NFL: The 50 Most Dominant Single-Game Performances in League History

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIIJuly 4, 2011

NFL: The 50 Most Dominant Single-Game Performances in League History

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    What are the 50 Most Dominant Single Game Performances in NFL History? That is the topic we are tackling today. We will look at regular season games as well as post-season games. We will take a sweeping look dating over the past 70 years of the NFL.

    Please understand, this list has nothing to do with great seasons by one team, or a great season by one player. This is purely looking at individual great games, period. There is a clear distinction.

    We will look at all conceivable positions to consider, and list what we consider to be the top 50, regardless of position. There will be many great performances that have to be omitted, because we are only going 50 deep. We acknowledge that you may have a personal favorite game that should be on this list, so feel free to share that with the readers in the comments section.

Walter Payton vs. Minnesota Vikings

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    Player: Walter Payton, RB (Chicago Bears)

    When: Nov. 20, 1977

    Payton ran the ball 40 times for 275 yards, which topped the then-single-game rushing mark of 273 yards previously held by O.J. Simpson. Payton scored the Bears' only touchdown in their 10-7 win over the Vikings.

    He also played the game with the flu.

    Payton's record-setting game record stood for 23 years. He went on to become the NFL MVP in 1977 and was the leading rusher in the NFL that year.

Adrian Peterson vs. San Diego Chargers

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    Player: Adrian Peterson, RB (Minnesota Vikings)

    When: Nov. 4, 2007

    As a rookie for the Vikings, Peterson proved he was something special when he rushed 30 times for a record 296 yards and three touchdowns against the Chargers.

    During the game, Peterson broke off runs of 35 yards and two rushes of 17 yards. He simply wore the Chargers' defense down.

    Peterson broke the record Jamal Lewis held of 295 yards, and he averaged nearly 10 yards per carry for his 30 rushes on the day.

Norm Van Brocklin vs. New York Yanks

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    Player: Norm Van Brocklin, QB (Los Angeles Rams)

    When: Sept. 28, 1951 

    Starting quarterback Bob Waterfield came up lame before the opening kickoff, so the backup quarterback Van Brocklin took over the offense for the Rams.

    Did he ever.

    In the game, Brocklin threw for 554 yards, which broke the existing passing record for a single-game of 468 yards previously set by Johnny Lujack.

    Brocklin connected on five touchdowns, with the longest plays coming from 67, 46 and 47 yards away. The Rams won the game 54-14 and went on to finish first in the NFL. They eventually beat Cleveland to capture the NFL Championship.

    Van Brocklin's record-setting game stood for at least 50 years.

Gale Sayers vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    Player: Gale Sayers, RB (Chicago Bears)

    When: Dec. 12, 1965

    As a rookie with the Chicago Bears, Sayers gained an amazing 336 total offensive yards despite touching the ball only 14 times for the entire game, which comes out to average gain of 24 yards per touch. The 336 yards were broken down into the following: 134 yards on three punt returns, 89 yards on two pass receptions and the final 113 yards on nine rushing attempts.

    Not only did Sayers gain 336 yards, but he also scored six touchdowns in the game.

    Sayers was a one-man wrecking crew for the Bears in their 61-20 victory. Too bad they didn't have fantasy football back then.

Norm Willey vs. New York Giants

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    Player: Norm Willey, DL (Philadelphia Eagles)

    When: Oct. 26, 1952

    If you are not familiar with Norm Willey, you are not alone.

    However, after you read his accomplishments, you would have to wonder aloud why he isn't a household name by now.

    Just check this out.

Ben Roethlisberger vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Player: Ben Roethlisberger, QB (Pittsburgh Steelers)

    When: Dec. 20, 2009

    In this contest, Roethlisberger passed for 503 yards, the only time he has topped the 500-yard mark in his NFL career. Big Ben also passed for three touchdowns and completed 29 of 46 passes.

    A huge passing day is usually the result of a team trailing by a bunch of points and throwing the ball all over the field versus a prevent defense. That was not the case in this contest, as Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass on the final play of regulation to give the Steelers a one-point victory, 37-36.

    The Steelers' offense only had 537 yards for the game, which meant their running game wasn't giving the quarterback much support. Roethlisberger set a Pittsburgh record with 503 passing yards (Tommy Maddox had 473 in 2002). He also became the first QB to throw for 500-plus in a win since Boomer Esiason in 1996.

    Another interesting note from this game was that Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace for a 60-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, then hit Wallace again on the final play of regulation for another touchdown from 19 yards out. They were the only passes Wallace caught during the game.

Sid Luckman vs. Washington Redskins

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    Player: Sid Luckman, QB (Chicago Bears)

    When: Dec. 26, 1943

    Sid Luckman had so many great games, we are going to combine them into one slide as a tribute to his skills.

