As football fans, we wait all year for the Super Bowl to arrive with great anticipation. But there are times when we have to admit that the appetizer is better than the main course. By that, we mean the conference championship games ahead of the Super Bowl are far more entertaining. While we always hope that’s not the case, we have to admit that it does happen. Just look at these epic conference championship games.
Broncos 20, Patriots 18 (2016)
This turned out to be the final matchup between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Neither one had a spectacular game, as Manning was limited to 176 passing yards despite throwing two touchdowns while Brady needed 56 passes to reach 310 yards and threw two picks. But the drama was incredible, as Brady threw his only touchdown pass with 12 seconds left.
However, because Stephen Gostkowski missed a PAT in the first quarter, the Patriots needed a two-point conversion to tie the game. Denver’s defense made the stop and solidified the win, allowing Manning to finish his career as a Super Bowl champ two weeks later.
Seahawks 28, Packers 22 (2015)
The Seahawks were atrocious for most of this game, trailing 16-0 at halftime and 19-7 with less than four minutes left. But after throwing four picks, Russell Wilson came alive during those final four minutes.
A touchdown, an onside kick, and another touchdown put Seattle ahead. Of course, Aaron Rodgers was able to put the Packers in a position to tie the game with a late field goal. However, the Seahawks had all of the momentum heading into overtime. Wilson threw a 35-yard touchdown to Jermaine Kearse to win it in overtime.
Colts 38, Patriots 34 (2006)
This was Manning and Brady at their best and perhaps the best game ever played between the two legends. New England had the upper hand early, leading 21-3 late in the second quarter. But Manning heated up in the second half, bringing the Colts back. However, every time Indy tied the game, the Patriots responded and retook the lead.
Well, at least that was the case until a seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a Joseph Addai touchdown run to put the Colts ahead 38-34 with a minute left. Brady then threw an interception to seal the game on Indy’s way to a Super Bowl win.
49ers 28, Cowboys 27 (1982)
For the younger audience, we just call this game “The Catch.” The game itself, while competitive, was a little ugly, as the two teams combined for nine turnovers. It was a back and forth affair all game with the Cowboys leading 27-21 with less than five minutes left.
Joe Montana led a drive from the San Francisco 11-yard line to the Dallas six-yard line. That’s when the magic happened, as Montana struggled to find a receiver until scrambling to his right and chucking it to the back of the end zone where Dwight Clark made one of the most memorable catches in NFL history to give the 49ers the win.
Broncos 23, Browns 20 (1987)
The only thing better than “The Catch” was “The Drive.” After Cleveland scored to go ahead 20-13, a muffed kickoff forced the Broncos to start the ensuing drive at their own two-yard line with less than six minutes left on the clock. But that just set up the defining moment of John Elway’s career.
Over 15 plays, Elway led his team 98 yards, finishing the drive with a touchdown pass to Mark Jackson with 37 seconds on the clock. The Broncos would win in overtime, creating one of the most iconic games in NFL playoff history.