Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) throws against the PIttsburgh Steelers in the second quarter of an NFL wild card playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
I owe the Steelers and Broncos a drink (iced tea with Splenda for Tim Tebow) for salvaging what had been, up until last night, an awful Wild Card weekend. The first three games all had potential, only to go haywire at the end. Only DEN/PIT came down to the finish, and thank goodness for that. That was pretty much everything I ask for in a Wild Card game: an upset in the making, followed by a furious comeback by the favorite, followed by the first overtime in the playoffs since the new playoff overtime rules were instituted, followed by a walkoff touchdown in front of a raucous home crowd.
That pretty much checks off every box on my chart.
But was yesterday's game the GREATEST Wild Card game of all time? In my estimation, the answer is no. And I'm not saying that just because I'm a licensed Tebow hater (get your certificate today!). I say that because there have been some downright nutty Wild Card games over the years. Here are the five best:
1. Bills 41, Oilers 38 (1993)
Yesterday, Big Ben brought the Steelers back from 14 points down using only one leg. And I had a hard time deciding if that was more impressive than Frank Reich leading the Bills back from 32 points down with two perfectly functional legs. I figure if you cut off one of Reich's legs, you get a 16-point comeback, which still edges out The Ben. Two fun facts about Oilers/Bills. ONE: They played this game back when there were three divisions per conference and the Wild Card game was between two wild card qualifiers. I kinda miss that. TWO: The game was blacked out in Buffalo because it wasn't a sellout. And this was a year before the advent of Sunday Ticket, so imagine being a Bills fan unable to watch this game. GAHHHHHH!!! You're never topping this game. Never. Not when Bob Costas was on at the half to interview Bill Cowher to do a pregame assessment of the Oilers because everyone assumed they would win.
2. Titans 22, Bills 16 (2000)
For the ending alone, which was decidedly more insane than what happened last night. The rest of the game was fairly forgettable, especially since Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann were the announcers.
3. Broncos 29, Steelers 23 (2012)
I think this is the correct spot for this. It had everything you ever could have wanted. The only two games to trump it featured some sort of historic comeback or last-second play that will live on until we all die and the robots have taken over. This is the highest ranked normal game of the bunch.
4. 49ers 30, Packers 27 (1999)
5. 49ers 39, Giants 38 (2002)
I was thinking of including last year's Seahawks/Saints game here, or even the Packers/Cards shootout from a few years back. But no. Not when the Giants blew a 38-14 lead with five minutes to go in the third quarter, then somehow DERPed the snap on the final field goal attempt to preserve the 49er victory.
These are my five favorite Wild Card games of all time. It's always nice when there are new candidates to add to the mix.