    In the 1943 NFL Championship game vs. the Washington Redskins, Luckman completed 15 of 26 passes for 286 yards and five touchdowns. His passer rating was 135.6, which was way above the league average of 48.6.

    Luckman also ran the ball for 64 yards, had 32 yards in punt returns and intercepted two passes for 39 yards.

    Did we mention that he also served as the punter for the team?

    There was also the notable game in the1940 NFL Championship where Luckman led the Bears to an unbelievable shellacking of the Washington Redskins, 73-0.

Boomer Esiason vs. Washington Redskins

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    Player: Boomer Esiason, QB (Arizona Cardinals)

    When: Nov. 10, 1996 

    Most of us remember Boomer Esiason as the quarterback of either the Cincinnati Bengals or the New York Jets, but Esiason also played for the Arizona Cardinals.

    In 1996, he had a special game against the Washington Redskins.

    Esiason completed 35 of 59 passes for 522 yards and three touchdowns; those are numbers that would make Kurt Warner proud. This would become the third-best passing performance in NFL history, topped only by Warren Moon and Norm Van Brocklin.

    This game wound up going into overtime, and Esiason led the Cardinals to a thrilling 37-34 win in the extra session. This was the only year he played quarterback for Arizona, as he would return to Cincinnati the following year and retire as a member of the Bengals.

Otto Graham vs. Los Angeles Rams

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    Player: Otto Graham, QB (Cleveland Browns)

    When: Dec, 24, 1950

    Much like Joe Namath led the New York Jets and the American Football League to respectability with their Super Bowl win, Otto Graham did the same thing for the Cleveland Browns and the All-America Football Conference with this game.

    The All-America Football Conference was only in existence for four years, and Graham and the Browns won the league championship all four years. When the AAFC merged with the NFL in 1950, only three new teams joined the NFL, which felt the AAFC teams were a suspect product.

    As for the game itself, Graham and the Browns fought back from a 14-0 deficit to score 20 straight points to take the lead. They were behind 28-20 in the fourth quarter, but Graham led the Browns to two scoring drives in the final minutes for a 30-28 upset win.

    Graham completed 22 of 33 passes for 298 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating was 122.2, and he rushed for 99 yards, which was impressive since the rest of the team combined ran the ball 13 times for 15 yards.

    Truly a great classic performance by Graham.


Warren Moon vs. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Player: Warren Moon, QB (Houston Oilers)

    When: Dec. 16, 1990 

    As we detailed earlier, Norm Van Brocklin holds the all-time passing record for yardage in one game.

    If we looked at just the past 25 years though, the greatest passing game belonged to Warren Moon.

    In this contest against the Kansas City Chiefs, Moon completed 27 of 45 passes for 527 yards and three touchdowns.

    The Oilers defeated the Chiefs 27-10, and Moon had the run-and-shoot offense working all day. The Chiefs just couldn't find a way to slow down the express.

Peyton Manning vs. Denver Broncos

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    Player: Peyton Manning, QB (Indianapolis Colts)

    When: Jan. 9, 2005  

    Just one year before, Peyton Manning led the Colts to a playoff win against Denver 41-10.

    This time the Broncos probably had a better idea of what to expect and how to defend Manning. Right?

    Guess again.

    In this contest, Manning set a record by throwing for 360 yards in the first half alone to go along with three touchdowns. For the day, he completed 27 of 33 passes for 457 yards and four touchdowns. His QB passer rating was up in the stratosphere at 145.7, and he averaged 13.8 yards per pass; that rating included one interception.

    The final score was 49-24, and Denver was left to try to figure out what just hit them.

Steve Young vs. San Diego Chargers

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    Player: Steve Young, QB (San Francisco 49ers)

    When:  Jan. 29, 1995 

    This Super Bowl performance by Steve Young is one of those special games when a player is allowed to demonstrate all their assets.

    Being as mobile as he was, Young wound up as not only the leading passer of the game, but as the leading rusher in the contest as well; this is the only time that has ever occurred in Super Bowl history.

    For the day, Young passed for a Super Bowl-record six touchdown passes, breaking the record set by his predecessor, Joe Montana. Young completed 24 of 36 passes for 325 yards and rushed for 49 yards. He was named Super Bowl MVP and led the 49ers to an easy 49-26 win.

Kurt Warner vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Player: Kurt Warner, QB (Arizona Cardinals)

    When: Jan. 10, 2010

    In this wild shootout, Kurt Warner led the Cardinals to a 51-45 win over the Packers, throwing for five touchdowns and completing 29 of 33 passes for 379 yards. Warner was so good in this game that he managed the rare feat of throwing more touchdowns (five) than incomplete passes (four). His QB passer rating turned out to be the second-highest in NFL playoff history at a whopping 154.1.

