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The Biggest Comebacks in NFL History: Regular Season, Playoffs, and More

Be honest, you definitely turned the TV off during at least one of these.

Breaking down the biggest and best NFL comebacks in league history.
Credit-Star Tribune/Joker Mag

There is a good chance that at some point as an NFL fan during a blowout game, you have either:

A) packed up your gear and left the stadium early in a state of upset or B) grabbed the remote control and flipped over to HGTV or turned the TV off completely.

While these actions may seem justified as avoiding traffic (why anyone would waste their hard-earned money on expensive tickets only to leave early is beyond me) or not wasting a day, chances are you may have missed out on one of the greatest comeback moments in pro football history.

Let’s look back on the biggest comebacks in NFL history.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Indianapolis Colts (December 17th, 2022)

Patrick Peterson on the vikings’ historic comeback: "My mentality didn’t change when we were down 33-0. I said we need five touchdowns to win the game."

(Spoiler Alert) While the other games on this list are all win-or-go-home playoff games, the Week 15 meeting between the Vikings and the Colts in front of a sold-out U.S. Bank Stadium, was equally as important. A Vikings win would secure the NFC North Division title.

But going into halftime, Minnesota trailed 33-0.

“My mentality didn’t change when we were down 33-0,” said cornerback Patrick Peterson. “Came into halftime…I said we need five touchdowns to win the game.”

It may not have been the greatest game from a football purist standpoint, but the Vikings’ 39-point comeback certainly put the team in the record books for the largest comeback in NFL history. It’s also our pick for the best sports comeback of all time.

An unanswered 32-point run ended with the Vikings claiming a 39-36 overtime victory.

The Vikings recorded five second-half touchdowns by five different players, highlighted by a 64-yard bomb from QB Kirk Cousins to Dalvin Cook, plus a 52-yard field goal to tie the game.

A 40-yard field goal by Greg Joseph with just three seconds remaining in the extra period finished off the most unassuming comeback in NHL history. 

Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Oilers (1993 AFC Wild Card Game)

Let’s face it, a 25-point halftime deficit in the NFL is basically insurmountable. And a 35-3 lead is essentially the nail in the coffin.

Or at least that’s what everyone thought when the Houston Oilers battled the Buffalo Bills on January 3rd, 1993.

Known simply as “The Comeback”, the Bills – who were already without star QB Jim Kelly – began the massive uphill comeback attempt with a ten-play touchdown, which was quickly followed by recovering an onside kick and another seven points, nearly cutting the lead in half, at 35-17.

A trio of Andre Reed touchdowns later, the Bills found themselves in possession of a three-point lead as the result of a 35-0 run. But Houston kicker Al Del Greco’s 26-yard field goal with just seconds remaining put a halt to the Bills’ run, sending the game into overtime.

Defensive back Nate Odomes once again gave the Bills hope as he intercepted a Warren Moon pass attempt, giving the Bills, prime field position.

Following a pair of short-yardage rushes from Kenneth Davis, kicker Steve Christie stood alone in the spotlight as he booted a 32-yard field goal attempt through the uprights to complete the largest comeback in NFL history. 

Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs (2014 AFC Wild Card Game)

In front of a soldout Lucas Oil Stadium, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts put together a 28-point comeback and outscored Alex Smith’s Kansas City Chiefs 35-6 in the second half to complete the second-largest comeback in NFL playoff history. 

Trailing 38-10 early in the third quarter, Luck guided a Colts offense by way of throwing for 443 yards and four trips to the endzone. 

After being yelled at and cursed at by their coach at halftime, the Colts’ second-half comeback did not start in an ideal fashion as Luck’s first pass attempt of the third quarter ended up in the hands of the Chiefs’ defense and ultimately a Kansas City touchdown. 

“I gave one of those ‘win one for the Gipper’ speeches and then go out and do that,” then Colts coach Chuck Panago said.

“Throw in the interception, and then the next thing you know, we’re down 28 points. Amazing.”

From there on out, Indy took a different strategy. One that paid off in a historic fashion.

