Ex-Patriots Safety Shares Inside Story Behind Infamous Butt Fumble

Everyone knows Mark Sanchez’s role in the Butt Fumble, which took place exactly five years ago this Wednesday. But can you remember which New England Patriots player recovered that fumble and took it back for a touchdown?

That would be safety Steve Gregory, who played two seasons for the Patriots before retiring in 2012. As part of a comprehensive Butt Fumble oral history published Sunday on ESPN.com, Gregory shared his memories of one of the most embarrassing plays in NFL history:

“We were in a three-deep zone coverage. And based off the formation, we’re going to drop one of the safeties into run support. It happened to be me. You can read the quarterback. Mark turned around with this look of panic, like, ‘What do I do now?’ I’m coming down for run support, keeping the ball on my inside shoulder. He probably sees me and he tries to cut it back up inside. …

“It’s ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’ (Jets guard Brandon) Moore’s getting driven back, Sanchez has his eyes closed running forward and there’s a collision. Wilfork was a man-child out there, especially in run support, and he just drove that lineman back, and Sanchez somehow found Brandon Moore’s butt as a landing spot. Mark face-planted into the back of Brandon Moore’s butt. …

“I’m dropping down, and I couldn’t really tell where Sanchez was because you got these big guys in front of you and you’re trying to figure out where the ball is. I come around the left side, and all of a sudden I’m standing there and the ball is just bouncing in front of me. I scoop it up and start running. It’s almost like it happens in slow motion. You don’t hear the crowd. You’re just cruising into the end zone, going, ‘What the heck just happened? Did I really just score?’ I’m a guy who grew up in New York City. All my friends and people I grew up with are mostly Jets fans. To have that type of play and that type of game in my backyard, I’ll remember that for the rest of my life. …

“It was shown on TV every day for that entire year. If you go anywhere, it could be a restaurant, a movie theater, you could be at a charity event on a golf course, it doesn’t matter where you are. It’s like a Jeopardy question. As soon as the trivia comes up, ‘Hey, remember the Butt Fumble?’ But guess what, who was the guy that scored on that play? You’re looking at him right here. …

“When Thanksgiving rolls around, here comes 50 or 60 text messages from all my buddies: ‘Remember the Butt Fumble?’ Thanksgiving is Butt Fumble. Every Thanksgiving, we re-enact the Butt Fumble. Usually my wife plays Mark Sanchez. I play me. We line my father up as an offensive lineman, and we take my mother and put her on the defensive line. She knocks my dad back, my wife runs into him, she fumbles, I pick it up and score. Then we go eat turkey. … Come on, I’m joking. We don’t do that.”

The article also included some great quotes from then-New York Jets coach Rex Ryan. Gregory’s touchdown was one of three the Patriots scored in a 52-second span en route to a 49-19 victory on Thanksgiving night.

“I’ve had my butt kicked several times,” Ryan said, “but that was the worst. I coached for 30 years; that was the worst quarter in the history of my coaching career, and there’s been some bad ones. But not even close to that one. It was brutal.”

Thumbnail photo via William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

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