Going through the greatest and most memorable games in NFL history is not an easy task. Doing so for each team is even tougher. However, we're giving it a shot.
Here's our take at one lasting game in the history of each NFL franchise, complete with videos for fans to relive those special moments.
The 2008 season was a special one for the Cardinals franchise. Though it fell short of winning the Super Bowl in one of the greatest games in the history of the event, getting to that point was quite the ride. Arizona punched its ticket to the Super Bowl with a 32-25 win over Philadelphia in the NFC championship game . Kurt Warner threw four touchdowns, including three to Larry Fitzgerald, who caught nine passes for 152 yards. Tim Hightower's 8-yard TD pass with 2:53 left in the game was the difference.
Twice, Atlanta reached the Super Bowl. The Falcons got there the first time with a 30-27 overtime victory at favored Minnesota in the NFC title game of the 1998 season. Atlanta rallied from 20-7 down, and forced overtime on Terance Mathis' 16-yard touchdown catch with 49 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The ever-steady Morten Andersen won it for the Falcons with a 38-yard field goal in the extra session.
The Ravens' second Super Bowl title featured a little sibling rivalry. Ravens coach John Harbaugh met brother Jim and the San Francisco 49ers to cap the 2012 campaign. The highly competitive contest even featured a power outage at New Orleans' Superdome. When the lights came back on, the Ravens managed to hold off a San Francisco charge and leave as 34-31 winners.
Buffalo went to four straight Super Bowls during the early 1990s. Of course, the most memorable game in the history of the franchise — and one of the best all time — came during that run. At home, Buffalo trailed the Houston Oilers, 35-3 , early in the third quarter of this playoff contest. However, even with backup Frank Reich under center, the Bills mounted a remarkable comeback — highlighted by a 28-point third quarter — to stun the Oilers, 41-38, in overtime.
The Panthers fell short of a Super Bowl title during the 2003 season, but that special 11-5 run featured arguably the best game in franchise history. Playing on the road in the divisional round , the Panthers blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead at St. Louis. The game went to not one but two overtimes. In the end Carolina prevailed when Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith hooked up on a 69-yard touchdown play for a 29-23 victory.
The Bears have won six NFL championships and a Super Bowl, but arguably the most memorable game in team history came during the 2006 regular season. En route to a Super Bowl appearance, Chicago trailed, 23-3, late in the third quarter at Arizona on Monday night . Then, Mike Brown recorded a 3-yard fumble recovery for a TD. Charles Tillman took a fumble back 40 yards for a score and Devin Hester capped the stunning comeback with an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown. Chicago went on to win, 24-23, leaving late Cardinals coach Dennis Smith to his infamous postgame outburst.
Not only did the Bengals win their first-ever playoff game during the 1981 season, but they also reached the Super Bowl during that campaign. Cincinnati secured a spot in Super Bowl XVI with a decisive 27-7 home win over San Diego in the league title contest. It helped that the frigid temperatures at Riverfront Stadium left the warm-climate Chargers literally shaking in their cleats.
It's obviously no secret that Browns fans and the city of Cleveland are aching for a Super Bowl title. Just an appearance in that game would be nice. Still, this is one of the most storied franchises in league history. So picking a greatest game over the years can be tough. But we'll go back to where it all began. The 1950 NFL championship , when Otto Graham threw four touchdowns and the Browns scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat the Los Angeles Rams, 30-28.
How do we pick just one game from such a storied franchise as the Cowboys? It's not easy, but their first Super Bowl title to conclude the 1971 season still resonates loud within the organization. On their fourth attempt at an overall title, the Cowboys finally prevailed, winning, 24-3, over Miami. Roger Staubach threw a pair of touchdowns and Dallas' defense yielded less than 200 total yards on the game.
The Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowl titles in late 1990s and another last decade, but many fans of the team will agree that this contest at Cleveland tends to stand above the rest — simply for "The Drive." John Elway led the Broncos to a tying score (5-yard TD pass to Mark Jackson) with 37 seconds remaining in regulation, capping a 15-play, 98-yard drive in just over five minutes. Rich Karlis' 33-yard field goal in overtime sent Denver to its first Super Bowl since the 1977 season.
