(Drew Pearson photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
(Kellen Winslow photo courtesy of the San Diego Chargers)
Talk of Fame Network
The NFL enters the most entertaining weekend of the playoffs -- the divisional round. The four best teams during the regular season return to the field rested from their first-round byes and ready to mount a sprint to the Super Bowl. Green Bay, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Seattle earned their way into the divisional round with victories last weekend in the wild-card round. Arizona and Carolina from the NFC and Denver and New England from the AFC are already there waiting for them.,
Some of the best games of the NFL’s post-season have occurred in this round. In this week’s poll, we ask our listeners and readers to vote on the greatest game of the divisional round. And there are some good ones to choose from. So here are the candidates. Take your pick:
1971 Miami at Kansas City. The longest NFL game ever played lasted 82 minutes, 40 seconds, ending on a 37-yard field goal by Miami’s Garo Yepremian for a 27-20 double-overtime victory on Christmas Day. That game proved to be the last gasp of Kansas City’s AFL dynasty and the start of Miami’s NFL dynasty. Ed Podolak gained an NFL-playoff record 350 yards for the Chiefs, but it went for naught. He amassed 155 yards on returns, 110 yards receiving and 85 rushing.
1972 Oakland-Pittsburgh. The Immaculate Reception game. The Raiders took a 7-6 on a 30-yard touchdown run by quarterback Ken Stabler with 77 seconds remaining, then the Steelers found themselves in dire straits facing a fourth-and-10 from their own 40 with 22 seconds left. But a Terry Bradshaw pass to Frenchy Fuqua at the Oakland 35 was broken up by safety Jack Tatum -- except that the pass deflection went rocketing back toward the line of scrimmage. An alert Franco Harris scooped up the ball before it hit the turf and raced 60 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
1975 Dallas-Minnesota. The Hail Mary game. The Cowboys also found themselves in dire straits on the road in the cold. Drew Pearson made a spectacular catch for a fourth-and-17 conversion in the final minute, setting the Cowboys up at midfield. On second down, with 22 seconds remaining, Roger Staubach hurled the bomb to Pearson down the right sideline. Pearson untangled himself from cornerback Nate Wright, made the catch inside the Minnesota 5 and then stepped backward into the end zone for a touchdown and a 17-14 Dallas victory. Staubach, a devout Catholic, said he threw the ball and said a Hail Mary. That gave Staubach, Pearson and the Hail Marry pass a place in NFL lore.
2001 San Diego-Miami. The Chargers won 41-38 in overtime in a game that never should have gone beyond four quarters. The Chargers built -- and blew -- a 24-0 first quarter lead on the road. Both teams passed for 400 yards in a game that left offenses, defenses and the fans at the Orange Bowl exhausted. San Diego's Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts threw 53 passes for 433 yards and three touchdowns. Miami opened with David Woodley at quarterback but coach Don Shula pulled him early in the second quarter in favor of Don Strock. Woodley threw five times for 20 yards and Strock threw 42 times for 392 yards. Fouts tossed a 9-yard TD pass to James Brooks in the final minute of regulation to force overtime and Rolf Benirschke won it there for the Chargers with a 29-yard field goal 13 minutes into the extra period. Winslow caught 13 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown that day.
2003 Indianapolis-Kansas City. A game with no punts. The AFL’s top two offenses squared off at Arrowhead Stadium with Pro Bowl quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Trent Green matching pass for pass and NFL rushing champions Edgerrin James and Priest Holmes matching handoff for handoff. Neither team punted in the game and one possession ended in a turnover -- a third-quarter fumble by Holmes. That proved to be the difference in the game, giving the Colts the extra possession they would need to score the extra touchdown for a 38-31 victory. Manning passed for 304 yards and three TDs and Holmes rushed for 176 yards and two scores in the game.
2012 Baltimore-Denver. Another double overtime. The Broncos earned the top seed in the AFC with a 13-3 record in Peyton Manning’s first season in Denver. The Broncos took an 11-game winning streak into the post-season and appeared to be steaming toward an AFC title game against New England with 40 seconds left in regulation. But Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones with a 70-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to tie the game with 31 seconds left. A Manning interception at his own 45 with a minute left in overtime set up the Ravens for a game-winning 47-yard field goal by Justin Tucker 1:36 into the second overtime.