Just like the wild-card version of the NFL Playoffs, the divisional round is the only other playoff round which features four playoff games. Here are some of the greatest memories of those four NFC teams alive.
The divisional round has entertained NFL fans every season since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Many games are considered NFL classics. The eight playoff teams playing this weekend have a few classics of their own that we would like to share with you.
Here are eight classic playoff games featuring each of the teams playing this weekend.
This weekend, the Minnesota Vikings will host their first playoff game in their new home, U.S. Bank Stadium. When the Vikings take the field this weekend, it will be the third different stadium that Minnesota has hosted a playoff game.
Despite their many memories at home, our Vikings divisional round memory takes us back to January of 1988 when they played the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park.
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The Vikings were coming off a 44-10 domination of the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome in the wild card. Despite their impressive win over the Saints, who finished with the second-best record in the NFL that season at 12-3, the Vikings only won eight games during the regular season and were heavy underdogs against Joe Montana’s 49ers. San Francisco finished the season with the NFL’s best record at 13-2, outscoring their opponents by 206 points.
San Francisco featured the best wide receiver in the NFL in 1987 in Jerry Rice. Rice finished the season second in the NFL in receiving yards and set an NFL record with 22 touchdown receptions. However, the best wide receiver on the field that day played for Minnesota by the name of Anthony Carter.
Carter set NFL playoff records with ten receptions and 227 receiving yards. The Vikings defense chased future Hall of Famer Joe Montana from the game with 6:19 left in the third quarter, holding him to just 109 passing yards, while intercepting him and sacking him four times.
Steve Young provided excitement, going 12-17 for 158 yards while throwing and running for a touchdown, but the 27-10 deficit he entered with was too much to overcome.
After dominating the NFC in 1987, Jerry Rice finished with just three receptions for 28 yards, fewer than Vikings running back Allen Rice, who finished with four catches for 38 yards.
The Vikings upset the 49ers 36-24, but their joy did not last long. In the NFC Championship Game, Minnesota lost to the Redskins and Doug Williams, 17-10.
New Orleans Saints
The 2006 season was the most critical season in the history of New Orleans Saints football. Until that season, the Saints had only won one playoff game. They had gone through a bevy of head coaches and quarterbacks that saw them post just seven winning seasons and win two division titles in their 39 NFL seasons.
The losing attitude and woeful expectations all changed in 2006 when Drew Brees and Sean Payton came to town. The two turned the Saints into a winner and gave New Orleans fans the brand of football they appreciated. Along with welcoming in a new coach and quarterback, the city of New Orleans also saw the reopening of the Superdome, which had been part of the devastation that Hurricane Katrina did to their city a year earlier.
The Saints improved from 3-13 in 2005 to 10-6 in 2006. They won the NFC South and earned a first-round bye for the first time in team history. In the divisional round, they faced the veteran Philadelphia Eagles, who had advanced to the NFC Championship Game in four of the previous five seasons.
Behind 143 rushing yards from Deuce McAllister and 243 passing yards from Drew Brees, the Saints defeated the Eagles, 27-24. McAllister’s final first-down run, a five-yard rush on a third-and-1 with 1:37 remaining, sealed the franchise’s most significant victory and set off a deafening roar throughout the standing-room-only dome.
It would take the Saints another three years to win their Super Bowl, but the legacy of winning in New Orleans was started with the hiring of Sean Payton and signing of Drew Brees in 2006.
The fans of the Atlanta Falcons did not anticipate much as their team entered the 1998 season. Atlanta was coming off a 7-9 season and under second-year head coach Dan Reeves, were expected to finish in the bottom half of the NFC West.
However, behind an impressive running attack led by Jamal Anderson, who led the NFC with 1,846 yards, the “Dirty Bird” Falcons won a franchise record 14 games.
Atlanta won the NFC West and earned a first-round bye, which saw them take on division rival San Francisco in the divisional round. Thanks to 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns by Anderson and a defense that intercepted Steve Young three times, the Falcons defeated the 49ers 20-18.
Atlanta rode the momentum of that win all the way to the Super Bowl, as they defeated the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game in one of the biggest upsets in NFL history.
Entering the 2001 season, the Philadelphia Eagles had only advanced to the NFC Championship Game one time since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Led by quarterback Donovan McNabb and head coach Andy Reid, the Eagles fortunes began to change after finishing 11-5 in 2000. That season the Eagles lost to the Giants in the NFC Divisional Round, something they were anxious to get back to in 2001.
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After defeating the Buccaneers for the second straight season in the NFC wild-card, the Eagles traveled to Chicago to take on the NFC Central champions.
The Eagles defense dominated the Bears, holding them to 184 total yards and 73 passing yards while intercepting three passes and forcing four turnovers.
On offense, McNabb led a balanced attack that saw the Eagles outscored the Bears 20-5 after Chicago took a 14-13 lead early in the third quarter.
The Eagles victory helped them advance to their first of four consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances. However, they would only advance to one Super Bowl.