Conference championship game memories
- Published: Jan. 14, 2013 at 03:17 p.m.
- Updated: Jan. 14, 2013 at 03:45 p.m.
From The Fumble and The Drive to the Ice Bowl, the conference championships have produced some of the greatest games ever played. Take a look at some classic images from Championship Sunday, one of the most exciting sports days of the year.
2011: New York Giants 20, San Francisco 49ers 17 (OT)
For the second time in four years, Lawrence Tynes provided the winning kick in overtime on the road to propel the Giants to the Super Bowl. This latest incarnation of a decades-old postseason rivalry came down to the winning field goal after 49ers returner Kyle Williams fumbled a punt. Just as they did in the 2007 playoffs, the Giants went on to defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
2011: New England Patriots 23, Baltimore Ravens 20
An unfortunated sequence of events for the Baltimore Ravens prevented the team from advancing to the franchise's second Super Bowl. Two plays after Lee Evans was stripped of the ball in the end zone -- on a play that could have given the Ravens the go-ahead score -- kicker Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal attempt in the waning seconds to provide the New England Patriots with the win and send the franchise to its seventh Super Bowl appearance. Two weeks later, the Patriots lost to the New York Giants -- again -- in the Super Bowl.
2009: New Orleans Saints 31, Minnesota Vikings 28 (OT)
With his team driving for a potential game-winning field-goal attempt, Brett Favre -- the "old gunslinger" -- made one last ill-advised throw into the teeth of the Saints' secondary. Tracy Porter picked off the pass, killing the Vikings' chances to win the game in regulation and forcing the two teams to decide a Super Bowl berth in overtime. The Saints won the overtime coin toss, and drove down the field to set up Garrett Hartley's winning kick. Favre's ill-timed pick was reminiscent of another interception just two years earlier in the NFC Championship Game.
2008: Arizona Cardinals 32, Philadelphia Eagles 25
Larry Fitzgerald played a major role in helping the Cardinals -- a franchise that was two cities removed from its last championship in 1947 -- to a first Super Bowl appearance. Fitzgerald had three touchdowns and 152 yards receiving, adding to his impressive postseason that ended with seven touchdowns and 546 yards in four games. The upstart Cardinals pushed the Steelers to the brink in Super Bowl XLIII, but lost on Santonio Holmes' amazing winning TD catch.
2007: New York Giants 23, Green Bay Packers 20 (OT)
Lawrence Tynes missed at the end of regulation on a potential game-winning kick, but was true in overtime after Brett Favre gifted the Giants with an untimely interception. The Giants won three playoff games on the road before facing the unbeaten Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, in which New York pulled off the upset that dropped New England to 18-1 and prevented pro football perfection.
2006: Indianapolis Colts 38, New England Patriots 34
Reggie Wayne's bobbled catch highlighted what turned out to be the Colts' winning drive. The Colts finally defeated their AFC nemesis -- who'd twice dispatched the Colts en route to a Super Bowl title -- after overcoming an 18-point deficit in the game. Two weeks later, Peyton Manning finally earned a championship ring, as the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
2003: New England Patriots 24, Indianapolis Colts 14
The Colts' offensive juggernaut -- one that accumulated 5,874 yards and 447 points in the 2003 season -- was grounded by the Patriots in the cold and snow at Gillette Stadium. Safety Rodney Harrison helped the Patriots defense hold the Colts to just over 300 yards of total offense and force five turnovers. The win propelled the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXVIII, where they edged the Carolina Panthers in a thriller.
1999: St. Louis Rams 11, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6
The Buccaneers' stout defense held the Rams' explosive "Greatest Show on Turf" offense in check for much of the game. But when the Rams desperately needed a score, Kurt Warner connected with Ricky Proehl for the winning TD late in the game. That season the Rams went from perennial also-rans to champions, winning Super Bowl XXXIV. Two years later, it appeared the Rams would add another title, but they were thwarted by the upstart New England Patriots, who embarked on a dynasty starting with victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, had to wait until the 2002 season before prevailing in Super Bowl XXXVII, a victory sandwiched between Patriots titles.
1998: Atlanta Falcons 30, Minnesota Vikings 27 (OT)
Morten Andersen's overtime boot put the Falcons in their first, and only, Super Bowl. The Vikings -- thanks to the amazing exploits of rookie WR Randy Moss -- had entered the game as heavy favorites, and looked to be in position to put the game away late. Up 27-20 with two minutes left in regulation, the Vikings set up for a 38-yard field-goal attempt by Gary Anderson, who had made 44 consecutive field goals up to that point. Anderson missed, opening the door for the Falcons to drive for the tying touchdown before time expired, setting the stage for the game to go down as a classic. The Falcons ran out of magic in Super Bowl XXXIII, where the Denver Broncos rolled to a 34-19 victory.
1995: Pittsburgh Steelers 20, Indianapolis Colts 16
The wild-card Colts were a surprise participant in the 1995 AFC Championship Game, having won two road playoff games (first, against the defending AFC champion San Diego Chargers and then against the AFC's top playoff seed, the Kansas City Chiefs). The Steelers balked at their opportunity to reach the Super Bowl a year earlier, and were nearly stymied again en route to Super Sunday. A frenzied final opportunity at victory for the Colts ended on a Hail Mary incompletion to Aaron Bailey on a pass from Jim Harbaugh. The Steelers went on to defeat in Super Bowl XXX at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, who won a third title in four years.