    In NFL playoffs history, this game was the highest score for two teams combined (96 points). What was interesting was that Green Bay came in with the second-highest ranked defense in the NFL that season, but Warner picked them apart.

    Warner was also playing without Anquan Boldin, who missed the game due to injury.

    The Cardinals lost the following week, then Warner announced his retirement, ending his prolific career.

Vernon Perry vs. San Diego Chargers

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    Player: Vernon Perry, S (Houston Oilers)

    When: 1979 NFL Playoffs

    The Houston Oilers figured they were going to be in for a long day.

    The Oilers were playing without injured quarterback Dan Pastorini, Ken Burrough and Earl Campbell. Not only that, but they were going up against Dan Fouts and the Chargers' high-powered passing attack.

    What the Oilers didn't know was rookie safety Vernon Perry was about to emerge and become a star for a day. Perry started out by blocking a field goal and brought it back 57 yards. He then continued to contribute by coming up with four interceptions against Fouts, a NFL postseason record.

    The Oilers went on to win 17-14 to advance to the AFC Championship game.

    The following week, just to prove he wasn't a fluke, Perry intercepted a pass by Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and returned it for a 75-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, the Oilers lost the AFC Championship game to Pittsburgh, but Perry made a name for himself in consecutive weeks.

Ed Podolak vs. Miami Dolphins

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    Player: Ed Podolak, RB (Kansas City Chiefs)

    When: 1971 Divisional Playoffs

    You will find that the vast majority of players who turned in a special performance on this slideshow were part of a winning team.

    We now veer of course to honor a big day for Ed Podolak, even though it was in a losing cause.

    In the first round of the 1971 AFC Playoffs, the Chiefs dropped a 27-24 double overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins. The loss could not be pinned on Podolak, though.

    Podolak rushed the ball for 85 yards and a touchdown. He gained another 110 yards and a touchdown off pass receptions. If that weren't enough, he returned three kicks for 154 yards, the biggest one coming in the final minute of regulation when his 78-yard return set up Jan Stenerud for a potential game-winning kick. 

    Unfortunately, Stenerud missed the kick, and the Chiefs eventually lost when Garo Yepremian nailed a kick in the second overtime. This game is also notable for being the longest NFL game in league history.

    All told, Podolak amassed 349 yards in all-purpose offense and two touchdowns. That total is still a single-game postseason record and why he deserves a place on this slideshow.

Joe Montana vs. Denver Broncos

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    Player: Joe Montana, QB (San Francisco 49ers)

    When: Jan. 28, 1990 

    Joe Montana led the 49ers to a 55-10 blowout game in the Super Bowl.

    The 55 points were the most scored in Super Bowl history, and the margin of victory was the highest ever for a winning Super Bowl team. Montana led the 49ers' attack to score two touchdowns in every quarter of the game—now that is efficient.

    Montana threw five touchdown passes in the game and completed 22 of 29 passes (not to mention 13 straight passes) for 297 yards. His completion percentage was 75.9, second-highest in Super Bowl history. Montana played at an elite level during that postseason and was named the Super Bowl MVP. He also won the NFL MVP award that season.

Terrell Davis vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Player: Terrell Davis, RB (Denver Broncos)

    When: Jan. 31, 1999 

    Despite being a 14-point underdog to the Packers, Terrell Davis led the Broncos to a 31-24 win in Super Bowl XXXII. Davis was playing with a severe migraine headache, which was so bad he had to sit out the second quarter.

    Despite playing only three quarters, he managed to run for 157 yards on 30 rushes and was named the MVP of the game. Davis also set a Super Bowl record for scoring on three rushing touchdowns.

    Davis would again top 100 yards in the following Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons. It was the seventh straight postseason game he topped 100 yards.

Ty Law vs. Indianapolis Colts

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    Player: Ty Law, CB (New England Patriots)

    When: Jan. 18, 2004

    Ty Law turned in a game that changed NFL rules.

    That doesn't happen very often, so it deserves to be included on our list.

    Law intercepted Peyton Manning three times in the game. The player he was covering, Marvin Harrison, had three catches as well, but if you can catch as many passes as the guy you are covering, you had a tremendous day. The Patriots went on to win it 24-14 and proceeded to the Super Bowl.

    Law blanketed Harrison thoroughly enough to the point that the NFL changed their rules on contact with receivers. The "Ty Law Rule" maintains that a defensive player can't have contact with a player after five yards from the line of scrimmage.

