Tuesday, January 17, 2017

NFL Top Ten Divisional Playoffs

In the history of the NFL all playoff rounds have produced memorable moments.  The divisional round is often cited as the most exciting period of the season, so presented are ten of the most memorable moments in the history of the NFL's divisional round playoffs -

#10 - The Oakland Raiders vs. Everyone

The Ben Dreith Game 

It is impossible to limit divisional playoffs involving the Oakland Raiders to just one game, so this has to be a matched entry -

1972 - The Immaculate Reception

After Kenny Stabler roared to a go-ahead touchdown in the 1972 Divisional Playoffs, Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris pulled off the most preposterous passing play ever seen.

1974 - The Sea Of Hands

Two years later against the Miami Dolphins Kenny Stabler pulled off a winning touchdown the likes of which hasn't really been seen since. 

Two years after that came the Ben Dreith game with the New England Patriots, a game whose repercussions would be fully felt twenty-five years later.

1977 - Ghost To The Post 

The next year, 1977, the Raiders and Colts faced off in a shootout won in overtime thanks in large part to Dave "Ghost" Casper.    

2001 - The Tuck Rule Game

Twenty-five seasons after the Ben Dreith game another controversial call became the indelible image of a stunning playoff outcome.

#9 - 1971 Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs - The Cold Turkey Game

On Christmas Day 1971 the Dolphins and Chiefs needed 82 game minutes before the Dolphins shot down the Chiefs 27-24.   It became known as The Cold Turkey Game because it went on so long viewers' holiday turkeys got cold. 

#8 - 1975 Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings - Staubach's Hail Mary

In 1975 Captain America pulled off perhaps his ultimate play in beating the Vikings 17-14 

#7 - 1986 NY Jets at Browns - Gastineau's Gaffe

Mark Gastineau's roughing the passer penalty against Bernie Kosar saved the Browns en route to one of the longest games in history.

#6 - 1993 Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Oilers - Montana Magic Sinks The Oilers

Joe Montana pulled off what would be his last playoff win and the last for the Chiefs until 2015 - ironically at Houston - in a game that set off an earthquake that destroyed the Oilers organization; they would leave Houston for Tennessee and Houston would go 1997-2001 until a new Houston NFL team debuted.  In the kind of irony only sports can produce, the Oilers franchise - now the Tennessee Titans - finally defeated the Chiefs in a playoff game in 2017 with one of the largest comeback wins in NFL playoff history.

#5 - 2002 Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans - The Music City Mulligan

The 2002 season marked the first season of the NFL's four-division alignment, thus putting the Tennessee Titans out of the former AFC Central.   They faced the Steelers and won earlier in the season in a game where Tommy Maddox, a former washout with Dan Reeves who'd been resurrected by success in the short-lived Extreme Football League, was knocked out and lost for several games.   He recovered and led a huge comeback playoff win over the Cleveland Browns, and at Tennessee Maddox and McNair combined for over 600 passing yards, four touchdowns, three picks, and the game lead tying or changing six times.   Joe Nedney missed the winning field goal at the end of regulation, but was tripped up on an attempt in overtime, so on the rekick he nailed it (34-31 final), to the anger of the Steelers.

Best of the rest - 

The Patriots and Titans had exploded in 2003 to a 38-30 thriller in Week Five.  They combined to win 26 games in the 2003 regular season and then squared off in a bitterly cold division round grinder won by the Patriots 17-14 on a dropped Drew Bennett attempt.   Earlier that day.......

#4 - 2003 Carolina Panthers at St. Louis Rams - Delhomme finishes the St. Louis Rams

What turned out to be the last ever playoff game at St. Louis and the final playoff home game for the Rams until their 2017 Los Angeles season went to two overtimes as Jake Delhomme established that he could not just handle playoff football but thrive in it.

Best of the rest  -


In 2011 the 49ers won the NFC West, their first playoff season since 2002, and in the divisional round - 30 years after Joe Montana's touchdown to Dwight Clark that sank the Cowboys and started the 1981-98 dynasty - they faced the New Orleans Saints in a stunning shootout and Vernon Davis made his own Niners history.   The two teams combined for 68 points.   The next year two other teams would break 70 combined points........

#3 - 2012 Ravens at Broncos - The Ravens finally defeat Peyton Manning

The Baltimore Ravens had lost nine straight games to Peyton Manning and had been again smacked around earlier in 2012 to Manning's Broncos, but in the divisional playoffs Joe Flacco stunned the Broncos defense and then Peyton Manning did what defined his career - failed in a playoff game.

#2 - 2014 Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots - the Patriots "trick" the Ravens

John Harbaugh was livid when the Patriots ran unconventional line combos on offense and thus were able to erase 14-point gaps twice before stunning the Ravens 35-31.

The Number One Divisional Round Playoff Game Of All Time -

1981 San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins 

Even today the circumstances - brutal heat, enormity of scoring, the heroics of Kellen Winslow - make this 41-38 thriller unforgettable.

BONUS:  Division Round Sunday 2017:

The Jacksonville Jaguars had faltered after defeating the Steelers in the 2007 playoffs; for 2017 Tom Coughlin, their founding coach, was brought back as GM and the Jaguars won the AFC South, defeated the Buffalo Bills (in their first playoff game since 1999) and at Pittsburgh exploded to a 45-42 win despite blowing a 28-7 lead.   The Steelers had talked openly of meeting the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game and reports claimed growing friction between Ben Roethislberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley; it typified the full-of-themselves culture of the Steelers

And yet this game was topped by the Minnesota Vikings despite only half the scoring.   The game lead changed four times in the fourth quarter as the Saints - winners of 2009's epic NFC Championship Game vs the Vikings, booted a go-ahead field goal with 25 seconds to go; Case Keenum then rifled a 25-yard first down pass to Stefon Diggs, and with no one in the middle of the field Diggs ran in the winning touchdown.

The second round of NFL playoffs thus elevates the heat even when it's cold.

No comments: