Top 10 NFC Championship Games of All-Time

Yesterday I liked at the best AFC Championship games in history, today I will look at the NFC…

December 29, 1974 – Los Angeles Rams (10-4) at Minnesota Vikings (10-4)

Fran Tarkenton led the Vikings to the Super Bowl with their victory over the Rams

This game was played back when the Vikings played outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium.  Fran Tarkenton and the Minnesota Vikings played host to James Harris and the L.A. Rams on a raw day in late December for the rights to go to the Super Bowl.  Neither team could score in the 1st quarter.  Tarkenton struck first in the 2nd quarter when he found receiver Jim Lash for a 29 yard TD pass.  All that the Rams could muster up before the half was a 27 yard field goal from kicker David Ray.   The 3rd quarter went by much like the 1st quarter did, with not a score between the two teams.  The Rams had the best chance, driving the ball all the way down to the Minnesota 2 but a stout goal line stand by the Vikings ended when a 3rd down Harris pass was intercepted by linebacker Wally Hilgenberg in the end zone for a touchback.  It was 7-3 headed into the final quarter.  Minnesota took the ball down the field on a 15 play drive that took almost half of the 4th quarter time off of the clock.  Running back Dave Osborn ran it in from 4 yards out to give the Vikings a 14-3 lead.  The Rams struck back quickly when Harris hit receiver Harold Jackson with a 44 yard TD throw to cut the lead to 14-10.  After both teams exchanged punts on their ensuing possessions the Vikings offense bore down.  They pounded the ball down the field for the final 5:37 and made sure that there would be no comeback attempt by the Rams.

Final Score: Minnesota Vikings 14, Los Angeles Rams 10

January 10, 1982 – Dallas Cowboys (12-4) at San Fransisco 49ers (13-3)

"The Catch"

This was 25 year old quarterback Joe Montana’s coming out party and the beginning of an intense, decade plus long rivalry between the Cowboys and the 49ers.  Montana and co. got on the board first when he hit receiver Freddie Solomon with a 8 yard TD pass in the 1st quarter.  The Cowboys struck back, first with a 44 yard field goal from kicker Rafael Septien and then with a 26 yard TD pass from quarterback Danny White to receiver Tony Hill.  Dallas led 10-7 after a quarter.  In the 2nd quarter Montana found receiver Dwight Clark with a 20 yard TD pass to put the Niners back ahead 14-10.  Running back Tony Dorsett would give the Cowboys a halftime lead when he punched the ball in from 5 yards out, making it 17-14 Dallas.  49ers running back Johnny Davis provided all of the scoring in the 3rd quarter with his 2 yard touchdown.  The Niners led 21-17 heading into the 4th.  Septien pulled the Cowboys within a point early in the 4th with a 22 yard field goal.  Then, after cornerback Everson Walls had recovered a fumble deep in San Fran territory, White hit tight end Doug Cosbie with a 21 yard TD strike to give the Cowboys a 27-21 lead.  The 49ers took over at their own 11 yard line with 4:54 left, needing a touchdown.  Montana coolly and calmly took them down the field all the way down to the Dallas 6 with just ticks left on the clock.  Montana was flushed out of the pocket and ran to his right and winged the ball towards the corner of the end zone where Dwight Clark leaped high in the air and made his now iconic catch, known simply as “The Catch”.  The Cowboys actually had a chance to drive into field goal range but Danny White was sacked and fumbled the ball away.  The Niners were going to the Super Bowl and The Catch would become one of the iconic images of NFL history.

Final Score: San Fransisco 49ers 28, Dallas Cowboys 27

January 8, 1984 – San Fransisco 49ers (10-6) vrs. Washington Redskins (14-2)

