We welcome 2020’s new recruits by looking back at the sport’s most legendary clashes.
The National Football League Draft is the primary way American football teams add new players to their roster. Originally planned to take place in Las Vegas, this year’s event was transformed into the league’s first-ever virtual draft.
Fans from around the world watched NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announce every pick from his suburban New York basement, while head coaches made their decisions at home. From seeing Kansas City’s Andy Reid in a Hawaiian shirt to New England’s Bill Belichick with his show-stealing dog, it was an event to remember.
Of course, during the NFL Draft teams vied for the hottest players coming out of college. After much speculation, Cincinnati used their No.1 pick to make Louisiana State University Tigers’ quarterback Joe Burrow (shown top right) into a Bengal.
Defensive end Chase Young (top center) and cornerback Jeff Okudah – both from Ohio State University – were snapped up by the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions as the No.2 and No.3 picks, respectively. The New York Giants grabbed University of Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, while the Miami Dolphins reeled in University of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (top left).
As we look forward to the new season and seeing all these talented players in action, we also want to refresh fans with memories of some of the most famous games in NFL history. Although there are literally hundreds to choose from, we’ve picked out eight that have truly become part of American football lore.
The Greatest Game Ever Played
Who: Baltimore Colts v New York Giants
When: 28 December 1958
Where: Yankee Stadium in New York City, New York
Score: 23 – 17
This 1958 NFL Championship is universally cited as “the greatest game ever played” due to its back-and-forth battle. With Baltimore boasting Johnny Unitas’ brilliant arm and Alan “The Horse” Ameche’s galloping feet, the score was quickly in their favour. However, the second half saw New York rally back and take the lead. With minutes to go, Unitas led Baltimore’s offense all the way down the field enabling kicker Steve Myhra to boot in a 20-yard field goal and send the game into the first overtime in NFL championship history. After executing another great drive on New York’s tired defense, Ameche punched through the line for the game-winning touchdown.
The Ice Bowl
Who: Dallas Cowboys v Green Bay Packers
When: 31 December 1967
Where: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Score: 17 – 21
At the 1967 NFL Championship Game, it wasn’t just cold… it was bone-chillingly cold. The game time temperature was −26° Celsius. But even in the raw, gusty subzero air, head coaches Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry were at their legendary best. That day it all came down to the final drive with Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr running the ball into the endzone himself off “The Block” from right guard Jerry Kramer to win the game for the Packers.
The Heidi Bowl
Who: New York Jets v Oakland Raiders
When: 17 November 1968
Where: RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland, California
Score: 32 – 43
This regular season match-up is not only revered for the wild 65-second finish that saw Oakland score two touchdowns to win the game, but also because TV viewers on America’s East Coast missed it all. NBC had allocated three hours for the game, so when the clock struck 19:00 the broadcast cut away to the network premiere of Heidi, a film for children. As a result of all the irate calls – from both football fans and Heidi fans (because NBC broke into the family film at a pivotal moment to notify viewers of the game’s final score) – TV rules were changed to mandate that all sporting contests must be aired to their conclusion.
The Hail Mary
Who: Dallas Cowboys v Minnesota Vikings
When: 28 December 1975
Where: Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota
Score: 17 – 14
You’ve probably heard a lot of passes described as “Hail Marys”, but after this 1975 NFC Divisional Round Game the phrase became widespread. The Cowboys were on the 50-yard line trailing 14 – 10 with only 32 seconds remaining. Quarterback Roger Stauback then unleashed a bomb to his favourite receiver, Drew Pearson, who pushed Minnesota cornerback Nate Wright to the ground before barely coming up with the ball and charging into the endzone. Vikings fans believe he should have drawn a penalty, but the play stood and the enraged crowd jumped to their feet and threw things on the field. Afterward Pearson told reporters of the wild game, “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary”.
The Freezer Bowl
Who: San Diego Chargers v Cincinnati Bengals
When: 10 January 1982
Where: Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio
Score: 7 – 27
Now if you thought The Ice Bowl was cold, then you’ve clearly never heard about The Freezer Bowl. The wind chill temperature for this 1981 AFC Championship Game was a frightful −38.3° Celsius, officially making it the coldest game in NFL history. While San Diego quarterback Dan Fouts was hindered by the frigid weather getting just 185 yards and being intercepted twice, Cincinnati quarterback Ken Anderson gave steady performance sending them on to victory and their first Super Bowl trip in franchise history.
The Mud Bowl
Who: New York Jets v Miami Dolphins
When: 23 January 1983
Where: Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida
Score: 0 – 14
These two teams have had some great battles throughout their NFL rivalry, including the 1982 AFC Championship Game. Thanks to heavy rain and some dubious groundskeeping, the Orange Bowl field was essentially a swamp. With New York being the faster team, this worked to Miami’s advantage plus their linebacker AJ Duhe rose to occasion by intercepting three passes. The last one came in the fourth quarter when, covered in mud, he got not only got a hand on the pass from Jets’ quarterback Richard Todd, but also caught and returned it for the final touchdown.
The Fog Bowl
Who: Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears
When: 31 December 1988
Where: Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois
Score: 12 – 20
Things started out typically in this 1988 NFC Divisional Playoff Game until late in the second quarter, when a dense fog rolled onto the field. Suddenly visibility decreased to less than 15 yards. No one could see – not the coaches, not the players, not the fans or media. It created suspense with every snap. Both teams’ passing abilities were limited. Although Philadelphia quarterback Randall Cunningham managed 407 yards, he was never able to score a touchdown. With Chicago having taken the a 17 – 9 lead before the half, the Bears defense held up strong and they won the game.
The Music City Miracle
Who: Buffalo Bills v Tennessee Titans
When: 8 January 2000
Where: Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee
Score: 16 – 22
This AFC Wild Card Game is the stuff of dreams. The score was close through to the fourth quarter, when Tennessee led 15 – 13 with just under two minutes to play. Buffalo answered back with a determined drive and field goal to take the lead. But it wasn’t over yet. On the kickoff, Titans’ fullback Lorenzo Neal caught the ball, handed it to tight end Frank Wycheck, who threw a lateral pass across the field to Kevin Dyson, who then ran in the 75-yard touchdown that won the game.
The NFL London Games may not be coming to England’s capital this year, but here’s looking to 2021. Discover more from the world of sport by visiting our Sports Guide.