7 of the Best NFL Trick Plays of All Time

Photo by Adrian Curiel on Unsplash

Trick plays use the element of surprise to great effect. Whether they’re planned or done in the spur of the moment, they provide some of the most exciting and exhilarating moments in all of NFL entertainment. 

From unexpected turnarounds to spread records, trick plays are often the deciding factor between winning and losing. They may be risky to pull off but, when they work, trick plays can surprise and delight even the most seasoned NFL fans.

Below we’ve put together seven of the most memorable trick plays in NFL history. Let’s take a look at some of the most creative, unexpected, and flawlessly executed plays ever made.

The Saints’ missed miracle

In 2003, the New Orleans Saints lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in what’s been hailed as one of the craziest endings in the NFL. In the final seconds of the game, the Saints pulled off a trick play, now known as the River City Relay, that brought the game to a nail-biting finish.

Thanks to an unbelievable lateral manoeuvre, the Saints’ wide receiver, Jerome Pathon, scored a stunning touchdown that brought the game to 20-19 in the Jaguars’ favour. Unfortunately, Saints kicker John Carney failed to secure the extra point.

Redskins touchdown

2009’s matchup between the Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos featured one of the most ingenious moves ever seen in pro football. In the last significant play of the game, the Redskins pulled off a truly astonishing touchdown.

It certainly seemed as if the Broncos were ready to defend well, but none of their elite defenders seemed to notice when fullback Mike Sellers broke off a wheel route and caught a touchdown pass from punter Hunter Smith.

A fake field goal attempt had fooled them all. It was all over in the blink of an eye, and the game ended in a 27-17 victory for the Redskins.

Photo by Justin Shen on Unsplash

Titans run a fake punt

When the Tennessee Titans took on the Buffalo Bills in a preseason matchup, no one expected that it would turn out to be a game for the history books.

Although he no longer plays football, A.J. Trapasso will forever be remembered for a fantastic fake punt that left the Bills reeling. What’s more, he managed to do it while taking the ball behind his back, finishing with a sprint to the end zone for a touchdown.

Why would the Titans reveal such a successful trick play before the start of the season? No one can say for sure, but the surprise run definitely translated to extra practice time for whichever teams faced the Titans in the season that followed.

Steelers pull off a wide receiver reverse pass

The Pittsburgh Steelers used every trick in their playbook to get to Super Bowl XL. Their final game against the Seattle Seahawks was no different and led to several memorable plays, one of which was particularly notable for its deception.

Typically, wide receivers aren’t known for their throwing ability. But that’s exactly what the Steelers were counting on when Antwaan Randle El pulled off a 43-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward, both of whom were wide receivers at the time.

The touchdown proved to be the final nail in the coffin for the Seahawks, who were met by a determined Steelers defence that refused to give any ground.

Dolphins get a fake spike touchdown

When the Miami Dolphins were losing to the New York Nets in the 1993/94 season, everyone expected their quarterback, Dan Morino, to spike the ball and send the game into overtime. However, what happened instead led to one of the best clutch victories in history.

Morino, easily one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, proved his tactical prowess as he threw two successive, pinpoint accurate passes; the latter of which ended in a game-changing touchdown that stole the victory for the Dolphins.

Morino’s move is considered a classic and is now known as the Clock Play. The Jets’ defence was caught napping and, due to Morino’s decisive move coming at a crucial point in the game, the Dolphins managed to walk away with a 28-24 victory.

Photo by Jason Buscema on Unsplash

Cross-field lateral Titans

For the second time, the Titans are featured for sheer ingenuity and flawless execution, and yet again the Bills are on the receiving end. This time, it’s the AFC Wild Card round and the Bills are winning by one point.

With 16 seconds left on the clock, the Titans went all out on offence. Instead of throwing up a typical Hail Mary, Frank Wycheck threw a blistering pass to Kevin Dyson, who stormed into the end zone with a towering wall of Titans blockers at his back.

The Bills could do nothing but watch as Dyson received a lateral pass and ran 75 yards to score the winning touchdown. The game slipped out of their fingers and the Titans earned a 22-16 victory.

Patriots reverse the Statue of Liberty

Up against the Jaguars in 2008, the New England Patriots executed a reverse Statue of Liberty that defied all expectations. The play had it all: deception, theatricality, and style; and it brought the Patriots a victory that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

Instead of a fake pass and a reverse handoff, the Patriots faked a direct snap and went for a touchdown pass. Their quarterback, Tom Brady, went as far as faking the snap going over his head, which fooled the Jaguars perfectly.

Brady found Wes Welker in the end zone with a touchdown pass that gave the Patriots a 21-14 victory. The Jaguars simply weren’t able to recover from such an elaborately staged play.