Championships have been few and far between for the Lions as a franchise. Detroit has never been to a Super Bowl, and its last championship came in 1957. However, in 1953 the Lions defended their NFL championship with a 17-16 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Despite the low-scoring contest, the game was rather thrilling. The Lions went ahead for good on Jim Doran's 33-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown reception and Doak Walker's ensuing extra point.
Another franchise with an extensively successful and cherished history. With six NFL championships and four Super Bowls, the greatest — and likely most memorable — game in Packers history came on New Year's Eve 1967 — otherwise known as the "Ice Bowl." With a trip to Super Bowl II on the line, temperatures more than minus-30 degrees (with the wind) and the Lambeau Field turf essentially frozen solid, Green Bay's Bart Starr followed a Jerry Kramer block into the end zone for a 1-yard score in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter to give the hosts an eventual 21-17 victory.
Six times the Texans have finished atop the AFC South. However, Christmas Eve 2016 might be the game fans of the franchise remember the most. With the division title on the line, Houston went ahead, 12-10, following Alfred Blue's 24-yard TD run in the fourth quarter and held on for a 12-10 win over Cincinnati after Randy Bullock missed a 43-yard field goal late to secure the title.
Considered "The Greatest Game Ever Played," with the franchise based in Baltimore and Johnny Unitas under center, the Colts beat the New York Giants, 23-17, at Yankee Stadium for their first league title. The tremendously competitive contest was the first postseason game to be decided in sudden death. Baltimore receiver Raymond Berry put together one of the greatest individual performances in NFL playoff history with 12 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown.
Just two seasons into their existence, the Jaguars were on the doorstep of the Super Bowl in 1996. Before Jacksonville fell to New England in the AFC championship game that season, it won, 30-27, at favored Denver in the divisional round. Down 12-0 after the first quarter, the Jags scored 23 straight points to take over the game and then ultimately hold off the Broncos' fourth-quarter charge.
We're not going too far back for this one. No slight to the 1969 Chiefs and their Super Bowl run, but Kansas City finally has another NFL champion. It was not easy for Patrick Mahomes and Co. last season, but the Chiefs' 21-point fourth quarter will go down as one of the best periods in the history of the big game. Kansas City turned a 10-point fourth quarter hole into a 31-20 victory over the shocked San Francisco 49ers.
Again, picking just one game that stands out in Raiders lore is tough. But the "Sea of Hands" game won't be forgotten. During a divisional contest against Miami in the '74 season, the Raiders trailed, 26-21, late. That's when quarterback Ken Stabler tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Clarence Davis, who out-fought a number of defending hands to claim the ball and a 28-26 win. The loss ended Miami's bid for a fourth straight Super Bowl appearance.
There are many pro football pundits who believe the Chargers' 41-38 overtime playoff victory at Miami is one of the greatest NFL games ever played. It's certainly one of the most exciting. The two teams combined for more than 1,000 total yards, Dan Fouts threw for 433 yards with four TDs and tight end Kellen Winslow caught 13 passes for 166 yards with a score and basically needed to be carried off the field from exhaustion.
Whether in Los Angeles or St. Louis, the Rams have had many memorable moments as a franchise. However, none should stand out more than their 23-16 win over Tennessee in the Super Bowl to conclude the 1999 season. While Kurt Warner and the "Greatest Show On Turf" did their job, it was linebacker Mike Jones' title-saving tackle on Tennessee's Kevin Dyson 1 yard shy of the end zone that remains one of the great stops in NFL history.
The Dolphins capped their historic 17-0 season of 1972 by winning the franchise's first Super Bowl — 14-7 over Washington. Miami did all its scoring in the first half and kept the Redskins offense out of the end zone. Though it might not have been a dominating effort, this victory was symbolic of a squad that was fueled by talent and confidence and always seemed in control.
The Vikings are still searching for that first Super Bowl title, but that's another story. Let's talk about the good times, particularly their dramatic walk-off 29-24 victory over New Orleans in this divisional round contest during the 2017 season. As time ran out in regulation and on Minnesota's season, Case Keenum connected with Stefon Diggs, the beneficiary of some poor Saints coverage, who streaked alone down the sideline for a winning 61-yard touchdown.
