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The Fake Punt vs. The Buttfumble: Who Do You Got?

Two historically bad plays happened to teams facing the New England Patriots. Which one was worse?

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It would seem that Patriots opponents and boneheaded plays go hand in hand.

On Sunday night, the New England Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts in a game that really could have gone either way until late in the 3rd quarter, when an absolutely absurd fake punt call gave the Patriots a short field and the opportunity to more or less put the game away with a touchdown, which they did when Tommy B hit LeGarrette Blount for the first receiving TD of his career. The fake punt play has been deservedly panned nonstop over the past few days, social media is having a field day with it, and there have been several people who are calling that fake punt debacle the single worst play in the history of the National Football League.

The single worst play in the history of the National Football League. Now that's a bold statement.

And with any bold statement, there are plenty of people who disagree. After all, this sport is full of awful, awful plays. And perhaps the fake punt's biggest opponent for the crown is a play that a different Patriots rival cemented into infamy a few short years ago, a play that has become known only as The Buttfumble. It needs no introduction or description; we all know what I'm talking about. Thanksgiving night, Jets/Pats, Mark Sanchez collides with Brandon Moore's rump and fumbles the ball, picked up by Steve Gregory and returned for a touchdown as the Patriots went on to rout their AFC East rivals. It was a play that has risen into the ranks of immortality and will forever be a staple of sports blooper reels for decades to come. There are plenty out there who have no problem saying that The Buttfumble is the single worst play in the history of the NFL. The fake punt might have been pathetic, but...come on...Buttfumble!

And this doesn't even call into account a certain play in last year's Super Bowl that also might not have been the wisest decision. But I'm leaving that one out. Not going to say a bad thing about that play for as long as I live. Malcolm Butler, Malcolm Butler, and Malcolm Butler to all of that.

But the question is now officially out there, whether we like it or not: did the fake punt - recently dubbed by WEEI"s Jerry Thornton as The Funt - finally usurp The Buttfumble as the dumbest play of all time?

It's a tough one for sure, and to be honest, I'm not certain that there's really a right answer here. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be up for discussion. So fear not; I'm here to present this case for you. It's hard-nosed, hot-button issues like this that make me indispensable here at Pats Pulpit, and I'd be doing you all - nay, the world - a disservice by not ensuring that we can all make rational, informed decisions about this clearly important milestone of the American milieu.

So let's get to it. It's The Buttfumble vs. The Funt. There can only be one loser winner. I'm not going to make the call for you; we're all responsible adults here and should be able to decide on our own. I'm just here to present the facts.

First, the champion.


Why the Buttfumble is worse: Not only are we talking about a play, in professional sports, where one man's face collided with another man's booty with enough force to cause a fumble, but that fumble was returned for a touchdown in a nationally televised game on Thanksgiving night during a league year in which the New York Jets specifically requested more national facetime in order to continue building their brand. You'd be hard pressed to convince me that a play in which a helmet, a butt, and a fumble all came together in one delicious smoothie of ineptitude will ever lose its title as the worst play in NFL history. Sure, the Funt was bad, but it's not like Griff Whalen slid into his center's rear end as he was trying to salvage the play and dropped the ball for the easy score. Furthermore, the Buttfumble happened in an absolute blowout that was supposed to represent a significant narrowing of the gap in the AFC East. At least the Colts kept it close and didn't go on to give up three scores in under two minutes. Everything about the Buttfumble just screamed incompetence and more or less doomed the Jets to another year of being a laughingstock.

Why the Buttfumble is better: Even though it was a bad play by Sanchez, it was an accident. It was a physical error. He wasn't trying to collide with his lineman's ass and drop the ball; the play was busted and Sanchez was just trying to salvage a few yards and live to fight another day in any way that he could. Furthermore, the Buttfumble was aided by great play from Vince Wilfork, who totally collapsed the running lane and pushed Brandon Moore right into Sanchez at the moment he started his slide. Sanchez 100% should have held onto the ball there, or run pretty much anywhere else on the field other than where his helmet ended up, but at the end of the day it was a guy trying to salvage a busted play that went horribly, horribly wrong, and there was some good play on the other side to supplement it. Surely that's far more forgivable than Funting away any chance at an upset. I'll take a physical error by a player on the field over a mental error by a head coach charged with running an entire team any day of the week.

And now, for the challenger.


Why the Funt is worse: That play wasn't improvised. It wasn't random. It was inserted, and practiced, and diagnosed, and a tangible part of a game plan that the Indianapolis Colts had 10 days to install. And yet, in spite of all that, not only could the Colts do less than nothing with it, they also weren't even lined up correctly had it actually worked. The absolute best case scenario for that play, based on how everyone was lined up, was a 5 yard penalty for illegal formation. For that debacle to be a conscious decision, as opposed to just a busted play that went really, really wrong, makes it leaps and bounds worse than the Buttfumble. If Rex Ryan had dialed in a play where Mark Sanchez ran around in the backfield before sliding into his lineman's patoot, we might have an argument here. If the Jets had a play in their playbook called Spider 2 Y Butt, then this would be a discussion. But this was a planned, practiced, and intentionally called play that turned the Colts into an absolute laughingstock this week. Planned boneheadery will always trump accidental boneheadery.

Why the Funt is better: The Funt in itself wasn't a bad play, nor was it a totally off-the-wall idea. The plan was to line up in a strange formation, try and force a Patriots mistake or cause them to burn a timeout, and then MAYBE take the snap if the Pats were completely off-guard, but the plan was primarily to take the delay of game and then punt the ball if they didn't get the look that they wanted. That in itself isn't horrible, especially in a game like this one where you have to pull out all the stops. It was just horrible execution and an inexplicable miscommunication. To condemn a play to the nether regions of incompetence based solely on the actions of essentially two guys isn't really fair, especially when you look across the ring and you see a play in which some dude Buttfumbled his way into the history books. If they had just stood there and not taken the snap, we wouldn't be talking about this play anymore. Also, the Funt didn't directly result in a Patriots score; it just gave them great field position to then set up the score. The Buttfumble was a touchdown play for the Pats. Plus, I ultimately think that this play is going to blow over in a week or two, much the way that the Redskin botched fake FG play has blown over. Sure, people still talk about it, but it's no Buttfumble. Just the nature of the Buttfumble makes it a more ridiculous play by definition. This time next year, we won't really be talking about the Funt that much - but I guarantee you that we will be talking about The Buttfumble, as it has become a Thanksgiving tradition throughout the entire New England area.

It's a tight race to be sure, and a good case can be made for both sides. Nothing like some good, rational sports talk to help us all get through the day.

So where do you stand? Which play was worse? The Buttfumble or the Funt?