The Music City Miracle
Jan. 8, 2000, Nashville, Tennessee
The Wild Card playoff game between the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills was a tense affair from start to finish — but it’s that finish that everyone remembers. With 1:48 to go, no timeouts remaining and the Bills trailing 15–13, quarterback Rob Johnson led his team on a five-play, 37-yard drive that resulted in a field goal and a 16–15 Buffalo lead with only 16 seconds remaining — only enough time for something truly extraordinary. On the ensuing kickoff, the extraordinary happened. Titans fullback Lorenzo Neal received the ball and set in motion one of the most famous plays in NFL history. Neal handed the ball to tight end Frank Wycheck, who wheeled and threw a sideways pass to Kevin Dyson on the left sidelines. Accompanied by a convoy of exultant Titans, Dyson scampered untouched down the sidelines, as Titans radio announcer Mike Keith shouted “It’s a miracle!” And the play, and its famous moniker, entered NFL lore.
Feb. 3, 2008, Glendale, Arizona
In the final game of the 2007 regular season, the New England Patriots completed the first unbeaten regular season since 1972, and the first 16–0 season in NFL history, by beating the New York Giants 38–35. The Giants would get another shot at denying the Patriots’ bid for perfection, and this time they would take advantage. Coach Tom Coughlin’s defense frustrated Tom Brady and the normally unstoppable Patriots’ offense all day, but Brady was finally able to find Randy Moss free in the end zone for a touchdown and 14–10 lead with 2:42 left. Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense took the field on their own 17 and proceeded to make NFL history. After converting a 4th-and-1, the Giants faced 3rd-and-5 from the New York 44-yard line with 1:15 left. Remarkably, Manning eluded a heavy rush and launched the ball in the direction of David Tyree, who was blanketed by Rodney Harrison. Somehow, Tyree was able to make a leaping one-handed catch, pinning the ball to his own helmet in one of the indelible images in NFL history. Their hopes miraculously alive, the Giants scored four plays later when Manning found Plaxico Burress in the end zone for a 17–14 lead with 35 seconds left. The Pats were unable to respond in kind, and the Giants had their “never say never” miracle.
Jan. 11, 1987, Cleveland, Ohio
There have been countless touchdown drives in NFL history, but only one qualifies as The Drive. On a cold day in Cleveland, with a title-starved horde of rabid Browns fans screaming in his ear, Broncos quarterback John Elway engineered the most legendary five-minute march in NFL history. The Browns had taken a 20–13 lead in the AFC Championship Game, and the Broncos muffed the ensuing kickoff, leaving Elway and his offensive cohorts 98 yards from a tying touchdown with only 5:32 remaining. It was then that Broncos guard Keith Bishop is said to have remarked, “We got ’em right where we want ’em!” How true that was. Elway was masterful, completing 6-of-9 passes for 78 yards and scrambling for 20 more in moving the Broncos briskly down the field against a helpless Browns defense, which was never able to force a fourth down during the epic march. On 3rd-and-1 from the Browns 5-yard line, Elway found Mark Jackson in the end zone for the tying touchdown. Denver ultimately won, 23–20, in overtime, and Elway had cemented his legend as the AFC’s ultimate clutch performer.
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