NFL Playoffs: 25 Best Wild Card Games in NFL History
The NFL Wild Card round of the playoffs contains the lower seeds in both the AFC and NFC conferences but has provided some of the most exciting games in playoff history.
The Wild Card round has seen the New Orleans Saints win their first playoff game in franchise history and has also seen Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills partake in the greatest comeback of all time.
The 2010-11 playoffs are upon us, but will they join some of these historic games?
There are some great matchups and one can only predict if these games will come close to the Wild Card games ever played.
Here are the 25 best Wild Card games in NFL history.
1988-89: Houston Oilers vs. Cleveland Browns
Warren Moon and the Houston Oilers traveled to Cleveland to take on the Browns in the Wild Card round of the 1988-89 playoffs.
The Oilers were up 21-16 when Oilers cornerback Richard Johnson's interception put them in perfect position to win the game.
Oilers kicker Tony Zendejas hit a 49-yard field goal to go up by eight and secure the win for the Oilers.
Final Score: Oilers 24, Browns 23
1999-2000: Miami Dolphins vs. Seattle Seahawks
Jon Kitna and the Seattle Seahawks would host their first playoff game since 1988.
The Dolphins defense was too much for the Seahawks offense to handle as they were held to just 171 total yards.
Jon Kitna threw two interceptions and was sacked six times, three by defensive end Trace Armstrong.
The Seahawks would take a 17-10 lead in the third quarter but Dan Marino would lead the Dolphins back to win the game.
Final Score: Dolphins 20, Seahawks 17
2008-09: San Diego Chargers vs. Indianapolis Colts
This was a battle between the fourth and fifth seeds in the AFC during the 2008-09 NFL playoffs.
The Chargers were home for this Wild Card matchup.
Chargers running back Darren Sproles had 328 all-purpose yards during the game, 105 of them coming on the ground.
Late in the fourth quarter, Nate Kaeding tied the game at 17 to send it into overtime, where the Chargers won the coin toss.
Philip Rivers led the Chargers down field in a drive that ended in a 22-yard Darren Sproles score on a screen pass to win the game for the Chargers.
Final Score: Chargers 23, Colts 17 (OT)
1996-97: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills
The Jacksonville Jaguars were in their second year in the NFL and won their first playoff game against the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills led 14-10 after the first quarter and the game continued to go back and forth.
Tied at 27 in the fourth quarter, Jaguars kicker Mike Hollis hit a 45-yard field goal with 3:07 left in the game.
The field goal would be the deciding factor in the game as the Jaguars would go on and win their first playoff game.
Final Score: Jaguars 30, Bills 27
1982-83: San Diego Chargers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
In a game where two great quarterbacks went head to head, Dan Fouts and Terry Bradshaw put on a show in this great Wild Card game.
Fouts threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns while Bradshaw threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns and also ran in another touchdown.
Down 28-17 in the fourth quarter, Dan Fouts and tight end Kellen Winslow led the Chargers to a comeback victory.
Final Score: Chargers 31, Steelers 28
1995-96: Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Lions offensive lineman Lomas Brown guaranteed a win in this game.
The Philadelphia Eagles had other plans as they opened up with a 51-7 lead over the Lions, 31 of those points coming in the second quarter.
The Eagles recorded six interceptions and held the great Barry Sanders to just 40 yards rushing.
Led by quarterback Rodney Peete, the Eagles and Lions participated in the second-highest scoring playoff game in NFL history.
Final Score: Eagles 58, Lions 37
1981-82: Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets
The Buffalo Bills jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the second quarter led by quarterback Joe Ferguson.
Jets quarterback Richard Todd helped the Jets cut the lead to 24-13 but the Bills responded with a Joe Cribbs touchdown to go up 31-13.
The Jets would not go away as Todd led two scoring drives to cut the lead to 31-27.
The Jets got the ball back with just over two minutes to play but Bill Simpson intercepted a Todd pass at the 1-yard line to secure the victory.
Final Score: Bills 31, Jets 27
1989-90: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Houston Oilers
The Steelers got on the board first with a 7-0 lead but the Oilers would hang around for the rest of the game.
Oilers quarterback Warren Moon threw for over 300 yards with two touchdowns.
Down 23-16, Steelers running back Merril Hoge tied the game late in the fourth quarter.
Hoge finished with exactly 100 yards on the ground.
The Steelers would go on to win it in overtime.
Final Score: Steelers 26, Oilers 23
2000-01: Miami Dolphins vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Dolphins made the playoffs the year after the great Dan Marino retired.
The Dolphins would overcome three first-half turnovers and a 14-0 deficit heading into the third quarter.
The Dolphins would tie the game at 17 and ride the hot hand of running back Lamar Smith, who carried the ball for a playoff record 40 times for 209 yards.
Smith would go on to score the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
Final Score: Dolphins 23, Colts 17
1987-88: Houston Oilers vs. Seattle Seahawks
In a game where the Oilers outgained the Seahawks by nearly 200 yards, the Seahawks managed to keep the game close and send it into overtime.
