There’s an ongoing debate as to which NFL Playoff weekend is the best for fans. Some point to the Division Playoff Weekend, with four full games of the eight best teams filling the weekend. Others point to the Super Bowl, with history literally being made as you watch and the victor standing on a stage and lifting the Lombardi Trophy as confetti flutters down around them. And all those commercials.
Still others point to the Conference Championship weekend, where you get two full games of Super Bowl-worthy teams in an unmatchable double header. Here we focus on those AFC/NFC Championship games as there have been a number of memorable contests over the years, with big name players and legendary teams coming through in the end, while some coming up just short. There’s probably not a longer offseason than the one for the team that was one play away from making the Super Bowl. Here we rank the Top 10 AFC or NFC Championship games since the merger (1970-1971).
10. January 23, 2011 – Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
New York Jets 19
Pittsburgh Steelers 24
It wasn’t that long ago that the New York Jets, usually from a lower, Wild Card, seed because of the Patriots, were a playoff juggernaut behind Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez. This game looked like a laugher early with the Steelers jumping out to a 24-0 with just a minute before the half. Buoyed by a FG before half and a TD drive to open the second half, the Jets came storming back and made it a game to the end. In the fourth quarter, the Jets got stuffed on a fourth down and goal which would have pulled them within 7. However, they got a quick safety and a subsequent TD on the free kick drive to reach within a 24-19 score with 3 minutes left. After the next kickoff, the Steelers ran out the clock with a couple of key first downs. Sanchez and the Jets have not reached the playoffs since.
9. January 20, 2008 – Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
New York Giants 23
Green Bay Packers 20 (OT)
In a blustery cold (-1 degrees) worthy of Lambeau playoff lore, Eli Manning and Brett Favre squared off to see who could produce enough points against stout defenses to get the Super Bowl berth. With the game tied at 20 late in the fourth quarter, The Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes missed from 36 yards as time expired and the game went to overtime. On the second play of overtime, Favre threw an interception to Corey Webster (above) that was run back into Packers territory such that the Giants could lay up for a game winning 47 yard field goal, Tynes 5th of the game. It was Favre’s last game in a Packers uniform.
8. January 14, 1996 – Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
Indianapolis Colts 16
Pittsburgh Steelers 20
The Indianapolis Colts (led at QB by current San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh) surprised experts by advancing to the AFC Championship game as the #5 seed. The game was see-saw affair in which neither team could take more than a 4 point lead. The game featured an interception by Colts DT Tony Siragusa off Steelers QB Neil O’Donnell’s first pass and a touchdown reception by Steelers rookie QB-SLASH-WR Kordell Stewart. The final Steelers scoring drive featured a key 4th down conversion by O’Donnell and a 1 yard Bam Morris TD run to put the Steelers up 20-16 with 1:34 remaining. Harbaugh led the Colts inside the Steelers 30 yard line, and a Hail Mary was close, but not answered and the Steelers achieved their first Super Bowl berth since 1980.
7. January 24, 2010 – Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Minnesota Vikings 28
New Orleans Saints 31 (OT)
The New Orleans Saints had never made the Super Bowl in franchise history and were oh so close behind a home crowd at the Superdome. The teams went back and forth scoring touchdowns (but neither team gaining more than a 7 point lead). The Vikings moved the ball with much more ease, behind Adrian Peterson running and Brett Favre throwing the ball. On the cusp of field goal range with 15 seconds left, Favre threw his second interception of the game, ending regulation at 28-28. The Saints won the toss and easily moved down the field for a 40-yard FG by K Garrett Hartley to propel them to their first Super Bowl despite being outgained 475 yards to 265 yards. It was Favre’s last playoff game and the perceived unfairness of the Vikings not getting a chance in overtime led to a rule change two seasons later.
