EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On a day when he had 10 receptions and surpassed 10,000 career receiving yards, Brandon Marshall will always remember Sunday instead for making what he called "probably [the] worst play in NFL history."
Trailing 17-0 and without starters Chris Ivory and Eric Decker, Marshall caught a 15-yard pass in the second quarter. As he was being tackled and brought down by a defender, Marshall attempted to lateral the ball to teammate Jeff Cumberland, only to fumble it away. Philadelphia recovered at the Jets' 36 and scored a touchdown just over two minutes later to go up 24-0 with 2 minutes, 11 seconds remaining in the first half. The Eagles would hang on for a 24-17 win to hand the Jets their first loss of the season.
"He knows he can't make that play," Jets head coach Todd Bowles said of Marshall, who had 10 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. "We both know he can't make that play. He can't pitch the ball. He understands that. We can't have those types of plays during the game. Can't do it."
Over the years, the Jets certainly have experienced their share of knucklehead plays, considering this is the franchise that brought us "The Butt Fumble."
But Marshall's gaffe was one that proved to be too much for the Jets to overcome Sunday. With Mark Sanchez watching on the Eagles' sideline as the backup quarterback, Marshall's ill-fated lateral came when the Jets were desperately in need of a spark. They were trying to keep the game within striking distance in hopes of maintaining all the momentum of a 2-0 start under their new head coach.
When Marshall caught the pass, he saw Cumberland nearby as he was about to go down. He didn't see linebacker Connor Barwin trailing the play, and his pitch glanced off Barwin before being recovered by Jordan Hicks.
"Oh my gosh," Marshall said when asked about the lateral. "Wrong time to gamble. I was pressing. Trying to make a play but can't do that. That was probably [the] worst play in NFL history."
"You can't do that," he added. "The damage outweighs the reward so much. ... That's backyard football. Can't do that. Bonehead play."
Marshall tried to atone for his folly by catching a 16-yard touchdown pass with six seconds remaining in the half. But the Jets were down 24-7, and that was too big a hole without Ivory and Decker.
Marshall would become the seventh active player to reach the 10,000-yard career mark in the game. But he also was part of another play that led to a critical Jets turnover. Down 24-14 with 3:33 left, the Jets were at the Eagles' 37 when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a ball toward the sideline for Marshall.
"You can't do that. The damage outweighs the reward so much. ... That's backyard football. Can't do that. Bonehead play."Brandon Marshall on his failed lateral attempt vs. the Eagles
The ball glanced off his hands and was intercepted by Walter Thurmond III at the Eagles' 18.
"I played like crap today, to be honest with you," Marshall said. "The interception I gave up, thought the safety was right there so I tried to catch it really quick and bring it in and short-armed it. Gave up a pick, so that is on me."
It was a strange day for Marshall, who was productive and reached a career milestone. And yet the failed lateral will be what he remembers for a long time.
"Did you not see the fumble I had?" Marshall said laughingly when asked about how consistent he has been over his career. "There's some good stuff, but then it is like pitch the ball back. Like, what is that? I can't really wrap my head around [the 10,000-yard mark] because I am so disappointed in my performance and the loss."