John Riggins was the workhorse for the Redskins offense

Montana was back two years later to face another NFC East foe, Joe Theismann, John Riggins and the Washington Redskins.  Neither team could manage a score in the 1st quarter and only Riggins’ 4 yard TD run halfway through the 2nd quarter lit up the scoreboard.  It was 7-0 Redskins at halftime.  The Skins came out in the 3rd quarter and scored twice, a 1 yard run by Riggins and then on a 70 yard TD pass to receiver Charlie Brown.  The Skins had a commanding 21-0 lead heading into the 4th quarter.  Montana came alive early in the 4th.  He connected with receiver Mike Wilson on a 5 yard TD throw to get the Niners on the board.  After forcing a Redskins punt Montana connected with Freddie Solomon on the very first play of the drive for a 76 yard TD pass to pull the Niners within a touchdown at 21-14.  The Niners defense forced yet another punt and Montana took the Niners right back down the field and again connected with Wilson, this time from 12 yards out to tie the game at 21-21.  The Skins got the ball back with just over 7 minutes on the clock.  Theismann took them on a plodding 13 play drive that took 6 of the remaining 7 minutes off of the clock.  They took the ball inside the 49ers’ 10 yard line but couldn’t get it into the end zone.  They sent out kicker Mark Moseley, who was 0-4 on the day kicking field goals, to try a 25 yarder to put the Redskins on top.  Moseley nailed the field goal and gave the Redskins the 24-21 lead with a minute left.  Montana got the ball back but he was intercepted on his last ditch effort to get the Niners down the field for a score.  The Redskins won and headed to the Super Bowl.

Final Score: Washington Redskins 24, San Fransisco 49ers 21

January 20, 1991 – New York Giants (13-3) at San Fransisco 49ers (14-2)

Jeff Hostetler and Matt Bahr celebrate the game winning kick

One of the greatest two game stretches for a defensive coaching staff started in the 1990 NFC Championship game when Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, and the rest of the Giants defensive staff went head to head with the offensive juggernaut from San Fransisco.  The Giants were one of the best defensive teams in the league during the year and the Niners were one of the best on offense.  Something had to give and early on it looked like the Giants had the advantage, keeping the scoring to field goals.  49ers kicker Mike Cofer started the scoring with a 47 yard field goal in the 1st quarter.  Giants kicker Matt Bahr added a 27 yard field goal of his own to make it 3-3 after 1 quarter.  Both kickers exchanged field goals in the 2nd quarter, Bahr from 42 yards out and Cofer from 35.  The score was 6-6 at halftime.  Just the type of game that the Giants wanted.  The 49ers finally found the end zone in the 3rd quarter when Montana connected with John Taylor on a 61 yard TD pass to give the Niners a 13-6 lead.  It looked like it may have been all that they needed with the way their defense was playing.  Bahr added his 3rd field goal of the day in the 3rd to make the score 13-9 going into the final quarter.  The Giants and 49ers traded possessions in the 4th quarter and the Giants finally caught a break when they caught the Niners napping on a fake punt and linebacker Gary Reasons ran it 30 yards deep into San Fransisco territory.  The Giants couldn’t punch it in and settled for yet another Matt Bahr field goal to make the score 13-12.  There was 5:47 left in the game and Joe Montana was injured.  Back-up Steve Young came in to try and run the clock out.  He did well, connecting with tight end Brent Jones on a 25 yard pass on his first throw but two plays later running back Roger Craig fumbled the ball right into the hands of Lawrence Taylor, the first and only turnover of the game.  With 2:36 left quarterback Jeff Hostetler and the Giants offense took over.  Hostetler engineered a drive that set the Giants up for a 42 yard field goal with :04 left.  Matt Bahr nailed his fifth of the game and sent the Giants to their second Super Bowl in 5 years.

Final Score:  New York Giants 15, San Fransisco 49ers 13

January 17, 1999 – Atlanta Falcons (14-2) at Minnesota Vikings (15-1)