6. January 6, 1980 – Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
Houston Oilers 13
Pittsburgh Steelers 27
While the final score was not close, the game certainly was. With the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty in winding down, the “Luv Ya Blue” Houston Oilers were always playing second fiddle to their AFC Central Division rival. Behind the late Bum Phillips, the Oilers squared off for a rematch from the previous years’ AFC Championship game looking for their first ever franchise Super Bowl appearance. The Steel Curtain had different ideas by completely shutting down Hall of Fame RB Earl Campbell (15 yards on 17 carries). Still the Oilers had a chance to tie the game at 17 late in the third quarter, but a controversial Mike Renfro “no catch” referee call kept them out of the endzone and they settled for the FG. The Steelers scored the game’s final 10 points and waltzed to their fourth Super Bowl in six seasons.
5. January 20, 2013 – Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
San Francisco 49ers 28
Atlanta Falcons 24
The game featured the NFC’s top two seeds and the balanced and loaded Atlanta Falcons figured to take advantage of a raucous home crowd to reach the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history and first time in 14 years. The Falcons rode early momentum to a 17-point second quarter lead, then led by 10 at the half. After an opening TD drive after halftime to cut it to 24-21, the defenses took over, with Atlanta being shut out in the second half, and San Francisco surging to a 28-24 lead with 8:23 left. The Falcons then went on a methodical drive to the 49ers 10 yard line with just over a minute left, but needing a TD to avoid defeat. A fourth down pass came up incomplete. The 17-point 49ers comeback is the largest in NFC Championship Game history.
4. January 20, 1991 – Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
New York Giants 15
San Francisco 49ers 13
In a classic matchup of perennial NFC powers, the Giants and 49ers met as the top two seeds. Both teams struggled to gain yardage, despite offenses featuring Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, and Ottis Anderson. Tied 6-6 at halftime, the 49ers broke through with a long TD pass to John Taylor to open a 13-6 lead. The Giants chipped away (literally) behind the leg of Matt Bahr, with his fourth FG of the game (making it 13-12) coming partially a result of a fake punt rush by Gary Reasons to keep the drive going. Steve Young made an appearance after Montana was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter, but the 49ers couldn’t drain enough clock to seal it. The Giants moved down the field in the final 2:46 to kick the winning FG as time expired. It was Montana’s last playoff appearance for the 49ers.
3. January 21, 2007 – RCA Dome, Indianapolis, IN
New England Patriots 34
Indianapolis Colts 38
While you might have thought this was a matchup of top seeds, it was really the #3 vs. #4 and the only other Brady vs. Manning matchup at Peyton’s Place (going into Sunday’s matchup). The game lived up to the hype. The Patriots zipped out to a 21-3 lead, however the Colts cut it to 21-6 with a field goal just before the half. The momentum continued as the Colts scored TDs on the first two drives of the second half, along with a 2-point conversion to tie it at 21. The teams exchanged touchdowns (including C Jeff Saturday entering the scoring column on a fumble recovery), then exchanged field goals to tie at 31. The Patriots took another lead with a Gostkowski field goal, but, after an exchange of punts in which the Patriots missed a golden opportunity to run out the clock, Manning had over 2 minutes and a timeout to orchestrate a game winning TD drive. And orchestrate he did, down the field (aided by a roughing the passer) 80 yards for a TD run by Joseph Addai with just over 1 minute left. Brady was able to move his Patriots into Colts territory before an interception sealed the Super Bowl berth for the Colts, their first in 36 years (and first ever in Indianapolis).
2. January 10, 1982 – Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco 49ers 28
Dallas Cowboys 27
In the game which became known for “The Catch”, the end of the Cowboys’ dynasty under Tom Landry was neigh. The game see-sawed back and forth with neither team taking more than a 4-point lead with the game entering the fourth quarter at 21-17 49ers. After a Septien field goal early in the quarter pulled the Cowboys within a point, they then orchestrated what might have been a game winning TD drive with under 5 minutes (set up by an Everson Walls fumble recovery). With 4:54 left, Joe Montana introduced his clutch QB play to the world by moving his team 89 yards, punctuated with the famous high throw pulled down by Dwight Clark with 51 seconds left (above). The Cowboys WR Drew Pearson almost busted a miracle touchdown in the game’s final minute, but the 49ers held on and their reign of five Super Bowl titles in the next 14 seasons began.
