5 biggest AFC championship video games: ‘The Drive,’ ‘Peyton’s revenge’ amongst all-time classics


No single-game elimination spherical in sports activities has had extra basic video games than the AFC championship. When the NFL constructed its checklist of the top-100 video games in 2019, eight of these video games have been performed within the AFC championship. Traditional AFC title video games that didn’t make the checklist included Pittsburgh’s win over Oakland within the 1975 “Ice Bowl II,” the Patriots‘ nail-biting win over the Ravens in 2011, the Broncos‘ two-point win over the Patriots in 2015, and Tom Brady’s comeback win over the Jaguars in 2017. 

These basic video games (and others) have been misplaced within the shuffle of nice AFC championship video games. A standard theme in these video games has been elevated quarterback play from a few of the biggest passers in NFL historical past. Particularly, Brady, Peyton Manning, and John Elway contributed to their legacies as all-time greats by what they did in AFC championship video games. This trio performed in a mixed 24 AFC title video games, with 4 of these video games incomes a spot on the checklist of the 5 biggest AFC championship video games ever performed. 

Honorable point out 

1995: Steelers 20, Colts 16 

Trailing 16-13, the favored Steelers took the lead after Ernie Mills’ 37-yard catch arrange Bam Morris’ one-yard landing run. Pittsburgh’s protection then needed to stand up to a last-second Hail Mary by Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh’s cross was almost corralled by Aaron Bailey, who cradled the ball in his chest earlier than it touched the turf. The win made 38-year-old Invoice Cowher the youngest coach to take his crew to a Tremendous Bowl

This wasn’t essentially an incredible recreation, however how properly the Bengals performed — particularly quarterback Ken Anderson — in sub-freezing temperatures is what made this AFC title recreation memorable. In a recreation that was tabbed as “The Freezer Bowl,” Anderson threw two touchdowns whereas main the Bengals to their first Tremendous Bowl. Anderson’s passer ranking was greater than twice the quantity of his counterpart, Corridor of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, who every week earlier helped lead the Chargers to an epic double-overtime win over the Dolphins in balmy Miami. 

“Kenny’s benefit was that he threw tight spirals,” mentioned Fouts, who mentioned that throwing that day was like “throwing a shoebox within the wind.” 

“I did not all the time throw spirals,” Fouts mentioned. “In my thoughts, that was the largest a part of us shedding the sport.” 

4. Patriots 37, Chiefs 31 (2018)

Brady’s ninth AFC championship recreation win got here on the expense of Patrick Mahomes, who this Sunday will look to guide the Chiefs to their second consecutive convention title. The Chiefs’ AFC championship tally would already be at two if not for Brady, who led the Patriots’ offense on a 13-play, 75-yard drive in additional time that was capped off by Rex Burkhead’s two-yard landing run. 

Moments earlier, Brady had been bailed out by Dee Ford, who was dominated offsides on the play that noticed Brady throw an interception to Charvarius Ward. On the following play, Brady discovered his longtime associate in crime, Rob Gronkowski, open for a 25-yard acquire. The completion arrange the Patriots’ go-ahead landing, which was countered by Harrison Butker’s game-tying subject objective with 11 seconds left in regulation. 

Brady eschewed his working recreation for a lot of the Patriots’ game-winning additional time drive. He threw eight consecutive passes, the ultimate one a 15-yard completion to Gronkowski. The completion arrange Burkhead’s second landing of the night time, because the Patriots left Arrowhead Stadium with their fourth AFC title over a five-year span. Brady’s efficiency overshadowed Mahomes, who threw three landing passes in his AFC championship recreation debut. 

3. Broncos 38, Browns 33 (1987)

After a heartbreaking AFC title recreation loss to the Broncos the earlier yr (extra on that later), the Browns have been attempting to play the position of spoiler late within the rematch. Cleveland’s comeback was spearheaded by quarterback Bernie Kosar and working again Earnest Byner. On their closing drive, the Browns have been down by 5 factors and with the ball contained in the Broncos 10-yard-line. 

