Not every incredible play goes into the scorebooks.
A clutch touchdown gets called back for holding. A windmill dunk comes a quarter-second after a whistle. A game-changing historical moment simply ... doesn't happen. But everyone still remembers, because something about a play that gets called back ennobles it in our minds.
A play like that just happened in the Kansas City Chiefs 20-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills. It was set up on second and 10 as Kansas City trailed 20-17 with 1:25 remaining. Patrick Mahomes connected with Travis Kelce on a 25-yard pass. The star tight end was surrounded by three Buffalo defenders then tossed a lateral pass to Kadarius Toney, who made a 24-yard trot to the end zone.
But Kelce's perfect spiral was all for naught due to an offsides penalty on Toney that nullified the touchdown.
That got us thinking of some other incredible plays that didn't count. Here are some of the best ones that came to mind.
Cam Whitmore's poster
Rockets rookie Cam Whitmore takes off for a huge dunk over Doug McDermott, but the referees call it a charge.
Derrick Henry stiff-arms Josh Norman
Henry has made more than one defender regret their attempts to tackle him, and on this five-yard run in Week 5 of the 2020 NFL season, the Tennessee Titans running back put Buffalo Bills cornerback Norman on that list. The run was called back due to holding, but let's be real: The damage was already done.
Brock Bowers' one-handed snag
The Georgia Bulldogs tight end snagged this incredible one-hander in a Week 2 matchup against the Auburn Tigers this season. Unfortunately, an illegal touch flag on Bowers called it back, but catches like this are why he's one of the most versatile players in the nation.
Brock Bowers everyone.— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) September 30, 2023
Patrick Mahomes' falling pass
Is there anything this guy can't do? Late in Super Bowl LIV, Mahomes was scrambling on a 4th-and-9 with the Kansas City Chiefs down 22 points. He somehow managed to get off a pinpoint accurate pass while parallel to the ground that should have been a touchdown. Receiver Darrel Williams couldn't haul it in, however, and the play will go down in history as perhaps the best incompletion anyone has ever thrown.
Patriots lateral to a lineman
Things have been pretty dire lately for the New England Patriots, but let it never be said that they're not trying. In this loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 2 of the 2023 season, Mac Jones completed a pass to Mike Gesicki that would leave them short of a much-needed first down. Gesicki lateralled to offensive lineman Cole Strange, who powered forward and looked like he got the necessary yardage. A review placed him just behind the line, however, and the play would not quite enter the pantheon of "big man runs."
DeAndre Hopkins' one-hander
OK, there was a little bit of offensive pass interference in this 2018 Houston Texans game against the Miami Dolphins. But let's appreciate just how much focus and control Hopkins needed to pull off this one-handed grab.
Rick Ankiel saves a run
Ankiel's story is fascinating -- a pitching phenom who lost all control reinvents himself as a slugging outfielder with a cannon arm. Opposing players quickly learned not to run on him, and no play made that more evident than Jordan Schafer, who stole 103 bases in the majors, deciding not to run at all on this laser beam of a throw from center field in 2014. It only showed up in the scorebooks as a putout in center field -- but everyone at the game knew what it really meant.
Ja Morant misses poster dunk
Kevin Love is very lucky that Ja Morant just missed landing this dunk, otherwise it'd be on NBA highlight reels forever. Morant was still a rookie when he jumped over the 6'8" Love and went up for a slam. He slightly misjudged it, however, and Love managed to keep his dignity.
Ja Morant will never forget his missed dunk against Kevin Love 😂 (via NBA Today)— ESPN (@espn) October 26, 2021
"Probably would've been the best dunk ever. Definitely for me and definitely could have been one of the top dunks in the league." pic.twitter.com/XGIrVyJvc2