The 50 Greatest Games in NFL Playoff History

Tony Santorsa@@TonySantorsaSenior Writer IIJanuary 3, 2012

The 50 Greatest Games in NFL Playoff History

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    Debate it all you want—but there is nothing like the NFL playoffs. 

    It's win or go home, do or die, or simply put: Just win, baby.

    Over the illustrious history of the NFL, we have see quite the handful of classic NFL playoff games, and I have decided to put them all together for you.

    As the playoffs are about to start next weekend, here's something for you to get pumped up with: 

    The 50 Greatest Games in NFL Playoff History. 

1982 NFC Championship: Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    The 1982 NFC Championship was ultimately the "passing of the torch," as one dynasty died and a new one was born.

    The San Francisco 49ers were bale to knock off the Dallas Cowboys 28-27 to advance to Super Bowl XVI. 

    This game became an instant classic all because of Dwight Clark's incredible catch thrown by Joe Montana to give the 49ers the lead for good late in the game—this is commonly known as "The Catch."

2000 Wild Card Round: Buffalo Bills vs. Tennessee Titans

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    The "Music City Miracle." That's all you need to know.

    Sit back and enjoy history. 

2010 Wild Card Round: Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals

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    This may have been the most exciting game that I have ever watched.

    If you ever want to talk about a shoot-out, this was a shoot-out.

    How many points were scored? Ninety-six to be exact, as the Arizona Cardinals outlasted the Green Bay Packers in overtime, 51-45. 

Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants vs. New England Patriots

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    In my opinion, Super Bowl XLII was the greatest upset in NFL history.

    The 18-0 New England Patriots came into this game ready to make history as only one team stood in their way, the New York Giants—a team that made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.

    So what happened? The Giants ultimately prevented the Patriots from going a perfect 19-0, as they escaped with the Vince Lombardi Trophy with a 17-14 victory. 

2000 Wild Card Round: Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    You all probably already know "The Catch," well this is "The Catch II."

    This time, instead of Joe Montana and Dwight Clark it was Steve Young and Terrell Owens. Young found T.O. on a 25-yard touchdown strike to give the 49ers the lead for good over the Green Bay Packers, 30-27. 

2003 Wild Card Round: New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    The San Francisco 49ers overcame a 38-14 lead that the New York Giants had built up entering late in the third quarter, as Jeff Garcia led the 49ers to an incredible 39-38 victory.

    Garcia threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 60 yards and a score—Garcia and the team's defense ultimately won San Francisco this game. 

1958 NFL Championship: Baltimore Colts vs. New York Giants

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    "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

    Just watch the video!

Super Bowl III: New York Jets vs. Baltimore Colts

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    "The Guarantee" by Joe Namath. 

    This was one of the biggest upsets in NFL history, as the former AFL New York Jets knocked off the NFL powerhouse, the Baltimore Colts. 

2002 Divisional Round: Oakland Raiders vs. New England Patriots

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    "The Tuck Rule Game." Do I really need to say much more?

    Oakland Raiders fans are still bitter about it, but it was the correct call. Get over it.

    The New England Patriots went on to win this riding on the leg of Adam Vinatieri in overtime, 16-13. 

2010 NFC Championship: Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints

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    Brett Favre's last moment of glory—wait, this wasn't really something to be proud of, Brett.


    The New Orleans Saints ended the Minnesota Vikings' hopes of going to the Super Bowl, as they managed to pick off Favre with seconds left in the game and ultimately kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime to get the 31-28 victory. 

Super Bowl XXXII: Green Bay Packers vs. Denver Broncos

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    "This one's for John."

    This was John Elway's first ever Super Bowl championship, as he helped lead the Denver Broncos to the 31-24 victory over the Green Bay Packers. 

    Late in the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 24, but Broncos running back Terrell Davis punched in a one-yard score to give Denver the lead for good. 

Super Bowl XXXIV: St. Louis Rams vs. Tennessee Titans

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    "One Yard Short."

    If you ask me, this is the most exciting Super Bowl ever.

    I may have been only seven years old, but I remember this game perfectly, and this game is what ultimately made me a football fan for life. 

