10 Greatest Comeback Stories in NFL History

Justine BrownCorrespondent IIOctober 20, 2011

10 Greatest Comeback Stories in NFL History

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    The NFL has been home to some of the greatest and most exciting comebacks in all of sports history.

    Every year there is at least one heroic game that every NFL fan can't stop talking about and leaves people saying, "wow that was the best ever."  

    On top of that, the NFL has some of the best stories of players facing adversity and rising from the bottom to the top, or better yet going from the top to the bottom and back up.

    These are stories that never die and here are 10 of the most memorable ones.

January 3, 1993: Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Oilers

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    This is the game known as "The Comeback" and rightfully so.  

    The Houston Oilers were matched up against the Buffalo Bills in AFC Wild Card game.  The Bills were playing without starting quarterback Jim Kelly who was injured a week earlier during the last regular season game against none other than the Houston Oilers.

    Oilers quarterback Warren Moon was up against Bills backup Frank Reich.  In the first half Moon outplayed Reich substantially on his way to 19-of-22 passing for 220 yards and four touchdowns, as the Oilers went into half time leading 28-3. 

    What Moon and the Oilers didn't know was that Reich was the comeback kid.  After the Oilers took a 35-3 lead in the third quarter Reich took over.  He lead the team to a 28 point third quarter to cut the lead to 28-35.

    With three minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Bills took their first lead going up 38-35 over the Oilers.  Moon proceeded to lead his team down the field for a field goal to put the game into overtime.

    In overtime, the Oilers got the ball to start, but Warren Moon threw an interception which later resulted in a Bills 32-yard field goal for the win.

    This was not the first time Frank Reich lead a comeback as a backup quarterback. In college playing for Maryland, Reich led the Terrapins back from a 31-0 first half deficit to a 42-40 win over the unbeaten Miami Hurricanes. 

2010: Michael Vick

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    In perhaps the most interesting of NFL player comebacks, quarterback Michael Vick returned to the NFL during the 2010-11 season to play quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles after spending two years in federal prison for dog fighting.

    Vick put on a number of impressive displays, including one of the greatest NFL game comebacks of all-time in the Eagles defeat over the Giants in Week 15, leading the Eagles to a 10-6 record and an NFC East title.

    Vick was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year and to the Pro Bowl squad.

October 6, 2003: Indianpolis Colts vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    In one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history, with four minutes left in regulation the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held a 21-point lead over the Indianapolis Colts.  Thanks to last second heroics from Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, the Colts somehow managed to overcome the lead and send the game into overtime.

    In overtime, with four minutes to go and an opportunity to win the game, Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed his first field goal attempt, but the Bucs were called for a penalty giving the kicker another try, that one, despite being partially blocked, sailed through the uprights for the Colts win.

    Indianapolis was the first team in NFL history to win trailing by 21 or more points with less than four minutes.

1998: Doug Flutie

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    After playing in the Canadian football league from 1990-1997, Doug Flutie made a comeback to the NFL in 1998 with the Buffalo Bills.

    Leading the Bills to a 10-6 record Flutie was elected to the Pro Bowl and name the NFL's comeback player of the year.

    Flutie went on to play two more years with the Bills, followed by four years with the San Diego Chargers and one with the New England Patriots in 2005 before announcing his retirement in 2006.

December 19, 2010: Philadelphia Eagles vs New York Giants

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    On December 19, 2010 the New York Giants experienced one of the greatest meltdowns of all time while the Philadelphia Eagles claimed one of the greatest comebacks of all time, defeating the Giants 38-31 in regulation.

    Scoring 28 points with less than eight minutes to play in the game, the Philadelphia Eagles pulled off one spectacular play after another.  

    On what was expected to be the Eagles opportunity of the game, Mike Vick completed a touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin which would have been enough to push the game to overtime, but when the Giants got the ball back the Eagles forced a punt with seconds remaining.

    Then came the most notable play of the game.  With 13 seconds left of the clock, the Giants punted right to electric return man, DeSean Jackson, who fumbled but proceeded to recover and take the ball 65 yards for the game winning touchdown as time expired.

2009: Tom Brady

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    An ACL injury can be quite rehabilitating for any athlete, especially an elite quarterback who relies on his lateral movement and has to be comfortable enough to stand on the field and risk being hit at any time.  

    This is what makes Tom Brady's 2009 comeback following his ACL injury so impressive.  Going from NFL MVP in 2007 to sitting out the 2008 season rehabbing his knee.

