THE 10 GREATEST GAMES

October 05, 1995

You wanna bet that the famous Baltimore Colt-New York Giant
overtime thriller of 1958 is the greatest game ever? Hogwash.
Two others beat it on our list of the 10 best NFL games ever.
Let the arguments begin.

1. DECEMBER 17, 1933

CHICAGO BEARS - 23 NEW YORK GIANTS - 21

In the first official NFL Championship Game, the Bears took an
early 6-0 lead, and every score thereafter meant a lead change:
Giants 7-6. Bears 9-7. Giants 14-9. Bears 16-14. In the fourth
quarter, at the Chicago eight, New York center Mel Hein snapped
the ball to quarterback Harry Newman, who handed off to halfback
Ken Strong, who tried to sweep around left end. Hemmed in,
Strong stopped and threw a lateral back to Newman, who attempted
to run to the right but was swarmed near the line of scrimmage.
Just as he was about to get creamed, Newman saw Strong in the
end zone and heaved a pass toward him. The ball was slightly
overthrown, but Strong caught it. With the extra point, the
Giants led 21-16.

Now the Bears needed to pull something from their bag of tricks.
Thirty-three yards from the end zone, Bronko Nagurski threw a
halfback option pass to one of the last helmetless players in
the game, end Bill Hewitt. Chicago's Bill Karr ran behind and to
the side of Hewitt, who tossed the ball to him at the New York
19. Karr took it in for the winning touchdown.

Still, this game would not top our list were it not for one more
remarkable play. New York end Red Badgro took a pass and steamed
toward the end zone, with only the legendary Red Grange between
him and a touchdown. Trailing Badgro were Hein and running back
Dale Burnett. Grange faced a choice: He could go for the ball,
or he could wait for Badgro to pitch to Hein. Just as Badgro
raised the ball to pitch or fake, Grange lunged. As time
expired, he lay atop Badgro, having saved the victory for the
Bears. The NFL has been trying to top this game for 62 years.

2. JANUARY 2, 1982

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS - 41 MIAMI DOLPHINS - 38 (OT)

The temperature was 79 degrees with 77% humidity at the Orange
Bowl for this AFC playoff game, but Charger Kellen Winslow was
hotter than the weather. On a day on which he would catch 13
passes--a playoff record for a tight end--for 166 yards, San
Diego raced to a 24-0 lead. However, the Dolphins rallied to tie
the score 38-38, and with four seconds left, Miami's Uwe von
Schamann appeared to hit a 43-yard field goal attempt straight
and true. Up rose Winslow, in his guise as a special-teamer, to
swat the ball away. The Chargers were still alive. On San
Diego's fourth possession of overtime, Rolf Benirschke kicked a
29-yarder for the win.

3. DECEMBER 28, 1958

BALTIMORE COLTS - 23 NEW YORK GIANTS - 17 (OT)

The Colts had a 14-3 lead late in the third quarter of this NFL
title game and seemed headed to another score when, on fourth
down, Baltimore fullback Alan Ameche was stopped short at the
Giant one. New York drew new life from the defensive stand and
on its next two possessions scored touchdowns to pull ahead
17-14. With 1:56 left, the Colts took over at their 14.
Baltimore quarterback Johnny Unitas connected three times with
receiver Raymond Berry over the middle, and Steve Myhra kicked
the game-tying field goal with seven seconds left. Unitas was
sensational in the overtime, especially on a third-and-15 from
the Colt 36, when he found Berry for 21 yards. Six plays later,
Baltimore was on the Giant one, and Ameche galloped through a
hole in the left side of the defense for the clinching TD.

4. DECEMBER 24, 1950

CLEVELAND BROWNS - 30 LOS ANGELES RAMS - 28

The Rams led 28-20 entering the fourth quarter of this title
game when quarterback Otto Graham drove the Browns 65 yards to a
touchdown. After several changes of possession, Cleveland took
over again, at its 32, with 1:48 left. Graham moved the Browns
downfield with three quick sideline completions. With 20 seconds
left, tackle Lou Groza shifted to his other job--placekicker--and
lined up a 16-yard attempt. "Just another kick," Groza said
later, and it was, right through the uprights.

