Best AFC Championship Games
1968: Jets 27, Raiders 23
Joe Willie Namath's finest moment may never have happened if not for a gutsy performance after a self-inflicted night on the town, and a heads-up play by the Jets defense. Namath -- according to urban legend -- tied one on but good the night before the AFL championship game. Namath fought through the hangover well enough to toss three touchdown passes. It still took a Ralph Baker recovery of an errant Darryl Lamonica backward pass for the Jets to seal it, which ultimately led to the "guarantee" and win over the Colts in Super Bowl III.<br><br>Send comments to email@example.com
1976: Raiders 24, Steelers 7
What this one lacked in between-the-lines thrills, it more than made up for in its significance. The victims of the Immaculate Reception and so much more heartbreak in more than a decade of falling just short, the Raiders finally prevailed. The Steelers owned the Raiders in three previous playoff meetings. The Raiders' pursuit of excellence was consistently blunted. But this was the greatest Raiders team ever. Al Davis finally finished as the last man standing and John Madden finally won the big one.
1979: Steelers 27, Oilers 13
Often forgotten when "best" and "most significant" lists are made, this one literally changed the way fans watch games. After losing to the Steelers badly in the AFC title game one year earlier, the Oilers marched into Three Rivers Stadium determined to earn their first Super Bowl trip against their mighty rivals. With seconds ticking down in the third quarter and trailing 17-10, Oilers QB Dan Pastorini hit Mike Renfro in the back of the end zone for what appeared to be the game-tying score. TV replays showed Renfro kept both feet inbounds, but on-field officials called him out. The Oilers argued vehemently, but lost the argument, momentum and the game. If one game led directly to NFL instant-replay reviews, this was it.
1986: Broncos 23, Browns 20 (OT)
The game is known, simply, as, "The Drive." It epitomized the legend that was Broncos quarterback John Elway's late-game heroics. What some tend to forget is the Browns actually had the first crack at rendering Elway's legendary 15-play, 98-yard game-tying drive into a footnote. The Browns won the overtime toss, but could not move the ball and it was Elway's final drive, during which he moved the Broncos 60 yards, that set up the game-winning Rich Karlis kick.
1987: Broncos 38, Browns 33
Payback for The Drive was not going to taste sweeter. Unfortunately for the Browns, this one would be known simply as, The Fumble. This time in Denver, Ernest Byner was about to cap off a huge late game-tying drive orchestrated marvelously by Bernie Kosar. But Jeremiah Castille stripped Byner going into the end zone, the Broncos recovered, and went on to their second consecutive Super Bowl. The Browns were left to lament the curse that seemed to hang over them.
1994: Chargers 17, Steelers 13
With the likes of Kevin Greene, Greg Lloyd and Rod Woodson leading the way, this Steelers defense would have gone down as one of the organization's all-time greats. If not for collapsing to, of all people, quarterback Stan Humphries. Dominant in every phase, the Steelers allowed Humphries to bring his squad back from a 13-3 halftime deficit, highlighted by a 43-yard touchdown pass to Tony Martin. The Steelers still managed to move into position to win, but fell three yards short on a fourth-down incompletion by Neil O'Donnell.
1995: Steelers 20, Colts 16
An interminably long wait between Super Bowl appearances finally ended. When you think of Steelers greatness under center, you don't think Neil O'Donnell first. When you think of Colts great quarterbacking, likewise Jim Harbaugh doesn't pop into mind. But they led their teams to a back-and-forth thriller that ended with a Bam Morris touchdown (left inset) after a last-minute drive and an oh-so-close last-second Hail Mary pass bouncing off Colts receiver Aaron Bailey's chest in the end zone (right inset).
2006: Colts 38, Patriots 34
The Patriots owned Peyton Manning and the Colts early in the decade and seemed well on their way to another Super Bowl title, leading 21-3 early. But in perhaps Manning's finest moment, he refused to be denied. Trailing 34-31 with barely three minutes remaining, Manning took his team to the winning touchdown drive in a blur, covering 81 yards in barely a minute. The Colts went on to beat the Bears for Manning's only Super Bowl championship thus far.<br><br>Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org