“Mo Mentum” Changes Sides

It’s fun when watching a football game to see a quick, dramatic change in momentum, especially when a team’s offense immediately capitalizes on a momentum change initiated by its defense (or vice-versa). Throw in a record-breaking or record-equaling play and it’s a sequence worth a post here.

Last night I watched on TV as the Minnesota Vikings defense made a goal-line stand to prevent the visiting Chicago Bears from expanding a four-point second quarter lead to 11 points. The Vikings offense then took the field with the ball on their own 1-yard line, and on the next play, 99 37-year old Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte (#12) hooked up with wide receiver Bernard Berrian (#87) on a 99-yard bomb.

99 yards! Successful plays from scrimmage don’t get any longer than that — because they can’t. The touchdown gave the Vikings the lead for the first time in the game, 10–7, and they would not relinquish it, winning 34–14.

I love watching sports crowds going bananas with joy. My favorite part of this video is during the third and last replay at about 1:02-1:03 when Berrian is running with the ball and fans in the stands are visible in the background. Many of the fans are jumping up and down, which I confess is my way of reacting to an exciting play in favor of my team when I’m at a game (and sometimes even when I watch on TV). Don’t the fans who are jumping appear to be jumping in unison? I guess this is an optical illusion of sorts due to the inability of the eye to focus on more than a small group of fans at a time. I think it’s cool, though.

The following video shows some of action leading up to the Berrian touchdown, including the last two plays of the goal-line stand. The story theme chosen by this video’s producer is one of revenge, with the Bears getting their comeuppance for an illegal late hit on Frerotte earlier in the second quarter by their defensive tackle Adewale Ogunleye (#93) which inexplicably went unpenalized by the officials. (Check the Oscar-nomination worthy acting job by Frerotte in reaction to Ogunleye’s hit. Nice job, Gus!)

Revenge within the context of a single game is much more applicable to baseball than to other team sports, but I can see how someone, particularly a Vikings fan, would regard the goal-line stand and 99-yard pass as revenge for the late hit. Such is the mind of many sports fans.

The Frerotte-to-Berrian play was the 11th 99-yard touchdown pass in NFL history. There has been only one 99-yard touchdown run. How common are such plays? Amazingly, I’ve been unable to find a count of the total number of games played over the entire 86-year history of the league, but I’ll estimate that count to be 11,500. So a 99-yard play has occurred roughly once per 1000 games — pretty rare.

The most noteworthy of the 99-yard plays was executed by my beloved Philadelphia Eagles, a pass from Ron Jaworski to Mike Quick against the Atlanta Falcons November 10, 1985. It’s the most noteworthy because it occurred in overtime and therefore was the last and deciding play of the game. Ironically, I wasn’t watching that day and it was, I believe, years before I would see video of the play.

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