Chiefs’ overtime win over Bills in NFL divisional round ranks among the greatest

The road to the Super Bowl still runs through Kansas City, but it took a herculean effort by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs‘ offense to get past the Bills in Sunday’s AFC divisional round playoff game. The Chiefs’ 42-36 overtime win capped off a memorable weekend that saw all four games come down to the wire. The weekend’s first three games were decided on last-second field goals, while the Chiefs needed a 49-yard field goal by Harrison Butker at the end of regulation before winning it in overtime. 

Anyone who watched the Bills-Chiefs game quickly realized that they were witnessing an instant classic unfold in real time. The frantic and furious action in the game’s final stages merits it a place on the all-time list of greatest playoff games in NFL history. Here’s where the game officially stands where compared with the NFL’s other all-time playoff games. 

The criteria used when determining the list was as follows: 

  • How competitive was the game from start to finish 
  • Big plays on both sides of the ball
  • Excitement/entertainment value 
  • Unique factor; what made the game stand out from other great playoff games 

The 12 greatest NFL playoff games 

12. 1971 divisional round: Dolphins 27, Chiefs 24 (OT) 

This game, played on Christmas Day, 1971, remains the longest game in NFL history at 82 minutes and 40 seconds. Miami won despite an all-time performance by Chiefs running back Ed Podolak, who amassed 350 total yards and two touchdowns. The Dolphins won the game in the second overtime on Garo Yepremian’s 37-yard field goal that was set up by Larry Csonka’s 29-yard run through an exhausted Chiefs defense. 

“I lost like 18 pounds that day,” Csonka said years later. “I lost so much weight that my pants were loose.”

11. 1974 divisional round: Raiders 28, Dolphins 26

Sports Illustrated billed it as Super Bowl VIII 1/2, and the game certainly didn’t disappoint. The game started with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Dolphins’ rookie Nat Moore. Down 19-14, Cliff Branch’s 72-yard touchdown catch gave Oakland a slim fourth quarter lead. The two-time defending champion Dolphins countered with rookie Benny Malone’s 23-yard score with just over two minutes left. With time running out, Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler moved his team to the Dolphins’ 8-yard line before throwing in heavy traffic to running back Clarence Davis, who managed to pull Stabler’s pass amidst a “Sea of Hands” from Dolphins defenders. The win was one of John Madden’s greatest as the Raiders’ coach, as it ended Miami’s reign as NFL kingpin. 

10. Super Bowl XXV: Giants 20, Bills 19 

The closest Super Bowl ever, this game started with Whitney Houston’s emotional rendition of the national anthem and ended with Scott Norwood missing a game-winning field goal attempt. Down 12-3 in the first half, the Giants got back in the game by controlling the ball for a Super Bowl record 40 minutes and 19 seconds. Despite barely having the ball, the Bills were in position to win the game with eight seconds left. Thurman Thomas ran roughshod over the Giants with 190 total yards in a losing effort. The Giants’ received a gritty effort from backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler, who completed a series of critical third down throws to help the Giants win their second Super Bowl under Bill Parcells. 

9. Super Bowl LI: Patriots 34, Falcons 28 (OT)

Down 28-3, New England scored 25 unanswered points in the final 17 minutes of regulation before winning the first overtime in Super Bowl history. The Patriots’ unprecedented comeback was fueled by Dont’a Hightower’s critical forced fumble of Matt RyanJulian Edelman’s fingertip catch and Danny Amendola’s 2-point conversion to force overtime. James White’s 2-yard touchdown in overtime capped off the largest comeback in Super Bowl history. 

8. 1958 NFL Championship: Colts 23, Giants 17 (OT) 

The first-ever overtime NFL game, the Colts’ rode the dominant passing duo of quarterback Johnny Unitas and receiver Raymond Berry to an historic win inside Yankee Stadium. Unitas hit Berry 12 times for 178 yards and a touchdown while defeating a supremely talented Giants team, led by Frank Gifford and Sam Huff. The game played a major role in the NFL eventually surpassing baseball as America’s premier sport. 

7. Super Bowl XLIII: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23 

This game had its dull moments, but it makes the list based on its thrilling ending. Down 20-7, the Cardinals took a late lead after Kurt Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald on a 64-yard touchdown with 2:37 left. Backed up on his own 12, Ben Roethlisberger engineered one of the greatest game-winning drives in NFL history that was capped off by his remarkable touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes, who caught the ball before scraping both of his feet inside the back of the end zone. The game also featured James Harrison’s eye-popping, 100-yard interception return for a touchdown…

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