Top 10 AFC championship games


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Jan 22, 2006
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Top 10 AFC championship games
Elliot Kalb

Here is my list of the 10 greatest AFC championship games.

1. January 11, 1987: Denver 23, Cleveland 20
There can be little debate about this choice. Here's how it played out: The Browns' Bernie Kosar broke a 13-13 deadlock in the fourth quarter with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Brian Brennan. Later, the Broncos still trailed 20-13 and took over possession from their own two-yard line with 5:32 left in regulation.

To that point, John Elway had thrown for exactly 128 yards. The Browns were minutes from their elusive first Super Bowl appearance. Elway was staring at 3rd-and-18 from his own 28-yard line. Elway found Mark Jackson for 20 yards and a first down near midfield. Elway passed for 78 yards on the drive, which ended with a five-yard touchdown pass to Jackson. In overtime, Cleveland won the toss. Denver's defense held. Elway, in his first overtime possession, completed passes for 22 and 28 yards. Rich Karlis kicked a 33-yard field goal to win the game.

2. January 17, 198: Denver 38, Cleveland 33

This game was almost as good as the previous year's AFC Championship contest. But it didn't look that way early, as Denver jumped out to a 21-3 lead. Bernie Kosar found Reggie Langhorne in the end zone. The incomparable Elway threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Mark Jackson to make the score 28-10.

(If you're wondering, even though he would play another 11 years, that pass would remain the longest touchdown throw of John Elway's career — including regular and postseason games! Although in his final game — on January 31, 1999, Elway hit Rod Smith with an 80-yard touchdown to equal the Jackson throw.)

Cleveland never quit. Ernest Byner found the end zone on the receiving end of a Kosar toss. Byner got his second touchdown of the game on a four-yard rush. Suddenly, the margin was only four points. Rich Karlis made the score 31-24 with a field goal, which was where the score stood at the start of the fourth.

Kosar had a brilliant day. His third touchdown pass (this time to Webster Slaughter) tied the score at 31. The Broncos came right back, scoring on a 20-yard pass from Elway to Sammy Winder.

In Annie Get your Gun, there is a song, "Anything you can do, I can do better." It was hard to imagine topping "The Drive" of a year earlier. But, Bernie Kosar came three yards from doing it. After working the ball down to the Broncos' eight-yard line with just over a minute remaining, Byner took the handoff and was three yards from tying the score. But Jeremiah Castille stripped Byner of the ball and recovered the fumble to preserve the victory.

3. December 29, 1968: New York Jets 27, Oakland 23
When this game was still the AFL Championship game, the Jets met the Raiders in New York following the 1968 season for the right to represent the league in Super Bowl III.

This was the game to put in a time capsule and remind people how fun the AFL was. This game featured Joe Namath and Daryle Lamonica and nearly 100 passes and 850 yards of offense combined. These were real pass offenses. The two quarterbacks threw for 667 yards on only 39 completions. That means each pass completion in the game averaged more than 17 yards.

Wouldn't you know it? Despite all the long completions, the game was decided when the Raiders (going away from owner Al Davis's mantra of a vertical passing game) threw a backwards pass to halfback Charlie Smith, who could not make the catch and failed to cover the loose ball. The Jets recovered the fumbled lateral to win the game.

4. December 31, 1972: Miami 21, Pittsburgh 17
The undefeated Miami Dolphins played the AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh. At the time, home field advantage did not secure home field in this game. It was rotated East and West. The Dolphins started Earl Morrall at quarterback, but Bob Griese came off the bench in the second half with the Dolphins trailing 10-7.

Griese (who had broken his leg early in the season) engineered the two touchdown drives that kept the Dolphins undefeated. Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris would have to wait for their Super Bowl appearances. Miami fans breathed a sigh of relief to escape the Steelers game with a victory.

Pittsburgh sports fans woke up the next morning to the tragic news regarding the crash of a DC-7 that killed Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente.

5. January 27, 2002: New England 24, Pittsburgh 17
The Patriots started Tom Brady, who had replaced injured starter Drew Bledsoe months earlier. But just as former starter Griese was inserted into the AFC Championship game 30 years earlier, the Pats had to rely on a rusty Bledsoe to get them past the Steelers. In this case, Pittsburgh knocked starter Brady out of the game with an ankle injury. Bledsoe was forced into his first game-action in months and converted on a touchdown pass to David Patten on his first series.