2011 Divisional Round: New York Jets vs. New England Patriots

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    This is a game that all New England Patriots fans want to forget.

    The New York Jets talked trash all week and come up to Gillette Stadium and knocked off the Patriots, 28-21.

    With this loss, the Patriots had now lost three straight playoff games and two consecutive home playoff losses. 

Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals

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    Santonio Holmes was named Super Bowl MVP for one reason—that absolutely remarkable game-winning touchdown reception that he reeled in. I still have no idea how he was able to catch it. 

    Holmes led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 27-23 victory over Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals. 

Super Bowl XXXVI: St. Louis Rams vs. New England Patriots

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    Super Bowl XXXVI was one of the greatest upsets in NFL history, as the underdog New England Patriots were able to stun the "Greatest Show on Turf," the St. Louis Rams, 20-17.

    This was the start of the NFL's next dynasty, as the Patriots went onto to win three out of four Super Bowls. 

1967 NFC Championship: Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers

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    "The Ice Bowl."

    This was the coldest NFL Championship game that was ever played, as game-time temperature was −15°F. However, with wind chill, it felt more like −48°F.

    This was the coldest New Year's eve in the history of Wisconsin. 

    In this one, the Green Bay Packers were able to edge the Dallas Cowboys, 21-17.

1978 Divisional Round: Oakland Raiders vs. Baltimore Colts

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    "Ghost to the Post."

    Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler was able to connect with tight end Dave Casper for a 42-yard pass to set up the game-tying field goal to send this game to overtime.

    Casper, or better known as "The Ghost," also was able to catch the game-winning 10-yard touchdown pass to seal the deal for the Raiders in double overtime, 37-31. 

Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys

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    "The Battle of Champions."

    This was a battle between two of the NFL's first powerhouses, the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

    The Steelers knocked off the Cowboys 35-31, as they prevented two-consecutive Super Bowls by Dallas and went onto win next year's Super Bowl. 

1983 NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers vs. Washington Redskins

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    "The Forgotten Classic."

    The Washington Redskins prevailed 21 fourth-quarter points to advance to the Super Bowl over the San Francisco 49ers, 24-21. 

    Redskins kicker Mark Moseley drilled a 25-yard field goal with 40 seconds left in the game to give Washington the win. 

    This was the only postseason matchup between Hall of Fame head coaches Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs. 

Super Bowl XXV: Buffalo Bills vs. New York Giants

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    "Wide Right."

    Do you feel bad for Scott Norwood? I do. 

    This was the perfect upset, as the New York Giants were able to knockoff the high-powered Buffalo Bills. 

1972 Divisional Round: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders

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    The "Immaculate Reception." 

    One of the greatest moments in NFL history, as the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to knock off the Oakland Raiders 13-7 thanks to Franco Harris' "immaculate reception." 

Super Bowl XXXVII: Carolina Panthers vs. New England Patriots

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    This Super Bowl was between two of the NFL's top defenses, as the game was 14-10 entering the half. However, after a scoreless third quarter, both teams exploded in the fourth quarter, as they combined for 37 points in just one quarter.

    On the arm of Tom Brady and the leg of Adam Vinatieri, the New England Patriots were able to win their second Super Bowl in three years, 38-35. 

1987 Divisional Round: New York Jets vs. Cleveland Browns

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    "The Marathon by the Lake."

    Why was this game called a marathon? Well it lasted two overtimes, as the Cleveland Browns' 38-year-old kicker, Mark Moseley, was able to kick the game-tying 27-yard field goal with seven seconds left in regulation. 

    Then, after a scoreless overtime, Moseley missed one in the first overtime but got another chance in the second overtime period, as he nailed a nine-yard field goal to give the Browns the win. 

1974 Divisional Round: Oakland Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins

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    "The Sea of Hands." 

    This may have been the greatest pitch-and-catch in NFL history, as Kenny Stabler somehow found a way to get the ball into the hands of Clarence Davis for the game-winning touchdown. 

1988 AFC Championship: Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos

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    "The Fumble."

    Can anything go right for the Cleveland Browns? Ever?

    With 1:12 left in the game, Cleveland Browns running back Earnest Byner was on the verge of scoring the game-tying touchdown, but he simply fumbled the ball on the three-yard line. 

