For those of you who haven’t heard yet, the new NFL season started at the beginning of September and it is the 100th season of the National Football League. And for such a landmark, fans expect the most special, interesting and competitive games ever, while the players are determined to put their names in history. But a great game usually requires a big comeback. The larger the comeback, the more special the game usually is. In the following article, we will review some of the best NFL comebacks in the history of the sport. These are some extraordinary games, filled with drama and late turn arounds.
New England Patriots 34:28 Atlanta Falcons. Super Bowl LI
Without a doubt, one of the best and most intense games in the National Football League history was the Super Bowl LI. Many people classify the game as the greatest Super Bowl of all time. Not only the game featured the biggest comeback in NFL Super Bowl history (25 points) but it was also the first time when the game went to overtime. More than 30 individual and team Super Bowl records were broken or matched. James White’s 14 receptions and 20 points scored and Tom Brady’s 43 completed passes, 62 pass attempts and 466 passing yards were among those broken records. Brady, who is considered the best quarterback ever, won the Super Bowl MVP for a record-breaking fourth time.
The game started slow, with both teams being cautious and playing defensively. After a scoreless first quarter, the Falcons started to play more aggressively and managed to gain a remarkable lead of 21-3 at the end of the first half. Firstly, Matt Ryan completed passes to Julio Jones for gains of 19 and 23 yards. Devonta Freeman ran the ball on the next three plays, covering the final 29 yards to the end zone, the last carry being a 5-yard touchdown run. New England failed to get a first down on the series following the Freeman score, and the Falcons moved the ball 62 yards in five plays. On 3rd-and-9, Ryan threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper, giving the Falcons a 14-0 lead. Later on, on the 3rd-and-6, Brady threw a pass that was intercepted by Robert Alford and returned 82 yards for a touchdown, increasing Atlanta’s lead to 21-0. In seven Super Bowl appearances, this was the largest deficit that Tom Brady had faced and the first time when he threw a pick-six in his 33 postseason games.
Getting the ball back with 2:20 left in the first half, Brady completed a 15-yard pass to Bennet and a short pass to running back White, who took off for a 28-yard gain. The drive stalled at the Falcons 20-yard line, but Stephen Gostkowski kicked a field goal with two seconds left on the clock and made the score 21-3 at halftime. It seemed that the Patriots, who had won the Super Bowl four times in the last 15 years, were headed for a great loss.
Things went from bad to worse for the Patriots, after Tevin Coleman made the score 28-3 with 8:31 left in the quarter. On the next series, Brady led the Patriots 75 yards in 13 plays for a responding touchdown, completing 5 of 7 passes for 43 yards. Three carries by running back Blount moved the ball 15 yards to the 5-yard line, and then Brady threw the ball to White for a touchdown. New England continued to move the ball well and needed only three minutes to move from its own 13-yard line into the Falcons’ red zone. The Patriots had to settle for a 39-yard field goal after Brady was sacked twice. Gostkowski split the uprights and made the score 28-12. On the third play of Atlanta’s ensuing drive, Freeman missed his blocking assignment on a Patriots blitz that allowed linebacker Dont’a Hightower to sack Ryan as he was winding up for a pass, resulting in a fumble that was recovered by Alan Branch on the Falcons 25-yard line. Although not the heaviest NFL player ever, Alan seemed to do his defensive job perfectly.
New England successfully cashed in their scoring opportunity, after Brady threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Amendola. Then, White took a direct snap in for two-point conversion and made the score 28-20 with 5:56 left on the clock. The momentum was on the Patriots’ side. With 3:30 left in the game and two timeouts in his pocket, Tom Brady had to show why he is considered the best quarterback in the league. Completions to Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell set up one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl History, a 23-yard gain by Julian Edelman off a deflection. Atlanta challenged the catch, but referees confirmed the call on the field and Atlanta lost their final time out. Three more completions brought the Patriots to the 1-yard line with 58 seconds left. White scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, and Brady completed a 2-point conversion pass to Amendola, making the score 28-28. It was the first time in the Super Bowl era when the game was forced into overtime.
The Patriots won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball. The Falcons had no answer for the Patriots’ attack, as it took Brady and company only six plays to reach the red area. A pass interference call later, New England was set up with goal-to-go at the 2-yard line. Following an incomplete pass, it was James White who was trusted with the football. Rightfully so, as he was able to find the end zone on a toss run to the right. 34-28. That was the final play of this extraordinary Super Bowl game. The Falcons led for 41 minutes and 18 seconds of the game while the Patriots did not lead until scoring the game-winning touchdown in overtime. This was the second-largest comeback in NFL this century and the fifth-largest comeback in the history of the sport. The game will go down as one of the best title games in NFL history.
Indianapolis Colts 45:44 Kansas Chiefs, 2014
The Indianapolis Colts were playing the Kansas Chiefs in a 2013 AFC Wild Card playoff game, which turned out to be one of the biggest and most dramatic comebacks in NFL history. The game is ranked as No. 2 in the list of the largest NFL comebacks in history and the biggest NFL comeback this century. The Colts managed to turn around a game, in which they were 28 points down at the beginning of the second half. The game stands behind only the famous NFL game back in 1992 between the Bills and the Oilers, known as “The Comeback” (you can read about it in our article about the The Greatest Sports Comebacks).
