Historically speaking, teams are remembered for their seasons of success. But within those seasons are the games that stamp the legacy. Super Bowls are often the games that last the longest in the heart and mind. Some reach such folklore proportions that they acquire their own unique legacy: “The Ice Bowl,” “The Drive,” “The Tuck Rule” and “The Freezer Bowl,” just to name a few.
The drama that makes the NFL the greatest reality show on television is that, when it starts, you don’t know how it’s going to finish. It could be an ugly game that is easily forgotten. It can be epic battle that has significant twists and turns along the way. From purely the spontaneous viewing perspective, the Buffalo-Houston playoff masterpiece was actually two different dominating performances. Houston blew out the Bills on their home turf for the first 32 minutes of the game, taking a 35-3 lead. From that point on, Buffalo outscored Houston 38-3. It was a game of two blowouts, but it became an instant classic.
Many games aren’t as dramatic as that, but each franchise has had multiple games that have become part of franchise mythology. These are the best of the best.
Green Bay Packers “THE ICE BOWL”
1967 NFL Championship vs. Dallas Cowboys. The Ice Bowl isn’t just the most famous game in Packers history, it might be the most famous game in the history of American sports.
Denver Broncos “THE DRIVE”
1987 AFC Championship game, Broncos vs. Browns. John Elway led what became known as “The Drive.” NFL history at its finest.
Buffalo Bills “THE COMEBACK”
The Comeback. Down 35-3, Frank Reich led the Bills to a 41-38 overtime victory over the Houston Oilers on Jan. 3, 1993.
New England Patriots “THE SNOW BOWL”
2001 Divisional Playoffs, Patriots vs. Raiders. The “Snow Bowl” featured the famous “Tuck Rule” fiasco and an Adam Vinatieri miracle.
Super Bowl XLII, when the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 17-14. This game is widely regarded as one of the greatest Super Bowl upsets of all time as Big Blue ended the Patriots perfect season.
2008 Super Bowl XLIII, vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite losing 27-23 in heartbreaking fashion to the Steelers, it was the first and only time the Cardinals managed to reach the Super Bowl.
1999 NFC Championship Game vs. Minnesota Vikings. The “Dirty Bird” Falcons overcame a 27-17 fourth-quarter deficit, taking the game to overtime and winning with a field goal.
Ravens’ 2000 season Super Bowl victory over the New York Giants. Using a dominant performance led by the defense, the Ravens only gave up one score, a third-quarter touchdown, winning 34-7.
2003 Divisional Playoffs vs. St. Louis Rams. Only one year removed from a 1-15 season, the Panthers went on the road to St. Louis and came away with an exciting victory on their way to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XX. In a 46-10 dismantling of the Patriots, the 1985 Bears put the final exclamation point on the greatest season in team history.
Cincinnati beat San Diego 27-7 with the temperature at minus-9 degrees Jan. 10, 1982 in the Bengals’ first AFC Championship game appearance known as “The Freezer Bowl.”
1964 league championship game against the Baltimore Colts. The Browns were a huge underdog and decimated the Colts 27-0.
Super Bowl XXVII vs Buffalo. The Cowboys crushed the Bills 52-17 to win their first of three Super Bowls in a four-year span, marking the beginning of a dynasty.
Detroit Lions vs. New York Jets, 1997. A game that featured as many highs (Barry Sanders eclipsed 2,000 yards) as lows (Reggie Brown suffered a career-ending injury).
2011 regular season vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. T.J. Yates drove the Texans 80 yards on 13 plays for the AFC South-clinching TD.
2006 AFC Championship, Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots. The Colts rallied from down 21-3 to a 38-34 win, then won the Super Bowl.
2000 AFC Divisional Game vs. the Miami Dolphins. The Jaguars won 62-7 in what would be Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson’s final game.
Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl IV Kansas City Chiefs vs. Minnesota Vikings. The Chiefs took a 16-0 halftime lead and Hank Stram’s club went on to a 23-7 win.
Dolphins vs. Redskins in Super Bowl VII. How can you argue with perfection? The Dolphins beat the Redskins 14-7 to complete a perfect 14-0 season.
The Vikings beat the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the 1987 playoffs, 36-24, taking down the top offense and defense in the league.
Super Bowl XLIV vs. the Colts. What else? The Saints beat the Colts 31-17 for their one and only championship. Drew Brees was Super Bowl MVP with 288 yards and two touchdowns.
NEW YORK JETS
1968 Super Bowl vs. the Baltimore Colts. With three Jim Turner field goals, the Jets built a 16-0 lead before allowing a fourth-quarter TD in the 16-7 win.
Super Bowl XI vs. the Minnesota Vikings. The Raiders captured their first Super Bowl victory with a 32-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings, never trailing.
1960 NFL Championship vs. the Green Bay Packers. Chuck Bednarik dragged down Jim Taylor in the waning seconds to preserve the 17-13 win.
Super Bowl XLIII vs. the Arizona Cardinals. The most exciting game with the biggest stakes for Pittsburgh was the last-second, 27-23 win over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII on a 6-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes.
2007 Divisional Round vs. the Indianapolis Colts. The Chargers overcame several key injuries to eliminate the defending Super Bowl champions.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
1981 NFC Championship game, Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers. Joe Montana rushed and passed for a touchdown in the 26-21 win.
With their victory over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVI, the Seahawks won their first NFL championship.
ST. LOUIS RAMS
The Rams capped off their magical 1999 season by winning Super Bowl XXXIV 23-16 against the Tennessee Titans.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
2003 NFC Championship Game. Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
1999 Music City Miracle game in the first round of the AFC playoffs, where they defeated Buffalo on the way to Super Bowl.
There was no drama in Super Bowl XXII. Trailing 10-0, Doug Williams threw five touchdown passes — in the second quarter alone! — in a 42-10 rout of Denver.