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The Art of the Chase

May 24th, 2021 · 1 Comment · Football, NFL

One of my favorite plays in football is the “catch from behind/chase-down” — in which what looks like a long touchdown play is thwarted by a gritty player who makes a lung-searing sprint to keep the ball out of the end zone.

I always have had a sort of romantic attachment to this kind of open-field play, with guys who won’t give up saving the day.

I can remember being 10, 11 years old and playing on the grassy playground of the nearby school, and imagining myself making the “last man” tackle.

What made it a little weird was that I was never a fast runner. I couldn’t run down a skill player, and maybe not a Pop Warner player.

But just because I would never be Don Beebe chasing down Leon Lett in Super Bowl 27 — which I saw from the press box at the Rose Bowl, in 1993 — doesn’t dim my fascination with these plays.

I bumped into this video a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t keep myself from pushing “start”.

Feel free to check it out.

A sidelight to most of these hustle plays is the overconfidence of the ball carrier as he neared the end zone.

Some thoughts:

–One shows Patriots kicker Adam Vinateri running down Hershel Walker on a kickoff return — simple outrunning Walker, who perhaps was winded. That may be the single most stunning of the 25-30 or so clips.

–Unless it is the 325-pound Cowboys offensive tackle Larry Allen somehow sprinting into the picture to catch the Saints linebacker who is about to complete a pick-six. The commentators in the booth go nuts watching Allen’s preposterous play.

–The Beebe rundown of Lett, scuppering what would have been a 64-yard return for TD, is probably the best-known of all these plays. Lett held the ball up with his right hand as he reached the 5 yard line, unaware that Bills receiver Beebe had not given up on the play.

Beebe stripped the ball from Lett’s one-handed hold, and it rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.

The Lett gaffe is probably the best-known play from that game, a 52-17 Cowboys romp.

If you follow football at all, the video will be a fine 25 minutes or so.


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