10 Unforgettable Moments In The NFL’s NFC Championship Game

Written By Darren Cooper on January 25, 2022
NFL opinion in CA: Best moments in NFC championship game

The 2022 NFC Championship Game is an All-California clash, pitting the San Francisco 49ers against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium Sunday at 3:30 p.m. local time.

The winner gets the George Halas Trophy and a spot back at SoFi Stadium in Super Bowl LVI against the winner of the AFC title.

A November 2022 referendum is planned that will bring legalized sports betting to California. So for now, players have to find other options to get in the game.

Both the Rams and 49ers have long histories of playing in the NFC (National Football Conference) title game.

Here’s a look at the 10 most unforgettable NFC title games in history.

1985: Bear beatdown

Sorry to start with a bad one for Rams fans but the 1985 Chicago Bears remain a team that ranks as one of the greatest in NFL history.

The Bears’ defense was never any better than it was in the NFC Championship game that season. Stuffing Rams star running back Eric Dickerson and holding the Rams to just nine first downs in a 24-0 win at frosty Soldier Field. 

Chicago would finish the season 18-1 after destroying the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX.

1980: Green and blue

The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys were both 12-4 in 1980. And the two best teams in the NFC that year. 

Before playing in the NFC title game at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, the Eagles relied on a little gamesmanship. Telling the Cowboys that they would wear white jerseys at home (rare for the time) forcing the Cowboys to wear their unloved – and believed unlucky – blue tops.

The move reportedly angered the Cowboys officials, and when the game started, the Eagles pounced. Eagles running back Wilbert Montgomery ran for 194 yards.

The blue Cowboys committed four turnovers as the Eagles went to their first Super Bowl with a 20-7 win.

1990: Giant killers

The New York Giants didn’t score a touchdown in the 1990 NFC Championship Game.

They didn’t need to.

Sparked by a vicious defense that put 49ers star quarterback Joe Montana out of the game, the Giants won on a 42-yard field goal by Matt Bahr as time expired.

Bahr made five of six field goals that day in the Giants’ 15-13 win.

1998: Vikings get the horn

The 1998 Minnesota Vikings were unstoppable on offense, with star wide receiver Randy Moss in his prime.

Even the Vikings’ kicker that year, Gary Anderson, never missed.

Until he did.

Anderson was the first kicker in NFL history to not miss a field goal or extra point the entire season. When he lined up a 39-yarder with 2:11 left to give the Vikings a 10-point lead over the Atlanta Falcons, it looked over.

Except Anderson’s kick was wide. The Falcons, energized, scored a game-tying touchdown a minute later. Then, after trading possessions in overtime, Morten Andersen (no relation) made a 38-yarder to give the Falcons a 30-27 win.

2007: In Tynes they trust

Lambeau Field in Green Bay was a toasty -1 degree for the 2007 NFC title tilt between the Packers and New York Giants. The Packers were favored and led 10-6 at halftime.

The game is remembered more for Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes. Tynes missed two field goals in the fourth quarter, including one at the end of regulation.

In overtime, after Brett Favre was intercepted on the second play of the extra period (his last pass as a Packer), Tynes stepped up and made a 47-yard field goal to give the Giants the win 23-20.

New York would go on to upset the unbeaten Patriots in the Super Bowl.

2012: 49ers cap it off

Something about the Falcons and blown leads in big games.

Atlanta led San Francisco 17-0 in the 2012 NFC Championship game. But the 49ers and quarterback Colin Kaepernick roared back in the second half.

Kaepernick threw for 233 yards and Frank Gore ran for two touchdowns including the game-winner with 8:23 to play.

Atlanta drove to the 49ers 10 in the final minutes. But NaVorro Bowman batted away a Falcons pass to seal a dramatic 28-24 win for the 49ers.

It’s the largest comeback in conference championship game history.

2014: Down by the sea

Green Bay appeared to have everything in hand, up 19-7 with four minutes left in the 2014 NFC title game when things got weird in Seattle.

Real Weird.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson scored on a short run to make it 19-14. Then the Packers inexplicably botched recovering the Seahawks onside kick attempt.

Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch scored on a 24-yard run to put Seattle ahead, and the Seahawks converted on the two-point play.

Staggered, the Packers rallied to tie the score on a field goal with 14 seconds left. But Seattle won the coin toss in overtime and won the game on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Jermaine Kearse.

2018: The nola no call

There have been plenty of controversial calls in NFL history, but this may be the only one where there was a lawsuit.

The New Orleans Saints were driving for a potential clinching score against the Los Angeles Rams with the score tied at 20. Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw a pass to Tommylee Lewis when Lewis was clobbered by Nickell Robey-Coleman.

Despite the blatant contact, no flag was thrown. The Saints settled for a field goal. The Rams answered with a field goal near the end of regulation, then won the game 26-23 in overtime.

A group of Saints organized a lawsuit against the NFL. The court denied the motion. The NFL then allowed coaches to challenge official calls on video replay of pass interference the next year.

1994: No three for you

The Dallas Cowboys were the defining franchise of the NFL in the early 90s and were going for an unprecedented third straight Super Bowl title in 1994.

In the two prior years, the Cowboys had thrashed the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. The two teams met again for a third straight year on a messy field at Candlestick Park.

This time, the 49ers would not be pushed around. Eric Davis ran back an early interception for a touchdown and the Cowboys dynasty would never be the same, as San Francisco rolled to a 38-28 victory.

1981: It’s the catch

Of course, everyone knows it’s the catch by Dwight Clark, but if it wasn’t for Lawrence Pillers it would be a lot different.

The scene was Candlestick Park and on the play that was ranked No. 2 all-time in NFL history by NFL Films. Niners quarterback Joe Montana fires a hard and high pass into the back of the end zone. Where – out of nowhere – wide receiver Dwight Clark makes a leaping grab with 58 seconds left to give the 49ers a 28-27 lead.

The play symbolized the rise of the 49ers as the NFL’s next dynasty as the Team of the 80s, taking over from the Pittsburgh Steelers who had ruled the 1970s in the league.

What people don’t remember is Dallas had plenty of time left to move into field goal range and nearly did. But Pillers sacked Cowboys quarterback Danny White near midfield, causing him to fumble which was recovered by the 49ers.

There is a statue of the Montana to Clark throw and catch outside of Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

For this Sunday’s showdown, in lieu of betting on the NFC game, put your skills to the test with DFS in California.

Photo by Eric Risberg / Associated Press
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Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He's won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

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