In the vast realm of American football, there are certain games that transcend the boundaries of time and stand as timeless classics. These legendary clashes have enthralled fans, shaped careers, and etched unforgettable moments in the annals of NFL history. Join us on a journey through the 20 greatest NFL games of all time, as we delve into the heart-pounding excitement, epic comebacks, and awe-inspiring displays of athleticism that have defined the sport.
The 20 Greatest NFL Games of All Time
Super Bowl XXXVI: Patriots vs. Rams
Super Bowl XXXVI marked the beginning of the New England Patriots dynasty under the guidance of quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. Facing the heavily favored St. Louis Rams, the Patriots orchestrated a game-winning drive, culminating in a field goal as time expired, solidifying their place in history.
The Ghost to the Post: Raiders vs. Colts
The Ghost to the Post unfolded during a 1977 AFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Oakland Raiders and the Baltimore Colts. In a dramatic turn of events, the Raiders executed a game-tying touchdown pass in the final seconds of regulation and eventually secured a victory in double overtime, leaving fans in awe of their resilience.
Super Bowl XXIII: 49ers vs. Bengals
Super Bowl XXIII showcased the San Francisco 49ers’ remarkable fourth-quarter comeback against the Cincinnati Bengals. With less than three minutes remaining, quarterback Joe Montana led his team on a game-winning drive, culminating in a touchdown pass to John Taylor, securing their third Super Bowl victory.
The Longest Game: Dolphins vs. Chiefs
The Longest Game refers to the 1971 AFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs. Lasting for 82 minutes and 40 seconds of game time, this marathon clash required two overtimes to determine a winner. The Dolphins eventually emerged victorious, solidifying their place in NFL history.
The Fog Bowl II: Patriots vs. Bears
The Fog Bowl II unfolded during a 2002 matchup between the New England Patriots and the Chicago Bears. Dense fog once again descended upon the field, creating a surreal atmosphere reminiscent of the original Fog Bowl. Despite the challenging conditions, both teams displayed incredible determination, with the Patriots emerging triumphant.
Super Bowl XXV: Giants vs. Bills
Super Bowl XXV witnessed an intense battle between the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills. With the outcome hanging in the balance, Giants kicker Scott Norwood’s missed field goal in the closing seconds allowed the Giants to clinch a narrow victory and etch their place in football history.
The Holy Roller: Chargers vs. Raiders
The Holy Roller is one of the most controversial plays in NFL history. In a 1978 game between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders, the Raiders fumbled the ball forward multiple times in a desperate attempt to score, eventually resulting in a touchdown and securing a remarkable win.
Super Bowl XLIII: Steelers vs. Cardinals
Super Bowl XLIII featured a thrilling battle between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals. With time expiring, Steelers linebacker James Harrison intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, shifting the momentum in favor of the Steelers and propelling them to victory.
The Hail Mary: Cowboys vs. Vikings
The Comeback: Bills vs. Oilers
The 1993 AFC Wild Card Playoff Game between the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Oilers will forever be etched in NFL history as “The Comeback.” Overcoming a 32-point deficit, the Bills orchestrated the largest comeback in playoff history, stunning their opponents and captivating fans worldwide.
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The Heidi Game: Jets vs. Raiders
The Heidi Game refers to a 1968 AFL contest between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders. In a controversial move, the television broadcast of the game was cut off to air the scheduled movie “Heidi.” The Raiders then staged a remarkable comeback, scoring two touchdowns in the final minute to secure a stunning victory.
Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots vs. Seahawks
Super Bowl XLIX featured an intense showdown between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. With the game on the line, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted a pass at the goal line, sealing their victory and denying the Seahawks a second consecutive Super Bowl title.
The Fog Bowl: Bears vs. Eagles
The 1988 NFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles became shrouded in an eerie fog that engulfed the entire field. Despite limited visibility, both teams battled fiercely, and the Bears emerged victorious in a contest that will forever be remembered for its surreal atmosphere
The Music City Miracle: Titans vs. Bills
The Music City Miracle unfolded during the 1999 AFC Wild Card Game between the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills. A well-executed lateral pass on a kickoff return led to a touchdown by Titans player Kevin Dyson, securing a dramatic victory and leaving fans in awe of this incredible play.
Super Bowl XLII: Giants vs. Patriots
Super Bowl XLII showcased the New York Giants’ stunning upset of the undefeated New England Patriots. With a remarkable helmet catch by David Tyree and a late touchdown drive led by Eli Manning, the Giants toppled the Patriots’ quest for perfection and etched their place in NFL folklore.
The Catch: Cowboys vs. 49ers
In the 1981 NFC Championship Game, the San Francisco 49ers’ Dwight Clark made an unforgettable leaping catch in the end zone, forever known as “The Catch.” This iconic play sealed the victory for the 49ers and marked the beginning of their dynasty under the guidance of legendary coach Bill Walsh.
Super Bowl III: Jets vs. Colts
Super Bowl III witnessed a monumental upset as the New York Jets, led by quarterback Joe Namath, defied all odds to defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. Namath’s guaranteed victory prediction and the Jets’ triumph forever changed the perception of the AFL and established the Super Bowl as the pinnacle of professional football.
The Immaculate Reception: Raiders vs. Steelers
The Immaculate Reception remains one of the most iconic plays in NFL history. In the dying moments of the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, the Pittsburgh Steelers Franco Harris miraculously caught a deflected pass and scored a touchdown, propelling his team to victory against the Oakland Raiders.
The Ice Bowl: Cowboys vs. Packers
In the bone-chilling cold of December 31, 1967, the Dallas Cowboys faced off against the Green Bay Packers in what would become known as “The Ice Bowl.” This frigid contest tested the limits of human endurance and resulted in a last-second touchdown that secured the Packers’ victory.
Super Bowl LI: Patriots vs. Falcons
The clash between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI was an astonishing display of grit and determination. With the Patriots staging a historic comeback from a 25-point deficit, this game showcased the resilience and strategic brilliance of one of football’s greatest dynasties.
The 20 greatest NFL games of all time have captivated audiences, shaped legacies, and left an indelible mark on the sport of football. From miraculous comebacks to game-winning plays, these contests embody the essence of competition, perseverance, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. As fans, we cherish these moments, and they serve as a testament to the unparalleled excitement and drama that only the NFL can provide.
1. What criteria were used to determine the greatest NFL games?
The criteria used to determine the greatest NFL games include their historical significance, impact on the league, thrilling gameplay, memorable moments, and overall entertainment value.
2. Were any international NFL games considered for the list?
The list focuses on NFL games played within the United States and does not include international games.
3. Are there any games that stand out as particularly memorable or legendary?
Yes, several games on the list are widely regarded as legendary and have left a lasting impact on the NFL and its fans.
4. Did any games feature iconic matchups between rival teams?
Absolutely! Many games on the list showcase intense rivalries and iconic matchups between historic NFL teams.
5. Did any games have record-breaking performances by individual players?
Yes, some games on the list feature record-breaking performances by individual players, adding to their significance and greatness.