Top 10 Most Memorable NFC Championship Games
The Championship Sunday showdown is set in the NFC with the Green Bay Packers preparing to invade Seattle to face the Seahawks. The winner gets the ultimate NFL prize, the chance to represent the conference in Super Bowl XLIX.
With an exciting NFC game on the menu for Sunday let’s enjoy an appetizer and look back at 10 of the most memorable AFC Championship games.
January 20, 1991; Candlestick Park, San Francisco
New York Giants 15 - San Francisco 49ers 13
The 49ers were looking to go to, and win, their third straight Super Bowl. The Giants were looking to return to the big game for the first time in four years.
In a defensive struggle the closest either team came to a touchdown were the Giants in the first quarter. On a halfback option when Maurice Carthon dropped Dave Meggett’s pass in the back of the end zone.
In the fourth quarter the game got ugly. Giants' quarterback Jeff Hostetler was hit in the knees by 49ers defensive tackle Jim Burt. Hostetler walked off the field under his own power but New York’s defense was enraged.
On San Francisco’s next drive Joe Montana dropped back to pass on third down. Lawrence Taylor missed on his sack attempt but Leonard Marshall connected, smashing Montana square in the back. Montana broke a finger on his throwing hand as he hit the turf and left the game with a severe concussion.
Steve Young replace Montana at quarterback, not only for the remainder of the game but moving forward for the franchise. Montana missed the entire 1991 season with an elbow injury, played in one game in 1992 and was with the Kansas City Chiefs the following year.
Back to the game, The Giants recovered a Roger Craig fumble with 2:36 left in the game. They slowly drove into field goal range for Matt Bahr, who connected on his fifth field goal in the game for a 15-13 victory.
January 15, 1995 – Candlestick Park, San Francisco
San Francisco 49ers 38 – Dallas Cowboys 28
This was the third straight year that the Cowboys and 49ers faced off in the championship game. Dallas had won the first two and followed those victories with Super Bowls wins.
San Francisco quarterback Steve Young was in his fourth season as the starter and getting a reputation for not being able to win the big ones.
The 49ers opened strong. Dallas turned the ball over on their first three series. Cornerback Eric Davis intercepted a Troy Aikman pass and returned it 44-yards for a touchdown. Two fumbles turned into a 29-yard touchdown run by Ricky Watters and a one-yard score by William Floyd to give the 49ers a 21-0 lead halfway through the first quarter.
The Cowboys cut San Francisco’s lead to 24-14 but with eight seconds left in the first half Young connected with Jerry Rice for a 28-yard touchdown pass to make the score 31-14.
In the second half Dallas could never cut the 49ers’ lead to less than 10 points. San Francisco won 38-28 and Steve Young went on to be the MVP of Super Bowl XXIX in a 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers.
January 17, 1993; Candlestick Park, San Francisco
Dallas Cowboys 30 - San Francisco 49ers 20
Steve Young was coming off his first full season as San Francisco’s starting quarterback but still hadn’t assured everyone on the team and in the front office that he was the right man to step into Joe Montana’s championship shoes.
There was a lot of back and forth action in the first half but not a lot of scoring. The two teams went back to their locker rooms tied at 10.
The Cowboys opened the second half with a 78-yard touchdown drive to take a 17-10 lead.
After a San Francisco field goal, the Cowboys put together a 79-yard drive that ate-up nine minutes. Emmitt Smith hauled in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Troy Aikman to make the score 24-13.
After stopping Dallas on fourth-and-one on their own seven the 49ers drove 93-yards to close to 24-20 but gave that touchdown right back. On the first play after the kickoff Troy Aikman hooked up with Alvin Harper on a 70-yard pass play. Three plays later and the Cowboys stretched the lead back to two scores 30-20.
On San Francisco’s final drive Steve Young was intercepted by safety James Washington to send Jimmy Johnson to his first Super Bowl as Cowboys head coach.
January 23, 2011; Soldier Field, Chicago
Green Bay Packers 21 - Chicago Bears 14
For only the second time in this rivalry’s history these two teams were facing each other in a postseason game.
The Packers received the kickoff and marched down the field behind Aaron Rodgers completions to Greg Jenn ings and Jordy Nelson. A Rodgers keeper from Chicago’s two-yard line put Green Bay up 7-0. The Packers added to that margin in the second quarter on a four-yard touchdown run by James Starks to go up 14-0.
In the meantime the Bears’ offense was going nowhere. Their first half consisted of 92 total yards with five punts and one interception.
In the third quarter it was the Packers’ offense that went nowhere against a toughened Bears defense. In the meantime the Bears were running out of quarterbacks. Jay Cutler injured his knee late in the first half, played the first series of the second half, then was pulled the rest of the game.
After Brian Urlacher intercepted Rodgers and returned the ball to the Chicago 45 Todd Collins was sent in at quarterback. Two quick three-and-outs and Collins was out.