“I remember telling the guys there’s not a play you can score 28 points on. It’s impossible. One play at a time, same mantra. We just needed to catch a break here or there, and we did.”

New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons (Super Bowl LI 2017)

James White's Super Bowl performance impacted millions. Unfortunately he was not named Super Bowl MVP, but it explained his entire career in a nutshell. He's an overlooked champion in sports today. A story by Joker Mag, the home of the underdog.
Credit-Getty/Joker Mag Illustration

Let’s be honest, unless you are a fan of one of the two teams competing or you have one of the winning squares on the betting board, a blowout Super Bowl is pretty lame.

After a scoreless first quarter and a second quarter dominated by the Atlanta Falcons, Super Bowl LI looked like an excuse to eat a lot of bad food, consume way too many “wobbly pops”, and watch some very expensive commercials.

Thankfully Tom Brady and the rest of the New England Patriots decided to show up after Lady Gaga took the stage at halftime to make things exciting. Well, sort of. 

After the Falcons blew the game even more wide open by scoring the first points of the second half to take a 28-3 lead and a 99.8% chance of winning their first Super Bowl Championship, the Patriots etched their name into the history books with the most incredible comeback in the history of the Super Bowl.

Scoring 25 unanswered points, the Patriots tied the game at 28-28, forcing overtime and sending America into a frenzy.

After the Pats drove the ball down the field 75 yards, running back James White capped off the team’s fifth Super Bowl title with a two-yard scamper and extra long stretch of the arm to break the goal line.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Los Angeles Chargers (2022 AFC Wild Card Game)

With all consideration and credit given to the 1980 San Francisco 49ers and their 28-point comeback against the New Orleans Saints, their week 14 meeting was just a regular season game.

In what was the third largest playoff comeback in NFL history, or the third largest collapse (depending on how you want to view it), the Jacksonville Jaguars’ ability to claw back from being down 27 points in the first half trumps the regular 49ers vs. Saints matchup.

Despite being picked off four times in the first two quarters – three by Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. – Jag’s quarterback Trevor Lawrence maintained his composure. And on a national stage, he showed why he’s considered among the best young QBs in the league, orchestrating one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.

So was it a Jaguars’ comeback or a Chargers’ collapse?

If you were to ask Los Angeles coach Brandon Staley he would tell you it was the latter, pointing out inconsistent tackling, not remaining disciplined, and allowing explosive game-changing plays in the second half.

“Certainly with the way we started the game, that’s the team that I know that we’re capable of being. In the second half, we just didn’t finish the game. We’re gonna learn a lot from this. Unfortunately, this is the tough side of things.”

With the Chargers only able to muster a single-field goal twelve minutes into the third quarter, Los Angeles was outscored 24-3, as Jacksonville dominated control of the ball during the final thirty minutes of action to pull out a miraculous 31-30 victory.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (October 8th, 2003)

Man, the Colts sure know how to get involved in comebacks.

Facing the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers on Monday Night Football, Peyton Manning’s Colts found themselves trailing the Bucs 35-14 with 5:09 remaining in the game.

Up against a 21-point deficit, it took a Manning miracle to win this game. 

With 3:37 to go, he kept the ball on the ground and handed it off to running back James Mungro. After recovering an onside kick, Manning found Marvin Hudson in the endzone with 2:28 remaining.

One possession game.

The Colts defense forced a quick three-and-out before Manning and company marched 85 yards down the field to the endzone, right before overtime. In OT, after a punt from the Bucs, the Colts gave kicker Mike Vanderjagt a 29-yard field goal look. After banking it off the right upright, it went in.

Ballgame.

Manning, the future HOF quarterback led his team to an improbable run no one saw coming.

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Written By

Life-long sports fan and avid basketball junkie in every sense of the word. The same passion I have for the Lakers translates to my extreme dislike for the Duke Blue Devils. As much as I cheer for the favorite and the dynasty, I appreciate and applaud the underdog and the grind whether you are a weekend warrior or a professional, both on and off the field.

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