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Golden Age of Football: The Greatest NFL Games of All Time

When it comes to the National Football League, every snap, every pass, and every touchdown can pivot a game from ordinary to legendary. Fans and bettors alike scrutinize NFL football lines each week, seeking the game that will go down in history. But with decades of electrifying matchups, crowning a single “best” feels like picking a favorite child (though some might argue it’s Tom Brady’s Super Bowl appearances). However, we can delve into the contenders for the title, the highest-scoring spectacles, and the most critically acclaimed clashes. So, grab your jersey, fire up the highlights reel, and prepare for a nostalgic journey through the NFL’s greatest games.

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Where does Super Bowl LI sit on your list of the Greatest NFL Games in history?
De'Vondre Campbell #59 of the Atlanta Falcons - Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

The Greatest NFL Games of All Time

NFL football lines can only tell part of the story. Sure, a massive underdog pulling off a stunning upset or a high-scoring shootout with a last-second field goal might generate a ton of buzz. But what truly defines an unforgettable game? It’s a potent cocktail of factors: heart-stopping drama, unexpected twists, iconic plays etched into memory, and a lasting impact that transcends the final score.

 

The Ice Bowl – 1967 NFL Championship: Packers vs. Cowboys

Picture this: the frigid tundra of Lambeau Field, breath visible in the icy air, and a game hanging in the balance with mere seconds on the clock. The 1967 NFL Championship, known as the Ice Bowl, saw the Green Bay Packers face off against the Dallas Cowboys in bone-chilling minus-13-degree Fahrenheit weather. Bart Starr’s sneak for a touchdown in the dying seconds not only clinched a 21-17 victory for the Packers but also solidified the game’s place in NFL folklore.

 

The Immaculate Reception – 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff: Steelers vs. Raiders

Talk about drama! The game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders was a defensive slugfest until the final moments. With the Steelers trailing and facing fourth down, Terry Bradshaw heaved a desperate pass, which, after ricocheting off a Raider, landed in Franco Harris’s hands. He didn’t miss a beat, taking it to the house for a miraculous game-winning touchdown. This 13-7 Steelers’ win is etched in history for its sheer improbability and breathtaking finish.

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The Catch – 1982 NFC Championship: 49ers vs. Cowboys

Joe Montana to Dwight Clark for “The Catch.” These words resonate through NFL history thanks to that iconic play in the 1982 NFC Championship game. With less than a minute left, Montana found Clark in the back of the end zone, lifting the 49ers over the Cowboys 28-27 and propelling them into the Super Bowl. This game marked the rise of a dynasty and changed the course of the NFL.

 

Wide Right – 1991 Super Bowl XXV: Giants vs. Bills

The tension was palpable as Scott Norwood lined up for a 47-yard field goal with seconds remaining. The kick sailed “wide right,” and the New York Giants held on for a nail-biting 20-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills. This game was not just about the missed field goal but also featured a strategic masterpiece by Bill Parcells, who controlled the clock and the game, showcasing the tactical depth of football.

 

The Epic in Miami – 1982 AFC Divisional Playoff: Chargers vs. Dolphins

Another gem from the 1982 playoffs, this Chargers-Dolphins matchup was a rollercoaster from start to finish. High scores, a comeback, and a heroic performance by Kellen Winslow made this game an instant classic. The Chargers’ 41-38 victory in overtime, after blowing a huge lead, is the stuff of legends and is often cited as one of the greatest games ever played.

 

The Comeback – 1993 AFC Wild Card Playoff: Bills vs. Oilers

Down 35-3 early in the third quarter, the Buffalo Bills mounted the largest comeback in NFL history. With backup quarterback Frank Reich at the helm, the Bills stunned the Houston Oilers in an overtime thriller, 41-38. This game is a testament to never giving up, showcasing resilience in its purest form.

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The Tuck Rule Game – 2002 AFC Divisional Playoff: Patriots vs. Raiders

In a snowy Foxborough, a controversial play that would come to be known as the “Tuck Rule” changed the course of the game. Tom Brady’s apparent fumble was ruled an incomplete pass, allowing the Patriots to continue their drive and eventually win the game 16-13 in overtime. This game not only sparked debate but also kickstarted the Patriots’ dynasty.

 

The Miracle at the New Meadowlands – 2010: Eagles vs. Giants

The Eagles were down 31-10 with less than eight minutes to play. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous. Four touchdowns later, including a punt return by DeSean Jackson as time expired, the Eagles completed a stunning 38-31 comeback win over the New York Giants. This game is a highlight reel favorite and a showcase of never-say-die spirit.

 

The Minneapolis Miracle – 2018 NFC Divisional Playoff: Vikings vs. Saints

With 10 seconds left and no timeouts, Case Keenum connected with Stefon Diggs, who made a miraculous catch and sprinted to the end zone for a 61-yard touchdown as the clock ran out. The Vikings won 29-24, and the crowd went wild. This last-gasp play was a breathtaking display of skill and situational awareness.

 

Super Bowl LI – 2017: Patriots vs. Falcons

Perhaps no Super Bowl epitomizes “a game of two halves” more than Super Bowl LI. The New England Patriots, trailing 28-3 in the third quarter, staged an epic comeback to tie the game in regulation—a Super Bowl first—and then won 34-28 in overtime. This game was a masterclass in perseverance and was Tom Brady’s finest hour, earning him his fifth Super Bowl ring.

These games are more than just entries in record books; they are vivid chapters in the narrative that is NFL history. They remind us that in football, as in life, anything can happen. Each of these contests had fans on the edge of their seats and left them with stories to tell for generations. What will this season bring? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: the NFL will continue to deliver thrills, one game at a time.

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