With not a lot of sports action going on right now, it seems like a great time to look back at some of the more memorable occurrences we have seen. One thing we all love is a good comeback story. Over two pieces, I’ll be giving out my top-10* greatest rallies or comebacks from the last 30 years. I did not want to judge something that I was not alive to see, though I’m sure there are some amazing comebacks that occurred outside of that time range. Today, we’ll go through the bottom-half of the top-10.
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*This list will end up containing more than 10 individual events, as I have grouped a few that I felt were similar or went together. More fun for all!
Number 10: March MadnessThe annual NCAA Tournament has provided some excellent stories over the years, but there are three major comebacks that stick out best in my mind:
(1) Illinois vs. (3) Arizona – 2005 Elite Eight
The Illini were undefeated heading into this contest with the Wildcats, but the top-seeded squad found themselves down 14 points with under four minutes of play remaining with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Illinois rallied back, pushing the game into overtime before winning in the extra period by a single point. Future NBA star Deron Williams paved the way for Illinois with 22 points and 10 assists.
(2) UCLA vs. (3) Gonzaga – 2006 Sweet 16
This was a hotly anticipated matchup between Adam Morrison’s Gonzaga team and an Arron Afflalo-led UCLA squad. The game was not terribly exciting for most of the afternoon, as the score was 42-29 at halftime and had a nine-point margin with 3:26 remaining. That lead was down to one with 20 seconds remaining and the Zags inbounding the ball. UCLA stole the ball while Gonzaga tried to advance, leading to a layup to take the lead. They then stole the ball again on a last-ditch effort to get down the floor, leading to the famous snapshot of Morrison crying on the court.
(3) Texas A&M vs. (11) Northern Iowa – 2016 Second Round
This game was of the least significance of the group, but was perhaps the most impressive comeback. This was a fairly competitive game, but the Panthers had a 12-point lead with 44 seconds remaining, and seemed all-but-certain to upset the third-seeded Aggies. Led by current NBA-ers Alex Caruso and Danuel House, A&M made an insane rally to push the game into overtime. UNI led again late in overtime, but A&M pushed back to go into a second overtime, where they eventually won the game.
Number 9: Vick-toriusIn Week 10 of the 2010 season, the Eagles were set to face off with the Redskins on Monday Night Football. The game was a complete no-contest, as Philly got out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter, and won by 31 points. So why bring it up? Because Michael Vick engineered one of the most incredible fantasy football comebacks for teams across the globe.
Since it was the last game of the weekend, most fantasy matchups were close to being wrapped up, but Vick had other plans in mind. He threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns while adding 80 yards rushing and two scores on the ground. By DraftKings scoring, that is an insane 52.32 fantasy points. If you were fortunate enough to own Vick that week in fantasy leagues, you likely won.
Number 8: A Pair of Giant BlundersThe Giants make it onto the list twice, but for the wrong reasons. In 2002 NFL playoffs, they went up against the 49ers in the Wild Card round. New York had a 28-14 halftime lead, and that grew to 38-14 with 4:35 left in the third quarter. The Niners went nuts on the back of Terrell Owens and Jeff Garcia, scoring 25 unanswered points and taking a 39-38 lead with a minute left. The Giants managed to get into field goal range, but an errant snap from the newly-signed Trey Junkin–plus a missed call by the officials–cost New York a shot at winning the game. It was the second-biggest comeback in NFL playoff history at the time.
The game that may stand out more to you is the one often referred to as The Miracle at the New Meadowlands. The Giants were playing the Eagles in a Week 15 game, with the NFC East lead on the line. New York seemingly had the game in hand, with a 31-10 lead at the 8:17 mark of the fourth quarter. Vick and the Eagles rallied back, scoring 21 unanswered points to tie it up. On the final play of regulation, the Giants failed to punt the ball out of bounds, instead giving DeSean Jackson a shot to return it. He went for a 65-yard touchdown, winning the game as time expired.
Number 7: High-Powered Offensive OutburstsIn the past 30 years, there have been two offensive outbursts that stand out as memorable in the NFL playoffs. The first is the famous game between the Bills and Oilers in the 1992 Wild Card round. Warren Moon and the Oilers had a 28-3 lead at the half and expanded their lead to 35-3 lead in the third quarter. The Bills could have folded, but quarterback (and current Colts head coach) Frank Reich was not having it. He threw four touchdown passes in the second half, and the Bills scored 35 unanswered points to take a fourth-quarter lead. An Oilers field goal sent the game into overtime, but the Bills managed to prevail with a field goal of their own. Making the comeback even more remarkable is that Reich was the team’s backup QB. Hall of Famer Jim Kelly was injured in the final week of the regular season and could not play.
On the other end of the spectrum, we had a special offensive performance just this past season. The Texans and Chiefs played in the divisional round of the 2019 playoffs, and it was once again Houston who got up to a big lead, this time 24-0 early in the second quarter. Not only did Kansas City end up eviscerating the lead, they completely blew out the Texans. The Chiefs scored an unreal 41 unanswered points en route to a 51-31 final score. Although there ended up not being a ton of drama in the end, this was an absurd rally, and will likely go down as one of the signature moments in Patrick Mahomes’ career.
Number 6: Last-Minute Hoops HeroicsThe NBA is said to be a game of runs, but nobody could have predicted the two miraculous rallies by individual players on the hardwood to bring their teams to victory. For the first, we have to go back to the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Pacers were taking on the Knicks in Madison Square Garden, and New York was leading 105-99 with under 20 seconds left on the clock. Star Pacers guard Reggie Miller went into overdrive, knocking down a three, stealing the subsequent inbounds pass, and knocking down another. Just like that, it was a tie game. Miller was then fouled after the Knicks missed both a pair of free throws and a put-back, making both shots from the charity stripe to score eight points in nine seconds. The Pacers went on to win the game and the series.
The second such instance was not nearly as dramatic, as it occurred during the regular season, but was likely the more impressive individual accomplishment. It was a December game in the 2004 regular season, and the Rockets trailed the Spurs by eight with under 40 seconds to play. Then Tracy McGrady got hot. It started with a three. After the Spurs made two freebies, McGrady carried it down and earned a four-point play, making a three and a free throw after being fouled. Again, San Antonio made two free throws, and again, McGrady drilled a three. Houston managed to trap Devin Brown on the baseline and stole the ball. McGrady hustled down the court before capping off his insane run with another three to win the game, making it 13 points in under 40 seconds of play.
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