23+ Perfectly Timed Mid-Action Photos of Football at Its Best

Few things on our planet generate more interest than sports. And among sports, nothing comes close to being as hard-hitting as football. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends and comrades, get ready for an unsparing, no-holds-barred journey through the coolest and best-timed shots of the football biz in action. Grab your helmet (to prevent blunt-force trauma) and get ready to get in the game.

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Image: KickVick

Popular Everything has pillaged the internet to dig up these perfectly timed, high impact shots. In this article, we get down to the sidelines and beyond to give you a little taste of the energy and dynamism that goes into this incredible sport. Gear up and enjoy the trip!

Use Your Head

It’s not uncommon for coaches and other instructors to tell their players to “use your head.” Well, here maybe the players took their coach’s advice just a little too literally. In this photo, we see the Tennessee Titans’ Justin McCareins being sandwich tackled by two Carolina Panthers in a 2003 showdown in the 3rd quarter of the game.

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Image: The New Yorker Magazine

For McCareins, this probably wasn’t the most appetizing sandwich he’s ever come into contact with. But this is part of the sport. If you aren’t ready to be part of a sandwich like this one, don’t sign up for NFL football. Pretty much every match has some hard-hitting moments like this. Good thing people wear helmets.

My Oh My

“Oh my goodness, I can’t believe my eyes!” This amazing picture makes us wonder what kind of exclamation is going through Clay Matthews’s head. The Los Angeles Rams linebacker looks like he’s in utter disbelief about something. We’re not quite sure about what though.

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Image: Sportsnaut

Before playing for the L.A. Rams, Matthews was a linebacker for the Greenbay Packers. Rumor has it that in April after Matthew transferred, from the Packers, they gave Matthews’s old number, 52, to new arrival Rashan Grey. Maybe Matthews had some real sentimental attachment to the number and his above reaction is in response to finding out about the numerical switcharoo?

Hold My Beer

Hold my beer while I do a six-foot-high front flip over another guy while I’m holding a football with both hands. Is this the kind of thing that NFL players say to each other before they do the things that give us these epic mid-action shots? Possibly.

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In this crazy frame, we see the Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown leap over Indianapolis’s then defensive back Antoine Bethea for a bombastic touchdown in the 1st quarter of a 2012 game. Super cool, but it’s news to us that acrobatics is included in NFL players’ job descriptions.

Don’t Talk Back to Me!

Usually, when we’re talking about football, we’re talking about a match between two teams, where the players are adversaries. It’s not every day that the deck is shuffled and we end up with two different opponents in a football match. In this photo, this is exactly the case; what we have here folks, is coach vs ball.

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Image: Business Insider

Here, we see the 2014 Seattle Seahawks’ coach, Pete Carroll, yelling at one of his players during a game against the New Orleans Saints when a zooming football flew into the frame. It’s cool because it gives the impression that Carroll is yelling at a ball. The ball looks pretty indifferent though. Anyway, a photo like this only comes around once in a lifetime.

Victory Dance

Throwing, running, catching, tackling, pushing, evading – these are all tools in the NFL pro’s kit. But apparently that tool kit also includes breakdancing. Of course, from the biggest burliest linebacker to the quickest snappiest wide receiver, these NFL dudes need to be agile, and agile they certainly are.

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Image: Zimbio

Each professional sport has its victory dance. In soccer, for example, players can be seen sliding on their shins on the grass as if it’s ice. In football, breakdancing, and other forms of cool body movements are common. Like the Cleveland Browns’ tight end David Njoku, who can be seen celebrating his touchdown in the second quarter in a 2017 game against the Baltimore Ravens. Cool mid-air spits dude!

That’s Not Gatorade

Ever try quenching your thirst with popcorn? How is it? No, it doesn’t work? If you’re wondering how popcorn works as a substitute for liquid, just ask 2007 Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, Terrell Owens. He’s given it a try as you see here, so he’ll be able to tell how it works.