Late in the third quarter, Warren Moon threw a touchdown pass to give the Oilers a 20-13 lead.
The Seahawks responded with a Steve Largent touchdown reception to tie the game at 20.
Largent finished with two touchdowns on the day.
Oilers kicker Tony Zendejas would win the game on a 42-yard field goal in overtime.
Final Score: Oilers 23, Seahawks 20
2004-05: New York Jets vs. San Diego Chargers
Chad Pennington and the New York Jets were leading 17-7 after three quarters, but Chargers quarterback Drew Brees managed to fight back and tie the game.
Brees hit Antonio Gates to tie the game at 17 and send it into overtime.
The game went into overtime and after an exchange of punts, Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding missed a field goal attempt.
Pennington then led the Jets down field and after a LaMont Jordan 19-yard run, Doug Brien hit the game-winning field goal for the Jets with almost no time left on the clock.
Final Score: Jets 20, Chargers 17
1990-91: Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Dolphins took on the Chiefs in the first round of the playoffs and were dominated for three quarters.
The Chiefs had a 16-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Dan Marino would not go out without a fight.
Marino and the Dolphins fought back in the fourth quarter and took a 17-16 lead after an 85-yard drive capped off by a Mark Clayton touchdown reception.
The Chiefs had a chance to retake the lead and win the game, but Nick Lowery's 52-yard field goal attempt fell short.
Final Score: Dolphins 17, Chiefs 16
2006-07: Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks
How can any Cowboys fan forget this?
This is the game that Tony Romo mishandled the snap on a field goal that would have given the Cowboys the win.
Tony Romo was playing in his first playoff game and it could not have gone any worse for No. 9.
The Cowboys were down 21-20 with 1:19 left in regulation and were getting ready for a chip-shot field goal.
The snap was clean but Romo did not get a handle on the ball. Romo attempted to run for the end zone but was brought down from behind short of the goal line.
The botched snap allowed the Seahawks to steal a victory at home.
Final Score: Seahawks 21, Cowboys 20
2007-08: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
David Garrard and the Jacksonville Jaguars managed only 239 total offensive yards and it was their defense that was the deciding factor in the game.
The Jaguar defense sacked Ben Roethlisberger six times and intercepted three of his passes.
The Steelers were down 28-10 in this game but scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to take a 29-28 lead.
On fourth down with two yards to go and with 1:56 left to play, David Garrard converted on a 32-yard run which set up a Josh Scobee 25-yard field goal.
The Jaguars would go on to win the game in perhaps one of the most underrated games in recent history.
Final Score: Jaguars 31, Steelers 29
1997-98: Minnesota Vikings vs. New York Giants
Randall Cunningham and the Minnesota Vikings were in New York to take on the Giants.
The Vikings were underdogs in this game and played like it up until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Vikings were down 22-13 with just about a minute-and-a-half left to play in the fourth quarter before Randall Cunningham led an amazing comeback.
Cunningham hit Jake Reed on a 30-yard strike to cut the lead to 22-20.
The Vikings got the ball back and kicked a field goal to beat the Giants.
The Vikings scored 10 points in the last 90 seconds of the game to absolutely stun the Giants in New York.
Final Score: Vikings 23, Giants 22
1993-94: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Joe Montana was in the later stages of his career but still knew how to work some magic as he had done for so long in San Francisco.
The Chiefs were down 24-17 in the fourth quarter but Montana found a way to save the Chiefs and send the game into overtime.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs blocked a Steelers' punt, putting the Chiefs within striking distance.
On a fourth-down play, Tim Barnett scored on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Montana to send the game into overtime.
After exchanging possessions in overtime, Montana led the Chiefs down field and Nick Lowery hit a game-winning field goal.
Final Score: Chiefs 27, Steelers 24
1993-94: Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
This was quarterback Brett Favre's first playoff game and this is where his illustrious career took off.
Lions running back Barry Sanders led the way for the Lions with 167 rushing yards but it was not enough to hold off Favre and the Packers.
Brett Favre connected with wide receiver Sterling Sharpe for three touchdowns, the last of which gave Green Bay the lead with 55 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Sharpe's game-winning touchdown would complete the Packers' comeback after being down 17-7.
Final Score: Packers 28, Lions 24
2000-01: New Orleans Saints vs. St. Louis Rams
The New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams were division rivals and played two great games during the regular season and were set to face off in a third meeting.
The Rams were the sixth seed and had to travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints, the third seed.
The score was 17-7 heading into the fourth quarter and both teams went on a scoring spree in the fourth.
The Saints scored two touchdowns to take a 31-7 lead but the Rams would march all the way back only to fall short.
The Saints would go on to win their first ever playoff game in franchise history, led by Aaron Brooks, who threw four touchdown passes.
