Sunday, November 20, 1978: If you were a Philadelphia Eagles fan listening to the game on the radio late in that afternoon, you were close to giving up. Your team playing in Giants Stadium at the other end of New Jersey was losing 13 to 17. The hated Giants controlled the football with only 32 seconds left to play. The Eagles were out of time outs, the situation was in doubt. Yet, here is how the team’s second year play-by-play announcer, 36-year-old Merrill Reese, described what happened next:
Under thirty seconds left in the game. From here on Pisarcik can fall on the ball and there’s nothing the Eagles can do.
And Pisarcik fumbles the football.
It’s picked up by Herman Edwards.
I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it!
The Eagles beat the Giants, 19 to 17 before a shocked crowd.
This unbelievable finish that Eagles fans call to this day, “The Miracle at the Meadowlands” (and Giants fans, “The Fumble”) were resurrected by the last play the Seattle Seahawks ran in Super Bowl XLIX. Having reached the Patriots one-yard-line with 26 seconds remaining in the game and down four points, the Seahawks needed a touchdown to win the game. They elected to try a pass play instead of simply handing the ball to their formidable running back, Marshawn Lynch. Unfortunately for Seattle, Malcolm Butler, a Patriot defensive back read the play and jumped the receiver’s route intercepting the football at the goal line. Game, set and match; the New England Patriots were the Super Bowl Champions for the fourth time in the Brady-Belichick era and the Seattle offensive coaching staff was the goats.
Darrell Bevell, Seattle’s offensive coordinator, told the press, “It didn’t turn out the way I hoped it would.”
Indeed, Mike Francesa, the foremost sports radio host in New York, opined: “The single worst big-moment call in the history of sports. If I live to be 200, I’ll never see anything as dumb in my life.”
The Giants bone-headed play selection at the end of that Eagle game back in 1978 was the choice of their offensive coordinator, Bob Gibson. On the previous play, Joe Pisarcik, the Giants quarterback took a knee. Then, for reasons unknown, Gibson called for a running play instead of telling Pisarcik to take one last knee to end the game. In situations like this, it is considered professional courtesy for the offense to tell their opponents that they would take a knee. The big defensive linemen would stay in their place to avoid unnecessary injuries to either team. When none of the Giants linemen said anything, an Eagles defender asked, “Are you guys running a play?”
“We are,” came the response. Gibson called a running play by Giants fullback, Larry Csonka. Pisarcik turned to hand the ball to Csonka, missed and only managed to hit Csonka’s leg. The ball went bouncing away where Herman Edwards scooped it up on the run and scored the winning touchdown.
The sports writers were horrified. Dave Klein wrote a piece that appeared under the headline, “Eagles Take Advantage of Boner Call.” Klein wrote:
It should not have happened. It could not have happened. There was no way the Giants could have lost yesterday. But they found a way. Blame it on a gross and grievous error on the part of the coaching staff.”
Gibson was fired the next day and never spent another minute with a football team at any level ever again. Gibson retreated to Sanibel Island where he opened a bait shop, a bar and a restaurant called Gibby’s. Today at 87, he resides in nearby Fort Myers still unreachable and uncommunicative about that horrible play on that Sunday afternoon.
So far, the Seahawks have rallied around Bevell and his boss, head coach, Pete Carroll admits he too signed off on the play. Unfortunately, plays that are directly responsible for losing a championship never go away and the goat carries this with him forever. Bevell is that goat.
Gibson was smart getting out to start a new life in paradise. Bevell may want to consider a similar move. If you don’t believe me, ask Bill Buckner.