Kellen Winslow vs. Miami Dolphins

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    Player: Kellen Winslow, TE (San Diego Chargers)

    When: Jan. 2, 1982 

    This photograph is one of the most famous shots in NFL history.

    An exhausted Kellen Winslow being helped off the field by teammates after an excruciating long overtime contest against the Miami Dolphins is simply known as "The Epic in Miami."

    Winslow established a playoff record with 13 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown in the game. He blocked a field goal with four seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime.

    He did all of the above while suffering from dehydration, in addition to severe cramping. During the game, he pinched a nerve in his shoulder and needed stitches for a wound to his lip.

Tom Brady vs. Tennessee Titans

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    Player: Tom Brady, QB (New England Patriots)

    When: Oct. 18, 2009

    What is it like to play in snow in the middle of October?

    Don't ask the Tennessee Titans, especially if Tom Brady is quarterbacking the other team.

    Brady had an unbelievable game, torching the Titans' defense all day long. In the second quarter alone, Brady threw for an NFL-record five touchdown passes. For the day, Brady hit on 29 of 34 passes for 380 yards and six touchdowns total. His QB passer rating was off the charts at 152.8, and the Patriots established a team-record 619 yards in offense for one game.

    The Patriots went in to halftime leading 45-0; that was the largest lead ever in an NFL game at the half. The final score of 59-0 was the largest margin of victory in the modern era since the Los Angeles Rams beat the Atlanta Falcons by the identical score in 1976.

    Brady threw three touchdowns to Randy Moss and two to Wes Welker on the day, averaging 11.2 yards per pass. It should also be noted that Brady only played one drive in the second half, which he led for a touchdown pass (No. 6 on the day); he then sat out the rest of the game.

    No telling what might have been if he stayed in.

O.J. Simpson vs. Detroit Lions

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    Player: O.J. Simpson, RB (Buffalo Bills)

    When: Nov. 25, 1976

    O.J. Simpson established a new rushing record when he went nuts on the Detroit Lions with 273 rushing yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns. Simpson averaged 9.4 yards per rush and shredded the Lions behind his offensive line known as "The Electric Company," which featured Hall of Fame lineman Joe DeLamielleure.

Emmitt Smith vs. New York Giants

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    Player: Emmitt Smith, RB (Dallas Cowboys)

    When:  Jan. 2, 1994 

    Smith suffered a separated shoulder during the second quarter of the game, but played through it.  The contest went into overtime, and Dallas prevailed with a 16-13 win. For the contest, Smith gained 229 yards overall, and he had 168 rushing yards against the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

    He gained 41 yards on the winning drive in overtime to set up the field goal that clinched the Cowboys' home-field advantage and the NFC East division championship.

    Smith taped a thigh pad on his shoulder to absorb the hits and try to dull the pain of the separated shoulder. Head coach Jimmy Johnson tried to send in Lincoln Coleman to take his place, but Smith told him to get out.

    John Madden, who was announcing the game, said he had just witnessed the most courageous performance he had ever seen.

Cookie Gilchrist vs. New York Jets

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    Player: Cookie Gilchrist, RB (Buffalo Bills)

    When: Dec. 8, 1963 

    This game saw Buffalo Bills running back Cookie Gilchrist break Jim Brown's record for rushing yards in a game.

    Gilchrist rushed for 243 yards and scored an AFL-record five touchdowns as the Bills beat the Jets 45-14. They went on to beat them again the following week to have a shot at the playoffs and knocked the Jets out in the process. Gilchrist also served as the Bills' placekicker.

    Finishing the season tied with New England, the Bills lost a tie-breaker game to the Patriots, who went on to the AFC Championship game.

Corey Dillon vs. Denver Broncos

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    Player: Corey Dillon, RB (Cincinnati Bengals)

    When: Oct. 22, 2000 

    This is the contest where Corey Dillon broke the NFL single-game rushing record that was set by Walter Payton 23 years before. Dillon ran roughshod over the Broncos to the tune of 278 yards to lead his team to a 31-21 victory. Dillon also averaged 12.6 yards per carry.

    You could almost say Dillon won the game single-handedly.

    Akili Smith managed to gain 14 yards in 14 passes. As a result, the Broncos put eight men up in the box to thwart Dillon and dare Smith to throw.

    Facing that kind of a challenge, Dillon still found a way to wear the Broncos down.

    In the fourth quarter, he reeled off touchdown runs of 65 and 41 yards, en route to his record-setting performance.

Tiki Barber vs. Washington Redskins

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    Player: Tiki Barber, RB (New York Giants)

    When: Dec. 30, 2006 

    This was the final regular-season game of Tiki Barber's career (prior to his recently announced plans to come back to the NFL), and he played an inspired game. He rushed the ball 23 times for 234 yards and scored three touchdowns against the Redskins. Barber also averaged 10.2 yards per rush.

