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With less than two minutes left, a three-point lead and the ball on the Carolina Panthers 5-yard line, just about any play would have worked for the New Orleans Saints.
A touchdown would have put the game out of hand. Positive yardage could’ve chewed another 40 seconds off the clock. Even running the ball out of bounds wouldn’t hurt.
Well, just about any play would have worked for the Saints. The one that ended up happening nearly cost them the game.
In a tight formation with three receivers to the left, wideout Tommylee Lewis ran across the formation and took a handoff from Drew Brees to the right side. Lewis ran to the sideline and extended the ball to the goal line when cornerback James Bradberry knocked the ball loose into the end zone and out of play.
Of course, one of the most bizarre rules in football came into effect, and the fumble was ruled a touchback, and the Panthers took over, down 3 with 1:44 left.
Fortunately for the Saints, the Panthers’ offense continued to sputter. Carolina picked up one first down on a Christian McCaffrey third-down run, but four straight incomplete passes — including one spike — ended the Panthers’ night.
The most notable recent end zone fumble before this came on November 7, when Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Xavier Grimble lost control of the ball as he fumbled going into the end zone. The Steelers ended up dropping that contest by seven to the Denver Broncos, further making the strange rule incredibly hard to swallow.
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