In the rich history of the NFL, some moments stand out more than others. Here’s a look at the most memorable of those moments for each of the 32 NFL franchises.
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Oh, what could have been. Trailing 20-16 with less than three minutes left in Super Bowl XLIII, Kurt Warner connected with Larry Fitzgerald for a 64-yard touchdown down the middle of the field to take the lead over Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for Arizona, Santonio Holmes and the Steelers were able to make a late comeback to win, 27-23.
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It’s been three years, but Falcons fans still have nightmares when hearing “28-3.” That was the lead Atlanta held in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI over the Patriots, but Tom Brady and Co. came storming back to win, 34-28, in overtime. Following the game, criticized offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left to take the head coaching job in San Francisco.
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One of the most dominant defenses in NFL history finished off the 2000 season in fitting fashion, defeating the Giants, 34-7, in Super Bowl XXXV. Super Bowl MVP Ray Lewis led the way for Baltimore’s punishing defense, and New York’s only points came on a kickoff return touchdown.
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It’s a moment Bills fans have been trying to forget for nearly 30 years. Trailing 20-19 to the Giants with eight seconds remaining in Super Bowl XXV, kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal wide right. Despite the disappointment, Buffalo would advance to the following three Super Bowls but also come up short in each of those games.
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The Panthers and Rams battled in one of the best playoff games of the 2000s, going to double overtime tied, 23-23, in the 2003 divisional round. Steve Smith ended the game with a 69-yard game winning score from Jake Delhomme to win. The Panthers would eventually advance to the Super Bowl before losing to New England.
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The 1985 Bears were a legendary team with a legendary defense, and they capped off their season with a 46-10 win over New England. Defensive star Richard Dent was the game MVP, and perhaps the most memorable play was a short-yardage touchdown by stout defensive lineman William “Refrigerator” Perry.
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Most football fans remember Super Bowl XXIII for the final drive orchestrated by Joe Montana, but before that point Stanford Jennings ran back a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. It was Cincinnati’s only touchdown in a 20-16 loss.
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For all the heartbreaking moments Cleveland has had in recent years, the team was triumphant in 1964, winning an NFL championship. The team dominated the Baltimore Colts in a 27-0 win in the championship game, as Jim Brown rushed for 114 yards and Gary Collins had three receiving scores.
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The Cowboys have their fair share of great moments, but it’s tough to top the “Hail Mary” 50-yard pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson in 1975. The game-winner gave Dallas a 17-14 win over the Vikings in the NFC divisional round, and after the game Staubach said, “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.”
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Detroit Lions: Playoff win featuring Barry Sanders’ greatness
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Barry Sanders was a human highlight reel during his great NFL career, and it showed in Detroit’s last playoff win back in 1991-92. Sanders capped off the 38-6 victory over Dallas with a 47-yard run, finishing the game with 99 yards from scrimmage.
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The 1967 NFL championship between the Packers and Cowboys is still considered one of the greatest games in league history. The temperature at game time was -15 Fahrenheit in Green Bay, and after a game of back and forth, quarterback Bart Starr was able to score late on a game-winning 1-yard run to win, 21-17. Green Bay went on to blow out the Raiders in Super Bowl II two weeks later.
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J.J. Watt is arguably the greatest player in the history of the young Texans franchise, so it’s fitting that he also made the greatest play. Tied 10-10 in the team’s first-ever playoff game, vs. the Bengals in the 2011 playoffs, Watt picked off Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and ran the ball 29 yards for a score. Houston eventually won 31-10.
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The rivalry between the Colts and Patriots during the 2000s was arguably the best in football, and the 2006 AFC championship was one of its best games. The Colts led New England, 38-34, with 24 seconds remaining when Jackson picked off Tom Brady. Indianapolis got over the hump by finally beating the Patriots and would advance to easily beat the Bears in the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning’s only championship as a member of the Colts.
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Jacksonville wasn’t given much of a shot as heavy underdogs at Denver in only their second season as an NFL franchise. Despite trailing, 12-0, after the first quarter, terrific performances by Mark Brunell and Natrone Means helped the Jags claim their second consecutive 30-27 playoff win before falling to New England in the AFC championship.
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Prior to the 2019 season, the play known as “65 toss power trap” called by head coach Hank Stram in Super Bowl IV was undoubtedly the most memorable for Chiefs fans. However, the 2019-20 squad put another play in the history books with 44-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill in Super Bowl LIV known as Jet Chip Wasp. The play came at a critical point in the game with the Chiefs trailing, 20-10, on third-and-15 with only 7:13 remaining in the fourth quarter. Kansas City went on to score their first of three late touchdowns to win 31-20.
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Allen had one of the greatest Super Bowl performances by a running back, in Super Bowl XVIII, as the Raiders defeated Washington, 38-9. He broke the Super Bowl rushing record at the time with 191 yards, headlined by a 74-yard touchdown run to cap off the 1983 season.
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The Rams have had so many memorable moments in L.A. and St. Louis., but the end of Super Bowl XXXIV stands out, ending a movie-script season. Leading 23-16, the Rams defense needed to stop Tennessee once more to seal the victory. Titans wideout Kevin Dyson caught a pass over the middle but was tackled just before reaching the goal line by Jones in a play affectionately remembered as “The Tackle.” Head coach Dick Vermeil rode off into the sunset with an incredible Super Bowl victory in the 1999 season.