    He led the Giants to a 34-28 over their NFC East rivals. The win also secured a playoff berth for the Giants, which was rather misleading since they finished the season as a .500 team. At least Barber had the chance to go out on top.

    Not sure how the 2011 version will fare, but that is another story.

Jim Brown vs. Los Angeles Rams

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    Player: Jim Brown, RB (Cleveland Browns)

    When: Nov. 24, 1957 

    In 1957, Jim Brown had just landed as a rookie in the NFL.

    It didn't take long for him to establish himself as the premiere running back in the league.

    In this contest against the Los Angeles Rams, Brown rushed the ball 31 times for 237 yards and four touchdowns. The 237 yards established a new NFL record for most rushing yards in a game.

    Ironically, Brown would tie his own mark four years later when he rushed 34 times for the same exact 237 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles. He scored four times in that game on Nov. 19, 1961.

    Then on Sept. 22, 1963, Brown rushed for 232 yards in just 20 carries against the Dallas Cowboys. He scored twice in that game.

    Brown's records would eventually be broken in the 1970's by O.J. Simpson and Walter Payton.


Bo Jackson vs. Seattle Seahawks

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    Player: Bo Jackson, RB (Los Angeles Raiders)

    When: Nov. 30, 1987 

    This was a classic Monday Night Football game where Jackson had a memorable touchdown run; he ran right over Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth as if he wasn't even there. The game was a great showcase for the fearful combination of speed and power Jackson possessed.

    For the game, he rushed for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Playing in front of a national audience, the contest just went even further in establishing Jackson as the premiere rusher of his day. He led the Raiders to an easy 37-14 win, scoring on a 91-yard sprint, a 14-yard pass and on a two-yard rush.

    In total, the Seahawks left the field black and blue that day; the Raiders rushed the ball 50 times for 356 yards.


Jamal Lewis vs. Cleveland Browns

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    Player: Jamal Lewis, RB (Baltimore Ravens)

    When: Sept. 14, 2003 

    Jamal Lewis had a record-setting day, rushing the ball 30 times for 295 yards and two touchdowns. The 295 yards broke Corey Dillon's record previously set in 2000.

    The Browns really had no clue how to contain Lewis.

    He ran for at least 100 yards in BOTH the first and fourth quarters. Lewis had an 82-yard touchdown in the first quarter, a 48-yard run in the second quarter, and a 63-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

    For what it is worth, Lewis also had a 60-yard run in the first half that was called back due to a holding penalty.

Jerome Harrison and Josh Cribbs vs. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Players: Jerome Harrison, RB; Josh Cribbs, KR (Cleveland Browns)

    When: Dec. 20, 2009 

    Fresh off the feeling of having your face being rubbed in by the bully, the Browns turned the tables by freeing up enough lanes for running back Jerome Harrison to explode on the Kansas City Chiefs to the tune of 286 yards on 34 carries. Harrison scored three times, all in the second half.

    We would be remiss if we did not call attention to a special performance by Browns kick returner Josh Cribbs, who scored on two kickoff returns in the game—one from 100 yards out, the other from 103 yards. The second return set an NFL record for Cribbs with eight career kickoff returns for touchdowns.

    Harrison scored his final touchdown from 28 yards out with just 44 seconds left in the game. That touchdown broke a tie at 34 and sealed the Browns' 41-34 victory. Harrison's rushing performance was the third-highest in NFL history, trailing only Adrian Peterson and Jamal Lewis. He also broke Jim Brown's team record by 49 yards.

Shaun Alexander vs. Minnesota Vikings

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    Player: Shaun Alexander, RB (Seattle Seahawks)

    When: Sept. 29, 2002 

    This was a nationally televised game on Sunday Night Football.

    The Seahawks and the Vikings both came out of the gate with a 0-3 record, so people were probably expecting a clunker of a game—but they would have missed a historic event.

    Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander reeled off a 43-yard run in the first quarter for the first of many big plays. Late in the second quarter, he took a screen pass from Trent Dilfer and went 80 yards for a touchdown. The Vikings fumbled the next two kickoff returns, and Alexander scored a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage after each fumble.

    The scoring frenzy allowed Alexander to record three touchdowns in the span of 1:05. In the first half, Alexander recorded five touchdowns in total, and his 30 points in one half is an all-time NFL record that still stands today.

    For the game, Alexander gained 139 yards on 24 carries. He was also the leading receiver for the Seahawks as well, gaining 92 yards on three catches.