1994: San Francisco 49ers 38, Dallas Cowboys 28
The two-time defending champion Cowboys and the champion-to-be 49ers met in a super-sized showdown dubbed "The Real Super Bowl" by Sports Illustrated. The 49ers raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, and held off a comeback charge by the Cowboys to reach Super Bowl XXIX, where Steve Young got the monkey off his back with a record-setting six-touchdown performance against the overmatched San Diego Chargers.
1992: Dallas Cowboys 30, San Francisco 49ers 20
The Cowboys kickstarted a dynasty by defeating the "Team of the '80s" -- the four-time Super Bowl champion 49ers -- in an epic at Candlestick Park. Kelvin Martin's 6-yard touchdown with less than four minutes remaining catapulted the Cowboys into Super Bowl XXVII, where Dallas dealt Buffalo its third consecutive Super Bowl setback. The Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four years to earn the right to be called the "Team of the '90s."
1987: Denver Broncos 38, Cleveland Browns 33
Earnest Byner went from hero to tragic figure in one of the most famous games ever played. The Browns had battled back from 18-point deficits twice to threaten to take the lead in the closing minutes of the game. Instead, with Byner jaunting toward the end zone, Jeremiah Castille punched the ball loose from his grip, the Broncos recovered and Byner was left alone with his thoughts in one of the most heart-wrenching moments in NFL history. Before "The Fumble" there was "The Drive" and less than a decade later was "The Move" (or "The Hiatus," depending on your point of view), a succession of heartbreaking disappointments for the Browns that makes the so-called setback of "The Decision" look tame in comparison to Cleveland sports fans.
1986: Denver Broncos 23, Cleveland Browns 20 (OT)
With the Broncos facing a 20-13 deficit with five minutes left and 98 yards to go for a tying touchdown, the Browns seemed poised to reach their first Super Bowl and play for their first championship since 1964. Instead, John Elway set into motion what he'd become famous for in his Hall of Fame career: The late-game drive to victory. "The Drive" as it became known was a 15-play, 98-yard march through the Browns defense for the tying score. The Broncos won the game in overtime on a Rich Karlis field goal, advancing to Super Bowl XXI, where the New York Giants didn't leave any room for Elway's late-game heroics in a 39-20 rout.
1983: Washington Redskins 24, San Francisco 49ers 21
John Riggins -- the MVP of the Redskins' victory in Super Bowl XVII the year before -- heaved a 36-yard pass completion in the 1983 NFC Championship Game against the 49ers, a team two years removed from victory in Super Bowl XVI. After the Redskins got two touchdowns from Riggins and added another by receiver Charlie Brown, the 49ers executed a frenzied fourth-quarter rally to tie the game. The Redskins won the game on a field goal from kicker Mark Moseley -- a surprise MVP winner the season before. The Redskins' quest to win a second consecutive title hit a major snag in Super Bowl XVIII, where the Los Angeles Raiders rolled to a 38-9 victory.
1981: San Francisco 49ers 28, Dallas Cowboys 27
"The Catch" -- Dwight Clark's fingertip touchdown grab of a Joe Montana pass -- instantly immortalized the 49ers' quarterback, and marked the end of one dynasty and the beginning of another in San Francisco. The thrilling victory over "America's Team" put the 49ers on course for the first of four Super Bowl titles over nine years. Two weeks after the epic against the Cowboys, the 49ers were Super Bowl XVI champions.
1976: Oakland Raiders 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 7
After two consecutive AFC Championship Game losses to the Steelers, Ken Stabler and the Raiders finally got the best of their nemesis in the 1976 season. One of the most successful teams of the early Super Bowl era also earned its long-awaited title, easily dispensing with the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI. That victory was the first of three over eight seasons and two cities for the Raiders, who also won Super Bowl XV and Super Bowl XVIII.
1974: Minnesota Vikings 14, Los Angeles Rams 10
Quarterback Fran Tarkenton (via a pass to Jim Lash) and Dave Osborn (41) each accounted for touchdowns as the Vikings edged the Rams for the NFC crown in 1974. In Super Bowl IX, the Vikings were the Steelers' first conquered foe en route to four Super Bowl titles in six seasons. The Vikings, meanwhile, would return to the Super Bowl two years later, losing to the Raiders. In all, the Vikings have four Super Bowl losses, tied for most all-time with the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos.
1968: New York Jets 27, Oakland Raiders 23
Ben Davidson's attempt to knock down this Joe Namath pass fell short, as did the Raiders in their endeavor to get back to the Super Bowl after losing to the Green Bay Packers the previous season. Namath finished the AFL Championship Game with three touchdown passes, including a go-ahead, fourth-quarter strike to Don Maynard that sent the Jets on their way to Miami, where their flamboyant quarterback made good on a guarantee to defeat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
1967: Green Bay Packers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17
Bart Starr's quarterback sneak into the end zone with 16 seconds remaining clinched a Packers victory in the Ice Bowl, a title bout played in the most difficult of conditions that became an all-time pro football classic. The win earned the Vince Lombardi-led Packers their fifth NFL championship over seven seasons, including an unprecedented three straight championships from 1965-1967. The Packers -- who own the most championships in NFL history -- would go a long 29 years before winning another title.