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Pete Fierle, Manager - Digital Media/Communications
Pete's familiarity with the game's history is a result of spending two decades surrounded by the world's largest collection of pro football information. His many duties include overseeing the Hall's website as well as the day-to-day operation of the Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center.
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.
It never ceases to amaze me how every NFL season provides incredible moments, week-in and week-out during the regular season. Then, it's time for the playoffs! Yes, playoffs!
It wouldn't be the postseason if we didn't watch a video clip of Jim Mora's famous "playoffs?" rant. So, here it is.
Well, it's Wild Card Weekend and if history repeats itself, we can look forward to a wild, wild weekend of games. Here's my look back at a few great moments in Wild Card history.
W – Reggie WAYNE. The Indianapolis Colts receiver is the last player, and one of only two, to have 200 yards receiving in a Wild Card game. He was on the receiving end of 221 of Peyton Manning's 457 yards in the Colts' 49-24 rout of the Denver Broncos in the 2004 AFC Wild Card Game. Wayne had 10 catches and scored a pair of TDs (35 and 43 yards) in the win. Eric Moulds of the Buffalo Bills holds the Wild Card record with 240 yards receiving against the Miami Dolphins in the 1998 AFC Wild Card Game.
I – INTERCEPTION return. Green Bay Packers rookie safety George Teague holds the record for the longest interception return in Wild Card Game history. He picked off Detroit Lions quarterback Erik Kramer in the 1993 NFC Wild Card Game and returned it 101 yards for the score. The play came with 1:40 to play in the third quarter and put the Packers ahead 21-17 in the team's first playoff appearance in 11 years. Green Bay won the game 28-24.
L – LAMAR Smith. The Miami Dolphins rode their running back to victory. Smith holds the record for the most rushing yards ever in a single Wild Card game. He gained 209 yards on the ground as the Dolphins knocked off the Indianapolis Colts 23-17 in the 2000 AFC Wild Card Game. Appropriately, he scored the game-winner on a 17-yard TD run to the right side after 11:26 of sudden death. Smith's rushing total remains the second most in ANY playoff game. His 40 carries are still a playoff record.
D – DARROL Ray's pick. The New York Jets were in a close battle with the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1982 AFC Wild Card Game until they blew the game wide open in the fourth quarter. On the very next possession after running back Freeman McNeil scored on a 20-yard TD, Darrol Ray intercepted a Ken Anderson pass at the two-yard-line and raced 98 yards for a touchdown. It was playoff record at the time and today remains the longest interception return in an AFC Wild Card Game. New York won, 44-17.
C – COMEBACK. Rich Stadium (now known as Ralph Wilson Stadium or as the hometown faithful call it, "The Ralph") started to empty out early in the third quarter of the 1992 AFC Wild Card Game between the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Oilers. The Oilers added to a lopsided first half lead 1:41 into the third quarter when Bubba McDowell returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown to give Houston a comfortable 35-3 advantage. But, that was before quarterback Frank Reich engineered the greatest comeback in NFL history (interestingly he was at the helm of what was then the greatest comeback in college football when he led the Maryland Terrapins back from a 31-0 deficit against the University of Miami). The backup to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly guided the Bills to an unthinkable win when he threw four TDs (three to Class of 2011 semifinalist Andre Reed) in the second half. In all, the Bills scored five TDs in the third and fourth quarters including four in a span of 6 minutes, 54 seconds. Houston tagged on another field goal and at the end of regulation the score was tied 38-38. Then Steve Christie kicked the overtime winner to give Buffalo an incredible 41-38 win. The shoe he used on the play is now on display in our exhibition rotunda.
A – ATLANTA Falcons. The Falcons were trailing the Philadelphia Eagles 13-0 in the 1978 NFC Wild Card Game when quarterback Steve Bartowski drove his team on two efficient drives and threw a pair of TDs in the final eight minutes to give the Falcons' their first-ever playoff win. He completed 4 of 6 throws on an 88-yard drive capped by a 20-yard TD pass to tight end Jim Mitchell. The Falcons got the football back and Bartkowski moved them quickly downfield again as he connected on 3 of 4 passes that included the 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Wallace Francis. The Falcons had to hold their breath up until the end, however, and did have the game clinched until the Eagles missed on a 34-yard field goal attempt with 13 seconds left.
R – RAY RICE. The running back for the Baltimore Ravens ran 83 yards for a touchdown on the first play of last year's AFC Wild Card Game to stun the New England Patriots. The play, which is the longest run from scrimmage in a Wild Card game, set the stage for a Ravens rout. Baltimore built a 24-0 first quarter lead and polished off the Patriots 33-14 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Rice finished with 22 carries for 159 yards.
D – DALLAS advances to Super Bowl. The 1975 Cowboys were the first Wild Card team ever to advance to the Super Bowl. Dallas finished second in the NFC Eastern Division with a 10-4-0 mark. With the help of the famous "Hail Mary" play from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson, the Cowboys downed the Minnesota Vikings 17-14. Next in line was the Los Angeles Rams who Dallas dropped 37-7 thanks to four touchdown strikes by Staubach and Pearson's 7 catches for 123 yards and 3 TDs. The long road to a title came up just short in one of the all-time classic Super Bowls which saw the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat Dallas, 21-17, in Super Bowl X.
I can only assume I might be able to easily replace some of the moments above on Sunday night after the completion of the four Wild Card games this weekend. Enjoy the playoffs!