4 of the Most Stunning Turnarounds in NFL History
One of the most exciting times for me during a football game is the final two-minute warning. I think for me this is because of the Green Bay Packer, Brett Favre era that I grew up in. I doubt that I was the only one who was reassured as a kid when the Pack was behind with the words “Don’t worry, he plays his best in the final two minutes!”
Nothing is more exciting and thrilling in football than to see your team make a comeback from behind to win the game. The adrenaline rush and sensations are intense and rewarding, love without the risk of rejection, a high without the drugs.
Let’s put ourselves in some of those moments in history.
San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints; Week 14 1980
Dec. 7, 1980. It's 48 degrees at 1:00 with the kickoff about to commence at Candlestick Park. From your seats, the chill of the California air and slight wind are barely noticeable. You see the opposing team and hope with all you have that you can continue the two-game winning streak. After eight losses in a row before this, you know the team needs it.
The first three touchdowns are Saints. Darn it; you thought they had it. Yell louder you think; put a fire under their feet. One for your Niners! Yes! It's still before the half; there's a chance, right? And then... two more for the Saints. The half closes out at 35-7, Saints. You consider leaving to beat the traffic.
Twenty-eight minutes of play time later, you're glad you didn't leave. Four touchdowns in a row and a shut out against the New Orleans offense has brought this game to a tie. The final two minutes ticks away...
Sudden death commences, closing out with a 36-yard San Fransisco field goal by Ray Wersching.
Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Oilers; AFC Wildcard Game, January 3, 1993
Sunday, Jan. 3, 1993. This is your seventh year as the quarterback for this team. You're anxious and you're cold. As you stretch before the game, you're grateful you have home field advantage for this AFC wildcard game. You check the clock, 12:15. Fifteen minutes until your team, the Buffalo Bills, kicks off against the Houston Oilers.
An hour later, you are back in the locker room, Head Coach Marv Levy is trying to mask how upset he is. It's 28-3, Oilers.
This is a playoff game, this is ridiculous, we're better than this. Do more, be more, take more. He's right. You got all this way, you CAN do this! We got this!
At the beginning of the third, you get discouraged when the Oilers make one more touchdown. No worries; bring it back, you tell yourself.
And you do. Five touchdowns in a row, and you are on fire. "It's our game!" you think, and then, a field goal by Houston sends it into overtime. Determined to keep what you fought so desperately for, you persevere.
In sudden death, the game suddenly rests on the shoulders of your teammate and kicker, Steve Christie. It's 32 yards, with 14 mph winds...he approaches, he swings,
IT'S GOOD! The Buffalo Bills will continue into the playoffs!
San Francisco 49ers vs. Giants; NFC Wildcard Game, Jan. 5, 2003
With a score of 38-14, New York Giants, and only two minutes left in the third quarter, you could feel the all of the hopes of the Super Bowl draining out of you. Yea, sure, they could make a comeback. But how many times does that actually happen?
And then, on Jan. 5, 2003, Owens runs it in for a touchdown. Knowing this would require everything they had to bring it back, they run for two points, and make it.
And then another, and can you believe it, another conversion for two...soon after, another field goal.
An attempt by New York to hold their edge results in a failed field goal by kicker M. Bryant. Is this real?
San Francisco was good for one more touchdown; this time, the conversion failed and only six points went on the board.
With six seconds left on the clock, New York attempts a 41-yard field goal. The snap is bad, and the Giants are forced to attempt to run a play. Pass interference is thrown, and it appears the game will continue by penalty. But wait, what's this? An ineligible man downfield for the offense off-sets, and the game is over.
The result? A final score of 39-38, San Francisco.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Tampa Bay; Week 8, Nov. 8, 1987
J.D. Cuban/Getty Images
1987, Nov. 8, today is Sunday. Down by 11 points at the half as the underdogs. We assume we know where this one is going.
It's Week 8, and you've only been able to coach your team, the then-St. Louis Cardinals, into two wins so far this season. It's not looking good. Even on a normal day, your players haven't been able to consistently pull it together to clinch the win. Despite this, you go into the locker room and attempt to rile them up like you're supposed to against Tampa Bay.
Third quarter makes you want to hide your head behind your clipboard. This is not how you planned your career to go. You feel much hotter under your collar than the alleged 58 degrees that it is today. At the end of the third, you're trailing by 25 points.
Yup. That's about it.
Then, perhaps with a stroke of luck, Robert Awalt runs one in for your Cardinals. Great! At least you won't close the game out with a touchdown.
Then, suddenly, the Buccaneers fumble, and you recover for a touchdown. 17-28 is suddenly not so bad! The talk you gave in the locker room immediately jumps back in your mind and the players' alike. We just may be able to do this!
In an amazing display of athletic performance, the Cardinals bring back two more touchdowns, closing the game out at a surprising 31-28, Cardinals.
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The intensity of a turnaround game is subjective. Your team bringing it back from a 10-point deficit is going to be more exciting for you than a rival bringing back 20. In fact, a rival comeback might be so far from exciting that you're disgusted.
The greater message of comebacks, though, is one which should never be forgotten, not be the viewers, the coach and certainly not the players. The game is not over until the last whistle blows.
There will always be hail Marys, 90-yard kick returns and interception touchdowns. This is why we sit on the edge of our seat until the last second of the game and why athletes continue to give it their all until double zeros on the clock.
This is football, baby, and we love it.