In 1987: It looked like the same old story for the Cleveland Browns: Have a great regular season only to choke it away in the playoffs. They were trailing the New York Jets by 10 with about 4 minutes left. Browns’ quarterback Bernie Kosar (who had complained that coach Marty Schottenheimer’s offense was too conservative in a playoff loss the previous yearI know, we couldn’t believe it either) had 489 yards passing and the Browns had out gained the Jets two to one., but still had to rally to tie the game. In overtime, it was Revenge of the Missed Chip-Shot Field Goals as kickers Pat Leahy of the Jets and Mark Moseley of Cleveland took turns pissing an AFC Championship Game trip away. Moseley finally connected in the second overtime to save the Browns’ playoff lives (and most likely his own…we vaguely recall Marv Albert explaining how he would have been fed to the Dawg Pound had he missed again). Despite the lucky 23-20 win, the Cleveland Story continued in glorious fashion against Denver the following week.
In 1982: The San Diego Chargers defeated the Miami Dolphins 41-38 in a thrilling AFC divisional playoff game in the Orange Bowl. The Chargers jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Dolphins came right back to make it 24-17 at halftime. Miami’s final touchdown of the half came on the famous hook-and-ladder play, in which quarterback Don Strock completed a pass to Duriel Harris, who then pitched the ball to a sprinting Tony Nathan, who ran it the rest of the way for the touchdown. The Dolphins eventually took a 38-31 lead until the Chargers rallied to tie the score. A last second Uwe von Schamann field goal was blocked and the game went into overtime and was eventually won at 13:52 on a San Diego field goal. The game set records for total yardage (1,036) and points scored (79) but it is most remembered by the outstanding play of Kellen Winslow. The Chargers’ tight end caught 13 passes for 166 yards, many for critical first downs. He also blocked what would have been the game-winning field goal. After the game, Winslow was so spent he had to be helped off the field by teammates. And he was too tired to ride his motorcycle in the parking lot or violently proclaim himself a member of the Armed Forces in the postgame interview.
In 1993: Was it the greatest comeback in NFL history, or the biggest gag job ever performed on any playing surface? Either way, the Buffalo Bills overcame the largest deficit in NFL history to win an AFC Wild Card game against the Houston Oilers. A Bubba McDowell interception return put Houston ahead 35-3 in the third quarter. The Houston radio announcer proclaimed to his constituents back home that they can turn off the lights here in Rich Stadium– it’s over! The Oilers then went and made him look like the Douche of the Century by blowing the lead. Buffalo quarterback Frank Reich, subbing for an injured Jim Kelly, began leading the Bills down the field at will with 28 third quarter points, and they eventually took the lead 38-35 until Houston tied it with a last-second field goal. Warren Moon threw a quick interception on the first possession of overtime, and Buffalo’s Steve Christie kicked the game-winner, 41-38. The Bills were able to keep their string of losing in Super Bowls intact and the Oilers began thinking that maybe their luck would change in Tennessee a few years later.