But it wasn't Brady or Bledsoe that made the difference. It was New England wide receiver Troy Brown, who was involved in the Patriots' two special teams touchdowns, scoring the first on a 55-yard punt return and then scooping up a blocked field goal and lateraling the ball to Antwan Harris, who ran the ball in for another touchdown. Troy also caught eight passes for 121 yards in this game, and the Patriots were well on their way to establishing a dynasty.

6. January 15, 1995: San Diego 17, Pittsburgh 13
I'm still trying to figure out how the Chargers won this game. The Steelers had a better offense and a better defense, and the game was played in Pittsburgh. The Steelers controlled the clock, having possession for 37:13 of the game. In the final five minutes, Stan Humphries hit Tony Martin for a 43-yard touchdown. Neil O'Donnell led the Steelers from their 17-yard line down to the Chargers' three-yard line. Pittsburgh, down four points, faced a fourth-and-goal with 63 seconds remaining in the game. The Chargers' defense prevailed, earning the only Super Bowl appearance in team history. If you're looking for a San Diego hero against Pittsburgh, look no further than Junior Seau, the linebacker who made 16 tackles .

7. January 14, 1996: Pittsburgh 20, Indianapolis 16
This game was one of the great games in playoff history. Bill Cowher has dropped several AFC Championship games at home, but he also was fortunate to win one. The Steelers were 11-point favorites to dispose of the Indianapolis Colts, who had won consecutive road games and were trying to become the first to ever win three straight playoff games on the road.

They gave it their best shot and had a late fourth-quarter lead after Harbaugh hit Floyd Turner for a long touchdown that put the Colts up 16-13. Neil O'Donnell led the Steelers back, one year after being upset by the Chargers. This time, O'Donnell converted on 4th-and 3. This time, Bam Morris scored with 94 seconds remaining to give the Steelers the lead. The game was far from over; however. Jim Harbaugh's desperation pass on the game's final play nearly found Aaron Bailey in the end zone but was dropped.

8. January 1, 1978 Denver 20 Oakland 17
The Raiders won the opening toss and scored on a 20-yard field goal after an 18-play drive. The Broncos took the lead two plays later, as Craig Morton hit Haven Moses for a 74-yard touchdown. Both teams squandered scoring opportunities (Oakland missed a 30-yard field goal; Denver's Jim Turner missed three field goals, including a 31-yarder). In the third quarter, the Broncos had first-and-goal from the two-yard line and gave running back Rob Lytle the ball. He was hit by Oakland safety Jack Tatum, and the Raiders came up with the football. The refs ruled that Lytle's forward progress had been stopped and called the play dead.

The Raiders were hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, placing the ball on the one-yard line, where the Broncos converted to take a 14-3 lead. Despite the controversial call, and despite losing wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff to a dislocated shoulder late in the first half, the Raiders closed to 20-17 in the final minutes. Denver ran out the clock with several first downs and defeated the defending World Champion Raiders.

Click the link to read the rest.....says it's too long to post :(
You know? I never recalled watching a good AFC Championship Game.

I guess Denver/Pitt may be the best from 1997. Outside of that, I am not sure what AFC Championship Game was great.
I just got sick of the Patriots being in the AFC Championship game these past few years.....but any AFC West rivalry game is usually going to be the best!! :p
I got sick of the Patriots period.

I am so glad that they are not in the Super Bowl. I can actually enjoy it this year. You got two likable teams in the Super Bowl. It's good to see good guys could finish first after all.
TiceMustGo said:
I got sick of the Patriots period.

I am so glad that they are not in the Super Bowl. I can actually enjoy it this year. You got two likable teams in the Super Bowl. It's good to see good guys could finish first after all.
Gotta agree with that....I was gonna hurl if the Pats got there again :eek:
If the Patriots was in the SB, I wasn't going to watch it. Didn't watch the Super Bowl last year because of them and I am glad that I missed it.
TiceMustGo said:
If the Patriots was in the SB, I wasn't going to watch it. Didn't watch the Super Bowl last year because of them and I am glad that I missed it.
Yeah....I don't care if they became a "dynasty" or not....any team that is consistently there bores the hell out of fans of the other 31 teams after awhile!! :p
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