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Image: Inside the Star

A tradition in professional football and basketball (and possibly other team sports) is to simply take the jug of Gatorade sitting on the sideline and toss in your own face. Alternatively, players might soak the coach or the manager with the stuff in celebration. A little research shows that jokes aside, Terrell in this shot was aware that this wasn’t a drink, and that he doused himself in popcorn as a celebration for just having scored a touchdown.

Oh Sorry, This Is NFL, Not UFC?

Straight up, this photo makes us wonder whether we’re looking at a scene from the National Football League or the Ultimate Fighting Championship. For obvious reasons, this epic photo lends itself to some pretty crazy questions and theories. It looks like the ref is giving the player a good sock in the noggin.

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Image: TieBreaker

What’s actually happening here? The referee in the shot, Garth DeFelice stuck out his arm while trying to protect himself while he approached Los Angeles Rams player Kenneth Darby mid-down. He’s quoted saying “If I punched him, I would have been fired.” Ok, good thing NFL didn’t become UFC.

Stepping Stones

Of course, in football, and in most other competitive team sports, your adversaries are the main hurdle standing between you and sweet sweet victory. In football, what can you do to get around them and penetrate the endzone? You can push them out of the way. Or you can quickly evade them. Another option is illustrated to us here by the Pittsburg Steelers’ Antonio Brown.

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Image: The Independent

In the Steelers’ 2014 season-opening game against the Cleveland Browns, Antonio Brown tried to literally step over his opponent Spencer Lanning. Apparently, his wings weren’t functional that day and he didn’t get enough air. His foot came down hard on Lanning, and he landed himself in a little NFL trouble. Nevertheless, Pittsburg smashed Cleveland that day, producing a big win, and this high-impact shot. Ouch, though.

Puzzling Expressions

It’s hard to tell what mix of emotions and events is responsible for eliciting this priceless expression on referee Pete Morelli’s face. Seriously though, what the heck is going through his head here? Is he being aggressively sarcastic? Maybe he’s really surprised about something?

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Image: NBC Sports

It’s really hard to tell. If salads could be represented by a man and his facial expressions, this would be it! Apparently though, Mr. Morelli’s refereeing style is just as confusing as his facial expressions. Multiple sources indicate that he tends to make some really weird and incomprehensible calls. Hmm, maybe there’s a connection here?

Look at This Grass

Yes, we know, you’re in the middle of an NFL football game. The crowds are roaring. Reputations are on the line. Still, this moment is as good as any to take off your helmet and have a good look at this beautifully trimmed grass, and the white chalk spray that’s on it. Come on, let’s get down and have a look.

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Image: Inside the Star

In this great mid-action shot, we see the 2010 Tennessee Titans’ wide receiver Kenny Britt (left) being tackled by the Dallas Cowboys’ linebacker Bardie James (right) during the first half of a game. He tackles him so well that he loses his helmet. Actually, this isn’t surprising; James was a tackling machine – going five straight seasons with over 100 tackles in each. This dude can really take you “down to Earth.”

This Is Not My Job

Usually, when you’re a cheerleader, your job description doesn’t include getting tackled by 6-foot-something tall, 200 pound professional NFL players. And if there is an extra clause in your contract (probably in vanishingly fine print), we hope that you at least try to renegotiate. Frankly, you probably deserve a better salary if you’re exposed to this occupational hazard.

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Image: Texas Monthly

What we see here, guys and gals is the moment the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleader Melissa Kellerman became famous. The Cowboys’ tight end Jason Witten fell out of bounds and took Kellerman down during a 2011 game. Thankfully, she was fine and bounced back up moments after this priceless frame was snapped.

Whoa, Where You Goin’ With That Ball?

