Captain Comeback: Divisional Playoff History (Part 2)

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 14, 2012



In part 1, we looked at the history of comebacks and game-winning drives in the Divisional round up through 1980. Now it’s time to go over the last 30 years, while offering a preview and picks of this weekend’s action.
 
But first, here is the complete table of all 53 fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives from every Divisional round game.
 
Divisional Playoffs - Fourth Quarter & OT Wins (1950-2010)
Team QB Date Opp. Result Type
Cleveland Otto Graham 12/17/1950 NY Giants W 8-3 GWD
Detroit Tobin Rote 12/22/1957 at San Francisco W 31-27 4QC/GWD
Green Bay Zeke Bratkowski 12/26/1965 Baltimore W 13-10 OT 4QC/GWD
Kansas City Len Dawson 12/20/1969 at NY Jets W 13-6 GWD
Minnesota Joe Kapp 12/27/1969 LA Rams W 23-20 4QC/GWD
Miami Bob Griese 12/25/1971 at Kansas City W 27-24 2OT 4QC/GWD
Pittsburgh Terry Bradshaw 12/23/1972 Oakland W 13-7 4QC/GWD
Dallas Roger Staubach 12/23/1972 at San Francisco W 30-28 4QC/GWD
Miami Earl Morrall 12/24/1972 Cleveland W 20-14 4QC/GWD
Minnesota Fran Tarkenton 12/22/1973 Washington W 27-20 4QC/GWD
Oakland Ken Stabler 12/21/1974 Miami W 28-26 4QC/GWD
LA Rams James Harris 12/22/1974 Washington W 19-10 GWD
Dallas Roger Staubach 12/28/1975 at Minnesota W 17-14 4QC/GWD
Oakland Ken Stabler 12/18/1976 New England W 24-21 4QC/GWD
LA Rams Pat Haden 12/19/1976 at Dallas W 14-12 4QC/GWD
Denver Craig Morton 12/24/1977 Pittsbugh W 34-21 GWD
Oakland Ken Stabler 12/24/1977 at Baltimore W 37-31 2OT 4QC/GWD
Dallas Danny White 12/30/1978 Atlanta W 27-20 GWD
LA Rams Vince Ferragamo 12/30/1979 at Dallas W 21-19 4QC/GWD
San Diego Dan Fouts 1/3/1981 Buffalo W 20-14 4QC/GWD
Oakland Jim Plunkett 1/4/1981 at Cleveland W 14-12 4QC/GWD
Dallas Danny White 1/4/1981 at Atlanta W 30-27 4QC/GWD
San Diego Dan Fouts 1/2/1982 at Miami W 41-38 OT 4QC/GWD
Cincinnati Ken Anderson 1/3/1982 Buffalo W 28-21 GWD
NY Jets Richard Todd 1/15/1983 at Oakland W 17-14 4QC/GWD
Seattle Dave Krieg 12/31/1983 at Miami W 27-20 4QC/GWD
San Francisco Joe Montana 12/31/1983 Detroit W 24-23 4QC/GWD
Pittsburgh Mark Malone 12/30/1984 at Denver W 24-17 GWD
Miami Dan Marino 1/4/1986 Cleveland W 24-21 4QC/GWD
Cleveland Bernie Kosar 1/3/1987 NY Jets W 23-20 2OT 4QC/GWD
Denver John Elway 1/7/1990 Pittsbugh W 24-23 4QC/GWD
LA Rams Jim Everett 1/7/1990 at NY Giants W 19-13 OT 4QC/GWD
LA Raiders Jay Schroeder 1/13/1991 Cincinnati W 20-10 GWD
Denver John Elway 1/4/1992 Houston W 26-24 4QC/GWD
Buffalo Jim Kelly 1/15/1994 LA Raiders W 29-23 4QC/GWD
Kansas City Joe Montana 1/16/1994 at Houston W 28-20 4QC/GWD
San Diego Stan Humphries 1/8/1995 Miami W 22-21 4QC/GWD
Denver John Elway 1/4/1998 at Kansas City W 14-10 4QC/GWD
TampaBay Shaun King 1/15/2000 Washington W 14-13 4QC/GWD
Baltimore Trent Dilfer 1/7/2001 at Tennessee W 24-10 ST SCR
New England Tom Brady 1/19/2002 Oakland W 16-13 OT 4QC/GWD
Tennessee Steve McNair 1/11/2003 Pittsbugh W 34-31 OT 4QC/GWD
New England Tom Brady 1/10/2004 Tennessee W 17-14 GWD
Carolina Jake Delhomme 1/10/2004 at St. Louis W 29-23 2OT GWD
Philadelphia Donovan McNabb 1/11/2004 Green Bay W 20-17 OT 4QC/GWD
Pittsburgh Ben Roethlisberger 1/15/2005 NY Jets W 20-17 OT 4QC/GWD
Chicago Rex Grossman 1/14/2007 Seattle W 27-24 OT 4QC/GWD
New England Tom Brady 1/14/2007 at San Diego W 24-21 4QC/GWD
NY Giants Eli Manning 1/13/2008 at Dallas W 21-17 4QC/GWD
San Diego Billy Volek 1/13/2008 at Indianapolis W 28-24 4QC/GWD
Baltimore Joe Flacco 1/10/2009 at Tennessee W 13-10 GWD
NY Jets Mark Sanchez 1/17/2010 at San Diego W 17-14 4QC/GWD
Pittsburgh Ben Roethlisberger 1/15/2011 Baltimore W 31-24 GWD
 

1981: The Epic in Miami

San Diego at Miami (box) – A game so epic, they gave it a proper name. This had about everything you wanted. The high-powered offense goes on the road and takes a commanding lead. The home team comes all the way back to tie it, complete with a sweet trick play (hook and ladder). They trade more blows through the fourth quarter. The game goes to overtime, and after each team has a good chance to win it, only one prevails in the end.
 
And to think, nothing but the first quarter knockout might have happened if David Woodley didn’t leave the game with an injury.
 
San Diego opened up a 24-0 lead in the first quarter before Woodley was injured on a sack in the beginning of the second quarter. He would be replaced by Don Strock, who was a quality backup, but no one expected he would throw for 403 yards and 4 TD in the final three quarters and overtime. Strock’s first drive of the game resulted in a Miami field goal. That’s when the defense made a play by forcing a fumble from Dan Fouts.
 
Strock threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Joe Rose, while San Diego would miss a 55-yard field goal attempt. Miami had 0:30 left, but got the ball to the SD 40 with 0:06 left. Expecting the Dolphins would attempt the Hail Mary, they fooled the defense by throwing a shorter pass to Duriel Harris, who perfectly lateraled the ball to Tony Nathan, who went 25 yards for the touchdown with no time left in the half. It was a brilliant play, and a big one to bring Miami within a touchdown. Strock was 13/16 for 160 yards in the quarter.
 
The Dolphins wasted no time in the second half, tying the game on the opening drive of the third quarter. San Diego’s 24-0 run was answered right back by a 24-0 run from Miami. Defense returned only momentarily as each team punted, but the Chargers came back with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Kellen Winslow for a 31-24 lead.
 
Miami would go 83 yards in 6 plays to tie the game on a 50-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Hardy. Fouts was intercepted, and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Tony Nathan ran for a 12-yard touchdown to give Miami their first lead of the game.
 
San Diego punted, and Miami worked on the clock. A long drive reached the SD 21, giving the Dolphins a great chance to go up by two scores. That’s when Andra Franklin fumbled the ball, giving Fouts a chance with 4:39 left.
 
Fouts drove the Chargers 82 yards, throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to James Brooks with 0:58 left. Strock tried to answer, but was intercepted. Fortunate for him, the Chargers fumbled the ball right back on the play (a sign of things to come 25 years later).
 