5. JANUARY 3, 1993

BUFFALO BILLS - 41 HOUSTON OILERS - 38 (OT)

The Oilers were embarrassing the Bills 35-3 early in the second
half of this AFC playoff when Buffalo quarterback Frank Reich,
starting in place of the injured Jim Kelly, began dissecting the
Houston defense. The Bills scored TDs on their next four
possessions. The Oilers clung to a 35-31 lead as they moved in
for a 31-yard field goal attempt with seven minutes to go. The
snap came back high to holder Greg Montgomery, and, he said
later, a gust of wind blew it out of his hands. Buffalo then
drove for a go-ahead touchdown before Houston sent the game into
overtime on a field goal. A 32-yard field goal in OT by the
Bills' Steve Christie capped the greatest comeback in NFL history.

6. DECEMBER 22, 1957

DETROIT LIONS - 31 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS - 27

The two Western Conference teams each finished 8-4 and met in a
playoff for the right to face the Browns for the NFL title. The
Niners led 27-7 midway through the third quarter when the Lions
passed up a field goal attempt at the 49er 20; instead,
quarterback Tobin Rote hit halfback Hopalong Cassady with a
14-yard strike for a first down. Fullback Tom (the Bomb) Tracy
then scored on a one-yard dive, and 90 seconds after that he
took a pitch and sprinted 58 yards for another touchdown. The
extra point made the score 27-21. Early in the fourth period,
Lion halfback Gene Gedman burst through the middle of the line
for a two-yard TD and the victory.

7. DECEMBER 6, 1925

CHICAGO BEARS - 19 NEW YORK GIANTS - 7

Red Grange, the biggest college star of his day, was coaxed into
touring with the Bears--eight games in eight cities in 12
days--and with 73,000 watching at the Polo Grounds, Grange had
his best game: He rushed 11 times for 53 yards, caught one pass
for 23 yards, completed two of three passes for 32 yards and
returned an interception 35 yards for the final points of the day.

8. DECEMBER 31, 1967

GREEN BAY PACKERS - 21 DALLAS COWBOYS - 17

It was 13 degrees below zero for this NFL Championship Game in
Green Bay. On the first play of the fourth quarter Dallas
halfback Dan Reeves took a pitch, sprinted left and then
suddenly pulled up to throw. Packer cornerback Bob Jeter, taken
in by the fake, let receiver Lance Rentzel get behind him, and
the 50-yard touchdown gave the Cowboys a 17-14 lead. With 16
seconds left in the game, Green Bay had the ball on the Dallas
one. Quarterback Bart Starr told coach Vince Lombardi he wanted
to sneak in for the winning TD. "I couldn't stand to think of
the fans sitting out there for an overtime," said that old
softie, Lombardi. And so Starr burrowed in behind guard Jerry
Kramer for the touchdown and the win.

9. OCTOBER 17, 1983

GREEN BAY PACKERS - 48 WASHINGTON REDSKINS - 47

This nearly forgotten regular-season game makes our list because
it was the most incredible offensive display in NFL history. The
lead changed hands seven times before Redskin kicker Mark
Moseley missed a straight-on windless 39-yard field goal attempt
with three seconds left. The damage: 95 points, 1,025 yards, 56
first downs.

10. DECEMBER 23, 1972

PITTSBURGH STEELERS - 13 OAKLAND RAIDERS - 7

Only Frenchy Fuqua knows the truth about the Immaculate
Reception, and he's not telling. With 22 seconds left in this
AFC playoff, the Steelers were trailing 7-6 and were down to one
last play, from their 40-yard line. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw
took the snap, and with Raiders clawing at him, threw a bullet
20 yards downfield in the direction of running back Fuqua. The
ball, Fuqua and Oakland safety Jack Tatum all arrived at the
same spot at the same instant. The ball bounced backward into
the hands of fullback Franco Harris, who ran for the apparent
winning TD. But, back then, a pass caroming off an offensive
player to a teammate was an incompletion. Tatum swore he never
touched the ball. Fuqua, of course, was mum. And did the ball
touch the turf before Harris grabbed it and ran for the the
touchdown? After a long, tense delay the play was ruled a
touchdown. A generation later, we're still dying to know if it
really was.

COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA 2. Ameche (below, 35) found a clear path to the Giant end zone in sudden death, and Winslow (80, left) soared to force the Dolphins into overtime. [Kellen Winslow blocking kick by Uwe von Schamann] B/W PHOTO: HY PESKIN 3. [See caption above--Alan Ameche] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER 5. Andre Reed (left, 83) snared a Reich pass in the greatest comeback ever, and Harris (32) scored a TD on a tipped pass that remains the subject of hot debate. [Andre Reed] B/W PHOTO: PITTSBURGH STEELERS 10.[See caption above--Franco Harris]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)