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Best Plays of the 2023 NFL Season (So Far)

As the NFL season charges forward, fans across the nation have witnessed exhilarating displays of athleticism and strategy. Between the jaw-dropping catches and game-changing interceptions, the field has seen plenty of unforgettable plays in the last few weeks coming from players of all positions. Each game we’ve seen this season has consisted of thrilling moments—here are the top plays of the season so far by week.

Week 1

Brian Branch Pick Six

Rookie safety Brian Branch of the Detroit Lions earned his first NFL touchdown when he intercepted a pass from the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the Chiefs’ home opener of Week 1. During the third quarter, the pass was intended for Chiefs’ wide receiver Kadarius Toney but he bobbled the ball and it fell into the possession of Branch. Branch then ran the ball for 50 yards, scored a touchdown, and tied the score to 14 all, helping later beat the Chiefs by a single point.

Photo courtesy of David Eulitt/Getty Images

DeForest Buckner Strip Sack Turned TD

The idea of defensive linemen scoring touchdowns is an oddity in itself, but defensive tackle DeForest Buckner scored his second career touchdown in an even more interesting fashion. In the Indianapolis Colts home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Jags’ QB Trevor Lawrence was sacked in the backfield by Buckner, forcing a fumble. Tank Bigsby, a Jags’ running back, then recovered the fumble until Colts’ linebacker Zaire Franklin knocked the ball out of his hands. Hearing no whistle, Buckner recovered the second fumble of the play, running 26 yards for a touchdown. Franklin joked after the game that Buckner is the most athletic 6’7” man that he knows.

Week 2

Jared Goff Flea Flicker

It’s always satisfying to see a trick play work successfully, and this instance is no different. Detroit Lions’ quarterback Jared Goff handed the ball off to rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs who promptly pitched it back to Goff in their Week 2 contest against the Seattle Seahawks. Once Goff gained possession of the ball again, the Seahawks’ defense had already been fooled into thinking it was a run play. This allowed Goff to easily deliver a 36-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kalif Raymond. The pass brought Goff to his sixth consecutive home game with at least two TD passes—the second-longest streak in franchise history.

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Russell Wilson Hail Mary

The Denver Broncos fought hard to minimize the eight-point deficit during their Week 2 game against the Washington Commanders but ultimately fell short. With just three seconds left and the ball on the 50-yard line, Broncos QB Russell Wilson launched a Hail Mary downfield to a swarm of both white and red jerseys. In true miracle fashion, the pass was caught by Denver WR Brandon Johnson after being tipped three times. With the score now at 35-33 and the Commanders leading, the Broncos had no choice but to go for a two-point conversion. Wilson’s pass, intended for Courtland Sutton, was broken up by Benjamin St-Juste—sparking controversy on the internet on grounds of pass interference, but no flag was thrown. The Broncos lost 35-33.

Week 3

Marvin Mims Jr. 99-yard Kickoff Return

Though the Denver Broncos haven’t had a traditionally “good” season, they have had plenty of remarkable plays. One of those was a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Broncos’ wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Broncos trailed the Dolphins 63-13 until Mims Jr. caught the kick in the end zone. Instead of signaling for a touchback, though, he darts to the left side of the field and coasts to a touchdown, bringing the score to 63-20 after the extra point. Though the Broncos lost, Marvin Mims Jr has still proved himself to be an explosive and driven return tool for the franchise.

Photo courtesy of RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post

Week 4

Scoop-and-Score/Pick Six by Cowboys

The New England Patriots are yet another franchise that has been struggling lately, and the Dallas Cowboys took advantage of their lackluster team during Week 4. After Patriots’ QB Mac Jones fumbled early in the second quarter, Leighton Vander Esch of the Cowboys picked up the ball at their own 10-yard line and ran effortlessly to a touchdown. Later in the same quarter, Jones was picked off by DaRon Bland on a pass intended for Kendrick Bourne. Bland’s interception made for a 54-yard TD, leaving the Cowboys in the lead with a score of 28-3 at the end of the first half. Jones' poor performance and multiple turnovers resulted in backup QB Bailey Zappe taking his position in the second half. The Cowboys beat the Patriots 38-3—Pats worst loss under head coach Bill Belichick.

Jalen Hurts 59-yarder to AJ Brown

With the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles trailing the Washington Commanders in the third quarter, wide receiver AJ Brown brought Philly to their first lead of the game. Eagles’ QB Jalen Hurts threw down the left sideline to Brown, who avoided multiple defenders near the end zone. The 59-yard touchdown allowed the Eagles to take the lead for the first time in the contest against the then 2-2 Commanders, bringing the score to 21-17. The two teams continued to fight for the lead and ended up in OT—Eagles kicker Jake Elliot coming in clutch to win it 34-31 for Philadelphia.

Photo courtesy of Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Week 5

Kittle Shuts Down the Cowboys

During a Week 5 rivalry matchup, the San Francisco 49ers left the Dallas Cowboys feeling blue. The 49ers have knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs in close games the past two seasons, but Dallas was no match this time. Niners’ quarterback sensation Brock Purdy threw all but one of his TD passes to tight end George Kittle, connecting three. This made Kittle the first 49er since 2009 to have three touchdown catches in one game. The opening drive resulted in a 19-yard pass to Kittle, his first score of the season. The Niners brought the wow factor in the second drive of the second quarter with a flea flicker. Purdy handed off the ball to Christian McCaffrey, who pitched it to Deebo Samuel, who pitched it back to Purdy. Purdy then connected the pass down the right side of the field to Kittle for a 38-yard touchdown, his second of the night. With another easy TD pass to Kittle, the 49ers shut the Cowboys down 42-10.

Photo courtesy of Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle

Nearing the NFL season’s midway point, there’s one thing that’s been made abundantly clear: this season has been graced with some truly memorable plays. In just five weeks, the NFL has already provided football fans with a testament to the unyielding spirit of both eager rookies and seasoned veterans. As the season continues to unfold, plays like these could serve as crucial turning points in a game or even a season.

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