When reviewing some of the best comebacks in football two specific games come to mind. The first, which most Bucs fans wish to forget, an overtime loss to the Colts during Monday Night Football in 2003. The second, which has become a running joke in the NFC South, a Super Bowl choke by the Falcons when they were up 28-3 just two seasons ago. Both were tremendous games in their own right, but let’s review both to decide which game was the best comeback of all time. (Warning Bucs fans: This next paragraph might open some old wounds. My apologies in advance.)
Bucs vs Colts, MNF 2003: It was less than a year after the Buccaneers won their first Super Bowl against the Raiders, and on a Monday Night Football game against the Colts it showed early on that Tampa Bay was continuing to play at an elite level. That was until early in the 4th quarter when the Colts with Payton Manning under center turned up the heat. At the close of the 3rd quarter, the Bucs had all but put away the Colts and were up 28-7. The way the Bucs defense stifled Manning and Co. it’s surprising that the score wasn’t higher at that point. Nevertheless, the 4th quarter meltdown ensued. It was one of those 4th quarters that you just stand there in disbelief wishing it was just a bad dream. It was, in fact, a real-life nightmare. Which I believe was the start of the unraveling of their season, which caused them to miss the playoffs just after winning a championship earlier that year. It is a game we all just wish to forget.
Patriots vs Falcons, Super Bowl LI 2017: For most of Super Bowl LI, it had seemed that the Falcons had effectively put away the Patriots after building a 28-3 lead going into the 4th quarter. They had Bill Belichick’s number for most of the game. Or so they thought. In another unbelievable 4th quarter performance, the Patriots came back late to win their 5th Super Bowl in the Belichick/Brady era. Despite sufficient enough play by Atlanta’s defense, the offense could not get anything going in the 4th quarter, and continually put their defense in a bad position. The straw that broke the camels back for Atlanta was an ill-advised passing call and a missed blocking assignment at RT on 2nd and 11. The play resulted in a sack and set up a 3rd and 23, and forced New England to burn just one time out during the drive before giving it back after unsuccessful conversion with just over 3 minutes to play. If they handed it off to Freeman they could have potentially forced New England to burn all their time outs, and possibly extend their lead by 3 more. It was surely an unimaginable nightmare for Falcons fans everywhere to watch on the games biggest stage, and it was one of the most stunning comebacks engineered by Tom Brady and Co.
Even though both comebacks have gone down in the record books as some of the best of all time, I have to go with the Pats/Falcons Super Bowl game as the greatest. To date it stands as the largest Super Bowl comeback ever, and as far as I’m concerned, nothing can top a performance such as that.
What is your top NFL comeback game?