Uwe von Schamann came out for Miami to attempt a 43-yard game-winning field goal, but it was short, as Kellen Winslow got a piece of the ball. The game would go to overtime.
 
San Diego looked to take the game right away, with Fouts converting a 3rd and 20 to Winslow for 21 yards. San Diego kicker Rolf Benirschke came out for a 27-yard field goal, but he missed it wide left. A Miami three and out was followed by a fumble from Chuck Muncie. Each team went three and out again before Miami had the next opportunity to win the game.
 
This time von Schamann’s 34-yard field goal was blocked by Leroy Jones. Fouts would complete 4 passes for 74 yards, and Benirschke finally made a game-winning field goal from 29 yards out for a 41-38 win.
 
It was the first game in NFL history where both quarterbacks passed for over 400 yards, and remains the only playoff game (for now) to achieve that. It still holds the postseason record for combined gross passing yards (856).
 
The Air Coryell Chargers may have only been 3-4 in the postseason, but they did gut out all three of their victories in the fourth quarter, with Dan Fouts throwing at least one critical touchdown in each. They didn’t have a good postseason record, but they’ll always have “The Epic in Miami.”
 
Cincinnati vs. Buffalo (box) – The next day San Diego would find out whether they would host Buffalo for the AFC Championship, or travel to the much colder Cincinnati. Unfortunately for the Chargers, they wound up in the “Freezer Bowl”, because Cincinnati took care of Buffalo in the fourth quarter.
 
Trailing 21-14 in the fourth quarter, Buffalo quarterback Joe Ferguson found Jerry Butler for a 21-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the quarter. But league MVP Ken Anderson answered right back with a 16-yard touchdown to Cris Collinsworth on 3rd and 10 for the game-winning touchdown.
 
Buffalo had three more possessions, but punted on the first, Ferguson threw incomplete on 4th and 8 at CIN 25, and his final four passes of the game were incomplete in the desperate, closing seconds.
 
One game-winning drive can change everything, as a Buffalo win would have sent them to San Diego, which could have led to the Chargers playing the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Of course we know the reason the 49ers reached that game as well, but that’s for next week.
 

1982: Jets Win Just 4th Playoff Game

NY Jets at LA Raiders (box) – Thanks to the strike, there were 14 playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl in 1982. The road team was just 3-11, but the New York Jets won two of those games.
 
Against a Raiders team with some hardware of their own, the Jets opened up a 10-0 lead. The Raiders answered back in the third quarter with two touchdown drives to take a 14-10 lead.
 
In the fourth quarter, Marcus Allen fumbled in the red zone, but Richard Todd would throw an interception on the following drive. On his next chance, Todd completed two passes for 56 yards, before Scott Dierking scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown.
 
Jim Plunkett would throw interceptions on the last two drives for the Raiders, losing just his second playoff start in 10 career chances. The Jets had won their second straight road playoff game after having two playoff wins in franchise history before this season (you know when they happened).
 
But in typical Jets’ fashion, they played in arguably the worst AFC Championship game ever, losing 14-0 to rival Miami.


1983: Marino, Montana and Playoff Good Fortune

Two legends at the early stages of their careers hosted playoff games on Divisional weekend in 1983. Dan Marino was just a rookie, while Joe Montana was in his second postseason trying to rekindle magic from the 1981 Super Bowl run. But by the end of the weekend, one player was done after never getting another chance, while the other moved on thanks to a game of chance.
 
Seattle at Miami (box) – After sitting out the last two regular season games of the season, rookie sensation Dan Marino made his playoff debut for the Dolphins as they hosted Seattle.
 
It was Seattle holding onto a 14-13 lead to start the fourth quarter, and they increased it to 17-13. Miami would punt on their next two possessions, before Dave Krieg threw an interception. The Dolphins now only had 16 yards to go, and it took them three plays before Woody Bennett scored on a 3-yard touchdown.
 
With 3:43 left, Seattle came right back with a 66-yard touchdown drive, as Curt Warner scored a 2-yard touchdown. That’s when Miami kick returner Fulton Walker made his first big mistake, fumbling the ensuing kickoff.
 
Seattle went three and out, but they were able to add a field goal for a 27-20 lead. Shockingly, Walker would fumble the next kickoff with 1:03 left; effectively ending the game right there. In his first playoff start, Marino didn’t even get to touch the ball on the last two potential game-winning/tying drives after fumbles by Walker.
 
San Francisco vs. Detroit (box) – Just after Miami/Seattle wrapped up on this New Year’s Eve 1983, the 49ers were hosting the Detroit Lions in the NFC Divisional round. Gary Danielson was starting at quarterback for the Lions for the first time all season, and it would be a day he’d like to forget.
 
Danielson would go on to throw 5 interceptions, yet the Lions never trailed by more than 11 points. He threw interceptions on three consecutive drives in the first half.
 
Down 17-9 in the fourth quarter, the Lions got on the board with Billy Sims’ 11-yard touchdown run. Roger Craig fumbled, but Detroit kicker Eddie Murray missed a 43-yard go-ahead field goal.
 
Joe Montana threw an interception now, and the Lions only had to go 26 yards for the go-ahead touchdown; Sims scored from 3 yards out this time. The Lions led 23-17 with 4:54 left, stunning the San Francisco crowd.
 
But that’s when Montana did what we’re used to seeing, and that’s deliver a methodical drive right down the field for a touchdown. Montana’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Solomon with 1:23 left gave the 49ers a shaky 24-23 lead.
 
After starting the drive with an 8-yard loss on a sack, Danielson started finding receivers and moved the ball into field goal range. A somewhat conservative running play put the ball at the SF 25, and Detroit called their last timeout.
 
Murray came back to attempt the 43-yard field goal to win the game, but his kick was wide right. The 49ers had escaped with a 1-point victory, after Murray missed a pair of go-ahead 43-yard field goals in the quarter.
 
Watching Marino and then Montana that day offered little difference in quarterback play, but the actions of one special teams player on two similar plays (exact even) had a dramatic effect on who won their game and who lost.
 

1984: Mile High Miscue

Pittsburgh at Denver (box) – Leave it up to Pittsburgh and Denver to cap a playoff weekend with some excitement after three largely forgettable games.
 
The 13-3 Broncos were locked in a 17-17 tie with the 9-7 Steelers as the fourth quarter started. John Elway was making the first playoff start of his career. Pittsburgh’s biggest claim to fame in 1984 was knocking off the 49ers’ bid for a perfect season (San Francisco would finish 18-1).
 
The Steelers exchanged punts with Denver in the fourth quarter, before going on a drive to the DEN 9. But Mark Malone’s pass on third down was incomplete, and they had to settle for a field goal attempt. Reliable kicker Gary Anderson would miss the 26-yard field goal, beginning what should be known as a spotty history of postseason performance.
 
But two plays later Elway made a big miscue, throwing an interception to Eric Williams, who returned the pass all the way down to the two-yard line with 2:45 left. It took them 3 plays (which isn’t a bad thing), and the Steelers were in the end zone on Frank Pollard’s 2-yard touchdown run.
 
Elway had 1:54 left and the ball at his own 29, but a second down sack short-circuited the drive, with Elway throwing long and out of bounds on a 4th and 21. It wasn’t quite over just yet.
 
The Steelers sent Anderson back out there for a game-clinching field goal, but he missed it from 39 yards away with 0:22 left. It’s not quite the same as what we’ll see next week in the Conference Championship, but it is another example.
 
With just few seconds remaining, Elway’s last Hail Mary was incomplete, ending the game and completing the 24-17 upset for Pittsburgh. Denver would find some revenge five seasons later.
 

