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The NFL’s 10 biggest playoff comebacks — now featuring the Jaguars’ win over the Chargers

Jacksonville trailed the Chargers 27-7 at the half in the Wild Card round, and the Jaguars ended up winning 31-30.

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It looked like the Chargers were going to handle the Jaguars easily when they raced out to a 27-0 lead in the first half of the 2023 AFC Wild Card matchup in Jacksonville. The Los Angeles defense picked Trevor Lawrence off four times, and the Jaguars looked cooked. Nobody could have anticipated the magic Jacksonville would work in the second half.

It’s not easy to shake off that rough of a first-half performance, but the Jaguars did it, pulling off a 31-30 win and landing Jacksonville at No. 3 on this list.

1. Bills 41, Oilers 38, OT, in AFC Wild Card (Jan. 3, 1993)

Biggest deficit: 32 points. Houston led 35-3 with 8:53 remaining in the third quarter.

The 2020 loss to the Chiefs wasn’t uncharted territory for Houston’s die hard football fans. They bore witness to the greatest comeback in NFL playoff history back in 1993 — and they watched it all take place at the hands of a backup quarterback.

Frank Reich was tasked with leading the Bills back to the Super Bowl after Hall of Fame passer Jim Kelly suffered a knee injury in Week 17. He fell into a 32-point hole against the Oilers ... and then threw his way out of it. All four of his touchdown passes came in the third quarter or later. His final score — and third to Hall of Fame wideout Andre Reed — gave the Bills a 38-35 lead that forced Houston to play catch-up late in the fourth quarter. They did, but Reich had one last scoring drive in him to cap off the game’s biggest playoff comeback in overtime.

Reich, who now serves as the head coach of the Colts, would lead the Bills to a road win in Pittsburgh the following week before handing the reins back to a healthy Kelly. Their postseason would end two games later in a 52-17 Super Bowl dismantling against the Cowboys. The Oilers wouldn’t win another playoff game until 2000 — well after they’d become the Tennessee Titans.

2. Colts 45, Chiefs 44 in AFC Wild Card (Jan. 4, 2014)

Biggest deficit: 28 points. Kansas City led 38-10 with 11:48 remaining in the third quarter.

Andrew Luck and Alex Smith each threw four touchdown passes, but it was Luck’s early turnover problems that helped the Chiefs run out to a 28-point lead. Dwayne Bowe was a monster for Kansas City with eight catches for 150 yards, but he failed to escape T.Y. Hilton’s shadow in the greatest performance of the Indianapolis wideout’s career. He’d post career highs in both catches (13) and receiving yards (224) while scoring the Colts’ game-winning touchdown on a 64-yard jailbreak with a little more than four minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

Luck would ride that momentum into New England the following week ... and throw four interceptions in a 43-22 loss to the Patriots.

3. Jaguars 31, Chargers 30 in AFC Wild Card (Jan. 14, 2023)

Biggest deficit: 27 points. The Chargers led 27-0 with two minutes remaining in the first half.

This was one for the ages. Trevor Lawrence threw not one, not two, not three, but FOUR interceptions in the first half against the Chargers, but despite trailing 27-7 at the half, the Jags didn’t blink.

Lawrence was able to shake off that abysmal first-half performance, throwing three touchdowns in the second half while the Jaguars defense allowed just one field goal, narrowing the Chargers’ lead to just two points after a two-point conversion with just 5:25 left in regulation. A field goal at the end of the game gave the Jags the incredible 31-30 win and landed them on this list.

3. Patriots 34, Falcons 28, OT, in Super Bowl 51 (Feb. 5, 2017)

Biggest deficit: 25 points. Atlanta led 28-3 with 2:07 remaining in the third quarter.

The reason why 28 and 3 will be cursed integers in the state of Georgia until the Falcons’ eventual Super Bowl CXVII victory in 2073.

As of 2020, the Falcons have won only a single playoff game since.

t-4. Chiefs 51, Texans 31 in AFC Divisional Round (Jan. 12, 2020)

Biggest deficit: 24 points. Houston led 24-0 with 9:56 remaining in the second quarter.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Chiefs in their 2020 playoff debut. Patrick Mahomes’ receivers dropped passes, Kansas City’s special teams muffed two different plays that led to Houston touchdowns, and Kenny Stills scored the easiest touchdown of his career when the home team just sorta forgot he existed.

But then Texans coach Bill O’Brien opted for a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the KC 13-yard line, and the football gods punished him for his cowardice. Mahomes’ wide receivers suddenly remembered how to catch the ball, leading Houston to resort to holding and pass interference to stop big plays downfield (neither strategy worked).

O’Brien’s lead didn’t even make it to halftime, thanks in part to a bizarrely timed second-quarter fake punt that failed to fool Kansas City’s previously deficient special teams unit. He went on to lose by 20 points as Mahomes finished his day with five passing touchdowns in a showcase worthy of a couple cold ones.

It was only the third time in NFL history a team that trailed by 20+ points would go on to win by 20 or more, and the first time ever in the playoffs.

t-4. 49ers 39, Giants 38 in NFC Wild Card Round (Jan. 5, 2003)

Biggest deficit: 24 points. New York led 38-14 with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter.

Kerry Collins pushed New York out to a big lead in a 342-yard passing performance, but his big arm was no match for Jeff Garcia’s dual-threat leadership on the other sideline. Garcia gained four times as many yards as his top tailback (Garrison Hearst, who topped out at 15 yards) to leave the Giants’ top-three scoring defense guessing in a furious comeback.

The Niners were just 1-13 after trailing in the first three quarters in the postseason at that point, but the veteran quarterback and his young upstart wideout Terrell Owens refused to go down without a fight. Owens caught nine passes for 177 yards, two touchdowns, and two two-point conversions. However, the real hero of San Francisco’s comeback may have been New York kicker Matt Bryant, who badly shanked a 42-yard field goal attempt that ultimately may have been enough to hold off the 49ers that Sunday.

San Francisco turned that momentum into another huge deficit the following week. Garcia was unable to lead his team back from a 28-6 halftime disadvantage in Tampa in the Divisional Round.

Spots 6-10

6. Lions 31, 49ers 27 in Western Conference Playoff Game (Dec. 22, 1957)

Biggest deficit: 20 points. San Francisco led 27-7 in the third quarter.

t-7. Cowboys 30, 49ers 28 in NFC Divisional Playoff (Dec. 23, 1972)

Biggest deficit: 18 points. San Francisco led 21-3 in the second quarter.

t-7. Dolphins 24, Browns 21 in AFC Divisional Playoff (Jan. 4, 1986)

Biggest deficit: 18 points. Cleveland led 21-3 in the third quarter.

t-7. Colts 38, Patriots 34 in AFC Championship Game (Jan. 21, 2007)

Biggest deficit: 18 points. New England led 21-3 in the second quarter.

t-7. Titans 22, Chiefs 21 in AFC Wild Card Round (Jan. 6, 2018)

Biggest deficit: 18 points. Kansas City led 21-3 in the third quarter.