Scoring touchdowns during each offensive possession is the unspoken goal for every NFL team. For decades, celebrations have been the norm in accompanying touchdowns. It goes back all the way to the 1960s with Homer Jones and his touchdown spike.
Touchdown celebrations have become a choreographed production for some teams. Think back to the 1980s when Washington’s “Fun Bunch” made enemies after its group of players participated in a jumping high-five after a score. And think recently when the Seattle Seahawks did their best New Edition and *NSYNC impersonations, or when the Minnesota Vikings decided to play a game of Duck, Duck, Goose in the end zone.
The NFL’s most memorable TD celebrations: Deion Sanders’ high-step, the Ickey Shuffle, more
The 2023 NFL season has had its share of memorable touchdown celebrations. Each team has had its moment. Some moments, however, have been bigger than others. The Athletic’s team of Jason Jones, Matt Barrows and Vic Tafur got together to reminisce over the season and discuss the best touchdown celebration for each team.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin would be proud of Stefon Diggs’ beer celebration during Week 4 as the Bills faced Miami.
After scoring against the Dolphins, Diggs ran to the fans, grabbed a couple of beers and smashed them together. It was an act similar to what the legendary pro wrestler did in the WWE.
The Dolphins could be the subject of a celebration piece by themselves. Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Raheem Mostert and the crew have provided several memorable celebrations.
During a Week 6 game against Carolina, Hill’s 41-yard touchdown reception, coupled with the use of a photographer’s phone, resulted in a backflip, as well as a unique selfie. It also ended up with the photographer being disciplined.
New England Patriots
The Patriots haven’t had a lot of opportunities to celebrate on offense this season. After one of their biggest touchdowns of 2023 — Mike Gesicki’s game-winning touchdown catch late to beat Buffalo in Week 7 — multiple players did the Griddy.
While some executed the dance, others still are unsure exactly what Mac Jones was doing. On top of that, former Patriot Rob Gronkowski, a fun-loving player in his day, criticized the team for being so happy about a regular-season win.
New York Jets
The end zone and the Jets haven’t been acquainted most of the season, but their most dramatic touchdown celebration might have come Week 1 against Buffalo.
Xavier Gipson used a 65-yard punt return to beat the Bills in overtime. He was mobbed by teammates and overcome with emotion for the win on the same night Aaron Rodgers left the game with an Achilles injury.
This team does a lot of ball spinning and chest bumping. Two years ago, Jerry Jeudy was even fined for his bow-and-arrow celebration against Washington and thought about doing it again but had second thoughts in a game against Dallas.
Now, he just rides his horse around every time he scores.
Kansas City Chiefs
There hasn’t been a potato sack race like the one in 2017 or anything that cool this season. And no, we aren’t picking Taylor Swift’s touchdown dance with Patrick Mahomes’ wife, Brittany, from the Week 7 win over the Chargers.
Jerick McKinnon got a lift in after a touchdown during Week 14 against Buffalo. The bench-press celebration capped what was McKinnon’s first rushing touchdown of the season.
Las Vegas Raiders
It took the Christmas spirit — or, maybe, the Grinch spirit — to overtake the Raiders after a season of boring touchdown celebrations. Jack Jones picked off Patrick Mahomes on Christmas morning, and after staring down the Kansas City quarterback while running in for a touchdown, he offered the ball to a young Chiefs fan in the front row of the stands. When the excited fan reached for the ball, Jones pulled it back and merrily scampered off.
Los Angeles Chargers
There haven’t been a lot of reasons to choreograph for a Chargers team sitting at the bottom of the AFC West. Gerald Everett, however, did find a time to do his best Ray Lewis impersonation during Week 12 — against Baltimore, of all teams.
Austin Ekeler actually celebrated a first down with his team trailing Las Vegas by 42 points. But that doesn’t count.
The Ravens do a lot because they’re actually throwing talented receivers the ball this season.
There was Odell Beckham Jr.’s Michael Jackson tribute, but top honors should go to Zay Flowers — who did two in one game. We didn’t hate the bouquet throw, but we definitely liked the penalty kick more.
Joe Mixon proved that there are some Dillon Brooks fans out there.
Against Jacksonville in Week 13, Mixon scored on a 6-yard run to tie the game 7-7. That score — and Mixon’s dance, made popular by Brooks, the Houston Rockets small forward brought with him from his time with the Memphis Grizzlies — was important, as the Bengals needed overtime to beat the Jaguars 34-31.
