After a pretty epic Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, I think all football fans are psyched for the NFC and AFC Championship games next weekend. The NFC Championship will feature two old rivals, the 49ers and Giants, in what should be a defensive battle. In the AFC, the Patriots will try to avenge a playoff loss from two seasons ago when they take on the Ravens. One thing the NFL fans will be able to count on next week is that there will be at least one defining moment of the weekend.
Great moments are what all football fans live for come playoff time, because they are the things that you remember where you were when they happen. They’re the plays that you call your friends to ask, "Did you just see that?!?" They’re the plays that become simply known as "The [fill in the blank]." Below are some of the best moments in the NFL Conference Championship history, complete with video evidence.
The poor city of Cleveland has had a long history of sports misfortune that is still felt in the city today. The play simply known as "The Fumble" is one of those moments that Clevelanders point to when describing their pain. Down 38-31 late in the 1987 AFC Championship against the Broncos, the Browns were driving for a game-tying touchdown. Browns running back Earnest Byner took a handoff and looked as if he was heading for the end zone, only to be stripped of the ball at the two-yard line. If Byner were able to hold on to the ball, Cleveland sports history could have been dramatically altered. They may have won a Super Bowl and maybe never moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens (for those sports novices, they rejoined the NFL in 1999 as an expansion team). It's the possible implications that makes this one of those great NFL moments.
The year before the "The Fumble," the Browns and Broncos also faced each other in the AFC Championship and, once again, it was the Broncos that came out on top. The difference this time was that the ultimate moment of the game happened to Denver, when QB John Elway began to solidify his legacy in the NFL as one of the greatest players in football history. Down 20-13 with just 5:32 left to play in the game, Elway and the Broncos began a drive at their own two-yard line. Over the next five minutes, the Broncos drove 98 yards for the game-tying touchdown. While the game was only tied at that point, the spirit of the Browns was broken and the Broncos went on to win 23-20 in overtime. It's crazy to think of how history could have changed if "The Fumble" or "The Drive" never happened.
Ok, enough with the Broncos and Browns. The most memorable moment in Conference Championship history happened in 1982 in a game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers trailed the Cowboys by six points with just under a minute to play and faced a third down on the Cowboys six-yard line. On the next play, QB Joe Montana rolled out of the pocket as three Cowboys defenders closed in on him and threw a pass that seemingly was destined to go over everyone's heads. Then almost out of nowhere, tight end Dwight Clark jumped and snatched the ball out of the air for the game-winning touchdown. That play may not just be the best moment in Conference Championship history, but it also may be the best in NFL history.
What are some of the other plays from Conference Championship games that you will never forget? Let us know in the comments.
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