1985: Martyball in Miami

Miami vs. Cleveland (box) – In his first full season as a 42-year old NFL coach, Marty Schottenheimer led the Browns to an 8-8 season that resulted in a playoff berth. It would be the first playoff game of his coaching career, and the first of 13 grueling losses.
 
Things got off to a great start, with the Browns taking a 14-3 halftime lead over the defending AFC champions, by rushing for 141 yards in the fist half. On their first drive of the third quarter, Cleveland’s Earnest Byner scored a 66-yard touchdown run to go up 21-3.
 
But that’s when things would go the other way, all starting with a 15-yard personal foul on the Browns on a 3rd-and-14 that would have otherwise led to a Miami three and out. Marino finished the 74-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown to Nat Moore.
 
A short punt by Cleveland gave Miami the ball at the CLE 48, and Ron Davenport would score on a 31-yard touchdown run to make it 21-17 late in the third quarter.
 
In the fourth quarter, each team would punt, and Marino had the ball with 7:21 left at his own 27. Marino completed 3/4 passes for 55, and the running game took care of the final 18 yards, finishing with Davenport’s 1-yard scoring run with 1:57 left.
 
Down 24-21 and needing a two-minute drill, rookie Bernie Kosar (10/19 for 66 yards, TD, INT) had a difficult moving the ball down the field in chunks, and the drive was taking a lot of time off the clock. His final completion was to Byner for 8 yards to the MIA 46, but the Browns were unable to get another play off before the clock expired.
 
In his career, Dan Marino led the Dolphins to two postseason comebacks when trailing by 13 and 18 points in the second half, and both were against teams coached by Marty Schottenheimer. 
 

1986: Martyball Wins

Cleveland vs. NY Jets (box) – Alas, it would only take his next opportunity for Marty Schottenheimer to win his first playoff game. But it didn’t come easy. The Jets began their season 10-1, but lost five straight games to end the regular season. They managed a Wild Card victory over the Chiefs, earning them a trip to 12-4 Cleveland.
 
Cleveland trailed 13-10 in the fourth quarter, and had the ball at the NYJ 2. Bernie Kosar’s pass was intercepted, but the Jets would eventually punt with 4:31 left. But Kosar’s next pass was intercepted too, and one play later Freeman McNeil raced 25 yards into the end zone on a touchdown run. The Jets led 20-10, and Kosar only had 4:08 left
 
After a holding penalty and sack, Kosar was faced with a 2nd and 24. His pass was incomplete, but Mark Gastineau was called for roughing the passer; an automatic first down. The Browns continued to drive, and Kevin Mack scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:57 left.
 
The Jets would go three and out, leaving Kosar with an opportunity, having 0:51 left at his own 33. He completed a 37-yard pass to Webster Slaughter, and former MVP Mark Moseley kicked a 22-yard field goal with 0:07 left to force overtime.
 
After the Jets went three and out, Moseley had a chance to end it, but missed on a 22-yard field goal. The teams would exchange more quick punts, and by the time the game went to the second overtime, Cleveland was driving again.
 
This time Moseley was good on the 27-yard game-winning field goal at 2:02 into the second overtime. Kosar was 33/64 for a postseason record 489 yards passing.
 
Cleveland joins the 1972 Cowboys and 1997 Vikings as the only teams to pull off a comeback win by scoring twice to overcome a two-score deficit after the two-minute warning.
 
They would play another classic overtime game the following week, but with a much different outcome.
 

1989: Mile High Revenge & Overtime Greatness (B.T.)

After a few years of duds, the Sunday games for 1/7/1990 provided some late-game excitement, including a near upset in Denver. We also had a “long” touchdown pass on the first drive of overtime, which was the top play of its kind B.T. (meaning Before Tebow).
 
LA Rams at NY Giants (box) – The 1989 Rams featured a lethal passing attack with Jim (Chris) Everett, who threw for 4,310 yards and 29 touchdowns in the regular season. Their most famous game of the season may have been a primetime victory in New Orleans, when Flipper Anderson had a NFL record 336 yards receiving in a 14-point comeback win for the Rams.
 
The Giants played better defense than that, and they held a 13-7 lead to start the fourth quarter. The Rams would tie the game after settling for a pair of field goals. Neither team could get into scoring range on their last try, sending the game to overtime.
 
Los Angeles won the coin toss, and Everett completed 3 passes for 55 yards, including the game-winning 30-yard score to Flipper Anderson. The drive lasted 1:06, and it was just the second game-winning touchdown pass in overtime in playoff history.
 
The thrilling win highlighted career seasons for Everett and Anderson. It sent the Rams to San Francisco for the NFC Championship, and they had already beaten the 14-2 49ers once, and played them tough the second time. But the game wasn’t even close, as San Francisco cruised to a 30-3 victory en route to their second straight Super Bowl title.
 
Denver vs. Pittsburgh (box) – The 1989 season was essentially a last hurrah for the Chuck Noll era in Steelers’ history. It was his last playoff team, as they snuck in with a 9-7 record, despite being outscored by 61 points on the season (the worst scoring differential for a 9-win playoff team in NFL history).
 
But after an upset in Houston the week before, the Steelers tried to pull out another one against top-seeded Denver. After taking a 10-0 lead early, the Steelers hung in there as Denver fought back to a 17-17 tie in the third quarter.
 
The Steelers led 20-17 to start the fourth quarter, before adding another field goal to lead 23-17. Denver went tricky on a 4th and 3, with Elway doing a pooch punt. The Steelers punted the ball back, and Elway had 7:06 left to drive 71 yards.
 
Elway completed both of his passes for 45 yards, then the running game finished off the final 26. Mel Bratton scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown with 2:27 left. The Steelers had plenty of time left for the winning field goal, but on a 3rd and 10, Bubby Brister fumbled the snap, and the Broncos ran the clock out.
 
It was a valiant run in the playoffs from the underdog Steelers, and a close call for Denver. But as we’ve seen, when these two franchises meet in the playoffs, it usually goes right down to the last play.
 

1990s

The playoff format was changed in 1990 to introduce more Wild Card teams, but that didn’t change our four Divisional games. However, most of the decade’s playoff excitement was coming from the other three rounds.

1990: Oh No, Bo

LA Raiders vs. Cincinnati (box) – After coming off the last playoff win the Bengals have had to this day, they went to Los Angeles to take on the Raiders. They didn’t win, but the history-making story of the game was an injury.
 
Bo Jackson injured his hip in this game, and it would be the last time he ever played in the NFL. A tremendous athlete, Jackson had 6 carries for 77 yards on the day. But one tackle later, and it was lights out for the 28-year old superstar. Jackson only had 515 career carries for 2,782 yards (5.40 YPC). You could only imagine what type of career he could have had as a NFL running back.
 
As for the game, Boomer Esiason threw a touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 10. The Raiders answered right back, with Jay Schroeder leading an 80-yard touchdown drive. His 41-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Horton was the game-winner.
 
A sack derailed the Bengals’ next drive, and the Raiders were able to add a clinching field goal with 0:19 left. However, they lost the next week in Buffalo by a whopping 51-3 final. Not even Bo could save that one.
 

1991: The Oilers Are Who We Thought They Were…

Denver vs. Houston (box) – On a Divisional weekend of bad games, leave it up to the Houston Oilers and John Elway to provide the needed excitement.
 
As was a common scene in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the Oilers started a playoff game on fire. Warren Moon threw two first quarter touchdown passes for a 14-0 lead, and a third score gave them a 21-6 lead in the second quarter. Denver got a much-needed 88-yard touchdown drive before halftime to close the gap. Moon was 16/19 for 216 yards, 3 TD, INT in the first half.
 
