The 10 Best Wild-Card Games in NFL History

Alan RubensteinAnalyst IIIJanuary 6, 2012

The 10 Best Wild-Card Games in NFL History

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    Wild-Card weekend gives eight teams a new beginning to the season.

    It features teams like the Saints, who had a great season yet have to play one extra game, to teams like the 2007 Giants and 2010 Packers, who squeaked into the postseason but had a renewed hope to be able to make runs to become Super Bowl Champions. 

    Many consider the first two weekends of the NFL playoffs the best weekends of the year for football. Here are the 10 most memorable Wild-Card games in NFL history.

10. Pittsburgh 38, Cleveland 33 (2002)

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    The Steelers rallied from 24-7 and 33-21 deficits against their arch-rivals to prevent the Browns from winning their first road playoff game since 1969.

    A Chris Fuamatu-Ma’alfala 3-yard run with 51 seconds remaining gave Pittsburgh the dramatic victory. Tommy Maddox threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns, and Hines Ward caught 11 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.

    Plaxico Burress also went over 100 yards for Pittsburgh.

    The Browns' Kelly Holcomb threw for 429 yards and three touchdowns in defeat.

9. Seattle 21, Dallas 20 (2006)

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    Seattle took the lead on a Matt Hasselbeck touchdown pass with 4:24 remaining.

    Tony Romo then drove the Cowboys 70 yards to set up for the potential game-winning field goal.

    He fumbled the snap on what would have been a 19-yard field goal attempt with 1:19 remaining that would ultimately give Seattle the victory.

8. Green Bay 33, Seattle 27 in OT (2003)

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    A wild fourth quarter continued into overtime. After Seattle won the coin toss, Seahawks Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck proclaimed “We want the ball, and we're going to score."

    Packers cornerback Al Harris returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown on the Seahawks' second overtime possession to send the Packers to Philadelphia.

    The Packers had taken the lead with 3:54 remaining on an Ahman Green touchdown run. Seattle answered with a Shaun Alexander run with 51 seconds remaining.

    Ryan Longwell missed a 47-yard field goal with five seconds remaining in regulation that would have won the game for the Packers.

7. Green Bay 28, Detroit 24 (1993)

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    Brett Favre’s first postseason game was a memorable one. In a game that featured six lead changes, a 40-yard touchdown pass from Favre to Sterling Sharpe with 55 seconds remaining won the game.

    Favre rolled to his left, threw across his body to a streaking Sharpe down the right sideline to put Green Bay ahead 28-24. Sharpe finished with five catches for 101 yards and three touchdowns. Favre threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns.

    The game featured many big plays and big performances. Brett Perriman caught 10 passes for 151 yards for the Lions, and Barry Sanders rushed for his playoff career-high 167 yards.

    Mel Jenkins returned an interception 15 yards for a touchdown for the Lions, and George Teague set an NFL record with a 101-yard interception
    return touchdown for the Packers.

    That play put the Packers ahead in the third quarter with Detroit threatening to extend to the lead to six or ten.

6. San Diego 23, Indianapolis 17 in OT (2008)

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    Many criticized the Chargers for being a playoff team at 8-8 and hosting the 12-4 Colts. The national perception was that the Colts should win.

    After having to win their last four games of the season and get in due in part to the Denver Broncos' collapse, the Chargers were battle-tested entering the postseason.

    Indianapolis ended the regular season on a nine-game win streak. That included a 23-20 victory over the Chargers.

    Ultimately, it was too much Darren Sproles that did in the Colts. Sproles finished the game with 328 all-purpose yards, including the game-winning 22-yard touchdown run in overtime.

    Nate Kaeding had kicked a 26-yard field goal with 31 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.

5. Arizona 51, Green Bay 45 in OT (2009)

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    In a game that had over 1,000 yards in offense and featured a Packer comeback from 21 points down in the second half, a defensive touchdown won the game in overtime.

    The Cardinals' Karlos Dansby returned an Aaron Rodgers fumble 17 yards for a touchdown in overtime. Dansby was involved in three turnovers forced by the Arizona defense.

