1. Archive


Pro football's championship games define the greatness of teams and individuals. Joe Namath becomes an American icon, Fran Tarkenton a quarterback who couldn't win the big one. Dynasties are born and reputations _ good and bad _ are made. San Francisco is five Super Bowl victories; Buffalo (and before it, Denver and Minnesota) is four Super Bowl losses. A city's identity is wrapped in the success of its football teams.

1. San Diego 41, Miami 38, OT

1981 AFC divisional playoff: Rolf Benirschke's 27-yard field goal after nearly 14 minutes of overtime ended one of the epic games in history. It was the game that defined the career of Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow, who set a playoff record with 13 receptions for 166 yards.

2. Balt. 23, N.Y. Giants 17, OT

1958 NFL championship: Frequently referred to as "the greatest game ever played," it brought the league (and Baltimore quarterback Johnny Unitas) national attention. The Colts' Alan Ameche dived in from the 1-yard line to settle the first overtime championship in the NFL.

3. San Francisco 28, Dallas 27

1981 NFC championship game: Quarterback Joe Montana rolled right and found a leaping Dwight Clark in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown on a play simply known as "The Catch." It led the 49ers to the first of four World Championships in the '80s.

4. Green Bay 21, Dallas 17

1967 NFL championship: In NFL lore, it is known as the "Ice Bowl," a game played in sleet, snow and 16-below at storied Lambeau Field in Green Bay. It was settled when quarterback Bart Starr sneaked in from the 1-yard line in the final minute with no timeouts remaining.

5. N.Y. Jets 16, Baltimore 7

1969 Super Bowl III: Jets quarterback Joe Namath's shocking guarantee came true as his team overcame its status as a 17{-point underdog and became the first AFL club to win the Super Bowl by beating coach Don Shula's Colts.

6. Pittsburgh 13, Oakland 7

1972 AFC Divisional playoff: Franco Harris made a shoetop catch _ forever known as "the Immaculate Reception" _ of a deflected fourth-down pass intended for Frenchy Fuqua. Officials ruled the ball was touched by Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum, making Harris' catch legal. He ran it in for the game-winning TD.

7. Miami 27, Kansas City 24

AFC semifinal playoff, Christmas Day, 1971: Dolphins place-kicker Garo Yepremian kicked a 37-yard field goal in the second overtime _ after 82 minutes, 40 seconds _ to end the longest game ever played in the NFL.

8. Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10

1967 AFL-NFL Championship: The NFL's powerful Packers, leading only 14-10 at halftime, pulled away in the second half to handily beat the AFL's Chiefs in what became known as Super Bowl I. Max McGee, who had caught four passes all season, filled in for injured Boyd Dowler and caught seven passes for 138 yards and two TDs.

9. Buffalo 41, Houston 38

1992 AFC wild-card playoff: The Bills scored four touchdowns in less than seven minutes in the third quarter and rallied from a 35-3 deficit, marking the greatest comeback in NFL history.

10. Chi. Bears 73, Washington 0

1940 NFL Championship: The Bears, in the most lopsided game in NFL history, avenged an earlier 7-3 loss to Washington that season in which Redskins owner George Preston Marshall called the Bears "crybabies."