As a certain beer might gurgle, here we go.
Nathan: 1991 NFC Championship
The Lions made the playoffs in 1999, but they were an 8-8 team that was one and done after the regular season. You have to stretch your memory back all the way to 1991 to see the Lions, with a 12-4 regular season record, have any playoff success. The game itself was a 41-10 blowout as Washington cruised their way to a Super Bowl victory over the Bills, but I remember it fondly today as the Lions prepare to fight the gnarly New Orleans Saints tomorrow.
Tyler: “The Tuck Rule”
I was a freshman in college when this madness unfolded. The game would’ve been an all-time great regardless–playoff football in the snow, Raiders, the upstart (ha!) Patriots. I ended up rooting for the Patriots in the Super Bowl, probably because I was homesick and vented by being a contrarian anti-Ram dick. This was a mistake.
Travis: Beast Mode
The Seahawks were the first team to make the playoffs with a sub-.500 record, and were massive underdogs to the Saints even though they were playing at home. This run erased all of that, and the resulting cheers caused a seismic incident.
Nathan: Bills Lose. And Lose. And Lose. And Lose
My uncle Tim was living in Buffalo during the early 90s and he adopted the luckless Bills as his team. As a result, I watched the Bills’ four Super Bowl appearances with special interest. Dropping a nail-biter to the Giants was one thing, but the other three Super Bowl defeats just made you depressed. They could’ve been the greatest team of the 90s. Instead, they are a punch line.
Tyler: Birthday disaster
The ’09 Bengals made it into the playoffs by virtue of moxie, grit, heart, other hackneyed sports-hack adjectives, and a rock-wall defense coordinated by Mike Zimmer. The unspeakable death of Chris Henry during the December of that season united we Bengal fans, already a nutty group, behind a team that felt special. We played like absolute garbage the final week of the season, a mostly-meaningless game against the Jets, and drew first-year coach Rex Ryan’s squad for a repeat tilt the very next week, Wild Card Weekend.
My twenty-seventh birthday fell right around this time, and so a number of friends and myself gathered at The Best Sports Bar In Chicago (Michael’s). Because I want to save my misery for entry #1 on this list, I’ll just say the following: no.
Travis: Leon Lett Celebrates too Early
One of the only things I remember from watching Super Bowls as a child was this play, with Cowboys defensive stalwart ending up losing the ball on a sure touchdown return due to the effort of scraptastic Bills white guy Don Beebe.
Nathan: Patriots Dance on Chargers Logo
Spygate was the obvious capper, but this is the moment when I started to hate the Patriots.
Ironically, LaDaninian Tomlinson, in the post game press meeting, suggests that the Patriots lack class, and then further suggests that their classless attitude comes from their head coach. This is the guy who is now playing for Rex Ryan. Go figure.
So close, came Tennessee. Super Bowls have gotten tighter and more entertaining in recent years, as parity has taken hold, but Kevin Dyson’s just-that-short stretch for the goal line capped off the most riveting game in some time. Hell, I didn’t even care that much about football back then. It was just damn enthralling: the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.
Travis: New Orleans Saints Onside Kick
The Saints, under coach Sean Payton, went against the typical NFL habit of playing not to lose by instead playing to win, and doing so with a surprise onside kick at the beginning of the second half of their Super Bowl against the Colts. From there, the momentum and the game were theirs.
Nathan: Someone Catches a Football on the Top of His Head
If I were trying to think of the single most incredible sports play in the past 10 years, I think I would pick this one. Every other competitor for this title is running a distant second.
Tyler: Manning to Tyree
Never seen a catch like it. Never will again. (Though Jerome Simpson’s circus leap for dem Bengals a couple weeks back sure sticks in the memory.) That it played so great a role in preventing the despicable Patriots from going undefeated? Hell, that’s damn near a bonus.
Travis: Mike Jones!
The Rams linebacker, not the Houston syrup-rapper with a penchant for saying his own name (and listing his own phone number) a hundred times per song, saved the Rams’ only Super Bowl victory with a perfect tackle on the final play of the game against the Titans. The play had been designed to go against him, the weakest of the Ram linebacking corps that year, but he made the play when it counted. A homer choice, for sure, but it’s not like I have a lot of other great Rams playoff moments to think back to, do I?
Nathan: The 49ers Slay a Bunch of Bengals
My earliest football memory came from Super Bowl XXIII, in which Joe Montana, down 13-16, brought his team down the field from their own eight yard line with 3:10 to go. I was all of eight years old at the time and rooted for the 49ers only because I liked their team colors. When the drive was capped with a PAT, I rushed in to the other room to tell my grandfather what had happened.
Looking back, I can’t think of an earlier sports memory. What is inexplicable to me now is that I didn’t pay serious attention to football until the 2004-2005 NHL lockout.
Sorry, Tyler. I wish my first sports memory had something better in there for you.
I was stationed up high on about the five-yard line for the Bengals’ first postseason game in fourteen years. Deep in their own territory, the team went for broke within the first set of downs. Carson Palmer dropped back and lofted a pass so like those he’d tossed all season long, a deep bomb down the right sideline to Chris Henry. Who caught the ball. The stadium let loose like I’d never heard an arena.
Then I glanced back to the line of scrimmage. Carson was on the ground.
I’ve never heard a stadium go from so loud to so quiet so fast. It still makes me kinda wanna die.
Travis: David Tyree’s Catch
I don’t really know how anything else could top the list. It wasn’t the game-winning reception in the Giants’ upset of the undefeated Patriots, but it was the play that led to it: Eli Manning escaping a sack with just an instant before a whistle would (or should) have come with him in the grasp, heaving downfield, and a receiver who’d done nothing of note before or since coming down with the football held to his helmet, atop his head. Unbelievable, even now.