Don Hutson

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    Player: Don Hutson, WR (Green Bay Packers)

    When: Oct. 7, 1945

    In this contest, Hutson set a NFL record that still stands today, as he scored 29 points in one quarter. Hutson played wide receiver, safety and kicker for the Packers.

    I was not able to find any breakdown of how he scored the 29 points, nor the opponent, so we will have to use our collective imagination. We do know he scored four touchdowns, so there was either a safety or a two-point conversion in there somewhere.

    For football fans not familiar with Hutson, it is about time that you know more about him.

    Hutson is credited with creating many of the modern pass routes used in the NFL today. He was the dominant receiver of his day and is widely considered to be one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history, holding almost all important receiving records at the time of his retirement.

Bernie Kosar vs. New York Jets

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    Player: Bernie Kosar, QB (Cleveland Browns)

    When: 1986 AFC Division Playoff Game

    In 1986, Bernie Kosar became the starter at quarterback for Cleveland due to Gary Danielson injuries. Kosar led the Browns to the playoffs, and they found themselves in a duel with the New York Jets.

    Kosar established a new playoff record for passing yards, as he threw for 489 yards on the day. The Browns won the game in double overtime 23-20. This was a dramatic comeback victory, as Kosar led the Browns back from a 10-point deficit. The game wound up becoming the second-longest game in NFL history.

    The Browns out-gained the Jets 558 yards to 287, and Kosar completed 34 out of a whopping 65 passes. He was picked off twice and sacked nine times.

    But all of the good vibes for the Browns were wiped out the following week in the AFC Championship game when John Elway conducted "The Drive" to tie the game in regulation in the last minute.

    The Browns then lost in overtime, which denied their first trip to the Super Bowl.

Willie Flipper Anderson vs. New Orleans Saints

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    Player: Willie "Flipper" Anderson, WR (Los Angeles Rams)

    When: Nov. 26, 1989

    Willie Anderson exploded on Nov. 26 in an overtime game against the New Orleans Saints.

    Anderson caught 15 passes for 336 yards and only one touchdown. The one touchdown is the only part of this game that seems out of place, but that is how the game went down. He also averaged an amazing 22.4 yards per catch for the day.

    Anderson wound up retiring in 1997, but he retired with an average of 20.1 yards per catch over his entire career.

Stephone Paige vs. San Diego Chargers

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    Player: Stephone Paige, WR (Kansas City Chiefs)

    When: Dec. 22, 1985 

    Stephone Paige had a very special game in 1985 against the San Diego Chargers when he caught eight passes for a gaudy 309 yards and two touchdowns.

    There are not any typos here; Paige averaged 38.6 yards per reception on the day. At what point did the Chargers try to double or triple-team him?

    Whatever they tried, it really didn't work out very well.

    Paige's record stood until Willie Anderson broke his mark. Paige was a steady performer for the Chiefs, catching at least one pass in 83 straight games.

Cloyce Box vs. Baltimore Colts

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    Player: Cloyce Box, WR (Detroit Lions)

    When: Dec. 3, 1950 

    Cloyce Box had a huge game in 1950, catching 12 passes for 302 yards. Box scored four touchdowns in the game and averaged 25 yards per catch in the contest.

    Box made two Pro Bowl teams while with the Detroit Lions. He was a 20th-round draft choice of the Washington Redskins in 1948.

Jim Benton vs. Detroit Lions

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    Player: Jim Benton, WR (Cleveland Rams)

    When: Nov. 22, 1945

    Jim Benton had a big game for the Cleveland Rams in 1945 when he caught 10 passes for 303 yards and a touchdown. Benton averaged 30 yards per catch on the day and was the first receiver in NFL history to record 300-plus receiving yards in a game; his record of 303 yards stood for 40 years.

Terrell Owens vs. Chicago Bears

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    Player: Terrell Owens, WR (San Francisco 49ers)

    When: Dec. 17, 2000 

    Terrell Owens had a special game against the Chicago Bears in 2000 when he erupted for 20 catches in the game. Owens picked up 283 yards in receptions, scored one touchdown and averaged 14 yards per catch to repeatedly keep the chains moving throughout the game.

    It seems that the Bears paid more attention to Jerry Rice that day, and Owens took advantage. Jeff Garcia passed for more than 400 yards in the game, and the 49ers enjoyed a wide margin of 26 first downs to eight for the Bears. The 49ers won via a shutout, 17-0.

    This game was in the fifth year of Owens' career, and it probably serves as his best game in terms of catches and yards gained.

Lee Evans vs. Houston Texans

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    Player: Lee Evans, WR (Buffalo Bills)

    When: Nov. 19, 2006 

    Lee Evans had a magical game at Houston in 2006, and that was just in the first quarter.