1. January 11, 1987 – Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, OH
Denver Broncos 23
Cleveland Browns 20 (OT)
In a matchup of the top two AFC teams, the game that ended up being known for “The Drive” didn’t disappoint. The first half had the teams exchanging TD’s and FG’s and was tied 10-10. Bernie Kosar and John Elway continued to move their teams down the field, but by early in the fourth quarter, it was still 13-13. That is, until Bernie Kosar seemed to deliver the decisive blow with a 48-yard TD pass with 5:43 left in the game. After Denver misplayed the kickoff and recovered on their own 2 yard line, there seemed to be little chance that the Browns defense would buckle now, after keeping the Broncos in check all day and in front of a rabid “Dawg Pound” crowd. Hall of Famer John Elway then began to put a stamp on his “comeback” legacy and led the Broncos on a methodical 15-play, 98-yard drive to tie the game on a pass to Mark Jackson with 37 seconds left. This took the game to overtime, which saw a deflated Browns team punt the opening drive, then Elway, once again, lead the team on a drive well inside field goal range for the Browns final death blow on a field goal. The Browns have still never made a Super Bowl.
Which are your favorites? Which did we forget?
- David Whitlock
Here at Sports Kings we went brainstorming in the past and present for the best iconic moments in football. Our goal is to feature players who have wowed us with their signature move that fans all over have talked about, mimic, or can tell you where they were when the incident happened. We will use Terrell Davis for example. Do you remember the Mile High Salute? Well if you were a Denver Broncos’ fan or hater you saw it plenty during their Super Bowl run in the late ’90s. The Mile High Salute indicated the Broncos way of celebrating one of their many touchdowns. There are 40 iconic moments that were chosen, they are not in any particular order.
40. Terrell Davis Mile High Salute
39. Ickey Woods “The Ickey Shuffle”
Ickey wasn’t in the league very long but he did make an impact when he reached the end zone. Woods touchdown dance became hip hop!
38. Michael Irvin’s First down Salute
I can’t remember who was the first to celebrate a first down but you knew when it was 3rd and 9, Troy Aikman was going to hit Irvin with that ten yard slant. First and ten Cowboys!
37. Walter Payton’s Bulldozing Over Defenders & Jumping Over the Top Of The Pile.
Sweetness, now that’s funny, Walter Payton was everything but SWEET! He was probably pound for pound the most physical mixed with athletic running back the game had ever seen.
36. T.O SMH! The Star, Popcorn, Sharpie, Pom Pom
Terrell Owens brought WWF to football. Since the NFL only marketed the great Peyton Manning, Terrell promoted himself better than anyone else. Besides know one loves T.O more than T.O!
35. Shawn Merriman’s Lights Out Dance
Shawn Merriman perfected the Mark Gastineau sack dance representing the Charger’s bolt. Just when he made his nitch as a sack master father time set in soon after.
34. Peyton Manning’s Cadence
I always got tickled when Peyton barked out his cadence. You would see defenses change their call, for what? We all know Peyton is throwing the ball! Nevertheless, Peyton hike the ball please!
33. Deion “Prime Time” Sanders Showboating
Prime Time, Prime Time, Prime Time! Did anyone have more swag than #21. You knew if you Deion was at corner then his whole side of the field was covered.
32. The Eddie Lacy’s Spin Move
Eddie Lacy is probably the only back in history that enjoyed the spin move drill in practice. Lacy’s looks like a human pinball machine.
31. Bo Jackson’s 91 Yard Touchdown vs Seattle Seahawks
Damn you Bo, how could you be the one to end Brian Bosworth’s football career! Hmmm, just think Bo was one time a marketing machine. I wonder who’s our Bo Jackson today?