Every sport has its rules – and for good reason. In boxing, you can’t elbow someone (that’s right, this ain’t UFC). In soccer, you can’t kick another player, for example. In football, the list of prohibited actions includes grabbing onto your adversaries’ helmets to stop them from doing what they’re trying to do. But as the programmers of Pokémon would say “Super effective!”

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Image: Zimbio

Yes, it is indeed effective. Grabbing your football opponent’s faceguard is a super-effective way of slowing them down. In this pic, from 2013, Drew Brees of the New Orlean Saints in pulled by the facemask by the Buffalo Bills’ Mario Williams. This isn’t legal; we wonder if Williams “faced” the consequences…

Flying Dolphins

Usually, when we talk about dolphins, we’re talking about seafaring mammals that gracefully glide through the water – not through the air. Such is not the case for the 2002 Miami Dolphins’ tight end Randy McMichael as he flies over some New Orleans Saints on his way to scoring a sick touchdown.

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Image: FunCage

We guess that this picture and our above commentary sort of distorts the meaning of “touchdown.” McMichael, obviously soaring at high velocity and altitude, will probably do more than just “touch” down in the endzone. In any case, McMichael, by now retired, went down in NFL as a real heavyweight: he started in all 16 games, and he caught 39 passes. So what did we learn? That McMichael was a champ, and that dolphins can fly. Nice.

Serious Business

Yes, very true, football in the NFL is no laughing matter. Tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars are changing hands, stars are being born, careers are being sculpted, people are being entertained. But despite football players being in a really serious trade, it’s nice to see that some of them can still get a little silly here and there.

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Image: Sporting News

Let’s go through the history that gave rise to this hilarious photo. At Lambeau Field in Green Bay, players have a tradition of jumping into the endzone stands following a touchdown. The spectators are on the receiving end of this shtick, which they love. This is what we see above: the 2012 Green Bay Packers’ receiver Donald Driver enjoys a good Lambeau Leap after scoring big. The fans are having fun too.

Royal Rumble

Is this a boxing match? Nope. Ok then, is this a hockey brawl? Also nope. This is a football game. From glancing at this frame, it looks like there is a major fracas going down though. Legend has it that in this photo, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mason Rudolph and David DeCastro go head to head with the Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett during a 2019 game.

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Image: CNBC

The rumpus apparently broke out when Garrett ripped Rudolph’s helmet off. The ensuing melee lasted eight seconds and thankfully no one was hurt. Lessons learned here: if for some reason, the football careers of these players don’t work out, they have promising prospects in mixed martial arts!

Stars In the Making

Maybe getting a high-velocity football straight in the face when talent scouts are scrutinizing your every movement is not the most fun. Maybe we should ask Clemson University’s defensive lineman Tavaris Barnes. When talent scouts come to your school to check out your skills, it can be kind of stressful.

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Image: Falcons Home

If you pull the right moves, you could land yourself a mad contract, worth millions. This can be your ticket to making it big. The last thing you want to be thinking about is your facial expressions. But, funny photo notwithstanding, Tavaris is a tank, and it might (hopefully) be that he caught the ball in the end.

Don’t Mess With Me Bud

Pictures like this one make us wonder which sport we are actually watching. Yeah, of course, football is a high-energy, full-body contact sport. But we usually don’t see punches being thrown. So what the heck is happening here?

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Image: Cavalier Chronicles

In this picture, we see a showdown between two college football players. Contrary to initial appearances, this Florida Gators’ player is not flat-out punching his opponent in the face. What happened is that he stuck his arm out and the other guy flew into it. With high momentum gameplay, situations like this one are common.

Spring Is in the Air

When ol’ man winter finally retires for the year, spring starts making its glorious return. And with this come some fresh things. Birds start singing, plants start budding, and grass starts flying. That’s exactly what’s happening in this crazy mid-action shot.

