Ranking the 7 Best Overtime Games the NFL Has Ever Seen
Typically, an overtime game in the NFL produces exciting action. The two teams are going back and forth, or one team makes a late comeback to tie the game.
It’s no coincidence that the greatest overtime games all came in the postseason. Those are the biggest games of the season, and we usually see two great teams have a thrilling battle.
Here are the best overtime games in NFL history.
7. Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos (2013)
The Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos met in the Divisional Round of the 2012 playoffs.
Denver was looking to make the Super Bowl in Peyton Manning’s first season with the team. Meanwhile, the Ravens were looking for redemption after a heartbreaking loss in the 2011 AFC Championship Game.
Less than three minutes into the game, Denver struck with a 90-yard punt return by Trindon Holiday. Baltimore quickly responded on a 59-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. Less than a minute after that, Baltimore took a 14-7 lead on a pick-six.
The Broncos added on a touchdown to cap off a wild first quarter.
Denver opened the second half with their second special teams’ touchdown of the game. This time, it was a 104-yard kickoff return by Holliday. Baltimore tied the game late in the third quarter.
Following a Broncos touchdown, Baltimore was in desperation mode. They needed to go 77 yards in a little over a minute with no timeouts.
That’s when the Ravens found a miracle, a Mile High Miracle to be exact. Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones for a 70-yard touchdown to tie the game.
Following three punts, Denver had the ball with just over a minute remaining in overtime. Manning threw across his body and into the hands of Ravens cornerback Corey Graham.
This game was fantastic even before Jones’ miraculous touchdown catch. That made it one of the best of all time.
In overtime, the Ravens managed to take down the mighty Broncos. Baltimore went on to win the Super Bowl.
6. Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns (1987)
The 1986 AFC Championship Game featured a matchup between the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns. Cleveland was looking to make their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
It was a close battle in the first half. Each team scored a touchdown and field goal to have a 10-10 tie at halftime.
Denver scored the only points of the third quarter to take a 13-10 lead into the fourth quarter. That’s when the Browns responded with ten straight points.
It began at Denver’s two-yard line. Following a five-yard pass, the Broncos had four straight runs. They made it just over midfield following a pair of passing plays.
After an incompletion and sack, Elway faced a 3rd and 18. Here is what happened on the remainder of the drive.
- 20-yard pass
- 14-yard pass
- 9-yard run
- 5-yard touchdown
The Broncos went 98 yards in 15 plays to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Elway finished the game with 244 passing yards and a touchdown. On the other side, Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
Denver ultimately fell short, but no one will ever forget the heroics that got them there.
The following season, these two teams played in another thrilling AFC Championship Game. Cleveland was facing a three-point deficit when they fumbled on the one-yard line late in the game. Denver went on to win that game as well.
That overtime battle in the 1986 AFC Championship Game is one people will never forget.
5. New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons (2017)
There’s no way we could talk about the best overtime games of all time and not mention Super Bowl LI.
The New England Patriots came in as the favorite but early on, they had nothing for the Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta capped off a big first half with an 82-yard pick-six by Robert Alford. The Patriots closed the first half with a field goal. The Falcons opened the second half with a touchdown to make it 28-3.
New England scored late in the third quarter but missed the extra point, making it a 28-9 game.
Following a field goal, the Patriots forced a fumble that gave them excellent field position. A touchdown and two-point conversion made it an eight-point game with six minutes remaining.
The next Falcons drive is what possibly cost them the Super Bowl. They had a pair of big pass plays to move into field goal range. Sitting on the Patriots 22-yard line, here is what happened next.
- -1-yard run
- -12-yard sack
- 9-yard completion (10-yard holding penalty)
Atlanta lost 23 yards and their opportunity to kick a field goal that would’ve made it a two-possession game. From there, Tom Brady led the Patriots on a 91-yard touchdown drive. He then tied the game with a two-point conversion.
New England won the coin toss in overtime and that was the deciding factor.
Brady led a nine-play, 75-yard drive, capped off by a two-yard run by James White to win the Super Bowl.
In the end, Brady finished with 466 passing yards and two touchdowns. The comeback makes it one of his most impressive Super Bowl rings. But where does it rank?
4. Houston Oilers vs. Buffalo Bills (1993)
While Super Bowl LI featured the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, it wasn’t the biggest comeback in NFL history. That honor belongs to the Buffalo Bills.
In 1993, the Houston Oilers traveled to Buffalo to take on the Bills in the Wild Card Round.
There wasn’t much action in the first quarter, as the Oilers held a 7-3 lead. In the second quarter, Houston put their foot on the gas pedal. Quarterback Warren Moon threw three touchdown passes to take a 28-3 lead into halftime.
- 218 passing yards
- 4 touchdowns
On Buffalo’s first drive of the second half, Frank Reich threw a pick-six to give Houston a 32-point lead.
This is where the comeback began.
Buffalo struck quickly thanks to a long kickoff return. Then, a kickoff error went their way as they recovered the ball. A 38-yard touchdown catch by Don Beebe gave them 14 points in one minute and six seconds.
Going into the four quarter, the Bills cut the deficit down to four. The Bills took their first lead on the day on Reed’s third touchdown catch.
Moon led the Oilers down the field with three minutes remaining, and they kicked the game-tying field goal. Houston started with the ball, but Moon threw an interception. Buffalo moved into field goal range and kicked the game-winner to win 38-35.