When the Bears regained possession at the end of the third quarter, third string quarterback Caleb Hanie was given a chance. Hanie moved the Bears 67-yards in eight plays for a touchdown to tighten the score to 14-7.
Two series later Chicago had the ball on their own 15 when on third down Hanie was intercepted by B.J. Raji who rumbled in from 18-yards to stretch the lead to 21-7.
Hanie went right back to work at Green Bay’s 30. Four plays later Earl Bennett was hauling in a 25-yard touchdown catch to bring the Bears back to within one score 21-14.
With 2:53 left in the game the Bears went to work from their own 29. Twelve plays later at the Green Bay 29 the magic wore off. Sam Shield s intercepted Hanie’s fourth down pass to send the Packers back to the Super Bowl.
January 18, 2009; University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale
Arizona Cardinals 32 - Philadelphia Eagles 25
Arizona took a quick lead on their first drive. They marched down the field on a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 9-yard Kurt Warner to Larry Fitzgerald touchdown.
With the score 7-3, the play after a missed David Akers field goal, Warner connected with Fitzgerald again, this time for a 62-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
After another Eagles field goal Warner went to work again. the Cardinals offense drove 53-yards in 9-plays with Fitzgerald pulling in his third touchdown of the game. The Cardinals closed the half with a 49-yard Neil Rackers field goal for a 24-6 lead.
In the third quarter Philadelphia clamped down on defense and began moving the ball on offense. Three long drives, two to close out the third quarter and a 62-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to DeSean Jackson put the Eagles ahead for the first time 25-24.
Arizona started the next drive on their 28 with 10:39 left in the game. Between Warner’s short passes and the running of Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower the Cardinals took 7:52 off the clock in 14-plays to retake the lead. A successful two-point conversion put them up by a touchdown 32-25.
The Cardinals held on and became the first team with a 9-7 record to advance to the Super Bowl.
January 8, 1984; RFK Stadium, Washington D.C.
Washington 24 - San Francisco 49ers 21
The game matched the Super Bowl winners of the previous two seasons against each other. The San Francisco 49ers had beaten the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 in Super Bowl XVI and Washington had defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-17 the previous season in Super Bowl XVII.
In the second quarter, Mark Mosely missed a 45-yard field goal but the Redskins scored on their next possession on a 4-yard run by John Riggins to take a 7-0 lead. As the half wound down the Redskins again drove into 49er territory but came away empty when Moseley missed a 35-yard field goal, the second of four he would miss that day.
Midway through the third quarter Washington was finally able to extend their lead. A one-yard John Riggins touchdown run and a 70-yard touchdown pass from Joe Theismann to wide receiver Charley Brown put them ahead of the 49ers 21-0.
In the fourth quarter Joe Montana began the San Francisco comeback with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wilson. He followed on his next possession with a 76-yard touchdown strike to Freddie Solomon to close the score to 21-14.
With 7:08 remaining Montana struck again, hitting Wilson for a 12-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21.
With 40-seconds left and the game still tied Moseley came out for his fifth field goal attempt of the game. This time he punched through the 25-yarder to give Washington the 24-21 win.
January 17, 1999; Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis
Atlanta Falcons 30 - Minnesota Vikings 27
This was the first conference championship game to feature two teams whose homes fields were domed.
Atlanta drove right down the field from the opening kickoff and scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Chris Chandler to Jamal Anderson. The Vikings came back to tie the game on Randall Cunningham’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss.
In the second quarter the Vikings took a 17-7 lead with a field goal and a 1-yard run by Cunningham. The Falcons fumbled the ball back to Minnesota on their next possession and the Vikings almost turned it into a touchdown when Cunningham threw a perfect pass to Randy Moss, who dropped the ball in the end zone. Gary Anderson kicked another field goal to put the Vikings up 20-7.
Just before the half, Falcons’ lineman Chuck Smith forced a Cunningham fumble and Atlanta took over in Minnesota territory. Chandler converted the turnover into points with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Terance Mathis to cut the deficit to 20-14 at halftime.
The teams traded field goals and the score was 27-17 with just over 13 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. A 24-yard Morten Andersen field goal tightened the score to 27-20.
With 2:07 remaining in the game Gary Anderson set up for a 38-yard field goal attempt that would have sealed the victory for the Vikings. Anderson hadn’t missed a field goal all season but this time he missed wide left and the Falcons had another chance.
From the Vikings 16-yard line Chandler connected with Mathis for a touchdown pass to tie the score and send the game into overtime.
On Atlanta’s second possession in overtime, Chandler drove the Falcons 70-yards and Morten Andersen kicked a 38-yard field goal to send Atlanta to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
January 20, 2008; Lambeau Field, Green Bay
New York Giants 23 - Green Bay Packers 20
The two teams were fighting for the chance to face the 18-0 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
The Giants opened the scoring with two field goals to take a 6-0 lead. On the first play after the second kickoff Brett Favre connected with Donald Driver for a 90-yard touchdown pass to put Green Bay ahead 7-6. A Mason Crosby field goal extended the lead to 10-6 at the half.
