Biggest NFL Comebacks of All Time

Every summer, fans of the gridiron pray and plan for fall when their favorite sport returns with thrills, spills and mighty comebacks. Could there be a more exciting feeling than watching your favorite team rebound from a massive deficit, racking up touchdown after touchdown when all seemed lost? Football always excites, but how can it thrill more than to watch tragedy turn to euphoria? The National Football League regularly delivers these amazing games, but these six top the list of comebacks according to the Pro Football Reference with comebacks ranging from a deficit of 25 points to 32 points.

6. The older of the two 25 point deficit games happened on November 8, 1987 between the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Neither the Cardinals (7-8 going into the game) nor Buccaneers (4-11 going into the game) had a strong team in the 87-88 season, so the battle that ensued made the game interesting. For three quarters, it seemed the Buccaneers had the win. The fourth quarter opened with the Buccaneers leading 28-3. While the Cardinal defense stopped every Buccaneers attempt to score in the fourth and scored a touchdown on a fumble return, Cardinals quarterback Neil Lomax made up for three quarters in one, throwing three touchdown passes. The last of the three, a 17 yard toss to J.T. Smith put the Cardinals ahead of Tampa Bay.

5. It’s technically a tie for the 25 point deficit, but one historical statistic bumps this one higher. The more recent 25 point deficit game occured on October 5, 2014 between the Cleveland Browns and the Tennessee Titans. In the first half, the Titans dominated the Browns, who managed only ten points to the Titans’ 28. Going into the second half, fans could have only imagined more of the same and the third quarter showed no change in the Browns’ performance except they managed to stop the Titans from adding to their lead. But, the fourth quarter dawned with bright hope when Browns linebacker Tank Carder blocked a punt and turned it into a safety. Brian Hoyer picked up the pace and sailed, not one, but two perfect touchdown passes to Travis Benjamin to end the game in a 29-28 victory. The win made NFL history as the largest comeback by a road team.

4. A 26 point comeback put the September 21, 1997 game between the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts into statistical history. It’s the only game in the list to have a comeback happen from a score of zero. At one point in the first half, the Colts lead by a massive 26-0. Quarterback Jim Harbaugh was having a great game… until Buffalo scored 10 points at the end of the first half. The second half saw plenty of impressive play from the Bills rookie running back, Antowain Smith, who ran for 129 yards and scored three touchdowns. Smith did it in 12 carries.

3. It happens in the playoffs, too. At one point on January 4, 2014, the Kansas City Chiefs lead the Indianapolis Colts by 28 points in this wild card game. At halftime, it looked like the Chiefs had it. They led 31-10 and opened the second half with a touchdown to bump it to 38-10. A Chiefs win looked like a sure thing until Colts quarterback Andrew Luck threw a touchdown pass in the second half. Then Luck showed the meaning of his last name when he threw a second touchdown pass, then a third. Not to discount his running skills, he ran the fourth touchdown he scored in the second half, when he turned a fumble recovery into an end zone celebration. The Chiefs answered with two field goals, but it wasn’t enough to trump Luck’s luck and talent. His final touchdown pass of the game sailed 64 yards to T.Y. Hilton and vaulted the Colts to a 45-44 victory.

2. Traveling back in time to December 7, 1980 the 28 point comeback by the San Francisco 49ers against the New Orleans Saints, also went down in the NFL history books and went into overtime. Archie Manning led the Saints to a 35-7 lead in the first half. The second half belonged to the 49ers though, led by Joe Montana. Montana threw for two and ran for one touchdown in the second half. The 49ers defense created a wall that stopped any further Saints scoring. The game clincher happened in overtime. Ray Wershing kicked a 36-yard field goal to end the tie, the game, and help create history. The game became the biggest regular season comeback in NFL history.

1. Finally, “The Comeback” as it is known. It’s the largest comeback ever in NFL history. On January 3, 1993, the Buffalo Bills fought back from a 32 point lead by the Houston Oilers in a wild, wild card playoff game. The Oilers owned the first half, led quarterback Warren Moon. Houston entered the second half with a 28-3 lead. At first, it looked like the Oilers had it all clinched when they scored a second half touchdown on an interception. But, the Bills’ Frank Reich stepped in and stepped up, throwing touchdown pass after touchdown pass – four total in a scoring tear. Kenneth Davis rushed for another touchdown. The Oilers managed to tie it with a field goal, but Steve Christie answered with his own field goal – a 32-yard beauty that nabbed the win for the Bills in overtime play.