It’s always fun when the big fellas up front get to celebrate. It’s even better when a player comes home to celebrate.
Browns offensive tackle Dawand Jones sustained a season-ending knee injury early in December, but during an October road matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, Jones had the chance to deliver his own celebration after a Kareem Hunt touchdown run. Jones, who attended Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, was handed the ball, and the 6-foot-8, 374-pound lineman gave the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd a show with a spike and a dance.
It’s been a tough year for the Steelers wide receivers. And yet, they’re the ones on the team going out of their way to celebrate touchdowns.
We have to give George Pickens some love for his Week 2 performance against the Browns. Pickens took a pass from Kenny Pickett and raced 71 yards for a touchdown. He then celebrated with the Acrisure Stadium crowd by taking a victory lap.
C.J. Stroud was more than three months from being born when the film “Baby Boy” was released. Clearly someone had him watch the movie as he acted out one of the best scenes when Jody (played by Tyrese Gibson) and his friend Sweet Pea (Omar Gooding) tried to find out who stole Jody’s bicycle.
Stroud lined up his teammates and pretended to punch George Fant, who fell out as part of the revenge scene reenactment.
Fans were denied seeing what Colts tight end Kylen Granson would have done to celebrate his first career touchdown during Week 2, as his 4-yard, second-quarter catch needed an official review before being ruled a score.
But because Gardner Minshew dancing or Zack Moss dunking aren’t exactly unique reactions, Granson gets the nod for thinking outside of the box. He took to Instagram to celebrate his first score, treating the football like a newborn child for a photo shoot.
Christian Kirk gets props for pretending to be an Amazon delivery man in Week 7. But during Week 4, the defense got to have fun with the celebration.
After cornerback Darious Williams’ pick six against Atlanta, the defense reenacted the movie “Toy Story.” The defenders were the toys who were active but fell to the ground once Andy (Williams) walked into the room. Wide receiver Zay Jones said the celebration was his idea.
With all respect to the Titans’ touchdowns this year, the team’s best celebration of the season wasn’t even after a score.
It happened in a Week 4 game after the Titans defense forced a turnover against Cincinnati. The defense had a sack fumble and a recovery, then lined up for its version of a drumline — similar to a scene from the film “Drumline,” starring Nick Cannon.
Let’s be clear: Salvation Army kettles are for coins and bills, not food items. But we’re fans of the Cowboys’ move to stash a few turkey legs in one of the oversized end zone kettles late in a Thanksgiving romp over the Washington Commanders.
After Dak Prescott hooked up with KaVontae Turpin on a 34-yard touchdown, Turpin hopped into one of the kettles to retrieve the prizes. Then he, Prescott and Jake Ferguson got a head start on their Thanksgiving meals.
New York Giants
No one is quite sure what you call it — maybe not even Tommy DeVito — but the Giants quarterback has MetLife Stadium, Northern New Jersey and the entire tri-state area doing his touchdown celebration.
DeVito started his old-school hand gesture — pinching his fingers together and shaking the wrist — in Week 11, and it’s caught fire since. “I kind of thought it was just the old Italians,” DeVito said. “When they talk, they start doing (the hand gesture). It’s just a little credit to them.” Could there be a more perfect gesture for the DeVito-led G-men?
A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are taking their talents to South Philly. That was the message after Brown scored a 4-yard touchdown against the Cowboys in Week 9. The two receivers took on the roles of former Miami Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and LeBron James with Smith tossing the ball in the air for the bigger Brown to slam.
Note: No crossbars were harmed in the making of this celebration. Brown stopped short of doing a LeBron-like dunk over the bar, an act that was banned in 2014.
After running back Brian Robinson scored a 15-yard touchdown in Week 4 against Philadelphia, he hopped to his feet and flapped his arms in wobbly fashion, a dig at Philly’s “Fly Eagles Fly” chant.
Or maybe it was a comment on the Eagles’ rickety defense, which had eight missed tackles that day — including one on Robinson’s touchdown run.
You’d expect a guy nicknamed “Hollywood” to be a bit of a showman. Marquise Brown didn’t disappoint after catching a 25-yard touchdown pass from Josh Dobbs against the Bengals in Week 5.
After the score, he leaped into the first row of seats and celebrated with fans.
Los Angeles Rams
It might not win an Oscar for Most Original Score, but there seemed to be something behind Puka Nacua’s and Cooper Kupp’s leaping chest bump following Nacua’s 70-yard touchdown against the Browns in Week 13.