Veteran Morten Andersen's kick in OT put the Falcons in their 1st Super Bowl

It was the year of the dirty bird and the year of the Vikings offense that boasted rookie sensation Randy Moss and veterans Randall Cunningham and Cris Carter.  The Vikings were the best team in the league that year and heavily favored to win the Super Bowl.  They were 11 point favorites in the NFC Championship game.  Atlanta jumped out to an early lead in the 1st quarter when quarterback Chris Chandler hit running back Jamal Anderson with a 5 yard TD pass.  Cunningham struck quickly, as he often did that season, with a 31 yard TD pass to Moss to tie the game at 7-7.  The Vikings converted an Atlanta fumble into a 29 yard Gary Anderson field goal early in the 2nd.  Cunningham slowed things down and led the Vikings on a long drive culminating in a 1 yard QB sneak to make the score 17-7.  Atlanta fumbled again on their next possession and Anderson hit another field goal to make it 20-7.  Cunningham gave the ball back to Atlanta on a fumble late in the half and Chandler connected with receiver Terance Mathis for a 14 yard TD pass to pull the Falcons within 6 at halftime.  The Falcons held the Vikings to start the 3rd quarter then got within 3 points with a 27 yard Morten Andersen field goal.  The Vikings took care of the rest of the 3rd quarter on a long drive that ended when Cunningham found receiver Matthew Hatchette in the end zone from 5 yards out to make it a 27-17 game.  Atlanta drove down for another field goal to make it a 27-20 game.  The two teams traded turnovers in the middle of the 4th and the Vikings took it deep into Atlanta territory.  They called on Gary Anderson, who had not missed a field goal all year but his kick sailed left and the Vikings turned it over to Atlanta.  Chandler went down the field and hit Mathis with a 16 yard TD throw with only :16 left to tie the game at 27-27.  The Vikings punted on their first two possessions in overtime and Chandler took the ball on his team’s second OT possession and went 70 yards down the field to set up Morten Andersen’s 38 yard field goal sent the Atlanta Falcons to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Final Score:  Atlanta Falcons 30, Minnesota Vikings 27 (OT)

January 23, 2000 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6) at St. Louis Rams (13-3)

Ricky Proehl caught the game winner in the 4th quarter

This was a classic case of offense vrs. defense.  The young upstart Tampa Bay defense was going into the TWA Dome to face the league’s #1 offense, the St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf”.  The Bucs defense struck early when defensive end Steve White intercepted a Kurt Warner pass deep in St. Louis territory to set up a 25 yard field goal by kicker Martin Gramatica.  The Rams went off on a 16 play drive after that but had to settle for a 24 yard Jeff Wilkins field goal after Warner and Marshall Faulk botched a hand off.  The game was tied at 3-3 after a quarter.  Neither offense could score in the 2nd quarter but the Rams caught a break when Bucs center Tony Mayberry sailed a snap over the head of quarterback Shaun King.  King dove on the ball in the end zone but the Rams had a safety and a 5-3 lead at halftime.  The Rams had doubled the Bucs in offensive production by the half but only had the field goal and the defensive safety to show for it on the scoreboard.  Tampa Bay took the ball on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter and went down the field to set up a 23 yard Gramatica field goal.  The Buccaneers then bore down on defense in the 2nd half.  They intercepted Warner three times in the half, including a pick by linebacker Hardy Nickerson on the Tampa Bay 3 yard line.  With about 5 minutes left the St. Louis defense came up with a big play of their own when Dre Bly picked off a King pass at mid-field.  Just a few plays later Warner found receiver Ricky Proehl for a 30 yard TD strike to give the Rams a 11-6 lead after the two point conversion failed.  King led the Bucs deep into St. Louis territory in a last ditch effort to score a game winning touchdown but could not put it in to the end zone.  St. Louis’ Greatest Show on Turf survived a defensive battle and went on to play the Tennessee Titans in the Super Bowl.

Final Score: St. Louis Rams 11, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6

January 20, 2008 – New York Giants (10-6) at Green Bay Packers (13-3)