Elway threw an interception to start the second half, but the Oilers would miss the 33-yard field goal that would have put them ahead 24-13. Denver’s field goal was answered by one from Houston in the early fourth quarter.
 
Now down 24-16 with 13:25 left, Elway would drive the Broncos to the HOU 41, where they faced a 4th and 4. Elway’s 26-yard pass to Mike Young converted for the first, and Greg Lewis scored on a 1-yard rushing touchdown. Houston worked on the clock, but the drive stalled at midfield after a series of penalties.
 
Elway would get the ball with 2:07 left at his own 2-yard line. He began the drive with a 22-yard pass to Young. Four plays later, it was 4th and 6 at the DEN 28. Houston’s first chance to end the game failed, as Elway scrambled for 7 yards and a first down.
 
After three straight Elway incompletions, it was 4th and 10. This time Elway scrambled to his left to find Vance Johnson wide open, and he would gain 44 yards down to the HOU 21. David Treadwell would eventually kick the 28-yard game-winning field goal with 0:16 left, and Houston didn’t have enough time to answer.
 
It wasn’t exactly “The Drive”, but it was still right up there with any other drive in Elway’s career. Meanwhile, Houston’s next playoff game (just a little Wild Card action in Buffalo; nothing special) would hardly wipe this taste out their mouths.
 

1993: …And They Let Them Off the Hook!

Kansas City at Houston (box) – When Marty Schottenheimer and the Houston Oilers meet in the playoffs, who wins? Joe Montana, apparently. In his first year with the Chiefs, Montana led them to two playoff wins, which is something they had not done since that 1969 Super Bowl season.
 
Houston started the season 1-4, but rebounded to win 11 straight games as they headed into the playoffs. During the winning streak, the improved Houston defense had only allowed more than 17 points in one game (20). This was supposed to be the year they finally reached the AFC Championship.
 
Houston jumped out to a 10-0 lead, which they held at halftime. It only took one possession for the Chiefs to finally find the end zone, with Montana’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Keith Cash.
 
Moving into the fourth quarter, both offenses were still struggling to move the ball. After Montana threw an interception, the Oilers had great field position, and a 3rd and 1 at the KC 16. But Moon was sacked for a 10-yard loss, and they had to settle for the field goal and 13-7 lead.
 
Aided by a pass interference penalty, it only took Montana three snaps to go 71 yards for the go-ahead touchdown; hooking up with J.J. Birden for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Moon was sacked by Derrick Thomas, who forced a fumble, and now the Chiefs were 12 yards away from another touchdown.
 
But after Montana was sacked, they faced a 3rd and 16. Montana still found Willie Davis for an 18-yard touchdown, taking a 21-13 lead. Moon would come right back with an 80-yard touchdown drive, but the Chiefs used more big plays to go 79 yards for a game-sealing touchdown with 1:55 left. The Oilers went four and out, ending the game.
 
It was the end of an era of frustration for the Oilers, as they went 3-7 in the playoffs from 1987-93, never getting past the Divisional round, and suffering at least four excruciating losses in the process.
 
Montana’s magic didn’t carry over one more week, as Buffalo knocked him out of the game. But one thing is for sure: the Chiefs won 5 playoff games in the 1960’s. They didn’t win another until 1991, and they won two games with comebacks by Montana in 1993. They haven’t won a playoff game ever since.
 
Buffalo vs. LA Raiders (box) – Looking to avenge their embarrassing 51-3 loss to the Bills in the 1990 AFC Championship, the Raiders came this time with a quarterback that beat Buffalo in the Super Bowl that year; one Jeff Hostetler
 
After a scoreless first quarter, the Raiders took a 17-6 lead, which was met with 16 unanswered points by Buffalo. Late in the third quarter, Hostetler threw a short pass to Tim Brown, who took it 86 yards for a touchdown with 0:30 left in the third quarter.
 
Now trailing 23-22 in the fourth quarter, Jim Kelly answered right back with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Bill Brooks with 12:05 left. Buffalo would lead 29-23, and this proved to be the game-winning score, and the only fourth quarter playoff win of Kelly’s career.
 
There would be no time-consuming drives engineered by Hostetler like in Super Bowl XXV. Instead, the Raiders went three and out on their last two drives, and Buffalo ran out the final 5:42 on the clock.
 
They would take care of Montana and the Chiefs to reach their fourth straight Super Bowl, which of course they lost. Neither feat is expected to be repeated any time soon.
 

1994: Not As Epic As Original

San Diego vs. Miami (box) – The first sequel to “The Epic in Miami” was a total failure on the scale of Jaws: The Revenge, with the Dolphins intercepting Dan Fouts 5 times in a 34-13 rout.
 
A dozen years later, it was Miami going out to San Diego. Dan Marino’s return season from his Achilles tendon injury was a success, outscoring Joe Montana in a Wild Card win the previous week.
 
Marino threw 3 TD passes in the first half to build a 21-6 lead. After a long San Diego drive stalled on fourth down to start the third quarter, the Dolphins took over at their own
1. Bernie Parmalee was tackled in the end zone for a safety. San Diego drove 54 yards for a touchdown, pulling to within 21-15. Miami’s offense would run just 16 plays in the second half.
 
In the fourth quarter, Stan Humphries would throw an interception with 4:24 left, but Miami went three and out. Humphries got one more chance with 3:16 left at his own 39. He would complete 6/7 passes for 56 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown pass to Mark Seay with 0:35 left for a 22-21 lead.
 
Marino had 0:32 left at his own 38. On the second play, the Chargers were flagged 32 yards for pass interference. Marino threw two incompletions, and with 0:06 left, Pete Stoyanovich came out for a 48-yard field goal. It was wide right, and San Diego moved on to the AFC Championship. It was the last great playoff run Miami would really have under Marino, while the Chargers would reach their first and only Super Bowl.
 

1997: Martyball Meets Denver Again

Denver at Kansas City (box) – The 1997 Chiefs won the division title, besting the Broncos by one game in the regular season. That set up a Divisional playoff meeting between the teams in Kansas City.
 
The Chiefs took a 10-7 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Broncos had great field position after a personal foul on the kick return. On the second play of the fourth quarter, Elway passed 43 yards to Ed McCaffrey down to the KC 1. Three plays later Terrell Davis broke through for the touchdown and 14-10 lead.
 
The teams would exchange two punts, and the Chiefs had 4:04 left, needing 83 yards. Elvis Grbac had led 3 game-winning drives in the regular season, but this was the biggest drive of his career. It started with a 29-yard gain via pass interference The Chiefs would convert a 4th and 9 with a 12-yard pass to Lake Dawson.
 
Next they would overcome a 2nd and 20 resulting from a sack, by completing a 23-yard pass to Andre Rison down to the DEN 28 with 1:51 left. But the rest of the drive would be mishandled. Three short completions gained 8 yards, eating up most of the clock, and setting up a 4th and 2 at the DEN 20 with 0:19 left.
 
Grbac threw incomplete to Dawson, and the Broncos were able to take a knee to end the game. It was another close defeat in the playoffs for Schottenheimer, and again at the hands of his arch nemesis from Denver, who would go on to win their first Super Bowl.
 

1999: Rookie Not NORV-ous

Tampa Bay vs. Washington (box) – The teams combined for 28 offensive possessions, and only 27 points. That’s even including Brian Mitchell’s 100-yard kick return touchdown that gave Washington a 10-0 lead in the third quarter.
 
The Redskins would lead 13-0 in the third quarter before Brad Johnson threw an interception. Tampa Bay finally got some offense out of rookie Shaun King, leading to a 2-yard touchdown run by Mike Alstott.
 