    Evans lit up the Texans' secondary to the tune of 205 yards in receptions, just in the first quarter alone.

    During that quarter, Evans and Bills' quarterback J.P.Losman connected on two different touchdown passes that went for at least 80 yards, which is the third time that has happened in NFL history; it was the first time it happened in one quarter.

    Over the final three quarters, Evans caught another 60 yards in passes, winding up with 11 catches for 265 yards and the two touchdowns on the day.

Jerry Rice vs. Minnesota Vikings

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    Player: Jerry Rice, WR (San Francisco 49ers)

    When: Dec.18, 1995 

    You knew Jerry Rice had to appear sometime, right?

    The all-time leading receiver in NFL history had a special day in 1995 when he torched the Minnesota Vikings for 14 catches that amounted to 289 yards and three touchdowns.

    The 49ers needed every bit of production they got from Rice, as they just edged the Vikings 37-30 in this nationally televised Monday Night Football contest. Rice averaged 20 yards per catch in the game that featured him against Cris Carter of the Vikings.

Jerry Butler vs. New York Jets

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    Player: Jerry Butler, WR (Buffalo Bills)

    When: Sept. 23, 1979 

    The prevailing thought about wide receivers in the NFL is that you need to allow them some time to develop, and they generally break out in their third year.

    That was not the case with Bills rookie receiver Jerry Butler, who decided to step up and have a career day in his first month as a pro.

    Butler caught 10 passes for 255 yards and four touchdowns against the Jets. In the second quarter, Butler caught scoring two scoring passes, and in the third quarter, he came back with two more touchdown catches.

    In fact, Butler scored four straight touchdowns for the Bills in the game, which allowed them to win 46-31.

    Quite a day for a first-month rookie indeed.

John Taylor vs. Los Angeles Rams

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    Player: John Taylor, WR (San Francisco 49ers)

    When: Dec. 11, 1989 

    It wasn't bad enough that NFL defenses had to worry about Joe Montana, Jerry Rice or Roger Craig.

    There was another weapon, too: wide receiver John Taylor.

    In a game against the Rams in 1989, Taylor was able to find himself open all day. He caught two touchdown passes of more than 90 yards (92 and 96) to lead the 49ers to a wild 30-27 win on Monday Night Football.

    Taylor's final statistics: 11 catches, 286 yards and two touchdowns.

    Montana's: 30-of-42 for 458 yards and three touchdown passes.

Qadry Ismail vs Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Player: Qadry Ismail, wide receiver of the Baltimore Ravens

    When: December 12, 1999  Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers

    Qadry Ismail, also known as "The Missile" could have been called a heat-seeking missile on this 1999 game against the Steelers.

    In the contest, Ismail caught three touchdown passes in the third quarter, and each TD pass from Tony Banks kept getting longer and longer. They started out with a connection from 54 yards, then 59 yards and finally hitting on a 76 yard score. Ismail wound up with two catches of 76 yards in the game.

    He amassed 258 yards on just 6 catches which comes out to an unbelievable average of 43 yards per catch. Baltimore won the game 31 - 24, but they would not have been able to do anything without Ismail.

Jimmy Smith vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    Player: Jimmy Smith, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars)

    When: Sept. 10, 2000 

    Jimmy Smith had a field day in 2000 against the Baltimore Ravens. He caught 15 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns. Smith also caught three touchdown passes of at least 40 yards (45, 43 and 40 yards), but the Ravens were the team that came away victorious, 39-36.

    Smith had a great rhythm going with Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell. Smith averaged 19.4 yards per catch, and his longest catch of the game was 45 yards.

Plaxico Burress vs. Atlanta Falcons

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    Player: Plaxico Burress, WR (Pittsburgh Steelers)

    When: Nov. 10, 2002 

    Plaxico Burress came up with a huge game in 2002 when he erupted for 253 receiving yards against the Falcons.

    In total, Burress caught nine passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He was in sync with Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox, who threw for a Steelers franchise record 473 yards in the game. Maddox smashed a Steelers record that was around for more than 44 years (409 yards by Bobby Layne in 1958).

    The game wound up going into overtime, tied at 34. Both teams tried a field goal, but nobody could score.

    The Steelers had the ball at the end of overtime and threw a Hail Mary pass to Burress from midfield. Burress caught the pass at the one-yard line, but even though he went over the goal line, the ball did not. The game ended in a bizarre 34-34 tie.

    Burress averaged 28 yards per catch in the game and scored on passes of 33 and 62 yards out.

Glyn Milburn vs. Seattle Seahawks

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    Player: Glyn Milburn, RB/KR/PR (Denver Broncos)

    When: Dec. 10, 1995 

    There have been at least 40 players who have gained at least 300 combined net yards in a game in NFL history.