1991 NFC Championship Game: New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    "The End of a Dynasty."

    This is when the San Francisco 49ers' incredible dynasty ultimately came to an end, as the New York Giants took out the 49ers, 15-13. 

    Joe Montana was replaced with Steve Young late in the fourth, and that was one of the last times that we'd see him in a 49ers uniform. 

2007 AFC Championship: New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts

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    Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts finally beat Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. 

    Indy overcame a remarkable 21-3 deficit, as they went on to shock the Patriots and advance to Super Bowl XLI. 

1994 Divisional Round: Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions

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    "Favre to Sharpe." 

    Brett Favre hooked up Sterling Sharpe for 40 yards to give the Green Bay Packers a 28-24 win.

    This was Favre's first ever playoff win. 

1996 AFC Championship: Indianapolis Colts vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    "60 Minutes."

    Now just imagine if Jim Harbaugh actually connected with Aaron Bailey on that Hail Mary attempt—how would that have changed history? 

1997 Divisional Round: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Denver Broncos

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    "Ambush at Mile High."

    No one thought that the Jacksonville Jaguars would be able to beat the Denver Broncos—they were probably the only ones that believed in themselves. 

    No one saw this coming, as the Jags escaped Mile High with an incredible 30-27 victory. 

2008 AFC Championship Game: San Diego Chargers vs. New England Patriots

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    I actually went to this game—and I witnessed history. 

    The New England Patriots went on to edge the San Diego Chargers 21-12 to improve to a phenomenal 18-0.

    We have never seen a team go 18-0 ever—but, unfortunately, we have never seen a team go 19-0, as the Patriots eventually lost the Super Bowl against the New York Giants. 

2011 Divisional Round: Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    This was just another chapter between two of the NFL's greatest rivals, the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

    The game time temperature was zero degrees but it did not seem to stop each team from scoring, as the Steelers edged the Ravens in this one, 31-24. 

    The Ravens had just tied the game up at 24, but then Rashard Mendenhall took the game into his own hands, as he punched in the game-winning two-yard touchdown. 

2006 Divisional Round: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Indianapolis Colts

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    The Indianapolis Colts had posted a 14-2 record in 2005 but chocked completely in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed the game-tying field goal late into the fourth quarter, which ultimately lost Indy the game. 

    From that point on, we knew Mike Vanderjagt was nothing but a choke artist and a fraud. 

Super Bowl XLVI: Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Super Bowl XLV was just nothing short of incredible, as the Green Bay Packers won three straight road games on their way to winning the Super Bowl over the Pittsburgh Steeelers, 31-25. 

    Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers shredded Pittsburgh's mighty defense, as he accumulated 304 yards and tossed three touchdowns. 

Super Bowl XL: Seattle Seahawks vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    In the first Super Bowl to ever be played in Detroit, Michigan, it certainly lived up to its high expectations. 

    The Seattle Seahawks simply fell apart, as Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers took care of business, winning by a score of 21-10. 

    The video posted was the most memorable play from Super Bowl XL. 

Super Bowl XXXVII: Oakland Raiders vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    "The Gruden Bowl."

    Just a year prior to Super Bowl XXXVII Jon Gruden was head coach of the Oakland Raiders, but a year later things had changed and he was now on the other sideline coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Gruden's Bucs took care of business and destroyed his former team, the Raiders, 48-21. 

Super Bowl XX: Chicago Bears vs. New England Patriots

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    Many tend to believe that the 1985 Chicago Bears were the greatest team in NFL history—and I actually agree.

    The '85 Bears were so unstoppable that they posted a 15-1 regular season record and then ultimately won Super Bowl XX, as they destroyed the New England Patriots, 46-10.

2008 Divisional Round: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots

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    This was a piece of history.

    The New England Patriots beat up on the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-20 to improve to 17-0. 

    The video posted is probably one of the most memorable plays in recent memory, as Tom Brady completes the fake direct snap to Kevin Faulk and then sits in the pocket for an eternity until he finds Wes Welker for the touchdown. 

2004 Wild Card Round: Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers

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    "We want the ball and we're gonna score."

    Oh really, Matt Hasselbeck? Is that what you're going to do?