In the fourth quarter, Johnson would turn the ball over again after a sack. Tampa Bay took over at the WAS 32, but King was sacked on first down. They would overcome a third down sack and fumble by King, because Warrick Dunn recovered the ball and advanced it to the WAS 17. King eventually threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to John Davis with 7:29 left for a 14-13 lead.
 
After each team punted, the Redskins had one more chance. The ball was moved to the TB 33, and on 3rd and 3, the Redskins simply ran the ball for no gain and let the clock run down before calling timeout. They did not try and risk a pass to get closer for the field goal.
 
The field goal never even happened, as center Dan Turk botched the snap, and Johnson tried to make a play, but was sacked. Alstott ran for a first down and the clock expired. Washington blew a 13-0 lead and then couldn’t even try the go-ahead field goal because of a bad snap. Is this what you call getting Norv’d?
 
It was the only time Tampa Bay has ever won a playoff game after trailing beyond the first quarter. They would face the Rams’ high-powered offense in the NFC Championship, bringing about a debate over the rule book and how we view what determines a catch.
 

2000s

The 2000’s brought about a lot of special teams’ shenanigans and big interceptions in the Divisional round. Also one tuck.
 

2000: Baltimore Wins in Unusual Fashion

Baltimore at Tennessee (box) – The 2000 playoffs were dominated by defense, which was good news for the Ravens and Giants, who would meet in the Super Bowl. In the 11 playoff games that season, the losing team was held to 7 points or fewer in 6 games (8 teams scored 10 points or less). Only one losing team scored more than 17 points, and that was of course the 2000 Rams (28 at New Orleans). 
 
In 2000, no one did defense better than Baltimore, except maybe top-seeded Tennessee. Playing much of the same schedule, the two teams feasted on their opponents to put up some of the most dominant defensive statistics in the Live Ball era (since 1978).
 
The game would leave up to it’s hype for the defenses, with Trent Dilfer completing just 5/16 passes for 117 yards, while Steve McNair threw for 176 yards on 46 attempts. Baltimore rushed 23 times for only 49 yards.
 
It didn’t start out as a slugfest, with the Titans driving 68 yards for a touchdown.  Baltimore would tie in the second quarter, and that’s when Tennessee’s special teams began to fail them.
 
Al Del Greco had a 45-yard field goal blocked. Then after a blocked punt against the Ravens, Del Greco again missed a 31-yard field goal just before halftime.
 
The game was tied 10-10 to start the fourth quarter, and the Titans settled for a 37-yard field goal, hoping to take a lead. Instead, Del Greco’s kick was blocked, and returned 90 yards for a touchdown by Anthony Mitchell. It stands as the third game-winning return touchdown in NFL postseason history.
 
A year earlier it was the Tennessee special teams that pulled off the “Music City Miracle”, which enabled them to go on a Super Bowl run. This year it was a dagger of a play on a day full of mistakes.
 
To top it off, two possessions later McNair threw a pass to RB Eddie George, and it bounced off his hands and into those of Ray Lewis, who returned it 50 yards for an insurance touchdown. The Ravens won 24-10 and would go on to win their first Super Bowl.
 
A block here, a tip there, and you never know which team can get to the Super Bowl. As long as you’re in the tournament you have a chance.
 

2001: Introducing Tom Brady and the Tuck Rule

New England vs. Oakland (box) – A pivotal moment in NFL history took place on a snowy night in New England, as the Patriots hosted the Raiders. Many NFL fans would be getting their first real glimpse of a young quarterback named Tom Brady, making his playoff debut in primetime.
 
The snow provided unique atmosphere to the game, and the offenses found little success early on. Oakland led 7-0 at halftime. The teams exchanged field goals in the third quarter, and the Raiders added another to take a 13-3 lead into the fourth quarter.
 
With 12:29 left, the Patriots went to the shotgun and allowed Brady to throw quick and short passes each play. He completed 9 straight before rushing for a 6-yard touchdown to make it 13-10.
 
Each team punted, and then the Raiders went three and out. The Patriots got the ball back with 2:06 left, and history was about to change. Timing would be critical, as New England was out of timeouts and could not challenge a play outside of the two-minute warning.
 
With 1:50 left, Charles Woodson came in on Brady for the sack, and forced an apparent fumble, which was recovered by Oakland. The game was over, but not just yet. Referee Walt Coleman was called to review it, to which CBS broadcaster Phil Simms didn’t even see a purpose for.
 
When the shocking call came back as an incomplete pass, everyone would quickly learn about the “Tuck Rule”, which was only snuck into the rule book in 1999. The Patriots had new life, which might have been the football Gods making things right on the Raiders for their roughing the passer penalty in 1976 against New England.
 
With 0:32 left, Adam Vinatieri came out to attempt a 45-yard field goal. In reading these playoff recaps, you see all the kickers over the years that have missed easier attempts in a similar situation. That is why Vinatieri’s kick, difficult to even see with the naked eye, going through for the tie makes it the greatest kick in NFL history.
 
The game went to overtime, and Oakland never got to touch the ball again. The Patriots went 61 yards on 15 plays, with Vinatieri making the 23-yard field goal to win it.
 
Between the Tuck Rule and Vinatieri’s kick, the Patriots had their season on life support twice in the final minutes. They came away with the win, and it would start a string of years of success in the postseason for the Patriots. It would also lead to Jon Gruden leaving the Raiders to coach Tampa Bay, who would win the Super Bowl the following season.
 
The chain of events set in motion from that one call likely shaped the NFL’s next decade more than any other moment you can name.
 

2002: And the Winner for Best Supporting Actor Is…Joe Nedney

Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh (box) – After their incredible comeback over Cleveland in the Wild Card game, Bill Cowher’s Steelers traveled to rival Tennessee for a tough matchup. The Titans had already handled the Steelers 31-23 in the regular season.
 
Tommy Maddox started the game with an interception, and the Titans would take a quick 14-0 lead. But the Steelers had an offense that could really get into shootouts in 2002, and they used two Tennessee turnovers in the second quarter to pull within 14-13 at halftime.
 
To start the second half, Casey Hampton knocked Eddie George out, and caused a fumble. It took only one play for Amos Zereoue to score a 31-yard touchdown run for a 20-14 lead. The Titans came right back with two straight touchdown drives to take a 28-20 lead into the fourth quarter.
 
Jeff Reed missed a 44-yard field goal for the Steelers, but Tennessee went three and out. Maddox found Hines Ward with a 21-yard touchdown pass, and the tricky Steelers tied the game on Ward’s two-point conversion pass to Plaxico Burress.
 
McNair threw an interception, and the Steelers regained the lead on Reed’s 40-yard field goal. Tennessee tied it with their own field goal. After three punts, the Titans put together a two-minute drill to attempt a 48-yard field goal. Joe Nedney missed it, and the game went to overtime.
 
Tennessee won the coin toss, and McNair found Justin McCareins twice for 53 yards. The Titans went for a 31-yard field goal, but it was wide right. However, he did a good enough acting job to get the referees to throw a flag on Dewayne Washington for running into the kicker.
 
Nedney said, “when I’m done playing ball I might try acting.” His 26-yard field goal was good, giving Tennessee the 34-31 win. The rip-off ending cheapened an otherwise excellent game.
 

2003: The Closest Week of Them All

The 2003 playoffs were full of close games, and great moments. The Divisional weekend didn’t disappoint. The Chiefs and Colts played the only game in playoff history without a punt. The Colts won 38-31. Meanwhile the other three games gave us just the fourth weekend of playoff action with a trio of fourth quarter/OT wins (1972 Divisional, 1980 Divisional, 1982 Wild Card).
 