The Giants drove 69-yards on their first drive in the second half and regained the lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs.
Favre responded with a 12-yard touchdown to Donald Lee to retake the lead 17-13, but it was short-lived. A four-yard touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw put the Giants back ahead 20-17.
On the second play of the fourth quarter from his own 49, Favre aired one out for Robinson that was intercepted by R.W. McQuarters at the Giants’ 8-yard line. McQuarters returned it to the 19 where Ryan Grant of the Packers forced a fumble which was recovered by Green Bay. The Packers were unable to move the ball and were forced to settle for a Crosby field goal to tie the score at 20.
On the Giants’ next possession, they ran five minutes off the clock while driving to the Packers’ 25. Lawrence Tynes missed his 43-yard field goal attempt and the game stayed tied.
With 2:15 left the Giants took the ball on the Green Bay 48. On the first play it looked like Ahmad Bradshaw had run 48-yards for the go-ahead touchdown but right guard Chris Snee was called for holding to nullify the play. The Giants drove to the Green Bay 18 with four seconds left when Lawrence Tynes was given another chance to close-out the game but he pushed his 36-yard attempt wide left and the game went into overtime.
Green Bay won the toss and started on their own 26-yard line. Two plays later, a Favre throw to Donald Driver was intercepted by cornerback Corey Webster and returned to the Packers 34.
On fourth down from the Green Bay 29 Lawrence Tynes came on to try another field goal from 47-yards. This time he made it and the Giants won 23-20.
Jan 24, 2010; Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans
New Orleans Saints 31- Minnesota Vikings 28
The Vikings scored on their opening drive with a 19-yard touchdown run from Adrian Peterson. The Saints responded with a Drew Brees 38-yard touchdown pass to running back Pierre Thomas.
On Minnesota’s next drive they took a 14-7 lead on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brett Favre to Sidney Rice. New Orleans tied the game again on their first drive of the second quarter on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Devery Henderson.
New Orleans took the lead 21-14 on their first drive of the third quarter but Minnesota fought back with an 80-yard drive capped bya Peterson one-yard touchdown run. With 6:29 left to go in the quarter, Favre drove the Vikings to the New Orleans 34 before a pass intended for Sidney Rice was intercepted by Jonathan Vilma.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Will Smith of the Saints forced a Percy Harvin fumble that Remi Ayodele recovered and returned to the Vikings’ seven. Three plays later Brees swung a pass to the right for Reggie Bush, who was originally ruled out of bounds at the 1. Sean Payton challenged and it was ruled that the ball had crossed the goal line for the touchdown and a 28-21 lead.
The Vikings turned the ball over again on their next drive, Favre completed an 8-yard pass to Bernard Berrian at the New Orleans 18 but Tracy Porter forced a fumble and Jonathan Vilma fell on the loose ball to end the threat. The Vikings got the ball back with 7:57 left and finally tied the game on a Peterson 2-yard run.
With 2:37 Minnesota took over on their 21-yard line. At the Saints’ 33 with19-seconds left the Vikings called a timeout. After the timeout Minnesota was penalized for 12-men on the field to push them back to the 38.
On the next play Favre rolled right and threw across his body to the center of the field. Tracy Porter stepped in front of Sidney Rice to intercept and send the game to overtime.
New Orleans won the overtime coin toss and quickly won the game on a Garrett Hartley 40-yard field goal to send the Saints to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
January 10, 1982; Candlestick Park, San Francisco
San Francisco 28 - Dallas Cowboys 27
The San Francisco 49ers hadn’t appeared in a playoff game since 1972 when they lost 30-28 to the Cowboys. They hadn’t won a postseason game since 1971 when they beat the Washington Redskins in a Divisional Round game.
The 49ers scored first with a Joe Montana 8-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Solomon but Dallas came back with a field goal and 26-yard touchdown pass from Danny White to Tony Hill to take a 10-7 lead. The teams went to halftime with Dallas ahead 17-14.
The 49ers had lead early in the fourth quarter 21-20 when Dallas cornerback Everson Walls recovered a fumble that White converted with a 21-yard touchdown pass to tight end Doug Cosbie to put Dallas ahead 27-21.
With the Cowboys still holding on the 49ers took over on their own 11 with 4:54 on the clock. Montana drove them 83-yards until San Francisco was facing third-and-three at the Dallas 6 with 58-seconds left.
Montana dropped back and rolled right against a strong rush by Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Larry Bethea. At the sideline, just before they could crush him into the ground, Montana jumped and while falling backwards, threw a high pass to the back of the end zone. Wide receiver Dwight Clark leapt as high as he could to reel the ball in and give the 49ers a 28-27 lead.
There was still 51 seconds on the clock for Dallas to try and move into range for a game-winning field goal but Lawrence Pillers of the 49ers sacked White and forced a fumble that Jim Stuckey recovered to seal the victory and send the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.