The Greatest Wild Card Playoff Games Ever

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The Greatest Wild Card Playoff Games Ever

As we head into Wild Card Weekend, I want to reminisce about some of the greatest games in the history of the first round that was implemented in 1982.

1988—Oilers 23, Seahawks 20 (OT)

Oilers kicker Tony Zendejas won the game with a 42-yard field goal 8:05 into overtime.

Although Houston outgained Seattle with 427 total offensive yards to 250, the game remained close until the very end. The Seahawks scored first on wide receiver Steve Largent's 20-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Dave Krieg.

The Oilers then scored 13-unanswered points with two field goals by Zendejas and running back Mike Rozier's one-yard rushing touchdown.

However, Seattle tied the game in the third quarter after kicker Norm Johnson made his second field goal of the game. Later in the third period, Houston quarterback Warren Moon threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Willie Drewrey to give his team a 20-13 lead.

With only 1:47 left in regulation, Krieg threw his second touchdown pass to Largent, a 12-yarder, to tie the game.

1992—Bills 41, Oilers 38 (OT)

It is simply known as "The Comeback." 

The Bills mounted the greatest second half comeback in NFL history, overcoming a 35-3 deficit.

The Bills were without quarterback Jim Kelly (who was injured in the last game of the season, ironically a loss to the Oilers), All-Pro linebacker Cornelius Bennett, and Thurman Thomas to a hip injury. The Oilers jumped to a 28-3 lead by halftime and a good chunk of the crowd had started for the exits.

Houston quarterback Warren Moon recorded 220 passing yards and four touchdowns in the first half.

Then 1:41 into the third quarter, Oilers defensive back Bubba McDowell returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown, increasing their lead to 32 points.

That's when quarterback Frank Reich took over, leading Buffalo to five unanswered touchdowns: Kenneth Davis' one-yard rushing score, Don Beebe's 38-yard touchdown reception, and wide receiver Andre Reed's three touchdown catches, the last of which gave Buffalo a brief 38-35 lead late in the fourth.

Reich finished the game with 289 yards passing and four touchdowns.

However, Oilers kicker Al Del Greco scored the tying 26-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.

Early in the extra period, Bills defensive back Nate Odomes' interception set up Steve Christie's 32-yard field goal to give the Bills a 41-38 win and propel them to Super Bowl XXVII.

1993—Packers 28, Lions 24

In Brett Favre's first-ever playoff victory, he overcame a 17-7 third quarter deficit, throwing a 40-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe with 55 seconds left.  Favre and Sharpe connected on three scores during the game.

After the Lions scored first on Jason Hanson's 47-yard field goal, Sharpe caught a 12-yard touchdown from Favre.

However, Detroit built a 10-7 lead by halftime as Lions quarterback Erik Kramer completed a one-yard touchdown to  Brett Perriman.

Midway through the third quarter, Detroit cornerback Melvin Jenkins intercepted a pass from Favre and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown to extend the Lions' lead, 17-7.

Favre countered with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Sharpe.

Then with Detroit deep inside Green Bay territory, Packers defensive back George Teague intercepted Kramer's pass in the end zone and returned it 101 yards to give the Packers a 21-17 lead.

The Lions would regain the lead on running back Derrick Moore's five-yard touchdown before Favre and Sharpe connected on the winning score.

Lions' running back Barry Sanders had the best postseason performance of his career, finishing the game with 167 rushing yards. Sharpe caught five passes for 101 yards and tied a playoff record with three touchdown receptions.

1995—Eagles 58, Lions 37

In the highest scoring game in NFL postseason history, the Eagles scored 31 points in the second quarter, recorded six interceptions, and held Barry Sanders to just 40 rushing yards en route to a win.

Philadelphia struck first with Charlie Garner's 15-yard touchdown run, but was countered with Detroit quarterback Scott Mitchell's 32-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Sloan.

Then Philadelphia exploded in the second quarter with Eagles kicker Gary Anderson's 21-yard field goal, Rodney Peete's 22-yard touchdown pass to Fred Barnett, defensive back Barry Wilburn's 24-yard interception return for a touchdown, Ricky Watters' one-yard touchdown, and Rob Carpenter's 43-yard touchdown reception on a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half.

In the second half, a 45-yard touchdown reception by Watters and two more field goals by Anderson increased the Eagles lead, 51-7, still with slightly more than nine minutes remaining in the third quarter.

