Packers’ own 35-yard line to where tight end Richard Rodgers out-jumped Lions defenders who had bunched up in the middle of the end zone. Green Bay won 27-23. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians brought more pressure for Rodgers in their Divisional Round contest, as Arians likes to do, but to no avail as the Packers successfully pulled off another Hail Mary.
Getty ImagesLeon Halip
Kam Chancellor strips Calvin Johnson to save the game (Week 3)
The Seahawks blew a few fourth-quarter leads in 2015, but they staved one off in dramatic fashion when Chancellor punched the ball away from Johnson at the goal line of what looked to be a go-ahead and possibly game-winning touchdown for Detroit on “Monday Night Football.” Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright should have been flagged for illegally batting the ball out of the end zone after it came loose, but that’s a separate story.
Getty ImagesOtto Greule Jr
Seattle’s punt return unit fakes out the Bears (Week 3)
Notice the ball carrier at the bottom of the screen. That’s Richard Sherman, who slyly fielded a punt from the Bears’ Pat O’Donnell while teammate Tyler Lockett set up under the ball on the other side of the field, drawing the Bears’ coverage in that direction. The trickery gave Sherman a lane on the sideline, where some blocks helped spring him for a real slick 64-yard return.
Titans QB Marcus Mariota catches a 41-yard touchdown pass (Week 14)
It wasn’t supposed to be this easy. Mariota motioned out wide before the snap and Jets safety Calvin Pryor had him marked, but Pryor simply fell down, leaving the rookie QB wide open for his only reception of the season and probably one of the few he’ll have in his career.
Getty ImagesAl Bello
Bills DE Mario Williams pile drives Giants running back Rashad Jennings (Week 4)
Williams had a rocky year in Buffalo in 2015, but he got it right on this play when he came through unblocked on a Jennings handoff, met the rusher three yards in the Giants backfield, then picked up Jennings and planted him head-first onto the ground. Ouch.
Getty ImagesTom Szczerbowski
Bengals safety Shawn Williams comes out of nowhere to make spectacular interception (Week 8)
After Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger scrambled for a while (in his bumblebee uniform), he attempted to fire a ball to fullback Will Johnson along the sideline, but Williams came flying across Johnson’s body from behind, laid out and managed to come down with the ball in bounds. The fourth-quarter pick was the first interception of Williams' career and helped Cincinnati recover from a 10-6 deficit for a 16-10 win.
Cleveland Browns tight end Gary Barnidge’s ‘Butt Catch’ (Week 5)
The Browns’ tight end mainly used his legs to reel in an 18-yard touchdown catch against the Ravens on a deflected ball, but his rear end featured prominently in the play. It was certainly the most comical of his 79 receptions in a 1043-yard, 9-touchdown campaign that earned Barnidge his first Pro Bowl nod.
Chiefs safety Eric Berry grabs a pinball interception (Week 7)
Initially Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson tipped a Landry Jones pass intended for Antonio Brown that bounced directly into Brown’s path, where he briefly got a hold on it. But then Chiefs defensive back Ron Parker jarred the ball loose, sending it flying into the air for Eric Berry to close in to making a diving grab on the ball. He's a pinball wizard. There has to be a twist.
Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry uses one hand to reel one in (Week 16)
Odell Beckham Jr.’s LSU teammate made a phenomenal one-handed reception of his own for a 14-yard gain, one of the greatest catches of the season.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
The Saints pull off a fake field goal pass (Week 7)
They did it against the Colts the week after Indy’s fake punt debacle. Placeholder and backup QB Luke McCown rolled out with the ball after Kai Forbath faked the kick, finding tight end Ben Watson wide open for a 25-yard gain that set up the Saints at 1-yard line. Meanwhile the official NFL account trolled the Colts by posting the video with the title “Saints show Colts how to run a trick play!”
Kai Forbath’s 50-yard game-winning FG helps the Saints and Giants crack 100 points (Week 8)
Speaking of Kai Forbath… he had a very busy afternoon against the Giants with seven extra points as Drew Brees and Eli Manning combined for a positively absurd 13 touchdown passes and 855 passing yards while their respective defenses took the day off. Forbath’s game-ending field goal pushed the score past the century mark for only the fourth time in NFL history in the highest-scoring game since the Browns and Bengals combined for 106 points in 2004.
Getty ImagesSean Gardner
Dion Lewis pivots, dips, ducks and dives for an incredible touchdown (catch and) run (Week 5)
Before his season unfortunately ended in November with an ACL tear, Lewis turned in an awesome play by bringing in a Tom Brady pass in the flats with one hand. Lewis then completely faked out safety Barry Church, ducked under defensive end Jack Crawford (who then ran into Church), then ran through cornerback Corey White and bounced off safety J.J. Wilcox as he crossed the goal line.
The Cardinals’ David Johnson activates Beast Mode (Week 15)
Maybe it’s blasphemous to invoke “Beast Mode” since that’s Marshawn Lynch’s thing, but it’s also a form of flattery. Once the rookie Johnson got an opportunity for full-time work toward the end of the season, he made the most of it -- especially on this play, when he bulldozed and stiff-armed his way through the Eagles defense for a tremendous 47-yard touchdown run.
Josh McCown’s goal line helicopter fumble (Week 1)
The 36-year-old QB made a valiant effort on a third-and-goal from the 14 yard-line, when he scrambled to the 3 and then leaped for paydirt. Unfortunately, Jets defenders rocked him mid-air near the goal line, separating him from the football. Jets CB Antonio Cromartie then recovered the ball in the end zone.
Getty ImagesRich Schultz
Jamie Collins leaps over the line to block a Colts extra point (Week 6)
He pulled a Kam Chancellor and completely cleared the line of scrimmage, setting up one of those terrifying experiences for the placeholder and kicker, who must run for dear life or follow through with a boot that’s more like a mini-golf putt through an obstacle. In this case Adam Vinatieri followed through with the kick and Collins devoured it.
DeMarco Murray hurdles former Cowboys teammates (Week 2)
It was a rough year for Murray in Philadelphia, but he did manage to stick it to his former team on this play when he hurdled (and completely cleared) Brandon Carr on a 22-yard gain (plus picked up 15 yards on a personal foul penalty when Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey shoved Murray on the sideline).
Josh Norman climbs the ladder for an excellent pick against the Saints (Week 3)
This was one of the early highlights from Norman’s excellent 2015 campaign. He helped save a win for the for Panthers as Saints backup QB Luke McCown looked to have Brandin Cooks in the end zone for a late go-ahead 24-yard touchdown pass when Norman went up for some serious air to pull down for the interception.
Getty ImagesGrant Halverson
Julio Jones leaps over Luke Kuechly en route to a 70-yard touchdown grab (Week 16)
Double coverage was no problem for Jones, who had to come back for Matt Ryan’s bomb to make this leaping grab. Kuechly is athletic, but Jones has the clear advantage and got better position on the jump ball. Jones then managed to land on his feet despite the contact and dash another 20 yards for the long score. Let’s get pumped for the 2016 season! (Click here for celebratory music by Pitbull).