The game had a little bit of everything and as described by fans “rarely made sense”. It started very bad for the Chiefs after their star player and All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles was injured on the very first possession of the game. Despite that, the Kansas players managed to build a 31:10 lead by halftime after some marvellous plays and some unexpected mistakes by their rivals. They added another touchdown on their opening drive of the second half to increase their lead to 38:10. And that is when the game really took a crazy turn. Young quarterback Andrew Luck had never won a playoff game, and he wasn’t playing very well in this one so far. But he managed to turn a steady stream of halftime boos into a chorus of cheers.
“He (Luck) kept telling us, even at 38:10, ‘We’re going to win this game’” – Indianapolis offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo said after the game
Luck helped the Colts to score 21 points to close the lead to 41:31 at the end of the third quarter. After that, Indianapolis put together a 90-yard drive that culminated with a… how to say it, bizarre but fortuitous play. When Eric Berry jarred the ball loose from Donald Brown near the goal line, it bounced off a player’s helmet and landed into the arms of Luck. He scooped up the bouncing ball and squirted through the middle to score a touchdown and make it 41:38. The Chiefs made the score 44:38 after Ryan Succop’s yard field goal was good with 5:40 left on the clock. But that wasn’t enough. The Colts ultimately went ahead 45:44 with 4:21 left in the game thanks to a 64-yard pass from Luck to T.Y.Hilton. They managed to stop the Chiefs on the next drive and were able to run out the clock to win the game and complete this stunning comeback.
“One for the ages. I think somebody said that it was the second-largest comeback or whatever in the history of whatever. I guess 21 wasn’t large enough at half, so we thought we’d give them another seven, you know, just to make it interesting.” – said Indianapolis coach Pagano
Andrew Luck was definitely the hero of the game. He acted as the engine and the brain of the team, throwing for 443 yards and four touchdowns. He made three touchdown passes in the second half, including the game-winner. This shows how important is for a team to have strong individuals, who can inspire their teammates with brilliant play and never-quit attitude. Even though the Colts lost to the Patriots in the following week, this 45:44 triumph announced Luck’s arrival to the big scene.
San Francisco 49ers 38:35 New Orleans Saints, 1980
After those relatively recent games, we will take you back to the Pearl Harbor anniversary on 7 December 1980, when the San Francisco 49ers were playing the New Orleans Saints. It was one of the last games of the season and it turned out to be the greatest regular-season comeback and at that time, it was the biggest comeback in NFL. That was the day that the 49ers learned they were on to something special and Bill Walsh’s vision was coming together. It was a landmark moment for the franchise and a confidence-builder that propelled the 49ers the next season to the first of five Super Bowl championships.
The Saints were going into the game with an alarming record of 0-13 and no one expected them to start so strong and to build a lead of 28 points by half time. Led by none other than Archie Manning, the New Orleans Saints were up 35:7 after the end of the first two quarters and it looked like they’re about to break their negative record. But the second half was nearly as lopsided as the first, just in the other direction. New Orleans didn’t manage to score another point for the rest of the game. San Francisco’s quarterback and Hall of Famer Joe Montana “woke up” in the second half and produced one of his best performances, only in his second NFL season. He was making just his sixth career start, having taken over for veteran Steve DeBerg. With the first snap of the second half, Montana connected with Clark for a 48-yard gain. A quarterback sneak for a touchdown and a 71-yard touchdown pass to Clark cut the deficit to 35:21.
“He had this knack on the field where he relaxed you. You go out there and you fell this confidence in this guy who can do anything on the football field. It doesn’t matter where the snap is, he will get it down and put it down so perfectly it never interrupts the rhythm of your stride.” – Rey Wersching on Joe Montana.
The Saints came back with a strong drive but Jimmy Rogers fumbled the ball and Gerard Williams recovered. An 83-yard drive ended with a 14-yard throw to Solomon, making the score 35:28. And with 1:50 left on the clock, Lenvil Elliott had a 7-yard scoring run to tie the score and force the game into overtime. The 49ers lost the coin toss at the start of the overtime, but the Saints were stopped after getting one first down. Dwight Hicks intercepted a deep throw down near his goal line and after exchanging a couple of punts, the Niners took over at their 26 and were stopped on third down at their 39. They managed to move the ball and keep the pressure on, enough to set up Ray Wersching for a 36-yard field goal, which turned out to be the winner. The game finished 38:35. The San Francisco players nailed down a special place in the evolution of a dynasty. Joe Montana’s leadership became sacrosanct. During his 16 NFL seasons, he managed to lead his team to 31 fourth-quarter comebacks. Truly inspirational. The game shares the No.2 spot for biggest NFL comebacks together with the previously mentioned playoff game between the Colts and the Chiefs (28 points deficit).
It’s understandable that back then, there weren’t a lot of option to place a bet on an NFL game. Nowadays, the Internet is filled with online sportsbooks providing markets for this league. We already mentioned some of the top online sportsbooks for football bets, but you can check out our list of the best online sports betting sites and pick another operator that suits your preferences. All of them are licensed and regulated and give you the option to place bets and support your favourite NFL teams. But don’t forget that even though sports betting is fun, it can be addictive and you should always gamble responsibly.