5 Most Insane AFC Wild Card Games in NFL History

by Suzanne Halliburton

It’s AFC Wild Card weekend. Will four teams play some yawner games or will the action be as wild as the regular season?

We here at Outsider would prefer the stunning and unpredictable because those games are far more fun. We’re betting football fans agree.

So to get everybody in the mood, we’re taking a look at the five most chaotic, most memorable AFC Wild Card games ever. We’ve done the same for the NFC. So prep for your playoff weekend and enjoy.

Jan. 8, 2012 – Denver 29, Pittsburgh 23 (overtime)

Shut up! You’re telling me Tim Tebow threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on Denver’s first play of overtime to beat the Steelers? Demaryius Thomas says yes, it’s true. The play took 11 seconds and it marked the quickest overtime in NFL playoff history. The pass was off of play-action. The Steeler secondary, briefly, bit on the fake. And boom, touchdown.

“When I saw him scoring, first of all, I just thought, ‘Thank you, Lord,’” Tebow told reporters after the game. “Then, I was running pretty fast, chasing him – Like I can catch up to D.T! Then I just jumped into the stands, first time I’ve done that. That was fun. Then, got on a knee and thanked the Lord again and tried to celebrate with my teammates and the fans.”

Tebow’s’ heroics overshadowed Pittsburgh’s fantastic comeback. The Steelers scratched back from a 20-6 deficit with Ben Roethlisberger rallying his team with 10 points in the final 10 minutes to force overtime.

Tebow earned his first and only playoff win. Nine years later, Roethlisberger is back for the Steelers’ wildcard game Sunday night against Cleveland.

Tommy Maddox Leads Steelers to Magical Win Over Browns in Wild AFC Wild Card Contest

Jan. 5, 2003 -Pittsburgh 38, Cleveland 33

We’re staying with Pittsburgh for this AFC Wild Card look back. Tommy Maddox was the Steelers quarterback who worked the magic. Surprise your friends with this bit of trivia. Maddox is one of only four players who won both a Super Bowl and an XFL Championship. Maddox probably was the only one who sold insurance, too.

In this game, Maddox threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns in helping lead Pittsburgh back from deficits of 24-7 and 33-21. Chris Fuamatu-Ma’alfala scored the winning touchdown with 51 seconds to go. Hines Ward, pre “Dancing With The Stars” title, caught 11 passes for 104 yards and a score.

Kansas City Wasn’t Always a Playoff Darling: Check Out This AFC Wild Card Game

Jan. 4, 2014 – 2013 Indianapolis 45, Kansas City 44

Kansas City is the defending Super Bowl champion and top seed for this year’s AFC playoffs. But there have been dark playoff days in Kansas City’s past. The Chiefs led Indianapolis by as many as 28 points, owning a 38-10 lead barely two minutes into the third-quarter lead.

But that was before Andrew Luck, in his second year in the NFL, breathed life into the Colts. Luck and the Colts scored 21 points in the third quarter. Early in the fourth, fortune stayed with the Colts. Running back Donald Brown fumbled the ball and it bounced off the helmet of an offensive lineman. Luck scooped it and dove into the end zone.

“Hop, skip and jump into the end zone and he scores,” said former Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano of the Luck play. “Just crazy. Once that starts to happen and that momentum switches, anything can happen. I think that’s where we finally caught a break and made a couple of plays.”

The winning play was a simple one. Luck told receiver T.Y. Hilton to just run deep. The two combined for a 64-yard touchdown. The comeback was complete. It was the second biggest in NFL post-season history.

Alex Smith quarterbacked Kansas City that day. He’ll be directing Washington, Saturday, against Tom Brady and Tampa Bay.

AFC Wildcard Always Will Have Music City Miracle

Jan. 8, 2000 – Tennessee 22, Buffalo 16

The game was pretty benign for all but the final minute. Buffalo, with the go-ahead field goal, clinched apparent victory with 16 seconds to go. But sometimes kickoffs are magical. This one now will forever be known as the “Music City Miracle.”

Tennessee just called it “Home Run Throwback.” It was designed by special teams coach Alan Lowry, who got the idea when he was an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys scouting an SMU game in 1982.

Tennessee tight end Frank Wychek was tasked with throwing a lateral pass on the return. Lorenzo Neal fielded the squib kick and handed it to Wychek, who lateraled across the field to Kevin Dyson. Dyson scored the 75-yard touchdown.

Oh, Wow, Buffalo! Bills Pull Off Biggest Comeback in Playoff History

Jan. 3, 1993 – Buffalo 41, Houston 38

And sticking with Buffalo, this game lives in Bills lore. Always. You’ll never forget your team coming back from 32 points.

Houston and quarterback Warren Moon were on fire in the first half. It was the same plot in the regular-season finale, when the Oilers won 24-3. Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly was injured in the game. Frank Reich replaced him.

But in the second half of the playoff game, the script flipped. At halftime, Kelly told Reich to remember the time when he was the quarterback for Maryland and led the Terps to the biggest comeback in NCAA history. Houston padded its lead to 35-3 early in the third quarter when Reich threw a pick-six.

But Reich was near flawless after that in leading Buffalo to the improbable win. He completed 21 of 34 pass for 289 yards and four touchdowns. The Bills scored 35 unanswered points. Houston used a field goal to take the game into overtime. But Steve Christie’s field goal won it for the Bills in OT.

Buffalo’s win was the largest comeback in NFL playoff history.