Each of the Patriots' six Super Bowl triumphs were special in their own way; however, likely none more than their seemingly improbable 35-28 win over Atlanta to conclude the 2016 season. New England trailed, 28-3, late in the third quarter but rallied to score 25 straight points and force overtime. James White's 2-yard touchdown run in extra time completed the rally to stun the Falcons.
It took a while, but the Saints were finally crowned Super Bowl champions of the 2009 season. Despite an early 10-0 hole, the Saints regrouped to take over in the second half, where they outscored Indianapolis, 25-7. New Orleans' gutsy, but successful, onside kick to open the third quarter proved to be the turning point of what became a 31-17 win.
The Giants did not win what's considered "The Greatest Game Ever Played" but did prevail in what was one of the most exciting Super Bowls of all time . Eli Manning and New York did not back down against the favored and then-undefeated New England Patriots. David Tyree's improbable helmet catch and Plaxico Burress' go-ahead 13-yard TD catch with under a minute to play led the Giants to a 17-14 victory.
Not much of a surprise here. Brash quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed his Jets would beat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Though Namath was far from dominant in the contest, the Jets defense stymied Johnny Unitas and the Colts throughout the game en route to an improbable 16-7 victory. It was a game that changed the pro football landscape between the NFL and AFL.
Another franchise starved for a Super Bowl title, the Eagles finally got the job done with a 41-33 upset win over New England to claim the 2017 championship. Highlighted by the famed "Philly Special," the Eagles matched the high-powered Patriots and proved better in the end with the pedestrian Nick Foles (373 passing yards, three touchdowns and one TD reception) leading the way.
No offense to Terry Bradshaw and the "Steel Curtain" teams of the 1970s, but near the top of all the great and memorable games the Steelers have played is a game that happened more recently. In fact, it was Pittsburgh's most recent Super Bowl title back to the 2008 season against Arizona . Now blowing a 20-7 fourth-quarter lead was pretty brutal for Steelers' fans, but all was right in their world with Santonio Holmes' toe-tapping a go-ahead 6-yard touchdown catch with 35 seconds left in the game for a 27-23 win.
Even with five Lombardi Trophies on display, the greatest game in 49ers history isn't a Super Bowl. However, it was one that got them to the big game. Joe Montana's 6-yard pass to Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone, famously known as "The Catch," sent San Francisco to a 28-27 victory over Dallas and to its first Super Bowl appearance.
If we're talking about the most dominant game in Seahawks history, then the 43-8 rout of Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII is an easy choice. But the most exciting and overall competitive game in franchise came one season later. Seattle made its repeat Super Bowl appearance thanks to a comeback 28-22 overtime win over the visiting Green Bay Packers in the NFC title game. The hosts trailed 16-0 at halftime but fought their way back to take the lead late in the fourth quarter before the Packers forced OT with a field goal. Early in the extra period, Russell Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse with a 35-yard TD pass to unleash the celebration.
It took some time, but the Bucs eventually got the chance to enjoy some Super Bowl glory. With Jon Gruden in charge, Tampa Bay scored 17 points in the second quarter and rode a strong defensive effort to pound the Oakland Raiders 48-21 on Jan. 26, 2003. Sure, it might not have been the most exciting Super Bowl for the casual football fan to watch, but it's obviously a moment Buccaneers fans won't forget.
As mentioned earlier on this list, the Buffalo Bills pulled off that stunning comeback against the Houston Oilers in the playoffs of the 1992 season. Well, with the former Oilers based in Nashville and going by the Titans, the franchise got its revenge. Otherwise known as the "Music City Miracle." Frank Wycheck's lateral to Kevin Dyson, who darted 75 yards for a kickoff-return touchdown with three seconds left, gave the Titans an improbable 22-16 wild-card victory during the 1999 season.
Forty seasons after winning their previous championship in 1942, the Redskins claimed their first Super Bowl title. Washington fans have bruising running back John Riggins to thank for that 27-17 victory over Miami to end the 1982 season. Riggins ran for 166 yards and a touchdown on a monster 38 carries. The Redskins defense also helped by holding the Dolphins to 176 total yards on the day.
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.