30. The Mack Brown’s Clap!
If you are a Texas Longhorn fan shouldn’t we be clapping at Mack Brown’s resignation? After losing out on RGIII, Andrew Luck, Johnny Manziel, and Jameis Winston. Job well done Mack!
29. 1993 Buffalo Bills Greatest Comeback Against Houston Oilers
Houston Oilers up 35-3 and Buffalo Bills are without Jim Kelly at the helm. Here comes backup quarterback, Frank Reich with a second half surge throwing for 21 of 34 pass completions for 289 yards and 4 touchdowns, with 1 interception.
28. Desmond Howard’s Heisman Pose
Desmond probably got the Heisman for the simple fact he posed better than the Heisman himself!
27. Jim Mora “Playoffs?”
Don’t you just love meltdowns, does anyone even remember if they ever won a again?
26. John Elway’s Helicopter Run
Of all the highlights John Elway has been a part of, his helicopter run signifies a Super Bowl victory.
25. Robert Brooks’ Lambeau Leap
I’m sure there were many of Packers before Brooks that leaped into the land of Cheese heads but I can’t think of one that did it before Brooks. I’m sure some Packer historian can tell me who was the first.
24. Cam Newton’s “Superman”
Is Cam really Superman? Not only does he have a S on his chest. He now wears Superman socks now. Thank the Lord he’s winning football games now.
23. Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception
All I can say is in the right place at the right time but what was the big deal, they lost to the undefeated Miami Dolphins a week later.
22. Jamal Anderson’s “The Dirty Bird”
What was once the Bird by Morris Day and the Time. Then comes Jamal Anderson with his touchdown celebration and it was a little bit on the dirty side.
21. Dennis Green’s “Meltdown!”
Yep, I agree Dennis your Cardinals did let the Bears off the hook, epic but not quite the greatest meltdown.
20. Jim McMahon’s Headband
You had to love Jim McMahon being onry, he was the bad boy of sports. Without Jim McMahon pushing buttons you may not have a T.O or a Chad Johnson.
19. Michael Strahan’s Sack Record
So who really cheapen this sack record, Brett Favre or Michael Strahan. I guess if you are going to give it to me, I have to take it, right?
18. Eric Dickerson’s Goggles & Neck Brace
For those who don’t know what Eric hairdo was back in the day was, it was the Jheri Curl. The Curl also signified coolness to go along with the goggles and neck brace. Everything Dickerson did was cool, heck he even ran cool!
That catch ended the Cowboy reign in the NFC and started a dynasty for the 49ers. Is that when the two-minute drill all started. Joe Montana to Dwight Clark!
16. Lynn Swann’s Circus Catch
I guess its pick on Cowboys day! Yes its Lynn Swann and one of his epic Super Bowl catches. Okay it was spectacular!
15. Mike Singletary’s “Intense Eyes”
Is it me or did running backs just fall down after the Singletary stare at them?
14. Jerry Jones On The Sidelines
No one complained when the Cowboys were winning but heck that was 16 years ago! Then again if my team was worth close to 2 billion dollars I would be on the sidelines too!
13. Tony Dorsett’s 99 yard touchdown run
This happen on Monday Night Football January 3, 1983. This record will always be intact, it can only be tied.
12. Tom Brady’s “Tuck Rule”
This play started all this Patriot Dynasty BS! Of all teams getting screwed, DA RAIDERS! Between the Tuck Rule and Spygate……… Equals a New England Patriot Dynasty. Spygate wasn’t included but probably should have.
11. David Tyree’s Super Bowl Catch
David Tyree should have been given a second Super Bowl ring for this catch. One from the NY Giants and a second one from the ’72 Miami Dolphins. His catch led to winning catch by Plaxico Burruss. He kept New England from the perfect season of 19 – 0. Heck no love afterwards, Tyree didn’t make the squad the following season.