    In overtime, Hasselbeck did get the ball but he threw it away to the Green Bay Packers as Al Harris picked off his pass and ran it back for the game-winning touchdown. 

2010 Wild Card Round: Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots

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    The New England Patriots hardly lose at home, especially in the playoffs. However, the Baltimore Ravens got the best of them in this one.

    The Ravens came up to Gillette Stadium and shocked the Patriots, 33-14. 

    Joe Flacco threw only 10 passes, as Ray Rice ran for an incredible 159 yards on 22 carries and Willis McGahee added 62 yards on 20 carries. 

Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts

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    This was one for the city of New Orleans, as Drew Brees and the Saints shocked Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, 31-17.

    With less than four minutes left, Manning and the Colts were driving as they were down 24-17. However, Tracy Porter managed to pick off Manning and returned it for a touchdown, sealing the deal for New Orleans. 

2008 NFC Championship: New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers

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    "One Chilling Upset."

    The New York Giants ultimately created the biggest upset in NFL history, as they beat the 18-0 New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, but before that they had yet another upset—they went up to Lambeau Field and shocked the Green Bay Packers.

    In one of the coldest games in recent memory, the Giants won this one in overtime, 23-20, thanks to a Brett Favre interception.

2004 Divisional Round: Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Philadelphia Eagles managed to beat the Green Bay Packers in this one, 20-17, but it would have not happened if it weren't for Donovan McNabb completing this fourth-and-26, as he hooked up with Freddie Mitchell for a 28-yard pass. 

2002 AFC Championship: New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    This was the last time that we would ever see Drew Bledsoe play at quarterback for the New England Patriots.

    Earlier in 2001, Bledsoe was replaced by Tom Brady and eventually won the starting job. However, in the 2002 AFC Championship, Brady went down with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came in to save the day.

    Bledsoe completed 10 of his 21 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown to lead the Patriots to a 24-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

1987 AFC Championship: Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns

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    "The Drive."

    Just sit back, relax and enjoy John Elway work his magic, as he led the Broncos to a 23-20 overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns.

Super Bowl XXIII: Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    Super Bowl XXIII was won by the San Francisco 49ers, as they beat up on the Cincinnati Bengals, 20-16.

    Entering the fourth quarter, the 49ers were trailing 13-3, but the 49ers were able to score two touchdowns in the last quarter of play while the Bengals were held to just one field.

    With this Super Bowl title, the 49ers now had won back-to-back championships.

1981 Divisional Round: Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons

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    "Duel in Dixie."

    The Dallas Cowboys managed to score 20 points in the fourth quarter to give the team an incredible 30-27 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. 

    The game-winning touchdown was scored by Drew Pearson, as he snagged a 23-yarder with 47 seconds left after the Cowboys had just marched 70 yards. 

1971 Divisional Round: Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs

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    1971 was the very first season that the NFL actually played a game on Christmas as the Miami Dolphins were able to knock off the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, 27-24.

    At the end of regulation, Chiefs kicker Jan Stenerud missed a field goal as well as missing yet another in overtime. Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian then went onto missed one of his own in overtime—so what happened? Yepremian finally drilled a 37-yarder to give the Dolphins the win. 

    Oh—I forgot to tell you: This was the longest game in NFL history. 

1982 Divisional Round: San Diego Chargers vs. Miami Dolphins

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    Most of us know this game as "The Epic in Miami." 

    The San Diego Chargers ran out to an impressive 24-0 lead, however, they then went on to allow the Miami Dolphins to score 17 straight points in the second, as the Dolphins successfully completed a "hook and ladder" with seconds left until half-time. 

    The game was ultimately won in overtime, as Chargers kicker Rolf Benirschke drilled a 29-yarder to give San Diego the 41-38 win. 

1993 Wild Card: Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Oilers

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    The Buffalo Bills' season looked like it was coming to an end, as the Houston Oilers had a commanding 35-3 lead entering the third quarter, but somehow, some way, Jim Kelly and the Bills managed to pull off the greatest comeback in playoff history.

    Bills kicker Steve Christie kicked a 32-yard field goal to give Buffalo the win in overtime, 41-38, as this game will forever be remembered as "The Comeback."