NFL Playoffs: Each Team's Greatest Postseason Victory Ever, Part I
Week 17 of the 2011 season is in the books and the air has cleared in the NFL.
Now that the chaff of the league has been blown into their offseason and is looking forward to the 2012 NFL draft, it's time for the field of 12 to duke it out for postseason glory.
Before we turn our attention to this year's playoffs, let's give a sop to each team in the league by recounting their greatest postseason victory of all time.
We'll start with the worst teams in the league. The first 16 teams will be featured in this slideshow as Part I. Part II (with the best postseason victories for the best 16 teams in the NFL this year) will come later this week as you whet your appetite for the playoffs.
The Indianapolis Colts' Breakthrough Against the Patriots in 2007 Is Their Best
The catharsis for the Indianapolis Colts in overcoming their longtime nemesis in the AFC Championship Game after the 2006 season was huge.
Year after year the Colts had succumbed to the Patriots in the postseason after strong regular seasons. Their improbable come-from-behind victory in January 2007 silenced the talk that Peyton Manning couldn't win big games and led to a Super Bowl win over the Chicago Bears two weeks later.
The St. Louis Rams' Win in Super Bowl XXXIV Ranks as Their Greatest
Despite the New Orleans Saints' recent shattering of the Rams' record for most yards gained in a season, The Greatest Show on Turf was a special team in 1999.
They put up points in bundles and had an amazing array of offensive weapons. In Super Bowl XXXIV, the Rams faced off with the Tennessee Titans. After Kurt Warner hooked up with Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown pass to put the Rams up 23-16, the Titans took over with just under two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Titans' ensuing drive got them deep into Rams territory, but the play now known simply as "The Tackle" ended Kevin Dyson's lunge toward the end zone on the last play of the game at the 1-yard line, securing the win for the Rams.
The Vikings' First Playoff Win Was Their Finest
The Vikings have never won a Super Bowl. They've had plenty of good teams over the years though, and a few nice playoff wins. Their best, however, was their first.
The year was 1969. The Central Division-winning Vikings were facing the LA Rams in their second postseason appearance. Despite having a stout defense, the Vikings found themselves in a hole to the Rams early in the game.
They had a tough quarterback in Joe Kapp who didn't pass very well but had the chutzpah to get it done late in games. He was good at running the football and often barrelled through smaller defenders when they tried to tackle him (he sounds a bit like Tim Tebow, eh?).
The Vikings were able to fight back to win the game 23-21 in the waning moments. They then went on to beat the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship Game, but then lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay's Lone Super Bowl Victory Is Their Shining Playoff Moment
The Buccaneers entered the NFL as an expansion team in 1976. Through much of their history they suffered through wearing awful Creamsicle uniforms and losing year in and year out.
After Tony Dungy took over as head coach in 1996, the Bucs gradually clawed their way to respectability and a few playoff appearances. Despite the progress under Dungy, it took a new coach in Jon Gruden in 2002 to break through in the postseason behind a punishing defense and an adequate offense.
The Buccaneers capped off an excellent season with a dominating 48-21 win in Super Bowl XXXVII over the offensively potent Oakland Raiders. The victory was sweeter for the Bucs since Jon Gruden had been the Raiders coach just the year before.
The Last Championship for the City of Cleveland Has to Be the Browns' Best
Cleveland has had unremitting sports agony since winning their last championship in 1964. LeBron James' betrayal last year is only the latest example of the heartbreak in the town whose river caught on fire. (That would be in the infamous pollution-choked Cuyahoga River that ignited in 1969.)
The Browns' 27-0 thrashing of the Johnny Unitas-led Baltimore Colts in 1964 was the last (and greatest) title secured for the city of Cleveland. Although Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown didn't have a fantastic game, quarterback Frank Ryan made up for it by hitting wide receiver Gary Collins for three touchdowns.
Cleveland is still waiting for another title, but at least it has 1964.
The Jaguars' Divisional Round Win over the Broncos Was Their Apex
In light of their current struggles, it's hard to imagine the Jacksonville Jaguars ever being a feared team in the NFL. They made the playoffs three out of their first four years in the league and had a highly effective offense.
Their best victory in the postseason in those early years came against the Denver Broncos after the 1996 season. The Broncos came into the playoffs with a 13-3 record and had been the best team in the AFC all season. After beating the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round, the Jags went on the road to face the Broncos.
They edged a tough Broncos team 30-27 in a hard-fought game and although they couldn't get past the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, they showed that they had the gumption to play the big boys toe to toe.
Believe it or not, but 40,000 fans showed up to greet the Jaguars when they returned from Denver after their triumph.
The Redskins' 1983 Super Bowl Win Ranks as Their Best
In Joe Gibbs' first run as head coach for the Washington Redskins, the team quickly became a powerhouse in the NFC. Their first Super Bowl win (post-merger) was their best postseason highlight.
The play that gave the 'Skins the victory is typically traced back to a bold call on 4th-and-inches that came with the Redskins down 13-17 to the Miami Dolphins. Gibbs called a running play for John Riggins, and he ended up breaking an early attempted tackle and galloping 43 yards for a touchdown that would put his team up for good.
