NFL Lore: Memorable Bonehead Coaching Decisions

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Nov. 19, 1978: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

In the so-called Miracle at the Meadowlands, New York Giants coach John McVay calls for a handoff from quarterback Joe Piscarcik to running back Larry Csonka on third-and-2 at the Philadelphia 29, leading 17-12, with less than 30 seconds remaining. The Eagles have no timeouts remaining. Piscarcik bobbles the exchange and Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards picks up the fumble and returns it 26 yards for a touchdown and a 19-17 Philadelphia victory.

Sept. 20, 1987: San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals

Holding a 26-20 lead, the Bengals face fourth down at their 30 with six seconds remaining. Sam Wyche, right, calls a reverse to running back James Brooks, figuring the play would run out the clock. However, the 49ers stop Brooks with two seconds remaining and Joe Montana throws a touchdown pass to Jerry Rice with no time left to hand the Bengals a 27-26 defeat in Riverfront Stadium.

Dec. 10, 1995: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

With the score tied, 17-17, Dallas' Barry Switzer gambles on fourth-and-inches at his 29 and runs Emmitt Smith up the middle. Smith is stopped short of the first down, but the play is blown dead because the ball isn't snapped before the two-minute warning. Given another chance, Switzer runs the same play, and Smith is stopped again. The Eagles then kick the winning field goal.

Dec. 21, 1997: New York Jets at Detroit Lions

In a do-or-die regular-season finale in which a victory clinches a playoff spot, Jets rookie coach Bill Parcells orders a halfback option pass from the Lions' 9 with 31/2 minutes remaining and trailing, 13-10. But running back Leon Washington's pass is intercepted in the end zone and the Jets missed the playoffs.

Nov, 25. 2002: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg, left, wins the overtime coin flip but elects to kick off to the Bears because he wants the wind at his back for the extra period. The Bears go right down the field and kick the winning field goal on the opening possession. The decision makes even less sense when Mornhinweg accepts a holding penalty against the Bears after an incomplete pass on third-and-8 rather than force them to kick a 52-yard field goal into the very wind he chose to assist him.


Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com .


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