Coughlin celebrated Tynes' OT game winner despite his face being frozen

It was -7 degrees in Green Bay for the 2007 NFC Championship game.  The Giants and Eli Manning went into the frozen tundra known as Lambeau Field to face franchise icon Brett Favre and the Packers with a wind chill of -23 below zero.  It was a cold day but the Super Bowl was on the line and a chance to ruin the New England Patriots undefeated season.  The Giants scored first with two field goals from kicker Lawrence Tynes.  Favre was undeterred after a fumble on a kickoff set the Packers down at their own 10.  He found Donald Driver on the very 1st play of the drive for a 90 yard TD pass, the longest in Packers’ postseason history.  Kicker Mason Crosby added a field goal before halftime giving the Packers a 10-6 lead.  The two teams came out in the second half and it hadn’t gotten any warmer.  Giants head coach Tom Coughin looked like his face had literally froze, it was beat red and glossy.  The Giants took the first 2nd half possession down the field for 69 yards and ended it with a 1 yard TD run by running back Brandon Jacobs.  The Packers responded by driving right back down the field and Favre found tight end Donald Lee for a 12 yard TD throw to put the Packers back on top 17-13.  Kick returner Domenik Hixon set the Giants up at their own 43 yard line on the ensuing kick off and Manning went 7 plays and running back Ahmad Bradshaw punched it in from 4 yards out to put the Giants back on top 20-17 going into the 4th quarter.  The Packers went down the field and then luck struck when Favre was intercepted by cornerback R.W. McQuarters deep in NY territory.  Packers running back Ryan Grant stripped the ball away from McQuarters and guard Mark Tauscher jumped on the ball to give the Packers a fresh set of downs.  Crosby kicked a 37 yard field goal to tie the game at 20-20.  Neither team could produce another score in the final quarter and the game went into overtime.  The Packers won the coin toss but Giants cornerback Corey Webster intercepted Favre’s 2nd pass of the overtime and and Tynes game in to kick a game winning, 47 yard field goal exactly 17 years to the day since Matt Bahr did the same in San Fransisco.  The Giants not only knocked the Packers off and headed to the Super Bowl but they essentially ended Brett Favre’s Packer career as well.

Final Score:  New York Giants 23, Green Bay Packers 20

January 18, 2009 – Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1) vrs. Arizona Cardinals (9-7)

Kurt Warner's 4 TD passes launched the Cardinals into their 1st Super Bowl

It was a surprising NFC title game match up between #6 seed Philadelphia and #4 seed Arizona.  The Cardinals were seeking their 1st Super Bowl appearance in team history and the Eagles were looking to win their 2nd NFC Championship game in 5 seasons.  The Cardinals started off quickly with a 9 play, 80 yard drive capped off by a 9 yard TD throw from quarterback Kurt Warner to star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.  The Eagles responded on their 1st possession with a long drive that ended with a 45 yard field goal by kicker David Akers.  It was 7-3 Cardinals after one quarter.  Akers blew a scoring opportunity when he missed a 47 yard field goal and Warner hit Fitzgerald on the very next play with a 62 yard TD strike to put the Cardinals up 14-3.  Another long Eagles drive resulted in a 33 yard Akers field goal to make it 14-6.  Warner took the Cardinals right back down the field and connected with Fitzgerald for their 3rd TD of the game from 1 yard out.  The Cardinals added another field goal before the half to make the score 24-6 in their favor at halftime.  The Eagles got back on track in the 3rd quarter and quarterback Donovan McNabb led them on a 90 yard drive that ended with a 6 yard TD pass from McNabb to tight end Brent Celek.  After forcing a 3-and-out Philly worked quickly again and McNabb found Celek from 31 yards out for another TD.  Akers missed the extra point and made the score 24-19 in favor of Arizona.  The Eagles defense shut the Cardinals out for the entire 3rd quarter.  Early in the 4th McNabb completed the comeback when he connected with receiver DeSean Jackson for a TD catch and run of 62 yards.  The Eagles led for the first time in the game 25-24.  The two-point conversion attempt failed.  The Cardinals responded with their best drive of the second half, a 14 play, 74 yard drive that included a Tim Hightower conversion on 4th and 1.  The Cardinals scored with just under 3:00 left in the game when Warner found Hightower for an 8 yard TD.  He completed his two-point conversion pass to tight end Ben Patrick to make the score 32-25.  The Cardinals stiffened up on D and held the Eagles on 4th down at the Cardinals’ 47 yard line, earning them their 1st Super Bowl appearance in team history.

Final Score:  Arizona Cardinals 32, Philadelphia Eagles 25

January 24, 2010 – Minnesota Vikings (12-4) at New Orleans Saints (13-3)