    Breaking records, leading his team to Super Bowls and being named to four Pro Bowls prior to the injury, no one knew what to expect from Brady's return.  However, when Brady stepped back on the field for the 2009 season it was almost as if he had not missed a step.

    In his first game back he threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns en route to being named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.  Brady's play continued leading the Patriots to a 10-6 record, NFC East championship and a playoff appearance.

    Brady threw for 4,398 yards and 28 touchdowns and was elected an alternate to the Pro Bowl.  In 2010, Brady was once again named MVP of the NFL.

January 5, 2003: San Francisco 49ers vs New York Giants

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    In one of the greatest playoff comebacks of all time, the San Francisco 49ers overcame a 24-point deficit to defeat the New York Giants in the 2002 NFC wild-card game.

    After outspoken 49ers star wide receiver, Terrell Owens demanded at halftime that his team step he proceeded to lead the way.

    Down 38-14 with four minutes left in the third quarter, the 49ers scored 25 straight points to take the lead 39-38 as quarterback Jeff Garcia and Owens went to work and lead the team all the way back.

    With minutes left on the clock the Giants marched down the field one last time and with six seconds left on the clock they went for a field goal in an attempt to win the game, but a bad snap lead to a failed opportunity and chaos as the clock ran out. 

    Owens finished with nine catches for 177 yards and Garcia went 27-of-44 for 331 yards and three touchdowns.


1999: Kurt Warner

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    There are not many greater comeback stories than Kurt Warner's, if you wish to call it that.  Whatever way you choose to look at it, Warner's story is one that has been told time and time again.

    Warner's initial opportunity with the NFL was a long-shot that was short lived.  

    After an exceptional college career Kurt Warner was invited to the Green Bay Packers training camp after going undrafted in the 1994 NFL draft.  The Packers saw potential in the young quarterback but did not see him as fit for the NFL just yet and cut him before the season began.

    Not receiving an opportunity with another team, Warner returned to his alma-mater Northern Iowa and served as a grad assistant while stocking shelves at a local grocery store.

    Not willing to give up on his dreams, Warner began playing Arena Football.  He did so from 1995-1997 before being signed by the St. Louis Rams in 1998.  This is where Warner's stardom began.

    In 1999, when Rams' starting quarterback Trent Green suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason Warner took over.

    The rest is history.  Warner lead the Rams to a first place finish in the NFC West before leading the team to a Super Bowl XXXIV championship.

    Warner was named NFL and Super Bowl MVP, throwing for 4,353 yards with 41 touchdown in his debut season as a starter. 

December 1, 1985: Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles

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    In this epic game the Philadelphia Eagles maintained control of the game all the way up into the fourth quarter when they had a shutout lead over the Minnesota Vikings 23-0.

    It was with about nine minutes left to go in the game when everything started to go Minnesota's way.  First, Wade Wilson threw a touchdown to get the Vikings on the board. 

    Then just a few plays later Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski fumbled resulting in a Vikings 65 yard fumble return for a touchdown.  The score was then 23-14 with six minutes remaining.

    Once again the Eagles had the ball and once again they fumbled.  This time the Vikings recovered and got the ball with good field position, resulting in another touchdown a few plays later.  The score was now 23-21 and the Vikings had come almost all the way back with four minutes to play.

    With a two point lead and Eagles ball, the Vikings defense stepped up and made a huge three and out.  Minnesota got the ball and once again Wilson lead a scoring drive for a 42-yard touchdown reception that would end up being the game winner.

    On the final play of the game, standing not the 17 yard line,  the Eagles made their last attempt and the pass fell to the ground, completing the Vikings unbelievable fourth quarter comeback victory.

2003: Jake Delhomme

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    Jake Delhomme's start to his NFL career was a tumultuous one until 2003 when he became almost an instant hero. 

    Going undrafted out of college in the 1997 NFL Draft, Delhomme had a stint with the New Orleans Saints before being assigned to the NFL Europe.  

    Following his success overseas, the Saints brought Delhomme back where, despite decent success in limited time as backup, Delhomme remained on the bench for a couple of years never receiving a legitimate opportunity.  

    During the 2003 offseason Delhomme signed with the Carolina Panthers as a free agent and during halftime of the season opener, with the team down 17-0, took over Rodney Peete's job as starting quarterback. Delhomme led the team back to victory and his success continued from there.

    Delhomme lead the Panthers to a first place finish in the NFC South and a wild card playoff birth. Delhomme kept shining during the playoffs as he lead his team to the Super Bowl where they eventually lost to the New England Patriots.  Despite the loss, Delhomme had a great game throwing for 323 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.


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