Top Greatest Comebacks in NFL History: Super Bowl LI: New England 34, Atlanta 28 (OT) (down 25 points), AFC Wild Card: Buffalo 41, Houston 38 (down 32 points), Detroit 31, San Francisco 27 (down 20 points),,,,,
When looking at comebacks, you need to take into account the deficit overcome, the time it took, and more importantly, what was at stake. With those factors in mind, it’s no surprise that the top five comebacks in NFL history were all postseason games. Are here.
Top 5 Comebacks in Nfl History
1. Super Bowl LI: New England 34, Atlanta 28 (OT) (down 25 points)
Feb. 5, 2017 in Houston (NRG Stadium)
In the previous 50 Super Bowls, the largest deficit any team has overcome was 10 points. The fact that the Patriots were down 25 points midway through the third quarter and came back to send the first Super Bowl into overtime puts this one at the top of the list.
2. AFC Wild Card: Buffalo 41, Houston 38 (down 32 points)
Jan. 3, 1993 in Buffalo
From a pure points perspective, this is the biggest comeback (or choke job depending on which team you support) in NFL history. Houston jumped out to a 35-3 lead in the third quarter and it looked like the Bills’ streak of consecutive Super Bowl appearances would end at two. Then backup quarterback Frank Reich and the Buffalo defense rallied as the Bills scored 35 unanswered points to take a 38-35 lead with 3:08 left in the fourth quarter.
Houston was able to tie the game with a field goal and send it into overtime. The Oilers got the ball first, but their momentum was interrupted when Nate Odomes intercepted Warren Moon’s pass. Odomes’ return and a face mask penalty put the Bills at the Houston 20-yard line and Steve Christie made a 32-yard field goal two plays later. The victory propelled Buffalo through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl for the third straight year.
3. Detroit 31, San Francisco 27 (down 20 points)
Dec. 22, 1957 in San Francisco
Both the 49ers and Lions went 8-4 in the old NFL Western Conference and had to meet in a one-game playoff to determine who would play in the NFL Championship Game. When the 49ers came in ahead 24-7 at the half, they were so confident Lions players could hear them laughing at halftime at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium.
Early in the third period, the 49ers kicked a field goal to extend their lead to 27-7, but did not score again. Lions backup quarterback Tobin Rote led an angry and reinvigorated Detroit team as they scored 24 unanswered points to stun the 49ers for an incredible comeback. In the NFL Championship Game, the Lions defeated the Browns 59-14 to win the last title in franchise history.
4. AFC Divisional Playoff: Indianapolis 45, Kansas City 44 (down 28 points)
Jan. 4, 2014 in Indianapolis
Kansas City led 38-10 early in the third quarter and it looked like the Chiefs would easily advance to the divisional round. However, Andrew Luck and the Colts quickly scored 21 points to close the lead to 41-31 before the fourth quarter. Indianapolis then put together a 90-yard drive that culminated in a strange but fortuitous play.
Running back Donald Brown fumbled the ball but it bounced off Luck’s hand and into the end zone, making the score 41-38. The Colts eventually took a 45-44 lead with 4:21 left in the game thanks to Luck’s 64-yard pass to T.Y. Hilton. They stopped the Chiefs on the next series and were able to run out time.
5. San Francisco 39, New York Giants 38 (down 24 points)
Jan. 5, 2003 in San Francisco
In this NFC Wild Card Game, the Giants led the 49ers 38-14 in the third quarter. Then Jeremy Shockey dropped a touchdown pass that would have extended the lead to 31 points and New York’s lead crumbled from there. San Francisco kicked a field goal and Jeff Garcia completed two touchdown passes and ran for another to take a 39-38 lead with a minute left. Giants quarterback Kerry Collins led his team to the 49ers 23-yard line, where they lined up for a field goal attempt with six seconds remaining.
The snap went low and starter Matt Allen attempted a pass to protect Rich Seubert, who was brought down by San Francisco linebacker Chike Okeafor. Instead of being called for pass interference, the Giants were called for having an ineligible receiver on the field. The next day, the referees admitted that they missed the call, which is one of the reasons this game is not higher.
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5 Greatest Comebacks in NFL History
In Week 2 of the 2022 NFL season, the Miami Dolphins rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat the Baltimore Ravens and the Arizona Cardinals rallied from a 20-point deficit to overcome the Las Vegas Raiders. This marked the first week in NFL history that two teams staged 20-point comebacks.