Garrett Hartley's field goal in OT sent the Saints to the Super Bowl

It was another domed team vrs. domed team battle when the Vikings battled the Saints in the Superdome.  Brett Favre was back, this time with his new team, the Vikings.  The Vikings got on the board first when they marched down the field on the first possession and running back Adrian Peterson took it the last 19 yards for a TD rush.  Drew Brees responded immediately, finding running back Pierre Thomas for a 38 yard TD throw and run to tie the game at 7.  Minutes later Favre found receiver Sidney Rice on a 5 yard TD pass to make it 14-7 Vikings and the track meet was on.  The Saints took the 1st possession of the 2nd quarter right down the field and Brees found receiver Devery Henderson for a 9 yard TD to tie the game 14-14.  The Saints and Vikings then traded punts and neither team put up points before halftime.  After a long kick return set the Saints up on their 1st drive of the second half running back Pierre Thomas ran it in from 9 yards out just less than two minutes into the 3rd quarter, giving the Saints a 21-14 lead.  Favre responded with an 80 yard drive of his own that was capped off by a 1 yard Peterson TD run to tie the game at 21-21.  With time ticking down in the 3rd quarter Saints defensive end Will Smith stripped the ball from Vikings receiver Percy Harvin and defensive tackle Remi Ayodele picked it up and rumbled down to the Vikings 7 yard line.  The Saints scored a few plays later when Brees found running back Reggie Bush for a 5 yard TD pass.  The Vikings responded on their 1st drive of the 4th quarter with deep penetration into New Orleans territory but receiver Bernard Berrian fumbled the ball back to the Saints.  The Vikings forced a punt and with 8:00 left in the game Peterson scored his 3rd TD of the game from a yard out to tie the game at 28-28.  Regulation ended when Saints defensive pack Tracy Porter intercepted a Favre pass as he attempted to get the Vikings into field goal range and the game went to overtime.  The Saints won the toss and received the ball.  They went down the field to set up the field goal, aided by a 4th and 1 conversion by Thomas on a dive over the pile.  Saints kicker Garrett Hartley hit the game winning 40 yard field goal to send the Saints to the Super Bowl.

Final Score: New Orleans Saints 31, Minnesota Vikings 28 (OT)

January 23, 2011 – Green Bay Packers (10-6) at Chicago Bears (11-5)

B.J. Raji rumbled down the field for the game winning TD

This rivalry is as old as the NFL itself and it was the first time since 1941 that these two bitter rivals would meet in the postseason.  It was only 20 degrees at Soldier’s Field in Chicago that day and was the perfect atmosphere for an old school NFL battle.  Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers down the field quickly on their 1st possession, hitting 3 pass plays for 20 yards or more.  He ended the drive by sneaking it in from 1 yard out to give the Packers a 7-0 lead.  The Packers defense was smothering quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears.  They played a field position game and that paid off when the Packers took advantage of the short field and running back James Starks scored on a 4 yard TD run to make it 14-0.  Rodgers tried to score one more time in the half but Bears linebacker Lance Briggs intercepted a Rodgers pass in Green Bay territory.  A few plays later Cutler returned the favor by throwing one into the arms of Packers corner Sam Shields.  The score was 14-0 Packers at the half.  The Packers looked to continue the momentum from the 1st half on their 1st possession of the 2nd but Brian Urlacher intercepted a Rodgers pass at the Chicago 6 and returned it 39 yards before Rodgers actually made a touchdown saving tackle at the Chicago 45.  By this time Cutler was out of the game due to injury and veteran Todd Collins had replaced him.  Collins could not complete a pass in the 3rd quarter and he was benched in favor of third stringer Caleb Hanie.  Hanie paid dividends early in the 4th quarter when he drove the Bears for their first TD drive of the game, culminated by a 1 yard TD run by running back Chester Taylor.  The Bears were back in the game, trailing 14-7 now.  The Bears stout defense held the Packers down and gave Hanie opportunities.  Hanie could not do anything the first two times and on the third drive he threw a short pass into the middle of theline that was picked off by big Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji and returned for a 18 yard TD to put the Packers up 21-7.  Hanie came back strong on the next possession and connected with receiver Earl Bennett on only the 4th play of the drive with a 35 yard TD throw to make the score 21-14.  The Bears held the Packers again and a late Bears drive deep into Packers territory ended when Sam Shields got his 2nd INT of the game off of a Hanie throw and catapulted the Packers into another Super Bowl.

Final Score:  Green Bay Packers 21, Chicago Bears 14

The Giants and 49ers will play again in the NFC Championship game this Sunday, 21 years after they met to determine who would represent the NFC in Super Bowl XXV.  Hopefully this game is as good as that one.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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