Carolina at St. Louis (box) – The road underdog Panthers came into St. Louis after an impressive win over Dallas the week before. The game was back and forth all night, and the Panthers led 16-12 to start the fourth quarter.
 
Marc Bulger, making his postseason debut, threw an interception, and Carolina would extend the lead to 23-12. Bulger threw another interception, but John Kasay missed a 53-yard field goal.
 
It took 15 plays to go 57 yards, but the Rams scored a touchdown on Marshall Faulk’s 1-yard run. The two-point conversion pass to Dane Looker was complete with 2:39 left. That’s when St. Louis recovered the onside kick.
 
But despite having 2:38 left at their own 42, the Rams and Mike Martz mismanaged the clock and played for the field goal and overtime instead of going for the touchdown and win. Jeff Wilkins kicked a 33-yard field goal to tie it.
 
Carolina got the ball first, but Kasay missed the 45-yard kick. Next it was Wilkins’ turn, and he missed the 53-yard field goal. Carolina punted, and Bulger threw his third interception of the fourth quarter/OT.
 
After Jake Delhomme was sacked, the Panthers faced a 3rd and 14 on the first play of the second overtime. Delhomme found Steve Smith for a 69-yard touchdown pass, which was the longest game-winning touchdown in overtime playoff history before Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas (80 yards) passed them last week. Both teams were coached by John Fox, so imagine that.
 
The Panthers would go on a spirited run to the Super Bowl, but Fox’s team just came up short against New England.
 
New England vs. Tennessee (box) – It was a frozen night in Foxboro, with kickoff temperatures at 4 degrees and -10 wind chill. The Patriots looked sharp on offense early, taking a 7-0 lead on their first drive. It was answered by Tennessee.
 
In the second quarter Gary Anderson attempted a 31-yard field goal, but slipped and the kick was blocked. Tennessee trailed 14-7 at halftime. They would tie the game with a 70-yard touchdown drive on their first possession of the third quarter.
 
In the fourth quarter, each team punted the ball, and New England had it back with 6:40 left and the ball at the TEN 40. Tom Brady converted a 4th and 3 pass to Troy Brown for 4 yards, and four plays later it was Adam Vinatieri once again lining up for a critical 46-yard field goal. He made it of course, and New England led 17-14.
 
The Titans reached the NE 33 at the two-minute warning. Steve McNair was flagged for intentional grounding, and then an offensive holding penalty made it 3rd and 23. He passed 11 yards to Drew Bennett to set up a 4th and 12.
 
With one last pass, McNair threw the ball to Bennett, but he failed to hold onto the ball, and Tennessee turned it over on downs. New England ran out the clock for another hard-earned win. Vinatieri further cemented his legacy with another difficult kick to win a game.
 
Philadelphia vs. Green Bay (box) – Were the stars aligning for Brett Favre after a rough season? Green Bay was 6-6 after an embarrassing loss in Detroit on Thanksgiving. His father passed away, and Favre came out and played one of the best games of his life the very next night. The Packers got the help needed to make the playoffs, and also won four straight. They intercepted Matt Hasselbeck in overtime for a touchdown to advance to the Divisional round in Philadelphia.
 
Favre would throw two touchdown passes to Robert Ferguson to take a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Green Bay led 14-7 after three quarters. The Eagles tied the game on the first play of the fourth quarter with Donovan McNabb throwing a 12-yard touchdown to Todd Pinkston.
 
Later, Green Bay went ahead on Ryan Longwell’s 21-yard field goal. The Eagles went three and out. With a 4th and 1 at the PHI 41 and 2:30 left, the Packers didn’t go for the first down run, despite rushing for 210 yards in the game.
 
They punted, and McNabb had 2:21 left at his own 20. A sack on second down would lead to a 4th and 26 situation, which seemed all but hopeless for the Eagles to convert. But lo and behold, McNabb was not pressured, and had a nice passing window to find big-mouth WR Freddie Mitchell for a 28-yard gain.
 
The Packers did enough in the red zone to force a field goal attempt, and David Akers was good from 37 yards out. This one was going to overtime too.
 
But there would be no pick six this time. After a Philadelphia three and out, Favre immediately threw up a prayer for no particular reason that was easily intercepted by Brian Dawkins. Six plays later Akers kicked the 31-yard game-winning field goal, ending another Brett Favre season with an interception as his final throw.
 
The game will be remembered best for the defensive collapse that was “4th and 26.” McNabb gets a lot of criticism for his fourth quarter drives, but in 2003 he had a career-high 5 game-winning drives, and two were against the Packers.
 

2004: Doug Brien Leaves his Mark

Pittsburgh vs. NY Jets (box) – It was just a week earlier when the Jets escaped San Diego with an overtime win after kicker Nate Kaeding missed from 40 yards out. Like a virus, the Jets brought a little bit of that kicker-choke gene with them to Pittsburgh. It was the first playoff game of the Ben Roethlisberger era, as the rookie went 13-0 in the regular season, setting a few records in the process.
 
The Jets played the Steelers hard in the regular season, and this was no different. After falling behind 10-0 early, the Jets would use a 75-yard punt return touchdown (Santana Moss) and 86-yard interception return (Reggie Tongue) to take a 17-10 lead in the third quarter.
 
In the fourth quarter, the Steelers were in the red zone, but Jerome Bettis fumbled the ball. On their next drive, Roethlisberger threw a 4-yard shovel pass touchdown to Hines Ward to tie the game.
 
The Jets would drive to set up Doug Brien for a 47-yard field goal, which we know is never an easy kick at Heinz Field. He hit the crossbar with 1:58 left. With a chance for a game-winning drive, Roethlisberger intended a pass for Plaxico Burress, but it was badly thrown and intercepted. The Jets had the ball at the PIT 37.
 
Brien now had a chance for a game-winner with no time left, and this time it was a 43-yard kick. Shockingly, he was wide left, and the game would reach overtime.
 
New York punted, and the Steelers went on a long drive, converting two third downs. Jeff Reed came out for the 33-yard field goal, and he did not miss it. The Steelers advanced, 20-17.
 
Heinz Field has been a house of horrors for the league’s best kickers, but none had a more egregious performance like Doug Brien in this playoff game.
 

2006: Pick the Blunder Bowl

You have Rex Grossman and the 2006 Bears in the playoffs, and then you have a Marty Schottenheimer team riding an 10-game winning-streak into the playoffs against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Which game do you think was full of more mistakes?
 
Chicago vs. Seattle (box) – If you picked Grossman, you’d be wrong. The game was higher scoring than expected, with most of the damage in the first half. Chicago led 21-14 at halftime thanks to a 7-yard touchdown run by Thomas Jones on a 4th and 1 play.
 
Seattle would take a 24-21 lead in the third quarter, but the Bears were driving as the fourth quarter began. Grossman threw an interception with the ball at the SEA 10. Matt Hasselbeck would answer right back with his own interception though.
 
Later, Devin Hester’s punt return touchdown would be negated by penalty. The Bears drove 48 yards to settle for Robbie Gould’s 41-yard tying field goal. Seattle attempted a 4th and 1 run at the CHI 44, but Shaun Alexander lost two yards in the backfield. The teams would eventually go to overtime.
 
Seattle won the coin toss, but had to punt after gaining 18 yards. On a 3rd and 10, Grossman completed a 30-yard pass to Rashied Davis. Four plays later Gould made the 49-yard game-winning field goal that put the Bears in the NFC Championship.
 
The real blunder bowl was just about to begin in San Diego.
 
New England at San Diego (box) – The Chargers were at their peak. They were 14-2, LaDainian Tomlinson was the league MVP, Philip Rivers was making his first playoff start, Shawne Merriman was still productive as a sack machine, and they had won 10 straight games heading in as the #1 seed.
 
