Counting down the weekdays to Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5 in Houston, we look back at the 50 greatest Super Bowl competitors from the ASN family of schools as calculated one year ago. Today: 9
Ahmad Bradshaw didn’t really mean to score the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLVI.
Yep, you read that right.
In what is probably remembered as the most awkward touchdown ever scored in the NFL, Bradshaw literally pivoted and fell backward into the end zone.
With the New England Patriots leading, 17-15, and the Giants on the 6-yard line with 57 seconds to play, Bradshaw took the handoff from Eli Manning and headed straight to an open lane in the Patriots defense.
Just as he approached the goal line, Bradshaw seemed to realize that if he didn’t score, the Giants would retain possession, kick a winning field goal and deny New England's Tom Brady another chance to score. But he couldn’t stop his own momentum. He squatted at the goal line then toppled into the end zone.
“I took the handoff and said, 'Don't score, don't score,'” Bradshaw told the media after the game. “I tried to get down, but my momentum took me in.”
“I should've told him not to score,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. “The thought crossed my mind in the huddle, but I didn't say it.”
Fortunately for Bradshaw and the Giants, Manning didn't have to say “I told you so.” The Patriots failed to score on the next possession and New York won the Super Bowl, 21-17.
“It’s the greatest thing in the world, man,” Bradshaw, who scored three touchdowns, said after the game. “I’m just hoping we can win another one. It’s the greatest feeling in my life. … I’m just so happy to be here with my family.”
Dubbed the “Reluctant Touchdown” by one reporter, Bill Belichick's decision to let Bradshaw score was widely criticized. ESPN’s Tim Keown, who wrote that it was unworthy of a Super Bowl, pointed out that Patriots players did not embrace the idea of allowing the score. But statistically speaking, the strategy was a good one. Nonetheless, Keown probably spoke for most fans, writing “we were left with an empty feeling that it could have been better.”
Not for Bradshaw. That Super Bowl victory was Bradshaw’s second with the Giants, who also beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, and his last. He was traded to the Colts after the 2013 season. Bradshaw led all running backs and recovered a fumble by Manning in his first Super Bowl appearance.
Bradshaw, a seventh-round NFL draft pick in 2007, is one of nine former Marshall players to win a Super Bowl ring.
Jill R. Dorson is a freelance writer based in San Diego.