Even though it’s only the first round of the playoffs, the best NFL Wild Card games sometimes end up being the most memorable of the entire postseason.
In fact, it’s amazing how the Wild Card round lives up to its name and gives us some of the great postseason games in NFL history. That’s what inspired us to put together a list of the most entertaining NFL Wild Card games ever played.
Best NFL Wild Card games
To our surprise, picking and choosing the best NFL Wild Card games was no easy task. There have truly been some wild moments during Wild Card Weekend. However, we were able to pick apart some of the craziest moments the NFL postseason has given us and gave us a list of the best NFL Wild Card games in league history.
Broncos 29, Steelers 23 (2011)
Anyone who says that Tim Tebow never accomplished anything in the NFL clearly doesn’t remember this game.
Tebow’s magic got the Broncos to the playoffs despite losing three in a row to finish the regular season. He then threw one touchdown and ran for another in the first half to help put Denver ahead 20-6 at halftime. Naturally, Tebow and company struggled in the second half, allowing the Steelers to tie the game and overtime.
But on the first play of overtime, Tebow threw a perfect pass to Demaryius Thomas, who caught the ball in stride and kept running for the 80-yard touchdown to end overtime after one play. Despite completing just 10 passes in the game, that 80-yard play gave Tebow 316 passing yards in the game. It also ended up being the final touchdown pass of his NFL career.
Seahawks 41, Saints 36 (2010)
History was made in this game, as the Seahawks became the first 7-9 team to win a playoff game. The game had plenty of action on both sides, although it’s best remembered for a 67-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch.
The noise from the home fans in Seattle registered a small earthquake on local seismographs, which helped to coin the term Beast Quake after Lynch’s nickname.
Bills 41, Oilers 38 (1992)
Comebacks don’t get much better than this, and it’s even more special because it was orchestrated by Buffalo’s backup quarterback.
Frank Reich was forced into action after Jim Kelly got hurt during the final week of the regular season. Facing a 35-3 deficit early in the third quarter with their backup quarterback, the Bills looked finished. But Reich rallied with help from receivers Andre Reed and Don Beebe.
Buffalo actually took a 38-35 lead, only for the Oilers to strike back with a game-tying field goal to force overtime. But an interception by Buffalo’s Nate Odomes helped to set up the game-winning field goal, ensuring that the Bills won the game after completing one of the great comebacks in postseason history.
Read more: Wild Card format explained
Cardinals 51, Packers 45 (2009)
The score itself says it all, but even that doesn’t do justice to the game between the Packers and the Cardinals. Of course, it was really all about two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers.
Warner threw for 379 yards and five touchdowns, which helped the Cardinals jump out to a 31-10 lead. But Rodgers had 422 passing yards and four touchdowns of his own to bring the Packers back.
With less than two minutes left, Rodgers completed a touchdown pass to Spencer Havner that tied the game at 45, sending it to overtime. In the ultimate irony, neither quarterback was able to win the game in overtime. Rodgers lost it by fumbling, enabling Karlos Dansby to scoop and score to give Arizona the thrilling overtime win with a defensive touchdown.
49ers 39, Giants 38 (2002)
If you had to create one of the best NFL Wild Card games in a lab, you’d probably create something like this.
It had two good teams, a ton of scoring, some controversial moments, a great comeback, and an incredible ending. What more could you want in a playoff game?
The Giants led 28-14 at halftime and extended that lead to 38-14 late in the third quarter. But everything went right for the 49ers from that point forward. San Francisco scored 25 unanswered points to take a 39-38 lead.
Of course, the Giants had one more chance and got into field-goal position, only for there to be a botched snap and a desperate throw down the field. The Giants were called for a penalty on the play while the refs missed a pass interference call, which would have allowed for one more play. However, the Giants had no such luck and lost a truly wild game.
Titans 22, Bills 16 (1999)
It’s weird to think of this as one of the best Wild Card games of all time because nobody remembers anything but the final play.
But it’s also worth noting that the Bills fought back from a 12-0 halftime deficit.
This game also saw four lead changes in the fourth quarter, which is why Buffalo thought the game was won with a late field goal.
Of course, we all know that the Music City Miracle happened next.
Frank Wycheck took the ball and chucked it across the field on the kickoff return to Kevin Dyson. The ball was just barely considered a lateral and gave Dyson a largely clear path to the end zone, enabling him to run 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown. To add insult to injury, it would take the Bills another 18 years to get back to the playoffs.
Colts 45, Chiefs 44 (2013)
Based on the score alone, there’s little question that this was one of the best NFL Wild Card games ever played.
But this game was even more amazing because it features one of the great comebacks in playoff history.
The Chiefs led the game 38-10 early in the third quarter before Andrew Luck and the Colts mounted an incredible comeback. Donald Brown and T.Y. Hilton were also instrumental in Indy’s comeback, as Hilton amassed 224 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including the 64-yard pass that finally put the Colts ahead in the fourth quarter to complete the epic comeback.