Shannon Sharpe played 14 seasons in the National Football League with the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens. He retired after the 2003 NFL season as the game’s all-time leader in catches, yards, and touchdowns by a tight end. As fine of a player as he was during the regular season, he may have been at his very best when his team played in the postseason. He added an additional season’s worth of stats with 62 catches for 814 yards and 4 TDs in 18 playoff games in his career. .
Not once was he kept off the score sheet in the NFL’s “second season” as he managed at least one reception in every one of the playoff games in which he played. Most importantly, Sharpe’s teams were victorious in 13 of those games. In fact, he holds the rare distinction of winning 12 straight playoff games in a row, a record since the post-1970 merger era. Included in that string were wins that earned him a Super Bowl ring three times (Denver in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII, and with Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV).
Shannon also added his name to the record book in two of those games. The first time came in the 1993 AFC Wild Card Game. In his fourth year, Sharpe entered the game fresh off of his finest season thus far in his career. He caught 81 passes for 995 yards and scored 9 TDs as he helped Denver finish 9-7 which was good for third place in the a tightly contested AFC Western Division race. The Broncos entered the postseason as the fifth seed in the AFC and had to make a return trip to L.A. to take on the Raiders. One week earlier, the Broncos fell in overtime to the Raiders in the regular season finale.
The teams played to a 21-21 draw in the first half but the Raiders poured it on in the second half to walk away with a commanding 42-24 win. The loss was certainly no fault of Sharpe who recorded one of the greatest playoff performances in league history. He tied the playoff record of 13 receptions in a game shared by Hall of Famers Thurman Thomas and Kellen Winlsow (and since that time has been matched by Chad Morton of the New Orleans Saints). He had 9 of the catches in the first half including three for first downs. He scored his team’s first touchdown on a 23-yard pass from John Elway. His diving catch for a 13-yard gain on a third-and-seven play set up Denver’s second touchdown.
|Sharpe had 62 catches for 814 yards and 4 TDs in postseason play. Game-by-game>>>
"They were double- and triple-teaming me and yet it felt like I couldn't do anything wrong," Sharpe offered after the game. "I was just putting my hands up and it seemed like John (Elway) was finding me. The record doesn't matter, though, because we lost the ballgame. I just wish I could have done something to sway the game in our direction."
Seven years later as a member of the Ravens he victimized the Raiders, who had relocated back to Oakland, again when he added his name to another NFL playoff record. This time, however, Shannon came out on the winning side.
Baltimore traveled to Oakland after knocking off the Broncos and the Tennessee Titans to earn a berth in the 2000 AFC Championship Game. Sharpe and the Ravens were greeted by a raucous crowd. Making things worse was the fact early in the game, the Ravens offense was backed up to their own four-yard-line and facing a third-and-18 play.
Then, in an instant, one play changed the game and silenced the Silver and Black faithful. Ravens’ coach Brian Billick made a gutsy play call and quarterback Trent Dilfer drilled a pass into Sharpe’s hands nearly 20 yards up field. With the help of a couple crucial blocks, Sharpe raced to the end zone to put his team out in front.
"We had to take the crowd out of it," shared an excited Sharpe. "I got so sick of hearing about the `Black Hole.' So when we scored that touchdown, I just took out my shovel and covered up the hole. ... They were talking about the crowd, not the offense or the defense. But it's not the crowd that is going to win you the game, it's the 11 guys on the field."
The 96-yard TD play was all the Ravens needed en route to a 16-3 win to earn their first trip the Super Bowl. Sharpe’s reception remains the longest touchdown reception in NFL playoff history. Two weeks later, Sharpe and the Ravens beat the New York Giants, 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV. For Sharpe it marked his third Super Bowl title in four seasons.
As if his regular season stats weren’t enough, his playoff success no doubt helped cement his place among the game’s all-time greatest. The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee recognized that on the day before Super Bowl XLV and elected him as just the eighth tight end to earn a spot in Canton.