But people will point to that coach, Marty Schottenheimer, as a roadblock to playoff success. At some point the players have to be held accountable too, especially in a game that featured 7 combined turnovers, numerous dropped passes, and some inexplicable plays. Not to mention the kicker didn’t come through again.
 
In the first quarter the Chargers went for a 4th and 11 at the NE 30. Rivers was sacked and fumbled the ball. It led to a field goal for New England. The Chargers would take a 7-3 lead in the second quarter on Tomlinson’s 2-yard score. They led 14-3 after a 58-yard gain by Tomlinson led to Michael Turner’s 6-yard touchdown.
 
But they didn’t close out the half, and Tom Brady led a 72-yard touchdown drive to make it 14-10 at the half. A muffed punt by Eric Parker in the third quarter led to a field goal for the Patriots, but only after a personal foul on San Diego led to an automatic first down.
 
With the ball at the NE 37, Rivers threw an interception on the last play of the third quarter. The Patriots would punt, and San Diego regrouped to go on a 83-yard touchdown drive to make it 21-13 with 8:35 left.
 
Brady was faced with a 4th and 5 at the SD 41. His pass was intercepted by Marlon McCree, which can already be argued as a mistake since it was fourth down. Then he fumbled the ball, forced by Troy Brown, and the Patriots shockingly had it back at the SD 32.
 
Five plays later it was former Charger Reche Caldwell making a 4-yard touchdown catch. Kevin Faulk scored on the two-point conversion and the game was tied. San Diego went three and out, and after forcing New England into a 3rd and 10, they once again were burned by Caldwell. This time it was a 49-yard gain to the SD 17.
 
Four plays later, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal for a 24-21 lead. Rivers had 1:05 left and no timeouts at his own 25. He got the ball to the NE 36, but Nate Kaeding was short on the 54-yard field goal to force overtime.
 
The Patriots came out with the upset win, and Schottenheimer has yet to coach another game in the NFL. Hard to blame him after the disaster his players put on the field that day. The 13th playoff loss was his last.
 

2007: A Sunday of Upsets

San Diego at Indianapolis (box) – The Chargers were always a tough opponent for the Colts, and this would be the first playoff meeting between the two in this era. It started with a 76-yard touchdown drive for the Colts.
 
Philip Rivers threw an interception on San Diego’s first drive, but Marvin Harrison, playing his first game since October 22nd, fumbled the ball at the SD 23. A long touchdown drive by San Diego tied the game, only to be answered by the Colts with a field goal for a 10-7 lead. Nate Kaeding missed his 48-yard field goal for the Chargers.
 
In the last two minutes, Peyton Manning was looking for more points, but his pass at the SD 35 went off Reggie Wayne’s hands, and Antonio Cromartie intercepted it. Cromartie returned it all the way for a touchdown, but the return was negated for a hold.
 
San Diego took their first lead in the third quarter with a touchdown pass to Chris Chambers. The Colts drove back down to the red zone, but Manning’s short pass hit RB Kenton Keith in the hands, and deflected into the hand of safety Eric Weddle, who was being blocked by a lineman. It was an exceptional catch by the rookie.
 
The Colts got the lead back on a touchdown to Wayne. On the final play of the third quarter, Rivers dumped a short pass to Darren Sproles (Colt-Killer) who took it 56 yards for a touchdown. Rivers was injured and left the game for good after the play.
 
Indy punted, and San Diego stayed conservative with backup Billy Volek on his first drive, going three and out. On a 3rd and 9, Manning threw to rookie Anthony Gonzalez, who kept his feet in bounds and ran 55 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 10:07 left.
 
Now trailing, the Chargers let Volek throw, and he completed 3 passes for 48 yards. Volek scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to go ahead 28-24 with 4:50 left.
 
Manning completed four straight passes to get the ball to the SD 34. But they would face a 4th and 5, and Manning found Dallas Clark for 16 yards. Having a 1st-and-goal from the SD 9, the Colts ran the ball with Joseph Addai for a 2-yard gain. But on the next three plays, Manning would go back to Addai each time, with no success. On fourth down, he was rushed by Shawne Merriman and threw a pass short of Addai.
 
San Diego took over on downs, but went three and out. The Colts had 1:30 and one timeout left at their own 32. On 3rd and 5, Manning found Wayne at midfield, but he was demolished by Marlon McCree, and couldn’t complete the catch. Wayne was injured and unable to be on the field for fourth down. Manning lofted a pass for Clark, but he was unable to catch it, bringing a quick end to the drive and the Colts’ season.
 
Rivers tore his ACL in the game, but would play anyway at New England the following week. San Diego lost 21-12.
 
NY Giants at Dallas (box) – In the regular season, the Cowboys swept the Giants, winning 45-35 in Week 1, and 31-20 in New York in Week 10. But the Giants would go on one of the all-time great Super Bowl runs in 2007, and their second opponent was the top-seeded 13-3 Cowboys.
 
The Giants got on the board first with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Amani Toomer. Dallas would complete a 96-yard touchdown drive on the first play of the second quarter, as Tony Romo threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens.
 
On their next drive, Dallas went 90 yards on 20 plays, also ending with a touchdown, and 14-7 lead. But the Giants had 0:47 left, and Eli quickly put together a 71-yard drive, ending with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Toomer. It was a critical drive and turning point in the game.
 
In the third quarter another long Dallas drive only ended with a field goal this time. But a 25-yard punt return by the Giants late in the third quarter gave them great field position at the DAL 37. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Eli converted a 3rd and 6 with an 11-yard pass to Steve Smith. Two plays later Brandon Jacobs scored the 1-yard go-ahead touchdown with 13:29 left.
 
Now down 21-17, the Cowboys started to feel the pass rush from the Giants. Romo was sacked and threw incomplete on a 3rd and 13. The Giants went three and out, but again the Cowboys were struggling with the pass rush. Romo was called for intentional grounding, and his 3rd-and-20 attempt was incomplete.
 
The Giants went three and out, which gave Dallas a good opportunity: 1:50 left, down 21-17, 48 yards to go, one timeout left. But the drive was not well executed, with Marion Barber losing a yard on the ground on the second play.
 
Time was running out quickly on the Cowboys, and they were only at the NYG 23 with 0:26 left. Romo’s last attempt was on 4th and 11, and his desperation pass was intercepted rather easily by R.W. McQuarters.
 
The Giants got through part one of their 2007 revenge tour, and it was the first of a record three straight game-winning drives in the fourth quarter in the postseason.
 

2008: Another AFC #1 Seed Goes Down

Baltimore vs. Tennessee (box) – The Titans started 10-0, claiming the top seed in the AFC, and a 13-10 win over the Ravens earlier in the season. But they were just 3-3 down the stretch, and figured to be involved in another tough battle with the Baltimore defense.
 
It was the second playoff start for rookie Joe Flacco, The Titans had Kerry Collins, who hadn’t started a playoff game since the 2002 NFC Wild Card game at San Francisco. Flacco would get the better of the matchup, even though Baltimore ran the ball 30 times for 50 yards.
 
Tennessee got on the board first with an 8-yard touchdown run by rookie Chris Johnson, who would leave the game with an injury. Baltimore answered back with Flacco’s 48-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason on a 3rd and 13.
 
In the second quarter, Collins fumbled the snap on a 4th-and-8 attempt at the BAL 30. Collins threw an interception with the ball at the BAL 32. On their next drive, LenDale White fumbled at the BAL 17. That’s how the Titans ended the first half, with three straight miscues in opponent territory.
 
Tennessee’s Rob Bironas missed a 51-yard field goal in the third quarter, and Baltimore’s Matt Stover made a 21-yard field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter for a 10-7 lead. Tennessee was driving to respond, but Alge Crumpler fumbled at the BAL 6 with 8:57 left.
 