    The game set many records. The 96 points were the most combined points in a playoff game. The 1,024 yards were the most ever.

    The Packers set franchise records for points scored and allowed. Rodgers and Kurt Warner combined for nine touchdown passes.

4. San Francisco 39, New York Giants 38 (2002)

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    In possibly the most dramatic day in NFL history, the 49ers staged their own dramatic comeback a few hours after Pittsburgh defeated Cleveland. The ending might have been the most bizarre in NFL history.

    The 49ers fell behind 38-14 before they launched a stunning comeback to capture an improbable 39-38 victory.

    The game ended when the Giants botched the snap on a potential game-winning field goal. Holder Matt Allen threw the ball downfield on a play on which many Giants fans will claim pass interference to this day. The Giants were called for illegal man downfield on the play.

    Many stars
    emerged on both sides of the ball. Jeff Garcia threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 60 yards and another touchdown.

    Terrell Owens caught nine passes for 177 yards, two touchdowns and two two-point conversions for San Francisco.

    Kerry Collins threw for 342 yards and four touchdowns, Tiki Barber rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown and also had 60 receiving yards.

    Amani Toomer had eight catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns in defeat for New York.

3. San Francisco 30, Green Bay 27 (1998)

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    After the Packers took 27-23 lead with 1:56 remaining, the 49ers were faced with the task of driving the length of the field to win the game. With eight seconds remaining and no timeouts, Steve Young was forced to throw the ball into the end zone.

    Terrell Owens caught a 25-yard touchdown pass immortalized by 49ers announcer Joe Starkey (the same announcer on the famous Cal-Stanford play in 1982). The 49ers ended a three-game postseason losing streak to Green Bay.

2. Tennessee 22, Buffalo 16 (1999)

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    “The Music City Miracle" or the play the Titans termed “Home Run Throwback” gave the Titans one of the most improbable finishes in NFL history.

    After a Steve Christie gave Buffalo a 16-15 lead with 16 seconds remaining. That’s when the Titans called for the “Home Run Throwback” The play originally called for Tight End Frank Wycheck to catch the ball and then turn and throw it to Derrick Mason. Mason was hurt earlier in the game and not available.

    Fullback Lorenzo Neal was the player who actually caught the ball. Neal ran and handed the ball to Wycheck, who then threw the ball across the field to Mason’s fill-in, Kevin Dyson.

    The play called for the player to get out of bounds as soon as he would be challenged. When Dyson raced downfield, he saw open space and was able to ramble 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with three seconds left.

    Referee Phil Luckett then went under the hood to review the play that was called from the replay booth. It was ruled that it was inconclusive as to whether or not Wychek’s pass to Dyson was forward or not. The play was ruled a lateral and upheld.

    The Titans went on to a 22-16 win and would eventually advance to the Super Bowl before losing their own heartbreaker. Ironically, Dyson was stopped at the 1-yard line as time expired with the Titans down seven.

1. Buffalo 41, Houston 38 in OT (1992)

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    The Oilers raced to a 28-3 halftime lead behind 220 yards and four touchdowns from Hall of Fame Quarterback Warren Moon. Moon completed 19 of 22 passes as the Oilers held onto the ball for 21:12.

    When Oilers defensive back Bubba McDowell returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown 1:41 into the second half, Houston seemed to take an insurmountable 35-3 lead.

    Buffalo then exploded for 28 unanswered points in the third quarter and tacked on another touchdown in the fourth for 35 unanswered points and a 38-35 lead.

    Al Del Greco kicked a field goal later in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime. The Bills forced a turnover and Steve Christie’s field goal gave Buffalo an improbable 41-38 overtime win.

    Frank Reich finished with 289 yards and four touchdowns in relief of an injured Jim Kelly. Kenneth Davis also spelled Thurman Thomas, who was forced from the game with an injury. Andre Reed finished with eight catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns.

    Remarkably, Reich was also part of the biggest comeback (at the time) in college football history. He led Maryland back from a 31-0 deficit against Miami (Fla.).

    The Bills went onto wins over Pittsburgh and Miami before losing their third of four straight Super Bowls.