The Redskins' glory years continued for most of the 1980s, and Washingtonians are still waiting for their fortunes to improve.
Frank Reich's Improbable Comeback Win Is the Bills' Best
When the Buffalo Bills found themselves behind 35-3 to the Houston Oilers early in the third quarter of their Wild Card Game, no one could have guessed that backup quarterback Frank Reich would engineer the biggest comeback in NFL history to win the game.
Starting QB Jim Kelly was injured in the last game of the season, and no one expected much out of the Bills in the playoffs. Instead, Reich led the team to a victory against the Oilers and then the Bills dispatched the Steelers and the Dolphins en route to their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
Despite the sting of the string of four Super Bowl losses, the bright moments in the playoffs prior to those appearances (in particular, Reich's win) gave Bills fans some fantastic memories.
The Dolphins Capping off Their Undefeated 1972 Season Is Their Best Win
The arrogant 1972 Miami Dolphin team was truly an impressive team.
Bob Griese, their starting quarterback, went down with an injury early in the season. With backup Earl Morrall managing the game and their two-headed rushing attack of Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris punishing defenses, the Dolphins were truly a steamroller of a team. Their "no-name" defense was also the top-ranked D in the league.
Their 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII finished off their push to perfection and immortalized the entire team.
The Chiefs' Win over Their Hated Rivals En Route to Super Bowl IV Is Tops
The Kansas City Chiefs lost to the division-rival Raiders twice during the regular season in 1969. Led by legendary head coach Hank Stram and tough quarterback Len Dawson, the Chiefs upset the Raiders in the AFL Championship Game.
The Chiefs were hugely successful in the early days of the AFL/NFL merger and their push toward their only Super Bowl win and their victory over the Raiders was the high-water mark of those years.
The Dominant 1985 Bears Super Bowl Win Is Their Most Excellent
The 1985 Chicago Bears toyed with the NFL. Despite a late-season loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Bears' wicked defense keyed by Richard Dent and Mike Singletary was absolutely stifling.
Running back Walter Payton was at the height of his powers and Jim McMahon functioned as an efficient quarterback.
After a 15-1 season, the Bears knifed through the NFC in the playoffs and then pummeled the overmatched New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, 46-10.
The Panthers' Double-Overtime Win over the Rams in 2003 Is Their Best
The Carolina Panthers earned the moniker "Cardiac Cats" in 2003 and their playoff win in the Divisional Round against the St. Louis Rams certainly lived up to that nickname.
The Panthers had an 11-point lead with over three minutes left in the game, but allowed the Rams to tie it up to force overtime. In the second overtime, Jake Delhomme hit Steve Smith for a 69-yard go-ahead touchdown.
After the Panthers beat the depleted Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game, they couldn't finish off their season with a Super Bowl win against the New England Patriots. But their ride to get there was incredibly rewarding.
The Cardinals' Win to Get to the Super Bowl in 2009 Tops All
The Arizona Cardinals don't have many shining moments. So when they sneaked into the playoffs with an 8-8 record as winners of the deplorable NFC West, expectations were not high.
The Cardinals stepped up in the playoffs, however. They pushed past the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card Game and then upset the Carolina Panthers before they took down the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.
The Cardinals were just one great pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes away from winning the Super Bowl. Their win against the Eagles to get them there ranks as their best postseason win, though.
The Epic in Miami Was the Chargers' Biggest Playoff Success
Perhaps one of the greatest games in the history of the sport, The Epic in Miami was the San Diego Chargers' best playoff win.
You can read more about it here, but the Chargers' 41-38 overtime victory over Miami in the AFC Divisional Game featured a ton of lead changes, a furious Dolphins comeback, brutally hot weather and an improbable series of missed kicks and flubs.
This win was the high-water mark for the "Air Coryell" Chargers offensive attack keyed by quarterback Dan Fouts. Both teams put up points in bundles, but the Chargers were able to eke out the win.
While the Chargers couldn't get past the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game, their hugely impressive victory against the Dolphins stands as a monumental feat.
The Seahawks' Win over the Panthers to Get to the Super Bowl Is Their Best
The Seahawks had very few good moments in their early years. They came alive under the guidance of Mike Holmgren in the 2000s, however.
Their best successes came in 2005, when the first-seeded Seahawks waltzed through the NFC to get to the Super Bowl. Their dynamic offense and hard-hitting defense set them up nicely in all of their games and showed their all-round balance in their NFC Championship Game victory over the Carolina Panthers.
The controversial calls that contributed to the Seahawks' loss in Super Bowl XL certainly dampened the excitement of Seattle faithful, but their success in getting to the big game was nothing short of remarkable.
The Eagles' Win over the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game Is Their Best
The Philadelphia Eagles have had their share of postseason stumbles. But their win over their rival Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game in 1981 ranks as their best postseason success.
The Eagles got a fantastic game out of running back Wilbert Montgomery, including a huge cutback touchdown in the first half. The game was played at Veterans Stadium in chilly conditions and the Eagles were able to stymie the Cowboys, 20-7.
The Eagles couldn't live up to expectations in Super Bowl XV against the Oakland Raiders, but they were absolutely punishing against the Cowboys to get there.