    There has only been one player who has ever gained 400 combined net yards in a NFL game, and that was accomplished by Glyn Milburn in 1995 against the Seattle Seahawks.

    Four hundred combined net yards is like a one-man wrecking crew, and that is what Milburn was on this day. However, there are two strange facts about Milburn's day: Denver lost the game 31-27 to Seattle, and Milburn never scored in the game.

    Strange, but true.

    He rushed 18 times for 131 yards and caught five passes for 45 yards. Milburn also returned five kickoffs for a total of 133 yards and five punts for 95 yards. Add them all up, and you have 404 yards in 33 touches with no touchdowns.

    Also add one long soak in the cold tub after the game.

Billy Cannon vs. New York Titans

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    Player: Billy Cannon, RB (Houston Oilers)

    When: Dec. 10, 1961 

    Billy Cannon was an all-purpose back early in his career during the American Football League with the Houston Oilers. He was primarily a running back, but later moved to tight end when he played for the Oakland Raiders.

    Cannon gained 330 yards in this contest on 30 touches. He scored five touchdowns on the day, and two of his touchdowns came off passes from George Blanda that covered 67 and 15 yards. Cannon also ran the ball in for three touchdowns, leading the Oilers to a 48-21 win. 

Priest Holmes vs. Seattle Seahawks

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    Player: Priest Holmes, RB (Kansas City Chiefs)

    When: Nov. 24, 2002 

    Priest Holmes registered 307 combined net yards in this 2002 contest off 30 touches. He also scored three touchdowns in the game.

    Holmes rushed 23 times for 197 yards and two touchdowns, and he also caught seven passes for 110 yards, which included a 64-yard touchdown reception.

    In all though, the 307 combined yards weren't enough, as Seattle pulled out a 39-32 victory.

Frank Reich vs. Houston Oilers

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    Player: Frank Reich, QB (Buffalo Bills)

    When: Jan. 3, 1993 

    As if trailing at halftime 28-3 wasn't bad enough in front of a home crowd, throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown to make the deficit 35-3 was enough to make many Bills fans turn off the TV.

    But Frank Reich, master of the greatest comeback in college history, wasn't ready to throw in the towel.

    He orchestrated four touchdown drives in the third quarter to bring the Bills back to trail 35-31 at the start of the fourth quarter. Reich threw touchdown passes to Don Beebe for 38 yards and hit Andre Reed with scoring passes of 26 and 18 yards.

    In the fourth quarter, Reich found Reed again,—this time from 17 yards out—and the Bills finally had the lead.

    Warren Moon, who had a very solid day as well, led the Oilers to a tying field goal drive in the final minutes of regulation. But Moon threw an interception in overtime, and Steve Christie kicked the game-winner to give the Bills an improbable 41-38 comeback that to this day is known as "The Greatest Comeback in NFL History."

Tom Dempsey vs. Detroit Lions

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    Player: Tom Dempsey, K (New Orleans Saints)

    When: Nov. 8, 1970 

    Tom Dempsey kicked the longest field goal in NFL history when he kicked a 63-yard field goal on the final play in regulation to help the New Orleans Saints beat the Detroit Lions 19-17 in this 1970 thriller.

    Not to belittle Jason Elam, as the Denver Broncos' kicker also hit on a 63-yard field goal Oct. 25, 1998 on the final play of the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Happy now, Broncos fans?

Reader's Choice

50 of 50

    Okay, here we are at the 50th and final slide.

    Is there one greatest single game in NFL history that would make this list better for you personally? If so, let us know about it in the comments section. I have at least 10-15 ideas for a 50th slide, but would rather have our Bleacher Report audience supply their own personal choice and ideas for who should be given this honor.

    These 50 slides were not ranked in any particular order, in case you were wondering. In my opinion, each of these games and accomplishments are to be honored and cherished, not argued over which one needs to be ranked above the other.

    For the record, please note: The source for many of the stats sighted in this presentation can be found at this link, which is a statistics compilation from

    Regarding running backs, there have been 120 games that featured a 200-yard rushing effort by 75 different players. The players who completed the feat the most were O.J. Simpson (six) and Tiki Barber (five).

    From a passing standpoint, if we use 400 yards as a high benchmark, that feat has been accomplished 208 times by 108 different quarterbacks. The QB's who did this the most were Dan Marino (13), Peyton Manning, Joe Montana and Warren Moon (seven each).

    In NFL history, there have been at least 40 players who have gained at least 300 combined net yards in a game in NFL History.

    We hope you enjoyed the presentation and maybe learned a thing or two about some of the great NFL players from the past and present. Thanks for reading, and Happy Fourth of July!