We're just a couple days from the divisional round of the 2013 NFL playoffs, and what amounts to the NFL's best are set to slug it out in the grandest of fashions. The Green Bay Packers will take on the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons will take on the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC. On the other side, the Houston Texans will play the New England Patriots, while the Baltimore Ravens will face the Denver Broncos.
Historically, the divisional round has brought us some amazing games. In recent years, the divisional round and the championship rounds have sometimes been more exciting than the Super Bowl itself. Last year alone saw some crazy games, with the 49ers' game against the New Orleans Saints and the last-second touchdown spree coming to mind.
In the playoff spirit (that's like holiday spirit but for sports nerds ... it's very similar, just with jerseys instead of lame sweaters), how about we revisit some of the best divisional games of all time? This isn't a definitive list by any means, and not strictly a top ten, just some games you had better never forget.
The Immaculate Reception Game: This one is a no-brainer. In the AFC divisional playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders on Dec. 23, 1972, Terry Bradshaw was under pressure and threw a pass to John Fuqua, who was hit hard by Jack Tatum. The ball went sailing several yards end over end, where it was caught by Franco Harris, who started the play as a blocker. He took the ball in for a touchdown.
There's plenty of controversy surrounding the Immaculate Reception, as to whether the football touched Tatum or not. If the ball didn't touch Tatum, then the reception was illegal. If it bounced off Tatum, then it was legal. It's being debated to this day and, on its own, it was a phenomenal play to watch and holds up today. Steelers 13, Raiders 7
The Hail Mary Game, Dec. 28, 1975: Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach threw a game-winning touchdown to Drew Pearson in the 1975 NFC divisional playoffs against Minnesota, and the term "Hail Mary" was born. Pearson caught the ball in between two defenders late in the fourth quarter to give the Cowboys the victory, and after the game, Staubach said, "I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary." Pretty awesome. Cowboys 17, Vikings 14
This Is The Game That Never Ends ... Game, Dec. 25, 1971: The Miami Dolphins defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 27-24, in the 1971 AFC divisional playoffs. The game was played on Christmas Day (the last playoff game ever to be played on Christmas, as it happens), and if that's all the information I give, it might seem lackluster.
Of course, there's more to it: namely, the fact that it's the longest game in NFL history, ending 7:40 into the second overtime after a Garo Yepremian field goal from 37 yards out. The Dolphins had tied the game at 24 with under two minutes to go, and then the Chiefs were set up at the Dolphins' 22-yard line after the return, but Jan Stenerud missed the game-winning field goal from the 15-yard line. Ouch. Dolphins 27, Chiefs 24
Alex Smith Does Drew Brees Better Than Drew Brees, Jan. 14, 2012: So this one is a bit more recent to get us out of the 70s for the first time on this list. Call me a homer all you want, but Alex Smith hooking up with Vernon Davis for the touchdown over the middle with nine seconds remaining was ballsy and awesome. This came right after both teams had scored and everyone had proclaimed that Smith lacked the guns to keep up with Drew Brees. The game happened in the 2011-12 season, and was an instant classic. 49ers 36, Saints 32
Punters? Who Needs Punters? Game: On January 11, 2004, the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs played a football game, unheeded by silly things such as punters or good defense. Neither team punted a single time, defenses consistently rolled over for sweet, sweet first downs, and Peyton Manning managed to overcome the amazingly not-awful in that game Trent Green. It was back-and-forth, there were huge kick returns and suspense, and it's always worth a watch. Colts 38, Chiefs 31
Cardiac Cats Game, Jan. 10, 2004: The 2003 Carolina Panthers were known as the Cardiac Cats, as they finished 11-5, but only outscored their opponents by a total of 325-304 throughout the entire season. They played five overtime games that season, including their Jan. 10, 2004 divisional round matchup against the St. Louis Rams. Not only did that game go to overtime, it went to double overtime, when Steve Smith scored on a 69-yard pass from Jake Delhomme on the first play of said double overtime. Panthers 29, Rams 23
Bettis Gets Lucky Game, Jan. 15, 2006: Jerome Bettis fumbled at the goal line while trying to score a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2005 AFC divisional playoffs. Nick Harper grabbed the fumble and took it down the field, when Ben Roethlisberger made a game-saving tackle. Indianapolis was set up for a 46-yard field goal, and trusted Mike Vanderjagt with the honors. He'd never missed at home in the playoffs. He did this time. Pittsburgh got lucky and got the 21-18 victory as well. Steelers 21, Colts 18
The Franchise's False Hope Game, Jan. 4, 1997: In the 1996 AFC divisional playoffs, the Jacksonville Jaguars took down the top-seeded Broncos to win, 30-27. Not a soul had expected the Jaguars to be anywhere near winning that game, especially given that it was just the team's second year of even existing. The Broncos got smashed by a toddler. It was entertaining in many ways. Jaguars 30, Broncos 27
The Fog Bowl ... Game, Dec. 31, 1988: Nobody is quite sure what happened in this game. I've never seen it, and neither have you. It's because a dense fog rolled over Soldier Field, cutting visibility down to about 15 to 20 yards in the 1988 NFC divisional playoff game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles. Randall Cunningham ended up having 407 yards in the game (which was just insane ... receivers effectively saw a ball come flying out of a patch of fog and managed to put their hands on it with regularity) but unfortunately, he just couldn't find the end zone, and the Bears took the game, 20-12. Bears 20, Eagles 12
Fourth-and-26 Game, Jan. 11, 2004: Donovan McNabb was sacked eight times this game. Eight times. And yet, he threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns, but his most impressive play was on 4th-and-26, when he hit Freddie Mitchell to make the conversion and set up a David Akers field goal. Akers hit the field goal, and it sent the game into overtime. There, Brett Favre threw one of his patented interceptions to Brian Dawkins and Akers hit another field goal to win the game. Eagles 20, Packers 17
Share any other divisional round games you think are worth remembering in the playoffs.