Doug Flutie's drop-kick convert of a New England Patriots touchdown with just over six minutes to play in a 28-26 Miami Dolphins win Sunday has attracted attention.
Flutie's wildly enthusiastic celebration in a final regular season game that had no playoff implications - along with a hug and smile from normally stoic Pats coach Bill Belichick - has become a topic of conversation.
The last player to successfully execute a drop kick in the NFL was Ray McLean of the Chicago Bears, who did it 65 years ago. McLean kicked an extra point that way during a 37-9 win over the Giants in the NFL championship game of 1941.
All of the Patriots seemed excited about a play the team had been working on for weeks. Flutie was the lone man in the backfield as the Pats lined up for the kick and Miami coach Nick Saban admitted being caught off- guard.
"It sure screwed me up," Saban said. "I couldn't figure out what they were doing. I had to use a timeout (before the attempt). I'm kind of pleased to hear that somebody can still drop-kick.
"Flutie showed his age (43) on that one."
Reports from New England said the idea was the result of a conversation between ESPN's Chris Berman, Belichick and Flutie. Berman said he remembered seeing Flutie drop-kick a convert in the Canadian Football League.
Something was lost in the transmission. It turns out that while quarterback Flutie practised drop-kicking through the uprights at all three of his CFL stops - Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto - he never did so in a game during an illustrious career that saw him win outstanding player honours in six of seven seasons in Canada. He was injured the other year.
Alouettes coach Don Matthews explained how the confusion might have arisen.
"In 1996 (when he was coaching the Toronto Argonauts), we beat the Alouettes 43-7 in the Eastern final," Matthews said yesterday in a telephone conversation from his Nuns' Island home.
"Mike Vanderjagt (now the Colts' place-kicker) was our kicker and Flutie the holder. At the last minute, they switched and Flutie kicked the convert, but the regular way."
Flutie can best be described as a gym rat. He would spend hours on end practising every sport imaginable. Drop-kicking was just one of those pastimes.
"It's always something I'd done for fun, messing around," Flutie said. "Mike (Vanderjagt) and I, in the years up in Canada, that was our pregame ritual, messing around with drop kicks.
"I was pretty fired up that we did it in the game. It was fun, like football's supposed to be,"
Buono knows: Montreal native Wally Buono, second to Matthews in CFL coaching wins, knows all about Flutie's infatuation with drop kicks.
"He was always after me to let him kick one," Buono said about their days together with the Calgary Stampeders. "He'd bug me constantly: 'When can I do it ?'
"I was afraid it might embarrass the other team. But that's what Flutie's all about. He's an athlete. Late for practice, he'd be in the gym working on basketball shots.
"One time John Hufnagel (current N.Y. Giants offensive co-ordinator, who had the same role on Buono's Calgary staff) and I wanted to talk to Flutie. We went to his house and he was outside playing street hockey.
"I haven't met Belichick, but he strikes me as being so structured it was surprising he would do that."
Alouettes GM Jim Popp had an interesting view of the feat.
"Belichick has a great rapport with his players," Popp said. "He's very serious, but not afraid to try things. I'm sure he'd seen Flutie do it enough that it wasn't a gamble.
"Belichick is an innovator. I think he's had linebackers catch half a dozen TD passes this year."
Said Matthews: "It was fun to watch. Belichick knew he could do it. He knows, too, that Flutie is bigger than him in that (Boston) area. It was great."
Before his pro career Flutie was an All-American collegiate hero with Boston College.
Coaches falling: As coaching vacancies emerge in the NFL, Buono thinks Hufnagel deserves a chance. While with Calgary, Hufnagel had Flutie and Jeff Garcia under his wing before their NFL careers. Before his current job, in which he calls the plays for the Giants' Eli Manning, Hufnagel has worked with Tom Brady (Pats), Peyton Manning (Colts) and the Redskins' Mark Brunell.