It was very similar to the celebrations Kupp used to have with a former teammate — current Houston Texan receiver Robert Woods. Nacua happens to wear the same No. 17 Woods once had in L.A., and the celebration was tantamount to a proclamation that there’s a new receiver duo in town.
San Francisco 49ers
Christian McCaffrey was in the midst of what would become a 17-game scoring streak when he took a shovel pass into the end zone from 13 yards out in Week 6 against Cleveland, then spun the ball in the corner of the end zone. The 49ers tailback was on such a hot streak that George Kittle bent over at the waist and pretended to warm his hands over the spinning football.
Kittle also retrieved the ball, something he usually does after anyone scores, though he said at some point he stopped doing it for McCaffrey. “He scores way too much,” Kittle said.
Maybe there are better trash talkers in the NFL, but no one is a better trash signer than DK Metcalf.
The Seahawks wideout, who is learning American Sign Language, dissed longtime rival Ahkello Witherspoon by signing “44 is my son” following a Week 11 touchdown against the Rams. After a 31-yard score against the 49ers, he signed, “I’m a dog: w-o-o-f,” which are lyrics from a 2016 Migos song.
‘He has the swag with it’: DK Metcalf’s sign language a ‘hot topic’ in Deaf community
The Bears have had their share of fun this season. Jaylon Johnson brought back Randy Moss’ controversial fake mooning against Moss’ old team, Minnesota, in Week 12. D’Onta Foreman and Khari Blasingame re-enacted a viral video from a slapboxing match during a win over the Raiders.
But their best celebration came from tight end Cole Kmet during Week 4 against Denver. He scored a touchdown, and then had a fan in the end zone pretend to throw him a pitch, which Kmet hit for a home run that another fan tried to catch at the wall behind the end zone.
Amon-Ra St. Brown nearly brought a “Key & Peele” skit to life Week 1 with his hip thrust celebration. Detroit’s safe-for-work celebration of the season, however, came against the Raiders during Week 8 on Monday night.
Running back Jahmyr Gibbs scored and took his leap into the stands to a new level. He actually got all the way into the stands and celebrated. He also had to be very careful climbing out the stands, as the wall was not a short climb like Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.
Green Bay Packers
The celebration that followed Malik Heath’s first-ever touchdown stands out because it was so spontaneous, so pure.
After Heath made a late-game catch at the pylon against the Giants in Week 14, he crashed into down judge Tom Stephan, taking him to the ground. That led to a couple of uncertain seconds while Stephan got to his feet. The Packers trailed 21-16 at the time, and everyone was waiting on whether it was ruled a touchdown — including Heath, an undrafted rookie whose helmet was knocked off after crashing into the official.
When Stephan finally signaled touchdown, Heath and the Packers went bonkers, and Heath ran the length of the end zone toward the Green Bay sideline.
The Vikings might take first prize for their keg stand celebration that followed Mekhi Blackmon’s fumble recovery late in a Week 14 game against the Raiders. His teammates hoisted Blackmon upside down into the air, and defensive lineman Harrison Phillips even pantomimed pumping the keg.
No, it technically wasn’t a touchdown celebration, but there were no touchdowns in that game. The score was 0-0 at the time, and Minnesota ultimately won 3-0, the lowest-scoring game since 2007.
Jonnu Smith ran a long way, 60 yards, for a touchdown in Week 9 against Minnesota. When the tight end finally got to the end zone and tried to stop, he slipped on his back.
No worries, Smith played it off with his first-ever snow angel in Atlanta.
The Panthers don’t score much, but when their No. 1 draft pick got his first touchdown, they … threw the ball in the stands?
In Carolina’s season opener against Atlanta, quarterback Bryce Young threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hayden Hurst, who hurled the ball toward the Mercedes-Benz Stadium crowd after scoring. Important note: The Panthers later got the ball back for Young.
New Orleans Saints
Is the best Saints celebration of the year a Jimmy Graham pump fake?
We mentioned earlier the banning of the crossbar dunking celebration in 2014. Graham was the first person to get penalized for that back in August 2014, as the league fined him $30,000 for dunking twice in a preseason game against the Titans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers don’t get points for originality, but if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
The Buccaneers broke out their annual row-the-boat celebration last month against the Titans. Ironically, the first time they did it was in 2018 — against their current quarterback, Baker Mayfield, when they stopped him at the 1-yard line to beat the Browns.
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(Top photos of DK Metcalf, Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill: Michael Owens, Peter Nicholls and Megan Briggs / Getty Images)