American football is primarily played with the hands, though feet still have their place in the sport.
Place kickers, for instance, are often the NFL's leading scorers by the time the Super Bowl rolls around. But beyond extra points and kickoffs, feet are best left to the running when it comes to football. That is, in America, at least.
There's a whole world of football beyond (and within) the US border. Most people in the world know "football" as the sport Americans call "soccer", a game played almost exclusively with feet. American football couldn't be more diametrically opposed to world football in style and content.
So when the two sports collide, the results are usually hilarious.
An American football-style tackle will get a player ejected in a world football game. A world football-style kick in an American football game will get ESPN replays, over and over again. Such is the story of one kick from September 2014.
The NFL landscape was quite different in 2014. This was long before Lamar Jackson went to the Ravens, first-round pick Trevor Lawrence to Jacksonville, or mock draft darling Trey Lance to Kyle Shanahan's 49ers. Aaron Rodgers still played for Green Bay, and the Bengals were still toothless. But aside from that, the NFL landscape was fairly different.
Things were changing for one professional running back, in particular.
In September 2014, Maurice Jones-Drew was a star tailback at the tail end of his career. With an embarrassing slip and fumble, he nearly kicked a golazo for the Raiders against the terminally grounded Jets.
The resulting "bicycle-kick fumble" nearly ended in disaster for the Raiders, whose season ended in disaster anyway.
Maurice Jones-Drew: A Brief History
From 2009-2011, Maurice Jones-Drew had 3 straight years with 1,300+ rush yards. @MJD ran with authority ?
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) February 17, 2021
This fumble was a perfect metaphor for Maurice "MJD" Jones-Drew's career at the time.
The game in question was the first game of MJD's last year as a professional football player. Jones-Drew used to make highlight reels. By the time the running back retired in Oakland, he was only making blooper reels.
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected MJD with their second-round pick of the 2006 NFL Draft. He ran over the competition and attended three Pro Bowls as a Jag. Opposing defenses were barely able to tame MJD from 2009-2012, but the Jacksonville organization remained lame.
Drew wanted out of Jacksonville (who doesn't?) and became an Oakland Raider the same year of the bicycle kick fumble.
On September 7, 2014, the Raiders challenged the New York Jets in their season opener. MJD's fumble, though recovered by rookie Derek Carr, was a pitch-perfect prediction of how the rest of the season would go for both squads.
MJD's Bicycle Kick Fumble
Ever see a bicycle kick on the gridiron? (Sept. 7, 2014) pic.twitter.com/lYOfB0zZgx
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) April 14, 2021
The two teams lost to nearly every squad in the league that season, including the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, and Houston Texans. The pre-Las Vegas Raiders did manage to beat Colin Kaepernick and a so-so San Francisco 49ers squad late in the season, but MJD didn't play.
He was still recovering from the embarrassment of the bicycle fumble.
Keep in mind: the "bicycle kick fumble" was kicked against the Jets, a team which, not two seasons before this, had committed the infamous "Butt Fumble" against pre-Buccaneer Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
It was a low moment in Maurice Jones-Drew's otherwise distinguished career. MJD would finish the game with more fumbles, memes, and bicycle kicks than touchdowns.
The descending star's kick didn't belong in the NFL, MLB, or NBA. It was straight out of the MLS, maybe even the Premier League. The bicycle kick fumble is a world-class bicycle kick first, a near-fumble second. MJD's accidental athleticism reminds me of a play in the 2018 Champions League:
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 26, 2018
Carr's quick hands caught the high-flying fumble, turning the mistake into a true feat of teamwork. It reminds me of Barnsley's goal against the Queens Park Rangers in 1997:
QPR v Barnsley FA Cup 4th round 1997. Trevor Sinclair scored this outrageous bicycle kick as QPR won 3-2 to progress to 5th round. This goal was later voted BBC goal of the season for 1996-97 @trevor8sinclair pic.twitter.com/3PmIVosIf9
— 80s&90sfootball ? ?? (@80s90sfootball) May 5, 2021
But back to 2014: September 7, 2014, was a glorious afternoon for footballers everywhere. MJD wasn't the only American football player to land a big kick during opening day.
Not Even the Craziest Kick of the Day
This day in #PGHistory: Steelers defeat the Browns 30-27.
— Pittsburgh Clothing Company (@PGHClothingCo) September 7, 2017
Sunday, September 7, 2014, was also the day that Antonio Brown jumped like a Panther and drop-kicked punter Spencer Lanning (in the face!) during the first half of the Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns game.
Brown was assessed a 15-yard penalty for the aerial assault, which is more punishment than he usually receives for assaulting people.
Antonio Brown's karate kick resulted in an $8,200 fine. Maurice Jones-Drew's bicycle kick resulted in a gif. Based on those stats alone, I'd argue that MJD had the best kick of the day, though Brown's was certainly the craziest.
A bicycle kick may always be a beaut, but don't expect the world football move to catch on in American football anytime soon.
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