The Titans would get the ball back and tie it with a 27-yard field goal. Flacco had 4:17 left at his own 24. On a third down pass that didn’t appear to beat the play clock, Flacco found Todd Heap for a 23-yard gain.
 
Stover would make a 43-yard game-winning field goal with 0:53 left. Collins had 0:47 left, but the Titans went four and out. Baltimore had once again come to Tennessee, like in 2000, and knocked the top-seeded Titans out of the playoffs.
 

2009: Rex Ryan Loves Nate Kaeding’s Feet

NY Jets at San Diego (box) – It was another San Diego team coming off a bye week, following an 11-game winning streak to finish the regular season. The Jets had a rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez, but they did have the best pass defense in the league, and the Chargers were no longer a running team.
 
They also had Nate Kaeding and those lovely feet that Rex Ryan would love to su– yeah, you get it.
 
Kaeding would miss a 36-yard field goal in the first quarter. The Jets started the game with four straight three and out drives, but San Diego could only capitalize with a 7-0 lead. Kaeding would miss a 57-yard field goal to end the half, but those types of kicks aren’t expected to be made anyway.
 
The Jets finally woke up the offense to start the second half, getting a field goal on the board. San Diego went three and out, but Sanchez would throw his only interception of the game as he looked for a big play.
 
But with the great field position, Rivers squandered it on a risky throw that ended up on Revis Island. The Jets still couldn’t move the ball, but with the punt, they were able to pin San Diego at their own 4. Two plays later Rivers made his big mistake of the game, throwing an interception to Jim Leonhard, who returned it to the SD 16.
 
In the regular season Sanchez did not have a single game-winning drive or comeback, but as the fourth quarter began and the Jets only had to go 16 yards, now was the right time. Sanchez threw a 2-yard touchdown to Dustin Keller on third down for a 10-7 lead.
 
The pass rush got to Rivers, sacking him on first and third down, forcing the Chargers to punt. Rookie RB Shonn Greene scored on a 53-yard rushing touchdown, bringing out our now classic “ANGRY PHILIP!” face.
 
Down 17-7 with 7:14 left, San Diego needed to score in a hurry. They settled for a 40-yard field goal, but once again Kaeding missed the kick. The Jets went three and out, and they willingly gave the short completions to San Diego, preventing the quick score.
 
San Diego scored on Rivers’ 1-yard touchdown sneak with 2:14 left. The onside kick did not work, and the Jets were faced with a 4th and 1 at the SD 29. Had the Chargers kicked deep, Rex Ryan would have been much less likely to go for any fourth down attempt in his own territory. But at the SD 29, the call was to easy, and Thomas Jones gained the two yards to ice the game.
 
The upset was complete, and the Chargers have yet to return to the playoffs since, missing out the last two seasons.
 

2010: Helmet Catches Work in Pittsburgh Too

Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore (box) – Games between the Steelers/Ravens are expected to be close and low scoring. So when you see a 31-24 final, you expect something wrong happened. It did; several times even.
 
The Steelers did open the game with an 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead, but it was about the only thing they did right in the first half. Baltimore answered with a 68-yard touchdown drive to tie it.
 
Two plays later, there was a sack and fumble, but the only player that seemingly knew what happened was Cory Redding, who picked up the ball and ran 13 yards for an easy touchdown. Two drives later Rashard Mendenhall fumbled deep in his own territory, and the Ravens only had to go 16 yards for another touchdown, and a 21-7 lead.
 
Ben Roethlisberger put together a drive to close the half, but kicker Shaun Suisham missed the 43-yard field goal wide left.
 
Baltimore really just needed to protect the ball, but they started the third quarter doing the exact opposite. On a short check down, Ray Rice fumbled the ball, and the Steelers were in business at the BAL 23. Two plays later Roethlisberger threw a 9-yard touchdown to Heath Miller.
 
After the teams exchanged punts, Flacco forced a pass down the field that was easily intercepted by Ryan Clark and returned to the BAL 25. On a 3rd and 6, Roethlisberger found Hines Ward for the 8-yard touchdown to tie the game.
 
Believe it or not, the Ravens turned the ball over for a third time in the quarter. Flacco fumbled a snap, and the Steelers were at the BAL 23 this time. The game went to the fourth quarter, and the Steelers took a 24-21 lead on Suisham’s 35-yard field goal.
 
After a Baltimore punt, the Steelers punted it back, and watched Lardarius Webb return it 55 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, but the score was negated by a holding penalty. Instead the Ravens had the ball at the PIT 29, and had to settle for a tying field goal after Anquan Boldin dropped a touchdown on third down.
 
With 3:48 left, Roethlisberger took the field at his own 35. On 3rd and 10, he completed a 12-yard pass to Ward. He would lose 9 yards on another sack by Terrell Suggs, who had 3 in the game. On 3rd and 19, Roethlisberger threw a deep pass to rookie receiver Antonio Brown, who pinned the ball to his helmet and gained 58 yards, going out of bounds at the BAL 4.
 
Five plays later Mendenhall scored on a 2-yard touchdown with 1:33 left. Chris Kemoeatu was flagged for a personal foul, assessed on the kickoff. The Ravens got the ball to start at the PIT 48 and had one timeout left. But a sack on third down brought up a 4th and 18.
 
Flacco threw to T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who was covered by William Gay, but he dropped the wide open pass, and the Ravens were finished after a mistake-filled half.

2011 Divisional Playoff Preview

3-1 last week, with the Tebow stunner burning the Captain just like it did Ike Taylor (well, maybe not that bad).
 
Some quick notes to know:
 
New Orleans – Drew Brees led game-winning drive in San Francisco last season after Alex Smith led game-tying touchdown drive with two-point conversion.
 
San Francisco – Last five teams to average 1.0 turnovers/game or fewer are 0-5 in the playoffs. Riding the second longest streak in NFL history of games (5) without a turnover.
 
The pick: New Orleans 23, San Francisco 20
 
Denver – TEBOW. Do you need anything else? This year is the last Super Bowl to be played before December 21, 2012?
 
New EnglandRegular season games since 2007: beat Chargers 38-14 (2007), beat Giants 38-35 (2007), beat Ravens 27-21 (2009), lost to Jets 28-14 and beat Jets 45-3 (2010). Playoff rematches since 2007: beat Chargers 21-12 (2007), lost to Giants 17-14 (2007), lost to Ravens 33-14 (2009), lost to Jets 28-21 (2010). This year they beat the Broncos 41-23 in the regular season.
 
The pick: New England 27, Denver 17
 
Houston – The Texans are 0-5 against the Ravens all time, only scoring more than 19 points in one of those games.
 
Baltimore – First home playoff game in Harbaugh/Flacco era (4-3 on the road). Since 2002, the
 
The pick: Baltimore 20, Houston 13
 
NY Giants – In 2007 Super Bowl run, the Giants defeated three 13+ win teams they went 0-4 against in the regular season (three losses were by 10+ points; lost 38-35 to New England). Lost 38-35 to Green Bay this year. Eli Manning has 5 fourth quarter comebacks in 2011 (Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn have 4 combined in career).
 
Green Bay – Since 2006, 0-9 record when forcing 0 turnovers. All five teams to win 15+ games reached at least conference championship game. All nine teams to win 15+ consecutive games reached at least conference championship game that season.
 
The pick: NY Giants 31, Green Bay 27
 
For three rematches: Since 2002, the regular season winner is 38-27 (.585) in the playoff rematch.
 
 Scott Kacsmar is a football researcher/writer who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. He trusts Matt Prater as the anti-choke kicker this week; if there is such a thing. You can send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.

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