The 5 Best NFL Wild Card Round Games Since 2000
While the term "wild card" is used in a variety of sports contexts, the term is particularly fitting for the NFL playoffs. Since 2000, the Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs has produced some of the most stunning plays in all of professional sports.
In the following slides, you'll see two walk-off defensive touchdowns, two botched game-winning field goals and the most bizarre finish to a football game since the Stanford band ran onto the field many moons ago.
5. 2010: Arizona Cardinals 51, Green Bay Packers 45
Despite mounting a furious comeback in the second half, the Green Bay Packers would have to wait one more year for their Super Bowl thanks to a heartbreaking overtime loss.
The Arizona Cardinals seemed primed to coast to an easy win after building a 31-10 lead in the third quarter, but Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers would make things interesting. He threw four touchdowns after halftime to help the Packers knot the game at 45 at the end of regulation.
Yet, it was all for naught. On the Packers' first possession of the extra period, Cardinals defensive back Michael Adams blitzed Rodgers and caused a fumble, which linebacker Karlos Dansby recovered and returned for a game-ending touchdown.
To make matters more painful, replays showed that Adams had committed a facemask on Rodgers during the forced fumble, a detail missed by the officiating crew.
4. 2007: Seattle Seahawks 21, Dallas Cowboys 20
The first of a handful of monumental gaffs in big moments by Tony Romo came in the 2007 Wild Card Round. He had driven the Dallas Cowboys down the field and set them up, with just over a minute remaining, to take the lead on a chip-shot field goal.
However, Romo was still the placeholder on the field-goal team, since he had began the season as the backup and retained that role even after becoming the starter. On the field-goal attempt, Romo famously bobbled the snap and then, in a desperate scramble for the end zone, was tackled just short of the goal line.
Seattle took over possession and went on to complete the one-point victory, while Romo and the Cowboys were left to wonder what could have been.
3. 2004: Green Bay Packers 33, Seattle Seahawks 27
With less than a minute left in regulation, Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander plunged into the end zone for a one-yard score, tying the game at 27 and sending the contest into an extra period.
At the coin flip to decide which team received the ball in overtime, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck famously said "We want the ball and we're going to score" into the microphone after his team won the toss.
The overtime period didn't exactly go as planned for Hasselbeck, however. On the Seahawks' second possession, Hasselbeck threw an interception to Green Bay's Al Harris, who returned the ball 52 yards for a walk-off score.
2. 2003: San Francisco 49ers 39, New York Giants 38
The New York Giants got out to a commanding 38-14 lead in the third quarter, benefitting from three touchdown connections between wide receiver Amani Toomer and quarterback Kerry Collins. The San Francisco 49ers appeared on their way to a lopsided defeat.
Yet, Jeff Garcia would not let his team lose, throwing two touchdowns and rushing for another as the 49ers rallied to take a 39-38 lead late in the game.
The Giants still had one last possession, and they marched the ball down to the San Francisco 23-yard line. If kicker Matt Bryant could convert a 41-yard field goal, New York would emerge victorious despite the late collapse.
However, a bad snap on the field-goal attempt led to an aborted play, and placeholder Matt Allen scrambled to his right with the football looking for a receiver. He heaved a pass downfield toward Giants lineman Rich Seubert, but the pass fell incomplete, sealing the 49ers win.
The NFL would later admit that pass interference should have been called on the play, which would have allowed the Giants one last field-goal attempt.
1. 2000: Tennessee Titans 22, Buffalo Bills 16
What a way to kick off the millenium! In a game that turned on a play later dubbed the "Music City Miracle," the Tennessee Titans somehow defeated the Buffalo Bills in a contest widely considered one of the best ever in NFL playoff history.
With under two minutes remaining, Bills quarterback Rob Johnson drove his offense deep into Titans' territory, setting up a 41-yard field goal by kicker Steve Christie to give the Bills a 16-15 lead with just 16 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Most everyone watching the game assumed that would be the final score.
The ensuing kickoff would provide one of the craziest plays in football history, though. The Titans Lorenzo Neal fielded the kick and handed the ball to tight end Frank Wycheck, who threw a lateral across the field to receiver Kevin Dyson. Dyson caught the ball and streaked 75 yards down the sideline for an improbable touchdown.
A lengthy official review concluded that Wycheck's throw was indeed a lateral and not an illegal forward pass, securing the touchdown and the Titans' victory.