After a Divisional Weekend in the NFL filled with crazy endings and some of the weirdest plays I’ve ever seen, four teams remain with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line. If you’re a football fan, the conference championship games make for one of the best days of the season. Two tough and talented teams fighting to make it to the biggest stage of them all, and usually producing some of the best games possible in the process. In honor of this, I wanted to take a look at the best conference championship games of all-time.
6. 1986 AFC Championship: Denver Broncos, 23 vs. Cleveland Browns, 20 (OT)
I know it’s tough to imagine the Browns even being a successful team, let alone playing in a conference championship game. However, back in the day, Cleveland actually had a good football team, and was giving the great John Elway trouble in the first of what would turn out to be two straight tough losses in the AFC Championship game. Elway led his team with what would come to be known as “The Drive”, which was a 98-yard drive over the span of five minutes that tied the game with 37 seconds left. The Broncos ended up winning the game on a 33-yard field goal in overtime, but ultimately lost in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. Still, “The Drive” was one to remember, and earned this game a spot on the list of top conference championship games.
5. 2006 AFC Championship: Indianapolis Colts, 38 vs. New England Patriots, 34
As much as this one stings as a Patriots fan, this game was the definitive moment in Peyton Manning’s lone Super Bowl winning season, and a miraculous one at that. Manning’s Colts were down 21-3 at the half, and ended up pulling off one of the craziest playoff comebacks of all-time against the Patriots. Manning finally got the best of Tom Brady, who was working with one of his weaker offenses (his leading receivers were Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney) and a pretty solid defense. The game was high scoring and filled with back-and-forth action, and ended with a go-ahead touchdown by Joseph Addai with a minute left in the game. It may not have been pretty for the Colts, but you can’t argue with the results.
4. 2007 NFC Championship: New York Giants, 23 vs. Green Bay Packers, 20 (OT)
This is another one that stings as a Patriots fan, as I would’ve killed to see Tom Brady and Brett Favre go one-on-one in a Super Bowl. It also hurts because of the magic Eli Manning pulled off with his first Super Bowl appearance that he earned because of this game. Favre, like in the Saints game, threw a key pick in overtime to give the Giants great field position and the chance to take the win. Lawrence Tynes kicked a …. I loved watching this game, as it had some of the best elements for a football game in recent memory. Between Favre’s last game as a Packer, the -24 degree wind chill, and the overall chaos that came from the game, it was an instant classic and one of the best conference title games of all-time.
3. 2014 NFC Championship: Seattle Seahawks, 28 vs. Green Bay Packers, 22 (OT)
I can honestly say this is one of my favorite games in all of my time watching football, and it’s tough to even fully describe what happened. After the first half, the Packers were up 16-0 against the defending Super Bowl champs in their own stadium. Even with four minutes left, the Packers were up 19-7, and looked like they were headed to Arizona. However, some of the ridiculous plays I’ve ever seen Seattle pull off, including a fake field goal touchdown from the punter to a lineman, an insane onside kick recovery with two minutes left, and a two-point conversion, gave them the lead in one of the best turnarounds in playoff history. The Packers came back in a minute to tie the game, and the Seahawks took advantage of overtime to win on a walkoff, 35-yard touchdown from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse. It was the craziest second-half of football I’ve ever watched, and the stakes made it even better.
2. 1981 NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers, 28 vs. Dallas Cowboys, 27
Joe Montana made it on my list last week for the top playoff players in NFL history, and this game featured one of the moments that propelled him on that countdown. With little time left on the clock, Montana and Dwight Clark pulled off one of the most famous plays in NFL history, simply known as “The Catch”. Montana threw the ball to a spot that only Clark could catch it, and Clark made it count with a high-flying, fingertip-grasping catch in the back of the endzone to give San Francisco a one-point lead with less than a minute left. “The Catch” put the Niners in the Super Bowl, and ended up giving Montana his first of four Super Bowl wins. It was the beginning (and end) of an era, and created a moment that will forever live in NFL history.
1. 1967 NFL Championship: Green Bay Packers, 21 vs. Dallas Cowboys, 17
When the game has its own name, you know it had to have been a good one. The “Ice Bowl” is commonly referred to as the greatest game in NFL history, and rightfully so. Before there were the AFC and NFC conferences, there were the AFL and NFL leagues that met in the Super Bowl. In the NFL Championship in the 1967 season, two of the best coaches in NFL history, Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry, squared off in one of the most hyped up games football has ever seen. In -20 degree weather, the Packers pulled off a late, game-winning drive capped off by a last-second touchdown by the legend Bart Starr to give Green Bay the win at home. The game, a rematch of the NFL Championship Game from the year before, was an instant classic, and will forever be known as the greatest Conference Championship game of all time.