10. “Steve Tasker’s Hustle Play “Super Bowl XXVII” “Leon Lett”
Oh Leon, if only people knew how dominant of a defensive tackle you were, but blunders like this and who could forget the Thanksgiving Day when you touched that blocked kick!
9. Keyshawn Johnson’s “Give Me The Damn Ball”
Perfect title for a starving wide receiver. Funny how Wayne Chrebet was getting the ball instead!
8. Kordell Stewart’s Hail Mary Throw To Michael Westbrook
It was Kordell’s only highlight of his football career. As for Michael Westbrook, I can only remember him giving his former Redskins teammate Stephen Davis a can of whoop a$$!
7. Pat Summerall & John Madden
The pair was a very entertaining. Pat Summerall’s voice, I can hear it now giving True Value Hardware some love and Madden, I can vision him drawing plays on the tv monitor.
6. Mike Gundy’s “I’m A Man I’m 40!”
Thank God for 40, I’m finally a MAN!
5. Chicago Bears “Super Bowl Shuffle”
The big bad Bears pulled this one-off, I remember having to do this same bit in choir back in junior high school. They came, saw and kicked a$$ while doing the shuffle.
4. Herm Edwards “You play to win the game!”
The best meltdown to this point, who has more charisma than Herm Edwards? Great motivator, like him even more on ESPN
3. “The Drive” Denver vs. Cleveland
The Drive was only the start. It wasn’t the Cleveland Browns that was haunted by John Elway. It was Marty Schottenheimer who was being tormented. After Marty left Cleveland for Kansas City, Elway picked on him for another decade in KC.
2. Joe Namath’s Super Bowl guarantee
Namath’s Super Bowl guarantee gave the American Football Conference some legitimacy. Don’t hear too many bold predictions anymore.
1. 1972 Miami Dolphins Undefeated Season 17 – 0
I guess we can continue to watch these old geezers pop open champagne year after year. I don’t think anyone is going perfect anytime soon despite the league being watered down a bit.
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I am an NFL fanatic. The trait was bred into me. I watch games, read the articles, look at pictures, and spend my free time thinking about the sport. As a football fan, I’d never given much thought to hair style choices that football players make. For the bulk of the time, NFL player’s hair monstrosities are safely hidden under protective helmets. Helmets that serve the dual purpose of protect the players from injury and ridicule. Then the helmets are removed on the sidelines or for an interview. The viewer is left unprotected from the psychological harm that can occur when the eyes are trained on a butchered hair job. As fans we need to know who has horrible haircuts, so we can be prepared to avert our eyes.
Here is a list to help you do just that. There are the WORST hairstyles currently in the NFL.
Troy Polamalu (Steelers)
Polamalu has long been heralded for his iconic hair. His hair is long enough to hand well below his helmet. Troy Polamalu has been dragged to the ground by his long locks on numerous occasions. That is not my beef with his long hair. While long hair can be perilously dangerous in football, it is not enough to earn a spot on this list. I don’t care that Heads and Shoulders has decided the hair is fabulous enough to insure for 1 million dollars. I consider the hair one of the worst in football because it has the wildness, frizziness, and puffiness of Disney’s Merida with none of the charm. Polamalu’s hair type would be better suited for a shorter style. Continue reading
Detroit Lions safety, Louis Delmas, is no stranger to New England Patriots star QB, Tom Brady, and Louis had some praise to toss Tom’s way, referring to the Patriots/Lions week 3 preseason showdown in Detroit. Delmas was asked if facing Brady was fun.
“What? No!,” Delmas said. “He’s competitive and I’m competitive, but that dude there is like God on the field. My hat’s down to him. We’re going to go out there and play him as hard as we can, but once you try to get into a chess match with him, you might as well just put your table down.”
It’s nice to see a top caliber quarterback like Tom Brady receive so much respect from defensive players. Delmas seems like a standup guy, and one who has no delusions about the game, or Brady’s particular level of skill.