With their season on the road, Cleveland ran a draw for Byner, who discovered house on the precise facet of the protection. Whereas Byner initially appeared to attain the game-winning landing, Browns followers have been instantly sucker punched after realizing that Byner had fumbled the ball two yards in need of the tip zone. The Broncos recovered Jeremiah Castille’s compelled fumble, and in the end ran off the ultimate minute of recreation clock. 

The fumble overshadowed an epic efficiency from Byner, who scored two touchdowns and gained 187 all-purpose yards. Byner would find yourself successful a hoop with Washington in 1991. The Browns, nevertheless, are nonetheless ready for his or her first journey to the Tremendous Bowl. 

2. Colts 38, Patriots 34 (2006)

After latest playoff losses to the Patriots, the Colts discovered themselves gazing a 21-3 deficit halfway by the second quarter of the 2006 AFC Championship Sport. However following Asante Samuel’s 39-yard pick-six of Peyton Manning, the Colts scored the sport’s subsequent 18 factors that included a landing cross from Manning to lineman Dan Klecko. The Patriots went again forward earlier than one other Colts lineman, heart Jeff Saturday, tied the rating after pouncing on a fumble ultimately zone. 

Trailing 34-31 with 3:49 left, two completions from Manning to Reggie Wayne sandwiched Manning’s 32-yard completion to Bryan Fletcher. Fletcher, a seldom-used tight finish, had lobbied for Manning to look his means earlier within the recreation. After reaching the Patriots’ 11-yard-line, Manning known as three straight runs for rookie working again Joseph Addai. Addai’s third carry resulted within the go-ahead landing with 1:02 left. 

Brady, whose late-game prowess was already legend by this level, handed his crew past midfield earlier than throwing a game-ending interception to cornerback (and fellow Michigan Man) Marlin Jackson. The Colts would go onto win their lone Tremendous Bowl with Manning underneath heart. In Denver, Manning would win two extra AFC title video games towards the Patriots whereas retiring with a 3-1 file towards the Brady/Belichick Patriots in convention championship video games. 

1. Broncos 23, Browns 20, OT (1986)

The Eighties Browns misplaced three AFC title video games in a four-year span to the Browns. Whereas every loss was painful, the primary one was undoubtedly the toughest to swallow. 

With the rating tied at 13, Bernie Kosar’s 48-yard cross to Brian Brennan gave the house crew a 20-13 lead. After watching its protection give up the large play, Broncos followers watched in agony as their particular groups botched the following kickoff earlier than leaping on the ball at their very own 2-yard-line. John Elway, displaying the savvy that might finally put him within the Corridor of Fame, meticulously moved the ball towards the Browns’ stingy protection. 

After a brief throw and two runs gave the Broncos a primary down, an 11-yard run by Elway and a 22-yard completion to Steve Sewell received Denver close to midfield. On third-and-18 on the Browns’ 48-yard-line, Elway stood tall earlier than firing a 20-yard dart to Mark Jackson. The Broncos averted a catastrophe on the play, as Elway was about to catch the shotgun snap after it by the way hit a receiver in movement. 

Two performs later, a display screen cross to Sewell received the Broncos to the Browns’ 14-yard-line. Three performs later, dealing with a third-and-one on the Browns’ 5-yard-line, Elway took the shotgun snap, waited for Jackson to interrupt free from his defender, and threw a dart that Jackson was capable of corral ultimately zone. The rating, which got here with 32 seconds left in regulation, capped off what is thought in NFL historical past as “The Drive.” 

In additional time, Denver’s protection rapidly gave the ball again to Elway, who received the Broncos previous midfield on a 22-yard completion to tight finish Orson Mobley. After shedding two yards on the subsequent two performs, Elway began to run, which shaped Denver’s defenders to maneuver as much as honor him. However earlier than crossing the road of scrimmage, Elway stopped, then hit an open Steve Watson, who caught the 28-yard cross earlier than falling out of bounds. The play arrange Wealthy Carlos’ game-winning subject objective, as Elway and the Broncos have been on their method to Pasadena for Tremendous Bowl XXI. It was the primary of 5 Tremendous Bowl appearances for Elway, who misplaced his first three Tremendous Bowls earlier than retiring with back-to-back titles. 



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