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Greatest Moments in NFL Playoff History: Moments 11-20

Posted on January 07, 2010 by A.J. Foss
Drew Pearson and Roger Staubach answered the prayer of Cowboy fans with the "Hail Mary" to defeat the Minnesota Vikings in the 1975 NFC Playoffs.

Drew Pearson and Roger Staubach answered the prayer of Cowboy fans with the "Hail Mary" to defeat the Minnesota Vikings in the 1975 NFC Playoffs.

You know that a game or moment is truly special if it is forever known by a special moniker. As we continue the countdown of the top 50 moments in NFL Playoff History (since the start of the Super Bowl era in 1966) we are now getting to moments that have endured as classic parts of NFL history.

Below are moments 11-20.

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20. 1996 AFC Divisional Playoff-Jaguars vs. Broncos
The Jacksonville Jaguars, a two-touchdown underdog, knock off the NFL-best 13-3 Denver Broncos 30-27 in one of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history.

After falling behind 12-0 in the first quarter, the Jaguars score on six straight possessions in the final three quarters to shock the Broncos and advance to the AFC Championship Game in just their second year of existence.

19. 1979 AFC Championship-Oilers vs. Steelers
In the final seconds of the third quarter, the Houston Oilers were at the Steelers’ 6-yard-line when quarterback Dan Pastorini lobbed a pass for Mike Renfro in the back of the end zone, who appeared to make the catch and get both of his feet in bounds for the game-tying touchdown.

But the two judges at the back of the end zone stood frozen for what seemed like an eternity debating whether or not Renfro made the catch.

The side judge, Donald Orr, came in and ruled the pass incomplete, saying that Renfro did not have possession of the ball before he went out of bounds.

However, replays showed that Renfro had possession of the ball and both feet in bounds when he made the catch and the call should have been a touchdown for the Oilers.

Instead, the Oilers had to settle for a field goal, and eventually lost the game 27-13.

18. 2002 NFC Wild Card Game-Giants vs. 49ers
The 49ers overcome a 38-14 deficit by scoring 25 unanswered points in the second half, but it is a controversial call on the final play that allows San Francisco to walk away with a 39-38 win over the New York Giants.

After the 49ers took the lead on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Garcia to Tai Streets with 1 minute left in regulation, the Giants drove to the 49ers’ 23-yard line with six seconds left to set up a potential 41-yard game winning field goal by Matt Bryant.

But long snapper Trey Junkin snapped the ball low which could not be handled by holder Matt Allen, causing him to scramble and launch a desperation pass that fell incomplete.

However, a flag was thrown on the play as Giants guard Rich Seubert had been pulled by 49er defensive end Chike Okeafor presumably for a pass interference penalty, which would have given the Giants another chance to win the game.

But the referees ruled Seubert as an ineligible receiver, even though he was eligible, thus ending the game and giving the 49ers the second greatest comeback win in NFL playoff history.
The next day, the NFL head office admitted the referees missed the call.

The interception of "Red Right 88" by Mike Davis lifted the Raiders past Cleveland and closer to their ultimate destiny of winning Super Bowl XV.

The interception of "Red Right 88" by Mike Davis lifted the Raiders past Cleveland and closer to their ultimate destiny of winning Super Bowl XV.

17. 1980 AFC Divisional Playoff-Raiders vs. Browns “Red Right 88”
Even though they trailed 14-12, the Browns appeared to be on the verge of victory as they had the ball on the Raiders 13-yard-line with 47 seconds remaining.

It seemed all the Browns had to do was run the ball to set up a few more times to set up a game-winning field goal by Don Cockroft.

But with the Browns having kicking troubles all day, head coach Sam Rutigliano decided to call for a pass play on 2nd down known as “Red Right 88”.

Quarterback Brian Sipe lofts a pass to tight end Ozzie Newsome, but is picked off by Raiders defensive back Mike Davis and the Raiders escape Cleveland with a 14-12 win, which propels them on their way to winning Super Bowl XV.

