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Odd ends

The Baltimore Sun

Sunday's heartbreaking Ravens loss brings back memories of other NFL games that were decided at the finish in bizarre and controversial fashion. In some cases, the events led to rule changes, and one of them was an even bigger disappointment for Baltimore.

Music City Miracle. Jan. 8, 2000. Buffalo at Tennessee. AFC wild-card playoff. Buffalo's Steve Christie had just kicked a field goal to put the Bills ahead 16-15 with 16 seconds left. On the ensuing kickoff, the Titans' Lorenzo Neal fielded the ball, started right and handed it off to tight end Frank Wycheck (Maryland). Wycheck then threw the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson, who ran 75 yards down the sideline for the winning score. The lateral from Wycheck was reviewed as a possible illegal forward pass but was upheld. Current Ravens quarterback Steve McNair and wide receiver Derrick Mason were Titans at the time.

Miracle of the Meadowlands. Nov. 19, 1978. Philadelphia at New York Giants. Both teams were having so-so seasons, but each had a shot at a wild-card berth. The Giants seemed to have the game won, 17-12, and appeared to be running out the clock with the ball in their territory and looking at third-and-two. But instead of a kneel-down, Giants coaches called for quarterback Joe Pisarcik to hand off to running back Larry Csonka. In the huddle, Csonka told Pisarcik not to give him the ball. First, the snap from center Jim Clack caught Pisarcik by surprise and then his handoff to Csonka bounced off the running back's hip. The ball bounced up into the arms of Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards, who ran 26 yards for the winning score with 20 seconds left.

Holy Roller. Sept. 10, 1978. Oakland at San Diego. The Chargers led 20-14 with 10 seconds left. The Raiders had the ball on the San Diego 14-yard line. Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler was about to get sacked when the ball left his hand, going forward for what was ruled a fumble. Raiders running back Pete Banaszak seemed to lob the ball forward at about the 12, and then tight end Dave Casper bobbled and kicked the ball into the end zone, where he fell on it. The extra point gave Oakland the win. During the next offseason, the NFL adopted new rules regarding advancing fumbles. The excited Raiders radio call included this line regarding Oakland coach John Madden's reaction to the play: "Madden is on the field ... he wants to know if it's real. ... They said, 'Yes, get your big butt out of here.'"

Immaculate Reception. Dec. 23, 1972. Oakland at Pittsburgh, AFC playoff game. The Raiders led 7-6 with the Steelers facing fourth-and-10 from their 40-yard line and 22 seconds remaining. Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass toward running back "Frenchy" Fuqua at the Oakland 35, where he was hit by Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum as the ball arrived. The ball caromed backward, where the Steelers' Franco Harris scooped it just before it hit the ground and ran it in for a touchdown and the win. The controversy was twofold. Did the ball bounce off Fuqua or Tatum? If it hit Fuqua, then Harris' catch would have been illegal; at that time, two offensive players could not touch a pass consecutively. Then there was the question of whether the ball touched the ground. The calls went for Pittsburgh, and the touchdown stood.

Kick right, call wrong. Dec. 26, 1965. Baltimore Colts at Green Bay. NFL Western Conference final. Tom Matte was the emergency fill-in quarterback working off an abbreviated menu of plays written on a wristband. Zeke Bratkowski played most of the game for injured Packers quarterback Bart Starr. With the Colts leading 10-7 and 1:58 left in the game, Green Bay kicker Don Chandler lined up for a 22-yard field-goal attempt. The kick sailed to the right, and Chandler turned and kicked at the ground in disgust. But back judge Jim Tunney signaled the kick good. In overtime, Chandler kicked another, more routine field goal, a 25-yarder, to give the Packers the win. Photographic evidence has generally been considered to have shown that Chandler's kick was, indeed, wide right. The next year, the NFL placed two officials under the goal post and extended the uprights 10 feet, becoming known as "Baltimore Extensions."

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