We’ve all seen it. As fans of the Minnesota Vikings, we’ve probably seen it a lot more than anyone else. Since the NFL won’t allow me to embed the video here, in order to see it you’ll have to click this link. But here are the basics of what happened.
The Vikings were taking on the San Francisco 49ers on 25 October 1964 at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. From deep in his own territory, 49ers quarterback George Mira completed a pass to Billy Kilmer. (Yes, that Billy Kilmer. . .I didn’t know he actually caught passes in addition to throwing them, but the film doesn’t lie.) After a pretty decent gain, Kilmer was dragged down by a host of Vikings and fumbled the football. Defensive end Jim Marshall, who was coming in at what appeared to be the end of the play, alertly pounced on the fumble.
And then, much less alertly, proceeded to sprint 66 yards in the wrong direction for what he thought was a Minnesota touchdown. After crossing the goal line, he celebrated by throwing the ball out of bounds from the end zone, resulting in a safety for the 49ers. That cut what had been a 27-17 Vikings lead to 27-19.
The Vikings went on to win the game by a final score of 27-22, thanks in part to a fumble that rookie Carl Eller returned the right direction for a 45-yard touchdown. However, that play for Marshall will likely live forever.
With a result of negative-66 yards, the fumble return by Marshall stands as the longest negative play in the history of the National Football League. Honestly, I don’t even know what the second-longest negative play is, but it would take a pretty significant feat to have a play that went for more than a 66-yard loss.
At one point, there were whispers that the wrong-way run was part of what was keeping Jim Marshall out of the Hall of Fame. I’m not sure if that’s accurate or not. I think if those Vikings teams of the 70s would have won even one of the four Super Bowls that they appeared in that Marshall would have been in a long time ago, and a lot of other Vikings probably wouldn’t have had to wait as long as they did to get there. But I don’t think one play would keep someone as deserving as Marshall out of the Hall of Fame.
We told you that there was going to be a negative Vikings’ record mixed in here, ladies and gentlemen, and this is the one. It will probably never be broken, either. Our next featured record will go back to much happier moments.