<
>

The 10 best NFL playoff games since 2000!

What is Vernon Davis yelling about? One of the top playoff games of the 2000s, of course. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

What makes a great playoff game?

Sometimes, it’s a flurry of points. Or it could be a great comeback, a big mistake, a clutch performance, strange weather (or a stranger call) or a play no one has ever seen before. And, in the most remarkable games, all those elements make an appearance.

There are memorable playoff games every season, but here we offer a top 10 of the best of the best in the NFL -- Super Bowls excluded -- since 2000:

10. Jan. 20, 2008: Giants 23, Packers 20 (OT)

The wind-chill reading was as low as minus-24 for this NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field that was won when the Giants’ Lawrence Tynes -- making up for two fourth-quarter misses -- kicked a 47-yard field goal with just more than two minutes played in overtime to send New York to the Super Bowl. Tynes had missed a 43-yarder with 6:49 left in the game and a 36-yarder at the end of regulation (set up by a bad snap). “I screwed it up twice,” Tynes said. “Thank God we got another opportunity.”

9. Jan. 11, 2004: Eagles 20, Packers 17 (OT)

Philadelphia’s win over visiting Green Bay in the divisional round was a showcase for Donovan McNabb and an improbable fourth-down conversion. After trailing 14-0 early, the Eagles fought back and trailed 17-14. With 1:12 left in regulation on their own 26, the Eagles faced a fourth-and-26. McNabb hit Freddie Mitchell for 28 yards and a first down and Philly marched to a 37-yard David Akers field goal with 10 seconds remaining to force OT. The Eagles won on another Akers field goal after intercepting Brett Favre. McNabb set a playoff record for a QB with 107 yards rushing and passed for 248 yards.

8. Jan. 8, 2012: Broncos 29, Steelers 23 (OT)

In the quickest end to an overtime game in NFL playoff history, Tim Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas on an 80-yard pass-and-run on the first play of overtime to knock off the favored Steelers in a wild-card game in Denver. From start to finish, the play took 11 seconds. Denver had erupted for 20 points in the second quarter for a 20-6 halftime lead as Tebow ran for one TD and passed for another. However, Ben Roethlisberger rallied the Steelers, who tied the game at 23 with 3:56 remaining on Roethlisberger’s 31-yard TD pass to Jerricho Cotchery.

7. Jan. 24, 2010: Saints 31, Vikings 28 (OT)

This NFC Championship Game in New Orleans was in constant doubt, with scores tied at 7-7, 14-14, 21-21 and 28-28 until Garrett Hartley’s 40-yard field goal less than five minutes into overtime sent the Saints to their first Super Bowl (which they would win). It appeared the Vikings might win in regulation when 40-year-old Brett Favre drove his team to the Saints’ 38 with 19 seconds left, but his pass deep down the center of the field was picked off by Tracy Porter. The Saints then took the OT kickoff and scored. The Saints’ Drew Brees threw three TD passes and Favre, in his final NFL game, threw for 310 yards but was intercepted twice.

6. Jan. 19, 2002: Patriots 16, Raiders 13 (OT)

Can you say, “Tuck Rule”? If you know the term, it’s because of this divisional-round game that kept the Patriots alive to win their first Super Bowl two weeks later. On a snow-covered Foxboro Stadium field, the Pats trailed 13-10 with 1:50 remaining and the ball on the Oakland 42. Tom Brady went back to pass, was hit and appeared to fumble, with the ball recovered by Oakland’s Greg Biekert. But officials declared that Brady’s arm had moved forward, thus ruling the play an incomplete pass. The Pats then drove for a game-tying field goal by Adam Vinatieri and won it 16-13 on another FG in overtime. The text of the NFL rule that gave the game its name: When a Team A player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his hand starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body.

5. Jan. 21, 2007: Colts 38, Patriots 34

In the AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis, the Colts trailed 21-3 in the first half before rallying to earn a trip to the Super Bowl (which they would win). The Colts took their first and only lead with just 1:02 remaining, when Joseph Addai scored on a run from 3 yards out to go up 38-34. The 18-point deficit was the largest ever overcome in a conference championship game, as Indy outscored the Pats 32-13 in the second half. The rally included two TDs scored by linemen: center Jeff Saturday recovering a fumble in the end zone, and defensive tackle Dan Klecko catching a 1-yard pass from Manning.

4. Jan. 10, 2004: Panthers 29, Rams 23 (2 OT)

After letting an 11-point lead slip away in the final 2:39 of regulation, Carolina’s “Cardiac Cats” pulled off a stunning victory in the divisional-round game at St. Louis on Jake Delhomme’s 69-yard TD pass to Steve Smith in the second extra period. It marked the Panthers’ 10th win in 13 games decided by six points or fewer that season. The Rams overcame a late 23-12 deficit on a Marshall Faulk TD run, a two-point conversion and Jeff Wilkins’ 33-yard field goal to end regulation after Wilkins himself recovered an onside kick.

3. Jan. 14, 2012: 49ers 36, Saints 32

The Niners, in their first playoff game since 2003, opened a 17-0 lead at Candlestick Park before the Saints rallied and pulled ahead 24-23 in the fourth quarter on a 44-yard Drew Brees-to-Darren Sproles pass play. That’s when the game turned into a classic. The 49ers became the first team in NFL history to score two lead-changing TDs over the final three minutes (sandwiched around a 66-yard Brees TD pass to Jimmy Graham). Quarterback Alex Smith ran 28 yards for one score, then threw a perfectly placed 14-yard pass to Vernon Davis for the game winner with nine seconds left. Said Davis, who labeled his leaping play “The Grab”: “We were down. I had to make it happen."

2. Jan. 10, 2010: Cardinals 51, Packers 45 (OT)

The 96 points scored in this wild wild-card game in Glendale, Ariz., set an NFL record for most points in a postseason game, and Green Bay (493 yards) and Arizona (531) also combined for 1,024 total yards and 62 first downs. The Cards’ Kurt Warner threw five TD passes, one more than the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. Arizona almost won in regulation, but Neil Rackers missed a 34-yard field goal try with 14 seconds left. In a game with little defense, a defensive play then won it for Arizona when Michael Adams sacked Rodgers on Green Bay’s first possession and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Karlos Dansby and returned 17 yards for a TD. “I know the defense gave up a lot of points,” Warner said. “But when we needed them to make a play, they made a play.”

1. Jan. 5, 2003: 49ers 39, Giants 38

After his Niners had rallied from a 38-14 deficit for a one-point wild-card victory at Candlestick Park, head coach Steve Mariucci said, “As long as you live, you might never see a game better than that.” The 24-point deficit was the second-largest ever overcome in the NFL postseason. The Niners scored the final 25 points of the game, finally taking the lead on Jeff Garcia’s 13-yard pass to Tai Streets with 1:05 remaining. The game ended when a bad snap on what would have been a Giants’ 40-yard field goal try was off target, forcing holder Matt Allen to throw an incomplete pass. Even then, it looked like the Giants might get a second chance when it appeared there was interference on the intended receiver. Instead, officials ruled New York had an ineligible receiver downfield, ending the game.