16. 1971 AFC Divisional Playoff-Dolphins vs. Chiefs

Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremain kicks a 37-yard field goal 7:40 into double overtime to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 to end the longest game in NFL history at 82 minutes and 40 seconds.

15. 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff-Steelers vs. Colts
The Steelers appeared to have sewn up a 21-18 win when Peyton Manning was sacked on his own 2-yard line on 4th-and-18 with 1:20 left in the game.

However, the Colts had all three timeouts remaining forcing the Steelers to run the ball and use up Indianapolis’ timeouts.

But one more touchdown would make a 10-point game and secure the victory.

That was when this game took a turn toward the legendary when Colts linebacker Gary Brackett popped the ball loose from running back Jerome Bettis, forcing a fumble which was recovered by defensive back Nick Harper on a bounce.

The last Steeler between Harper and a touchdown was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was able to make a shoestring tackle by Harper’s ankle and bringing him down at the Colts’ 42-yard line.

Manning lead the Colts to the Steelers’ 28-yard line where the drive stalled, forcing the Colts to tie the game with a 46-yard field goal by kicker Mike Vanderjagt, the most accurate kicker in NFL history.

But in another shocking play, Vanderjagt hooked the kick wide right with 17 seconds remaining and after taking one quarterback kneel, the Steelers finally won the game 21-18.

14. 1977 AFC Divisional Playoff-Raiders vs. Colts “Ghost to the Post”

Raiders tight end Dave Casper, nicknamed “Ghost” after the famous cartoon ghost, makes a spectacular over-the-head catch on a deep post pattern for a 42-yard completion that sets up Errol Mann’s game-tying 22-yard field goal that ties the game at 31-31 with 29 seconds in regulation.

Casper then scores the winning touchdown on a 10-yard pass from quarterback Ken Stabler, 43 seconds into the second overtime and giving the Raiders a 37-31 double overtime win over the Baltimore Colts.

13. 2006 AFC Championship Game-Patriots vs. Colts
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning leads his team back from a 21-3 second quarter deficit to a 38-34 victory over the New England Patriots, to advance to the Super Bowl.

The Colts take their first lead of the game when Joseph Addai runs in for a 3-yard touchdown with one minute remain, then seal the win when cornerback Marlin Jackson intercepts Tom Brady with 17 seconds remaining and securing the greatest comeback in a conference championship game.

A combination of the Bears defense and fog did in the Eagles during the 1988 NFC Playoffs.

A combination of the Bears defense and fog did in the Eagles during the 1988 NFC Playoffs.

12. 1988 NFC Divisional Playoff-Eagles vs. Bears “The Fog Bowl”
Just after Bears kicker Kevin Butler makes a 46-yard field goal to increase Chicago’s lead over the Philadelphia Eagles to 17-6 late in the second quarter, a dense fog comes over Soldier Field covering the entire field.

The thick fog stays for the rest of the game, limiting the visibility for the fans in the stands and the viewers watching on television, to see the game.

The players also have a hard time with the fog as receivers could not see the long passes that were being thrown by their quarterbacks, forcing both teams to use running backs as receivers or simply just run the ball.

The game is never stopped and the Bears end up winning the game 20-12.

11. 1975 NFC Divisional Playoff-Cowboys vs. Vikings “The Hail Mary”

At midfield with 24 seconds to go and down 14-10, Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach launches a long desperation pass for Drew Pearson.

The ball is underthrown however, causing Pearson and Vikings cornerback Nate Wright to come back to the ball.

The two collide, or Pearson pushes off Wright depending how you see it, and Pearson somehow makes the catch at the 5-yard-line then walks in untouched for a shocking 50-yard touchdown that allows the Cowboys to walk away with a 17-14 win over the Vikings.

After the game, Staubach is quoted as saying “I just closed my eyes and said a “Hail Mary”.

Thus, the term “Hail Mary” pass is born.

Check Out Earlier Entries in the Top 50:

Great Playoff Moments: 41-50

Great Playoff Moments: 31-40

Great Playoff Moments: 21-30

Check back on Friday for moments 1-10.

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