From there, backup quarterback Don Majikowski replaced Mitchell and threw three touchdowns, and Ron Rivers added a one-yard touchdown run, but by then the game was well out of reach.

1998—49ers 30, Packers 27

In a play dubbed as "The Catch II," a rookie Terrell Owens caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Steve Young with three seconds left denying Brett Favre of another playoff win against them.

The Packers had eliminated San Francisco in each of the previous three postseasons. 

Both teams took advantage of each other's turnovers and mistakes throughout the game.

In the fourth quarter, the Packers drove 60 yards in 11 plays, featuring a 33-yard reception by fullback William Henderson, and scored a 37-yard field goal to tie the game.

But on the 49ers ensuing drive, a 34-yard completion from Young to Owens set up another Wade Richey field goal to put them back in the lead, 23-20.

Trailing 23-20 with two minutes remaining, Favre lofted a 15-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman, completing an 89-yard drive that had seen the Packers run a risky 4th-and-1 play from deep in their own territory and Favre complete a 47-yard pass to seldom-used rookie receiver Corey Bradford.

But San Francisco responded with an equally impressive drive, during which Jerry Rice visibly fumbled, but instant replay was not in effect until the following year.

Therefore, the drive was allowed to continue behind Young, who completed 7-of-9 passes in a 76-yard drive for the winning score. Owens, who had dropped four passes and lost a fumble, caught the winning pass.

1999—Tennessee 22, Buffalo 16

Known as the "Music City Miracle," this game served as somewhat of a redemption for many players that were on the Houston sideline when Frank Reich led "The Comeback" in 1992.

It is also remembered for a huge quarterback controversy as Doug Flutie had replaced much-maligned "Robosack" Rob Johnson to lead the Bills to this game.  But head coach Wade Phillips decided to go with Johnson.

Late in the fourth quarter, Titans receiver Issac Byrd's 16-yard punt return and five carries from Eddie George for 17 yards set up a 36-yard field goal by Al Del Greco (who kicked the winning field goal for Buffalo in 1992), giving Tennessee a 15-13 lead with 1:38 left.

The Bills retook the lead with a 41-yard field goal from Steve Christie at the end of a 38-yard drive, featuring two receptions by Peerless Price for 23 yards. Christie's field goal gave the Bills a 16-15 lead with only 16 seconds left in the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, which Christie squib kicked, fullback Lorenzo Neal picked up the ball at his own 25-yard line. He then handed off to Frank Wycheck, who ran all the way to the right sideline before lateraling the ball all the way back to Kevin Dyson on the left side of the field. After taking the ball, Dyson ran 75 yards for a touchdown to give Tennessee the win.

Initially thought to be a forward pass, replays further confirmed Wycheck's toss was a lateral and the touchdown stayed as called.

2002—49ers 39, Giants 38

Giants' fans will remember this game for a blown lead and some very questionable officiating towards the end.

New York held a 24-point lead late in the third quarter, but quarterback Jeff Garcia engineered the second-greatest fourth quarter comeback in NFL playoff history.

The Giants scored 21 second quarter points, including a famous Tiki Barber six-yard score where he blew a kiss to the crowd. Down 38-14, San Francisco stormed back, driving 70 yards in seven plays on a drive that consumed only 2:24 and ended with Garcia's 26-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens.

Owens added a two-point conversion catch on the next play, cutting the 49ers deficit to 38-22. Defensive end Michael Strahan taunted Owens immediately after, barking at him to look at the scoreboard.

New York was forced to punt after three plays on their next drive, and Cedrick Wilson returned the ball 29 yards, with a personal foul against the Giants adding another 15 and giving San Francisco the ball on the Giants 27-yard line.

Two plays later, Garcia scored on a 14-yard touchdown run, and then completed another two-point conversion pass to Owens, cutting the score to 38-30 five seconds into the fourth quarter.

After forcing New York to punt once again, the 49ers scored with a 25-yard field goal by Jeff Chandler. The Giants responded with a drive to the San Francisco 20, with 3:01 left in the game, but Matt Bryant missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.

Garcia then took over, converting two third downs, one of them a 25-yard completion to tight end Eric Johnson, on the way to a 13-yard touchdown pass to Tai Streets. This time, the two-point conversion failed, but the 49ers took the lead, 39-38, with one minute left in regulation.