Lions S Louis Delmas, whose team plays New England tonight, on Pats QB Tom Brady: “That dude is like God on the field.”
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 22, 2013
Delmas and the Lions last faced Brady and the Patriots in a regular season game back in 2010 on Thanksigiving. The Lions were routed 45-24 and Brady shredded them through the air, connecting on 21 of 27 passes for 341 passing yards and 4 passing TD’s.
Delmas has been injured, but also plays a pretty crucial role for the Lions on defense while on the field. Detroit was able to re-sign Louis to a 2-year, $9.4 million deal after Delmas visited with the San Fransisco 49ers during the off season. Many thought Delmas would land in SF, but the money just wasn’t enough and Delmas re-signed with the team who drafted him.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding the New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady when he slid with his foot up during a playoff game in January 2013. Ed Reed was the player moving in on Brady and I for one applauded Brady for protecting himself. Let’s be honest, how often does the quarterback still get hit after sliding feet first? In the playoffs, if you take out the other teams best player, odds of winning increase.
Ed Reed was talking to reporters about his rehab when he said, “The only play I could look at is when I got kicked by a certain quarterback.” Well I can tell you what, from watching football this season that was a not so subtle stab at someone. It probably has nothing to do with past hip injuries or the fact that Reed has played hard nosed football for 11 seasons in the NFL. Father time always catches up and always wins.
As stated later in the ESPN article, this is Reed’s second hip operation. While this one was minor compared to the one in 2010, it is still your hip and it takes a ton of time to heal. As for Tom Brady, I hope more quarterbacks protect themselves, especially because a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty is an uneven trade when losing your best player.
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In every major professional sport, there are guys who, off the field, stand out due to their unique sense of style. Hey, I guess if I were making that much money, I’d have options and be stylish too. Anyway, let’s take a look at the Top 10 guys in sports today who the ladies pay to see, and we wish we could be:
10. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (Boxing)
Floyd is not only 42-0 in his career in the ring, but is allowed to wear an insane amount of jewelry and a pair of expensive shades to make any outfit look pretty sweet.
9. Evan Longoria (MLB)
Longoria epitomizes a person who can mix casual with formal, and pull it off with ease. That fedora is the man.
8. Stevie Johnson (NFL)
SJ13 may be one of the more uniquely styled athletes out there, with his skinny jeans, crazy hats, and colorful outfits. His haircuts and tats are probably the coolest thing about this guy, they’re a style in their own right.
7. Alex Rodriguez (MLB)
A-Rod couldn’t hit sand if he fell off a camel in the post-season this year and he is obviously metro. Those facts do not undermine his ability to dress well.
6. David Beckham (Soccer)
Beckham was pretty good at soccer once upon a time. It became a problem when men started getting crushes on him, and his celebrity became more important than his sport, a la Matt Leinart.
5. Tom Brady (NFL)
Tommy Boy was a shoe-in for this list before I even started it. Take away his Uggs and overall feminine feel, and he dresses pretty sharp. I’m surprised girls don’t throw their undergarments at him on the field.
4. Reggie Bush (NFL)
Right now, Bush is having a career year running the ball in Miami. Before that, his sense of style was more worth talking about than his disappointing production on the gridiron. I heard he’s sexting Kim Kardashian again.
3. Cole Hamels (MLB)
Before seeing how Hamels dressed, I thought of him as sort of one of those bad-ass Rick Vaughn style guys. How wrong I was in that aspect, but the guy is still an ace.
2. Dwight Howard (NBA)
Dwight Howard is the most dominant big man in the NBA. He is quite the unique dude off the hardwood, not only does he share the “Superman” nickname with Shaq, they have similar senses of style.
1. Dwyane Wade (NBA)
Big Daddy GQ himself, D-Wade has long been thought of as the smoothest character in pro sports. No surprise that he tops this list, as nobody has been able to take the style title from #3.