Final Score: Saints 31, Rams 28
2002-03: Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers were down 24-7 in the third quarter to their division rivals, the Cleveland Browns.
Browns quarterback Kelly Holcomb was having a career game against a tough Steelers defense.
The Browns had a 27-21 lead before scoring another touchdown to make in 33-21. The Browns missed a two-point conversion which would turn out to be critical to the outcome of this game.
Tommy Maddox and the Steelers cut the lead to 33-28 but the Browns still had a chance to secure the win.
Wide receiver Dennis Northcutt dropped a crucial third-down pass and the Browns were forced to punt.
The Steelers got the ball back and Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala scored, giving the Steelers a 34-33 lead.
The two-point conversion made it 36-33.
The Browns had a chance to tie it but time ran out for Kelly Holcomb.
Final Score: Steelers 36, Browns 33
2003-04: Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks
What a great game this was between the Packers and the Seahawks at Lambeau Field.
The game was tied at 27 and was headed into overtime. Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks won the toss. When asked if they wanted to receive the ball, Hasselbeck responded with those now-famous words, "We want the ball and we're gonna score."
His confidence was great, but the results were not.
Hasselbeck threw a game-ending interception for a touchdown by the Packers' Al Harris.
Final Score: Packers 33, Seahawks 27
2009-10: Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals took part in the highest-scoring game in playoff history.
With over 1,000 total yards gained and 13 touchdowns scored, this was a shootout for the ages.
The Cardinals took a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, but that was not nearly enough to hold down Aaron Rodgers.
After throwing an interception early in the game, Rodgers was unstoppable for the rest of the game, throwing for four touchdowns and over 400 yards.
The Packers tied the game at 45 and a Neil Rackers missed field goal allowed the game to go into overtime.
The Packers won the toss and Rodgers missed a wide-open Greg Jennings down the seam that would have won the game.
The very next play, Rodgers was hit, the ball bounced off his foot and Karlos Dansby caught it and took it in for a touchdown.
The highest-scoring game in playoff history ironically ended on a defensive play.
Final Score: Cardinals 51, Packers 45
2002-03: San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Giants
Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens and the San Francisco 49ers were down 38-14 late in the third quarter.
But a 24-point lead was not enough to hold down the 49ers as they began their amazing comeback.
Jeff Garcia was on fire as he and the Niners scored 25 unanswered points to take a 39-38 lead in the fourth quarter.
Despite the Giants' collapse, Kerry Collins still had a chance to lead the Giants down field to win the game.
The Giants lined up for a 41-yard field goal.
The snap was mishandled and the Giants were called for an illegal man downfield. The illegal man downfield was eligible on the play but the referees missed the pass interference call.
The Niners came out on top in a dramatic comeback.
Final Score: 39-38
1998-99: San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers had eliminated the San Francisco 49ers from the playoffs in the previous three seasons, so the Niners needed this one desperately.
This game was a battle between two great quarterbacks in Steve Young and Brett Favre, and they were going back and forth all day.
The Packers took a 27-23 lead with under two minutes to play and many thought the 49ers were going to lose to the Packers again.
Steve Young led the 49ers downfield in a drive that featured a controversial play from Jerry Rice. In Rice's only catch of the day, replay shows that he clearly fumbled the football, but he was called down.
On the last play of the drive, Steve Young dropped back and hit Terrell Owens on a 25-yard touchdown pass that threaded the needle. Owens had been dropping passes all day but he made the one that counted.
Final Score: 49ers 30, Packers 27
1999-2000: Tennessee Titans vs. Buffalo Bills
This game would be known as the "Music City Miracle."
Down 16-15 with just seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Titans needed a miracle, and that is exactly what they got.
The Bills kicked off to the Titans and Lorenzo Neil fielded the ball. He then handed it to tight end Frank Wycheck, who threw it back across the field to Kevin Dyson.
Kevin Dyson ran the ball all the way back for a touchdown to give the Titans the win.
The play was reviewed and the refs determined that the lateral was not forward and the play was legal.
After the game, coach Jeff Fisher said the Titans practiced that play and called it the "Home Run Throwback."
Final Score: Titans 22, Bills 16
1993-94: Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Oilers
Both the Bills and Titans or the then-Oilers have participated in two of the greatest playoff games ever played.
This game is known as "The Comeback."
Backup Frank Reich took injured quarterback Jim Kelly's place in this game as Kelly had been injured a week earlier.
The Bills played miserably in this game as the Oilers took a 35-3 lead into the third quarter. The game was all but over, right? Wrong.
Frank Reich led the Bills to score 28 points in the third quarter and they were down 35-31.
The Bills scored again in the fourth giving them a 38-35 lead in what was a dramatic comeback. The Oilers still had time to tie the game, and they did, sending the game into overtime tied at 38.
Oilers quarterback Warren Moon threw an interception in overtime and two plays later, Steve Christie hit a 32-yard field goal to complete the greatest comeback in NFL history.
Final Score: Bills 41, Oilers 38
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