This weekend, the AFC wild-card round features four teams who have created many NFL Playoff memories. What do their fans have to look forward to this time around?
NFL fans can debate which weekend is the best for playoff football, but wild-card weekend gets my vote. Looking back in the annals of wild-card games, many can be chosen as memorable and that have created lasting memories.
Here is a tribute to the four AFC teams playing this weekend as we look back at one incredible wild-card memory for all four of these franchises.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs finished with an 11-5 record in 1993, won the AFC West and hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers and second-year head coach Bill Cowher at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs were led by quarterback Joe Montana who Kansas City had acquired in the offseason from San Francisco.
Trailing 24-17 late in the fourth quarter, Keith Cash blocked a Pittsburgh punt with just over two minutes remaining, giving the Chiefs the ball inside Steelers 10-yard line.
Kansas City needed a touchdown and extra-point to tie the game but were stopped on their first three attempts. However, on fourth-and-goal, Montana connected with Tim Barnett in the end zone with 1:43 remaining. Nick Lowery’s extra-point tied the game, and the Chiefs defense forced the Steelers three-and-out, giving the Chiefs the ball back at their 28-yard line with no timeouts and just over a minute remaining.
Joe Montana drove Kansas City 56 yards to the Steelers 26-yard line, helped by a 10-yard completion to Todd McNair, which, if replay were available (there was no instant replay for the 1993 season), it would have been ruled incomplete. Justice was served for the moment, however; Nick Lowery missed a game-winning 43-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
In overtime, Montana started off poorly as his first seven passes fell incomplete. The three-time Super Bowl MVP then found his groove again, connecting on his final five passes to lead the Chiefs on a 66-yard drive, culminating with a 32-yard field goal by Lowery to give Kansas City the win. Almost 24 years later, it still is the last time the Chiefs won a home playoff game, a streak they hope to end on Saturday.
Saturday will be the seventh playoff appearance for the Titans since moving to Tennessee in 1997. Their first playoff game took place on Jan. 8, 2000, against the Buffalo Bills at newly built Adelphia Stadium.
Things looked bleak for the home team when Steve Christie kicked a go-ahead field goal with 16 seconds remaining to give the Bills a 16-15 lead.
Needing a miracle, the Titans received one when Lorenzo Neal fielded the ball on the ensuing kickoff at the Titans 25-yard line. Neal handed the ball to Frank Wycheck, who ran a few feet to his right, then tossed a backward lateral to Kevin Dyson. Dyson then sprinted 75 yards with four blockers ahead of him, untouched into the end zone with three seconds remaining on the clock. Wycheck’s pass, to the blind eye, initially looked like it was an illegal forward lateral. However, instant replay upheld the call on the field, and the Titans had completed the “Music City Miracle”.
Tennessee rode the momentum of that play all the way to the Super Bowl, as they defeated the Colts and Jaguars in the divisional round and championship game. In the Super Bowl, Steve McNair and the Titans fell one yard short of tying the game in the final seconds.
By now, everyone knows that the Bills snapped their 17-year playoff drought (their last postseason game was the above-referenced “Music City Miracle”) this season. Due to their lack of postseason appearances since the millennium, one can quickly forget that this franchise held the record for most consecutive Super Bowl appearances when they went to four straight Super Bowls from 1990-93.
In 1992, it looked like the Bills’ quest to reach a third straight Super Bowl would come up short when they finished with a record of 11-5 and finished second to the Dolphins in the AFC East. Unlike their previous playoff appearances in 1990 and 1991, this meant the Bills would have to go the Wild Card route and win three games to reach the Super Bowl, which had been done just twice before (1980 Raiders and 1985 Patriots).
Nothing went right for the Bills early on in their AFC Wild Card matchup against Warren Moon and the Houston Oilers at Rich Stadium. The Oilers run-and-shoot offense buried the Bills, as they fell behind 28-3 at the half.
Buffalo’s chances went from bad to impossible early in the second half when Oilers defensive back Bubba McDowell intercepted Frank Reich’s pass and raced 58 yards to the end zone to open up a 35-3 lead for Houston. The one positive for the Bills was that in Frank Reich, they had a quarterback that recorded the largest ever comeback in college football at that time. Reich erased a 31-point deficit on Nov. 10, 1984, when playing quarterback for the Maryland Terrapins at the Orange Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes.
Reich and the Bills proceeded to set an NFL record for the largest comeback when they turned a 32-point deficit into a 38-35 overtime win.
When the Jaguars take on the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, it will be almost 21 years after Jacksonville made their postseason debut at Rich Stadium on Dec. 28, 1996.
Jacksonville was in just their second season as an NFL franchise and, along with the Carolina Panthers, became the fastest team to qualify for the postseason (Carolina also played their first season in 1995).
The Jaguars finished the regular season with a 9-7 record and earned a wild-card berth. They traveled to Rich Stadium to take on the AFC East champion Buffalo Bills.
Thanks to the outstanding play of left tackle Tony Boselli, running back Natrone Means and quarterback Mark Brunell, the Jaguars upset the Bills 30-27.
Boselli played exceptionally against Bills’ hall of fame defensive end Bruce Smith, keeping him away from Mark Brunell. Natrone Means collected 175 yards rushing and a touchdown, while Brunell threw for 239 yards in his playoff debut.
Jacksonville continued their Cinderella run through the AFC Playoffs the next week when they defeated the 13-3 and No. 1 seed Denver Broncos in the AFC divisional round. However, their season ended in the AFC Championship Game at New England, when they fell to the Patriots, 20-6.
This weekend each of these four teams will hope to make new memories as they represent their city and fans in the NFL Playoffs. Here we go!