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Miami’s most memorable “moment” encompasses a full season of perfection. The 1972 Dolphins still stand as the only NFL team to ever finish a season undefeated, going 17-0 through the playoffs. The team finished off perfection with a 14-7 win over Washington in Super Bowl VII.
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It looked like another playoff disappointment for the Vikings in the 2017 season, trailing the Saints 24-23 after leading 17-0 at halftime in the divisional round. With only one play left in the game, Case Keenum threw up a prayer that was answered by Stefon Diggs. A botched missed tackle by Saints safety Marcus Williams allowed Diggs to run untouched down the sideline for a 61-yard game winning touchdown later called the “Minneapolis Miracle.”
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The Patriots have had countless unforgettable moments in their 20-year dynasty, but it all started with a Vinatieri kick. New England entered as major underdogs vs. the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, but had the ball tied 17-17 near the end of the game. Against commentator John Madden’s advice, the team opted not to play for overtime, making a quick drive down the field to give Vinatieri a 48-yard game-winning field goal. The game furthered the legend of arguably the most clutch kicker in NFL history and was the first of six Super Bowl wins during the team’s dynasty with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
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Sports are often more than just a game, as the Saints showed in an epic 2006 season when the franchise brought the city of New Orleans back from Hurricane Katrina. In the team’s first game at the Superdome since the hurricane, Steve Gleason made an incredible punt block early in Week 3 vs. Atlanta that led to a touchdown. New Orleans returned to the playoffs that season with Drew Brees at quarterback and would win it all three years later. Gleason’s block now lives on with a statue outside the Superdome.
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The Giants pulled off the impossible in Super Bowl XLII by halting New England’s undefeated season, and it wouldn’t have been possible without a legendary catch by David Tyree late in the game. Eli Manning and the Giants trailed the Pats, 14-10, with 1:15 remaining on a critical third-and-5. Escaping the pressure, Manning threw the ball in the air to Tyree , who pinned the ball to his helmet for an incredible 32-yard gain, eventually leading to a game-winning catch by Plaxico Burress.
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The Jets were given little chance against the Colts in Super Bowl III, but Joe Namath guaranteed a win before the game. He proved to be a man of his word in a 16-7 win to hand the Colts only their second loss of the season.
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Philadelphia finished off their Cinderella Story with backup quarterback Nick Foles leading the way to game MVP in Super Bowl LII. The most memorable play of the game was known as “Philly Special,” a trick play in which running back Corey Clement took the snap, flipped the ball to tight end Trey Burton, and Burton threw the touchdown pass to a wide open Foles in the end zone to give Philadelphia a commanding 22-12 lead in the second quarter.
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Arguably the most incredible play in the history of football, the Immaculate Reception still gives Steelers fans goosebumps some 40 years later. Pittsburgh trailed the Raiders, 7-6, on a fourth-and-10 with 22 seconds remaining in the divisional round of the 1972 playoffs when Terry Bradshaw threw a pass into the air. Raiders Jack Tatum and John Fuqua collided while trying to intercept the ball, and Franco Harris was in the right place at the right time, catching the ball just before it landed on the ground and running for a touchdown to win 13-7.
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San Francisco’s success in the ’80s and ’90s brought plenty of memorable moments, but none more epic than Dwight Clark’s incredible touchdown catch in the 1981 NFC championship. Trailing the Cowboys, 27-21, Joe Montana drove the 49ers down the field and had third-and-3 on the 6-yard line with 58 seconds remaining. Rolling to his right under heavy pressure, Montana threw a seemingly perfect pass that ended up in Clark’s outstretched arms at the back of the end zone, as “The Catch” capped off an 89-yard game-winning drive.
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The Seahawks’ most memorable moment is one they’d like to forget. Seattle had an opportunity to win back-to-back Super Bowls, but Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler and questionable play calling at the goal line stood in their way. Trailing 28-24 with 26 seconds left at the 1-yard line, the Seahawks opted to throw a slant rather than hand the ball off to star running back Marshawn Lynch. Butler jumped Ricardo Lockette’s route and made an incredible interception with 20 seconds left to preserve the win in Super Bowl XLIX for New England.
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The 2002 Bucs defense is known as one of the best ever and paved the road to immortality by defeating the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. The win also gave head coach Jon Gruden sweet revenge over his former team after he was traded the previous offseason. Tampa Bay picked off Rich Gannon five times in the 48-21 victory, with three of the picks being returned for touchdowns in the second half.
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Perhaps the best special teams play in NFL history, the Titans pulled off the “Music City Miracle” to defeat Buffalo and win 22-16 in the Wild Card round of the 1999 playoffs. Trailing 16-15 with 16 seconds left, the Titans kickoff return team performed the “Home Run Throwback” in which Frank Wycheck threw the ball laterally across the field to Kevin Dyson, who had a line of blockers and ran for a touchdown. Tennessee would later advance to the Super Bowl, where it would lose a close game to the Rams.
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Washington dominated the second half of Super Bowl XVII vs. Miami, and the biggest play was a 43-yard touchdown run by John Riggins on fourth-and-one during the fourth quarter. The run down the right sideline gave Washington a 20-17 lead, and the team went on to win, 27-17.