Following the failed two-point conversion try, Owens and Giants' safety Shaun Williams were flagged for personal fouls. Williams was subsequently disqualified by referee Ron Winter for throwing a punch at 49ers' offensive lineman Jeremy Newberry.

Kerry Collins led the Giants to the 49ers 23-yard line with six seconds left. But a botched snap by Trey Junkin, who had been signed the day earlier, resulted into a feeble pass play that fell incomplete. The Giants were also called for having an illegal man downfield on the play, and the game ended. 

The following day, NFL Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira admitted pass interference should have been called on 49ers defensive end Chike Okeafor for pulling down Giants offensive lineman Rich Seubert.

Combined with the ineligible man downfield penalty against the Giants, the down would have been replayed at the previous spot, the San Francisco 23.

2002- Steelers 36, Browns 33

The very same day, an amazing performance from Browns quarterback Kelly Holcomb (429 yards, 3 TD), one of the most inexperienced quarterbacks ever to play in a postseason game, was overshadowed. Former XFL signal-caller and 2002 Comeback Player of the Year Tommy Maddox (367 yards, 3 TD) led the Steelers to 29 second half  points to overcome a 17-point deficit.

A three-yard touchdown run by Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala with 54 seconds left capped the game-winning 58-yard drive.

Early in the third quarter, Holcomb's 15-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Northcutt increased the Browns lead to 24-7.

In the fourth quarter and taking over at their own 42-yard line, Maddox threw to Plaxico Burress for 24 yards, Hines Ward for 10, Burress again for 17, and Ward again for seven before Fuamatu-Ma'afala finished the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.

Jeremy Tuman scored the two-point conversion to give the Steelers a 36-33 lead.

The Browns attempted to drive for the tying field goal, but time expired in the game on Holcomb's 16-yard completion to Andre King at the Steelers 29-yard line.

2003- Packers 33, Seahawks 27 (OT)

This game is memorable for Seahawks' quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. His ironic comment after winning the coin toss for the start of overtime to the microphoned referee, and thus the crowd at Lambeau Field and the national television audience, "We want the ball, and we're going to score."

At the end of an 11-play, 60-yard drive, Ahman Green's one-yard touchdown run tied the game with 9:56 left in the fourth quarter.

Seattle went three and out on their next drive, and Antonio Chatman returned a punt 21 yards to the Seahawks' 49-yard line.

Green finished the drive with another one-yard touchdown run, and Longwell's extra point gave the Packers a 27-20 lead with 2:39 left in regulation. But Hasselbeck responded by completing three of five passes for 59 yards, including a 34-yard pass to Engram, on the way to Alexander's third one-yard touchdown run to tie the game.

Favre's 27-yard completion to Walker on the Packers ensuing drive gave them a chance to win, but Longwell missed a 47-yard field goal attempt on the last play of the fourth quarter, and it went into overtime.

After both teams went three-and-out on their first drives of the extra period, Seattle drove to their own 45-yard before Al Harris' 52-yard interception return for a touchdown  won the game.

Favre's second quarter touchdown pass gave him 14-straight postseason games with at least one, an NFL record. 

2006- Seahawks 21, Cowboys 20

In the final coached game of the career of Bill Parcells, quarterback Tony Romo, a four-year veteran who earned the starting job and made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career during the regular season, botched the hold on a potential game-winning field goal with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter, allowing Seattle to escape with a wild victory. 

Dallas took the ensuing kickoff after Matt Hasselbeck's 37-yard touchdown to Jerramy Stevens and marched down to the Seahawks' eight-yard line.

On third down, Jason Witten caught a pass that was initially ruled a first down on the one-yard line, but after an instant-replay challenge, officials ruled Witten had been tackled at the two-yard line, bringing up fourth down.

With 1:19 left in the game, Martin Gramatica lined up to attempt a 19-yard field goal, but Romo dropped the ball while setting it up for a hold.

Romo picked up the fumble and tried to run with it for either a touchdown or a first down, but he was tackled at the two-yard line by safety Jordan Babineaux, turning the ball over on downs and allowing Seattle to run the clock down to eight seconds before punting back to Dallas.

On the last play of the game, Romo's final heave fell incomplete in the end zone. 

If I've missed any, please let me know. Tell me what you think. Hope everyone enjoys this year's playoffs!

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