There’s no doubt that this is one of the most impressive comebacks in sports history. Reich finished the game with 289 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Coincidentally, he was the quarterback in the biggest comeback in college football history.
3. Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs (1971)
On Christmas Day in 1971, the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins faced off in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Kansas City got off to a quick start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter. However, the Dolphins quickly responded. Bob Griese had a few big completions before Larry Csonka found the end zone on a one-yard touchdown run.
At the end of the first half, a fumble recovery allowed the Dolphins to tie the game at halftime.
In the second half, the teams continued to go back and forth. The Chiefs had a 10-minute touchdown drive, but Miami answered with a one-yard touchdown run.
The fourth quarter saw each team score a touchdown. The Chiefs had a five-yard touchdown run, while the Dolphins tied the game with a little over a minute remaining. That forced the game into overtime.
Miami’s defense held, and their offense put them in position to kick the game-winning field goal. Garo Yepremian nailed a 37-yard field goal to give the Dolphins a 27-24 in double overtime.
The game is the longest in NFL history, going for 82 minutes and 40 seconds of game action.
While the Dolphins won the game, Chiefs running back Ed Podolak had a performance for the ages.
- 195 scrimmage yards
- 155 kick return yards
- 8 receptions
- 2 touchdowns
In the Super Bowl that season, Miami lost but completed the only undefeated season in NFL history in 1972. Meanwhile, the Chiefs didn’t make it back to the playoffs until 1986.
2. San Diego Chargers vs. Miami Dolphins (1982)
The “Epic in Miami” featured a thrilling battle between the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins.
San Diego had the best offense in the league, with Dan Fouts throwing a then NFL record 4,802 yards. Miami had a good defense, but everyone knew it’d be tough to slow down the Chargers.
In the first quarter, the Chargers showed they could score in a variety of ways. Following a field goal, the Chargers took a 10-0 lead on a 58-yard punt return. Back-to-back turnovers from the Dolphins set up a pair of Chargers touchdowns.
In the second quarter, Miami fought their way back into the game with 17 points. They perfectly executed a hook and lateral for a long touchdown on the final play of the first half.
Miami tied the game early in the third quarter. With the game tied, we began to see the teams trade the lead.
Each team had a long touchdown in the third quarter. Late in the quarter, the Chargers fumbled, setting up a Dolphins touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
In overtime, both teams missed a potential game-winning field goal. Nearing the end of first overtime, the Chargers finally ended the game with a 29-yard field goal.
At the time, the game set a playoff record for points scored (79), passing yards (809), and total yards (1,036). So many players had great performances, but nothing was better than Kellen Winslow.
- 13 receptions
- 166 receiving yards
- 1 touchdown
Winslow was dealing with numerous injuries, and the heat and humidity caused dehydration. His teammates had to help him off the field.
The following week, the Chargers played in one of the craziest weather games of all time in Cincinnati.
1. Baltimore Colts vs. New York Giants (1958)
When a game is referred to as “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” it’s hard not to put it in the No. 1 spot.
The 1958 NFL Championship was a battle between the 9-3 Baltimore Colts and 9-3 New York Giants.
It was a rough start to the game, as the first three drives ended in turnovers. Following that, New York blocked a field goal.
We continued to see turnovers, six in fact, but the latter ones were leading to points. Baltimore scored the first touchdown of the game following a Giants fumble. The Colts struck again before the end of the half on a 15-yard touchdown pass by Johnny Unitas.
New York opened the second half with a goal-line stand. They proceeded to drive 95 yards to score their first touchdown of the game. New York reclaimed the lead early in the fourth quarter on a 15-yard touchdown pass.
Baltimore kicked a last-second field goal to send the game to overtime. This was the first in playoff history a game went to sudden-death overtime.
The Giants had the ball first but went three-and-out. Baltimore went on a 13-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Alan Ameche. The Colts clinched the 23-17 victory behind a big performance from Unitas.
- 349 passing yards
- 1 touchdown
Colts wide receiver Raymond Berry had a massive performance on his own. He put up 12 receptions, 178 receiving yards, and a touchdown. His 12 receptions were a championship record that stood for 55 years.
This marked the unofficial beginning of the NFL. Their popularity began to rise, and we saw the birth of overtime games and two-minute drills.
It’s not only the best overtime game but the best game in NFL history.
More Great NFL Overtime Games
- Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals (2016)
- Atlanta Falcons vs. Minnesota Vikings (1999)
The Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals played a thrilling game in the Divisional Round of the 2015 playoffs. Aaron Rodgers had a pair of huge passes on the final drive, including a 40-yard touchdown on the game’s final play.
In overtime, Larry Fitzgerald had a crazy 75-yard catch to set up the Cardinals. On the next play, he caught a five-yard touchdown to give them a 26-20 victory.
The 1998 NFC Championship pitted the Atlanta Falcons against the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota led the majority of the game and had a chance to make it a 10-point game with just over two minutes remaining.
Kicker Gary Anderson missed for the first time all season. Atlanta drove down the field and scored the game-tying touchdown. Following a few punts, the Falcons kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime.
Overtime games can be stressful for bettors. But hey, that’s part of the risk. Most of the top NFL betting sites allow you to bet on whether or not NFL games will see an extra period. You can bet on whether it does, and enjoy some extra football in the process.