by Rob Joyce
Divisional weekend in the NFL didn’t disappoint. Outside of a snoozer in Foxboro – shocking, we know – between the Patriots and Titans, the path to the conference championships was breathtaking. It started with the Eagles making a red zone stand to hold off the Falcons. It ended with the first true walk-off play in NFL playoff history, with Minnesota’s 61-yard miracle touchdown by Stefon Diggs to stun New Orleans. And in between came the upset of the weekend, with the Jaguars going to Heinz Field for the second time this year and upending the Steelers 45-42.
Naturally, a game that featured 12 combined touchdowns and just a single field goal is among the highest-scoring playoff games in league history. Where exactly does it rank?
T-5th) 1981 AFC Divisional & 1992 AFC Wild Card:
[watch video up top]
Both of these games had 41-38 scores. In ’81 there was the “Epic in Miami” between the Chargers and Dolphins. San Diego jumped out to a 24-0 lead after one quarter, but backup quarterback Don Strock came in and sparked the Miami offense. They came all the way back and actually had a chance to win the game in regulation, but the Chargers’ Kellen Winslow blocked what would have been the game-ending field goal to send things to overtime. There, both teams failed on field goal attempts, before San Diego finally managed to convert on a 29-yard attempt to win by three. The Chargers would lose the following week to Cincinnati.
The 1992 affair between the Bills and Oilers featured what is still statistically the greatest comeback in league history. Down 35-3 in the third quarter, Buffalo backup Frank Reich led five unanswered touchdown drives to take the lead before Houston kicked a field goal to force overtime. From there, the Bills capped the comeback with another field goal to win it 41-38. It would propel Buffalo all the way to the Super Bowl, where Dallas cruised 52-17.
4) 1999 NFC Divisional:
The “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams, with Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, faced the high-flying Vikings, boasting Randy Moss and Cris Carter. Warner and Minnesota quarterback Jeff George combined to throw for 814 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Down 17-14 at halftime, St. Louis ripped off 35 straight points in the second half to take a commanding 49-17 lead. Minnesota scored three times in the final five minutes, but it was mostly for show as St. Louis moved on by a dozen, 49-37. They’d eventually go on to win the Super Bowl.
3) 2017 AFC Divisional:
Sunday had the makings of a blowout, with Jacksonville jumping out to a 21-0 lead at Pittsburgh. But the Steelers wouldn’t go away, twice times cutting the deficit down to seven. Yet each time it looked like the favorites would take over, Blake Bortles made a big play for the Jags, while Leonard Fournette rushed for three scores. A week after squeaking by Buffalo 10-3, Jacksonville pulled off the 45-42 upset, setting up a date on Sunday in New England.
2) 1995 NFC Wild Card:
The game was over by early in the third quarter, as the Eagles led 38-7 at halftime before extending it to 51-7, but the Lions scored a bunch of garbage time touchdowns to ultimately make it a 58-37 Philadelphia drubbing. Eagles’ quarterback Rodney Peete threw for three touchdowns and the defense returned two interceptions for scores to make up most of the damage. Philly would lose the following week to Dallas, the eventual Super Bowl champs.
1) 2009 NFC Wild Card:
The Cardinals began a magical run to the NFC championship with one of the wildest games in playoff history. Up 24-10 at halftime, Arizona would see Green Bay come back to tie the game at 38 early in the fourth quarter on a John Kuhn touchdown run. The Cards responded with a Steve Breaston 17-yard connection with 4:55 left. Then Aaron Rodgers capped a seven-play 71-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown to Spencer Havner with 1:52 to go to tie the game at 45. Arizona had a shot to win it at the end of regulation, but Neil Rackers missed a 34-yard field goal to send the game to overtime.
Green Bay won the coin toss, but on 3rd-and-6 from his own 24, Rodgers was strip-sacked by Michael Adams, and Karlos Dansby picked up the loose ball and returned it for the game-winning touchdown. 52-45 Cardinals the final, the highest-scoring playoff game in NFL history.