On Saturday, the Jacksonville Jaguars won the Wild Card game against the San Diego Chargers, in an improbable second-half comeback from a 27-point deficit, for a 30-31 final score. This put the Jags in third place on the list of all-time biggest comebacks in NFL playoff history.
“They have come back from 27-0 to win the game and move on!” – @Frank_Frangie
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) January 15, 2023
Taking a look at the top two come-from-behind playoff wins of all time, two of the most watched teams in this year’s playoffs come up: the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs– who are widely anticipated to play each other for the AFC divisional championship.
The number two playoff comeback spot goes to the Indianapolis Colts against the Chiefs in the 2014 Wild Card round. Like the Chargers did on Saturday, the Chiefs managed to lose by just one point.
The Chiefs were up by 28 points going into the third quarter, where Quarterback Andrew Luck would lead the Colts to put up 35 points while the Chiefs answered with only six.
The momentum shift was palatable as Chiefs Quarterback Alex Smith fumbled the football and the Colts capitalized with a scoring drive. And, the Colts just kept driving. Luck, in one of the Luck-iest, plays of his career would recover the Colts’ goal-line fumble and leap with the ball into the endzone for a touchdown.
We can't forget the time that Andrew Luck led the Colts to an epic 28-point comeback win over the Chiefs in the 2014 AFC Wild Card game 🙌
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 25, 2019
The top playoff comeback in history is simply called “The Comeback”, where Buffalo Bills bested the Warren Moon-led Housten Oilers in 1993. The Bills came back from a 32-point deficit, with the scoreboard showing 35-3 in the third quarter. This was the first time an NFL team lost after having a 30-point lead.
One sports announcer threw in the towel for the Bills less than two minutes into the second quarter, when the Oilers’ defense recovered a deflected pass. After all, no team had ever overcome a 35-3 scenario:
[Frank] Reich’s pass to TE Keith McKeller deflected off of the receiver’s hands into the waiting arms of Houston Safety Bubba McDowell.
One Houston radio announcer was immortalized on NFL films with the prophetic statement “The lights are on here at Rich Stadium, but you might as well turn them off…this one is over”.
But, the game was far from over, in fact, it would go into overtime.
In the third quarter, the Bills would recover their own onside kick, and Reich would end the drive by connecting to Andre Reed in a 26-yard touchdown pass. The Oilers’ next possession resulted in a tipped pass by Warren Moon, intercepted by Bills’ Henry Jones. Three plays later, in a fourth-down situation, Reich again found Reed for a touchdown.
Note: The tweet below prefaces the historic game with “Seems not important now” due to Damar Hamlin’s concerning on-field cardiac event the evening before this 30th-anniversary post of the Bills’ comeback.
Seems not important now but #OTD in 1993, 30 years ago today the Buffalo Bills, led by Frank Reich, complete the greatest playoff comeback in NFL history, recovering from a 35-3 deficit the defeat the Houston Oilers 41-38 in the AFC Wild Card game. pic.twitter.com/p8duEdAOE5
— ThisDateInBuffaloSportsHistory (@BuffSportsHstry) January 3, 2023
In the fourth quarter, the Bills would get their first lead. The Oilers would rally back, kicking a field goal and taking the game into overtime. Moon would again be intercepted, setting up Bills’ Steve Christie’s winning field goal and sealing the story of the greatest post-season comeback, to date.
As the 2023 playoffs are in full swing, we are reminded that unthinkable comeback stories can happen, and when they do football history enshrines the tales.