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Image: CBS News

Here we see the Tennesee Titans’ Bernard Pollard smash a Pittsburgh Steelers receiver. Good thing these dudes have lots of gear on. Clearly, this was a super high impact takedown! What’s not clear, however, is how that grass and dirt made it all the way up there. Maybe Pollard first tried to throw some dirt and grass at the Steelers’ receiver to stop him? And maybe when that didn’t work, he decided to pursue more “convincing” methods?


In this hilarious picture, we see what it looks like when a Green Bay Packers player decides to goof around with a Chicago Bears receiver. At least that’s how we’ve chosen to spin this…Thousands of spectators watching, TV cameras rolling, clocks ticking. What better time to put the game on hold, and engage in some good old leapfrog?

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Image: TieBreaker

In a perfect example of “wrong place, wrong time” (or right, depending on who you ask) here is one of the most awkward snaps we’ve ever seen in football history. That or, like we said, they are probably just taking a break from football to put on a good old fashioned game of leapfrog right???

Leap of Faith (Or Skill?)

Wow, impressive. Here, we get to see the University of Southern California’s 2005 running back Reggie Bush leap over the University of California Los Angeles’s defender Marcus Cassel. Besides being in crazy good shape and being incredibly dextrous, in order to attempt to leap clean over a guy, you got to have some faith in your skills.

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Image: Sports Illustrated

If we were to press “play” on this photo and see the subsequent frames, we would see Bush succeed in his animalistic leap and go on to score a sick touchdown. Bush’s outstanding 2005 season initially earned him the Heisman Trophy. But the accolade was later taken back due to some controversy. Oh, well, at least we know this dude can jump! No one is taking that away from him.

A Little Too Early

We can all jump the gun sometimes. Especially when we are under a lot of pressure. That’s exactly what happened here. Under the ever-watchful eyes of talent scouts who in 2015 came to the University of Connecticut to see what was brewing, this guy acted too soon.

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Image: Falcons Home

Wide receiver Geremy Davis closed his hands and went for it just a little too early this time. His hands came together just before the football arrived at its intended destination. We don’t exactly know what happened next, but we sure hope that either the miss was missed, or that Davis was able to soon redeem himself.

Putting the “Foot” in Football

Baltimore Ravens’ Matt Elam and Los Angeles Chargers’ Eddie Royal really make us question what sport we’re watching. Yes, we know now that this is “foot”-ball, but we thought that maybe we were watching kickboxing. This perfectly-timed high-action shot really makes us wonder.

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Image: Sports Illustrated

Elam was thankfully ok after getting his helmet removed by an upside-down kick from Royal. But this was a close call. We can’t see all of Elam’s facial expressions because the helmet is covering half of his face. But according to his scrunched up veneer, we’re sure he’s in “brace yourself for impact” mode.

Horsin’ Around

Jumping the gun when it comes to catching the football can be a problem. But on the other side of the coin is the opposite: Being a little late with the catch also sucks. Footballs can fly across the field at you at 60 mph, so timing your catches correctly is no small feat. But unfortunately for the 2014 Denver Broncos’ center Manny Ramirez, this wasn’t the best time to miss.

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Image: Newsday

Above, we see football legend Peyton Manning (who is actually a really funny guy: check out the Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe!) missing the ball on the first play. Ramirez threw the ball right over Manning’s head during Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos went on to lose the match to the Seatle Seahawks by 43 – 8.

Never Give Up

High precision weaponry does a good job of getting its projectiles to its intended targets. Such is the case with NFL quarterbacks. The football flies out of the hands at breakneck speeds, zooms across the field, and hopefully (for the quarterback’s team) lands in the arms of the receiver. But sometimes, this process is interrupted. Behold the fine art of interception.

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In this famous photo, we get the privilege of seeing football magic in the making. 2008 San Diego Chargers’ Anthony Cromartie leaps in front of the Indianapolis Colts’ WR Reggie Wayne as he stops Manning’s pass dead in its tracks. Keep in mind here that stopping a rocket with your hands in not easy. But Cromartie pulled it off – this is part of what makes him an absolute pro.