History Lesson (Wild Card Playoffs): Best of the Best

Now that the 2013 NFL postseason has arrived, why spend time focusing on one game when you can talk about four?

When it comes to this week’s Wild Card Playoffs, all four encounters feature teams that have battled during the second season on more than one occasion.

Therefore, at least for this week, we’ll be taking a look back at some previous postseason meetings between this weekend’s combatants. And as time marches on, we will try to keep that theme going as long as possible.

Let the memories begin…

Peyton Manning Colts
Peyton Manning

Indianapolis 38, Kansas City 31 (2003 AFC Divisional Playoffs): Saturday will mark the fourth time the Colts and Chiefs will collide in the postseason and Indianapolis has won all three previous meetings. But this divisional playoff encounters 10 years ago at Arrowhead Stadium featured Peyton Manning’s Colts versus head coach Dick Vermeil’s Chiefs, who featured explosive and versatile running back Priest Holmes.

If you’re looking for some defensive highlights, good luck. Both clubs gained over 400 yards of total offense and neither Manning nor Chiefs’ quarterback Trent Green threw an interception that day. But it was the former that completed 22-of-30 passes for 304 yards and three scores in a winning effort.

While this game had a little bit of everything, there was one thing missing and that was a punt. It remains the only game in playoff history without one.

Philadelphia 36, New Orleans 20 (1992 NFC Wild Card Game): Sometimes this game gets forgotten and with good reason. It occurred later in the day and followed the Buffalo Bills’ wild 32-point comeback win over the Houston Oilers in the AFC Wild Card Game. The Eagles, under head coach Rich Kotite, were in the midst of a season which began without star defensive tackle Jerome Brown, who was killed in a car accident over the summer.

Now the Birds were at the Superdome against a Saints’ team that was still looking for the franchise’s first playoff win. And it looked good for head coach Jim Mora and company when they took a 20-7 lead in the third quarter. But Kotite’s club would score the final 29 points of the afternoon, 26 of those in the fourth quarter, and the Birds were flying high.

Unfortunately, the Eagles’ emotional season would end a week later with a loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium.

Dan Fouts

Cincinnati 27, San Diego 7 (1981 AFC Championship Game): It’s hard to believe that this was 32 years ago but it will always be remembered for one huge negative…the game-time temperature.

It was minus-nine degrees at kickoff at since-demolished Riverfront Stadium as both the Chargers and Bengals looked to make the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance. The Bolts were coming off a legendary and epic overtime win over the Miami Dolphins, 41-38, at the Orange Bowl. Cincinnati, in a season in which their striped uniforms were making their debut, would roll to a 20-point win over Don Coryell’s club.

Led by Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, the San Diego offense remained in a deep freeze for the vast majority of the afternoon. The prolific passer would throw for only 185 yards, was sacked twice and three a pair of interceptions compared to one touchdown pass. The Chargers would commit four turnovers on this frigid afternoon.

On the other hand, Bengals’ quarterback Ken Anderson led his team to a 17-7 halftime lead. He finished the day with 161 yards and two touchdowns through the air. The underrated signal-caller wasn’t sacked and didn’t throw an interception. And Forrest Gregg’s team was on its way to Super Bowl XVI.

San Francisco 30, Green Bay 27 (1998 NFC Wild Card Game): This weekend, the teams will be meeting in the playoffs for the second straight year and the seventh time overall. But it was their fourth postseason meeting 15 years ago which was probably the most entertaining.

Steve Young
Steve Young

The two-time defending NFC champion Packers took a 17-10 halftime lead over their hosts. But then the fun really began as the Niners scored the only 10 points of the third quarter to take a 20-17 lead. The teams traded field goals but with just 1:56 to play, Green Bay took a 27-23 lead thanks to Brett Favre’s 16-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Antonio Freeman.

Then it was Steve Young’s turn. He drove his club 76 yards in nine plays and his 25-yard scoring pass to wideout Terrell Owens with only three seconds to play is one of the great moments of any postseason.

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