There’s no shortage of exciting, explosive plays in NFL history. There have been many times where teams are tied, there are just seconds left on the clock, and one play makes all the difference. Today we’re looking at the most memorable and exciting NFL playoffs.
Here are some of the most daring plays that we’ve seen in playoff games so far. We will undoubtedly see more exciting plays going into the future. If you’re part of the betting crowd, you can even profit from future action at establishments like Fanduel.com.
1. The Ice Bowl QB Sneak
Let’s start with our earliest moment, on a cold December 31st, 1967 when one of the earliest and most iconic NFL plays happened. The Green Bay Packers faced the Dallas Cowboys but were 3 points behind (17-14). The good news is that they were at the 1-yard line. The bad news? There were 8 seconds left.
With help from C Ken Bowman and RG Jerry Kramer, Packers QB Bart Starr performs a QB sneak to win the game, charging the Cowboys’ defense line and diving under them. They came down on top of Starr but, when the dust cleared, he had scored the touchdown. It was this play that put QB sneaking on the map. After picking up the extra point, the Packers finished the game at 21-17. Starr and other players suffered from frostbite after the game – they don’t call it the Ice Bowl for nothing.
2. The Immaculate Reception
At the 1972 AFC divisional playoff between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders, we witnessed The Immaculate Reception. The Steelers were one point behind the Raiders (7-6) with 22 seconds left. Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw passed to halfback John Fuqua. Fuqua then runs into Raiders safety Jack Tatum, knocking Fuqua down. With him, the ball sailed to the ground.
That’s where Steelers fullback Franco Harris scoops the ball out of nowhere. Harris ran with the ball to score the touchdown for a 13-7 advantage after the extra point. Today there’s a statue of Harris at the Pittsburgh airport.
3. The Sea Of Hands
The Oakland Raiders are back for our next play, this time the 1974 AFC divisional game against the Miami Dolphins. This time the Raiders were the underdogs, trailing the Dolphins by five points (26-21) with 2 minutes left. Raiders QB Ken Stabler passed between TE Bob Moore and WRs Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, and Frank Pitts, with help from RB Clarence Davis, to reach the end zone.
After a timeout, Stabler could not pass to Biletnikoff. In desperation, Stabler lobbed the ball to his left, into a sea of hands at the end zone. Fighting through three Dolphins players, Davis secured the catch and scored a touchdown, and they won 28-26.
4. The Hail Mary
One of the greatest ‘Hail Mary’ passes happened in 1975, at the NFC divisional game. With the Minnesota Vikings beating the Dallas Cowboys at 14-10, just 32 seconds were remaining. The Cowboys’ chances of victory hinged on a long pass…
That’s where QB Roger Staubach and WR Drew Pearson came in. Staubach threw for 50 yards, right into Pearson’s hands. Vikings CB Nate Wright collided with Pearson, who kept the ball and scored the winning touchdown for the Cowboys at 17-14.
5. The Catch
You know a play is good when it’s just called ‘The Catch.’ That’s the name of the winning reception at the 1982 NFC Championship Game, where the Dallas Cowboys faced the San Francisco 49ers. The Cowboys were ahead by 6 at 27-21, where 49ers QB Joe Montana led an 83-yard drive to the Cowboys’ 6-yard line with just 58 seconds remaining.
Montana, with WRs Freddie Solomon and Dwight Clark, started their ‘Change Left Slot – Sprint Right Option’ play. Solomon got covered, forcing Montana to throw at Clark’s planned position prematurely. This sent the ball flying, where it would have sailed out of bounds, and some still think that was Montana’s intention since it would have bought the 49ers time. Instead, Clark leaps and spreads out his body, catching it with his fingertips. He then lands in-bounds where he can score the touchdown. After the extra point kick, the 49ers won by 28-27.
6. The Music City Miracle
One of the many miracles we’ve seen in the NFL, the Music City Miracle happened in 2000, in the AFC wild-card game where the Tennessee Titans faced the Buffalo Bills. With just 16 seconds left, the Bills were leading 16-15 and the Titans needed to pull it back.
The Titans employed their ‘Home Run Throwback’ strategy with a twist, kicking a bloop kick instead of a regular squib kick. Placekicker Steve Christie pulled off the kick, sending it high into the air, and fullback Lorenzo Neal received and passed to TE Frank Wycheck. Wycheck then threw a lateral to the team’s star WR Kevin Dyson, who had a virtually open 75-yard path to the winning touchdown at 22-16.
7. The Helmet Catch
In 2008, the New York Giants clashed with the New England Patriots at Super Bowl XLII. The score was 14-10 in the Patriots’ favor and just 2 minutes left. In shotgun formation, QB Eli Manning took the snap and had to avoid DEs Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green, with LB Adalius Thomas. Despite getting sacked multiple times, Manning somehow stayed on his feet and kept the ball away from the three Patriots.
Nearly overwhelmed, Manning threw to WR David Tyree, after which he was finally taken down. Tyree leaped for the ball but Patriots safety Rodney Harrison swiped at it, blocking Tyree’s left hand from keeping contact. To keep the ball, Tyree held the ball against his helmet with his right hand, where it stayed even as he crashed to the ground. The play enabled the Giants to defeat the Patriots at 17-14.