By beating the Broncos 38-35 in Denver and winning the 4th longest game in NFL history, playing 16;42 into overtime, the Ravens earned the right to play for the AFC Championship. This will be head Coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joes Flacco’s third AFC title game together and they’ve lost both. Can the third game be the charm?
The Ravens travel to Foxboro, MA to take on Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for the second consecutive year in the title game with revenge on their minds. The New England duo has won five AFC titles together.
This is the first rematch in a conference or league title game in consecutive years since the 49ers and Cowboys met in the 1994 NFC Championship Game. There have been 19 previous rematches such as this since the NFL officially started post season play in 1933.
Can the Ravens win the rematch? As I always like to say the best thing NFL has given us is history. How have the previous 19 rematches played out, how many got their revenge and how many defended their title.
We have to go back to 1934 and visit the Polo Grounds in New York for the first rematch game…
For the record this Sunday’s rematch will only be the second time in championship game history where the game is being played in the same venue two years in a row. The only other time was during the 1978 and ‘79 AFC Championship games when Earl Campbell and the Wild Card Houston Oilers, were thumped in each game by the eventual Super Bowl champion, the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium.
So how have the previous revenge seekers fared?
Let’s turn back the clock…
1933-1934: Chicago Bears vs. New York Giants
1933 Wrigley Field, Chicago
The Bears won the first official NFL Championship game 23-21 over the Giants. Hall of Fame end Bill Hewitt’s lateral to Bill Carr propelled the Bears to the title. On the game’s last play football immortal Red Grange made the game saving tackle on the Giants Dale Burnett as he dashed towards the Bears goal line. Each Bear received $210.34 as the winning championship share; the losing Giants each received $140.22.
1934 Polo Grounds: New York, The Rematch
In a game that was dubbed ‘The Sneakers Game”, the Giants stunned the undefeated Bears 30-13 on a frozen field and won the rematch. While trailing the Bears 13-3 in the third quarter, eight Giant players changed from their football spikes to sneakers which gave them better footing. The sneaker clad Giants scored four 4th quarter touchdowns against the slipping Bears to win the title. Hall of Fame Giant back Ken Strong led the charge with two scoring runs.
1938-1939 New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers
1938 Polo Grounds, New York
The underdog Giants blocked two Packer punts and halfback Hank Soar caught an Ed Danowski scoring throw to bring the Giants from behind to win the title 23-17 before a then record crowd of 48,120.
1939 Milwaukee State Fair Park, The Rematch
Playing in 35 mile an hour winds Hall of Fame quarterback Arnie Herber threw one touchdown pass and future Baltimore Colts head coach Cecil Isbell threw another as the Packers routed the Giants 27-0 to win Curly Lambeau’s 5th NFL championship.
1942-1943 Washington Redskins vs. Chicago Bears
1942 Griffith Stadium, Washington DC
Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh threw for one score and Andy Farkas ran for another as the Redskins shocked the undefeated Bears 14-6 to win Baugh’s second NFL championship.
1943 Wrigley Field, Chicago, The Rematch
The Monsters of the Midway got their revenge as Bear Hall of Fame quarterback Sid Luckman threw for 5 touchdowns and legend Bronko Nagurski ran for another in his last game as Chicago took the title back 41-21.
1947-1948 Chicago Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles
1947 Comisky Park, Chicago
Cardinal owner Charles Bidwell’s “Dream Backfield” led by Hall of Famer Charlie Trippi beat the Eagles to win the title. Trippi scored on a 75 yard punt return and a 44 yard run. Trippi’s running mate Elmer Angsman had a pair of 70 yard scoring runs that gave the Cardinals a 28-21 victory, which still stands as their last championship to date.
1948 Shibe Park, Philadelphia, The Rematch
The Eagles got their revenge in a blinding snowstorm, in a game where the yard markers were covered with snow and sidelines were marked with rope. Eagles Hall of Fame running back Steve Van Buren powered in from 5 yards for the only score of the day. The Eagles won their first championship beating the Cardinals 7-0.
1950-1951 Cleveland Browns vs. Los Angeles Rams
1950 Municipal Stadium, Cleveland
The Rams scored on the first play from scrimmage as West Point alum Glenn Davis caught an 82 yard scoring throw from Hall of Famer Bob Waterfield. The Rams led 28-20 in the 4th period when the Browns countered with two scoring drives engineered by quarterback Otto Graham. The last drive ended with Lou Groza’s 16 yard game winning field goal as the Browns won their first NFL championship 30-28.
1951, Los Angeles Coliseum, The Rematch
The Rams got their revenge as Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin came off the bench and threw a 73 yard touchdown pass to fellow Hall of Famer Tom Fears to break a 17-17 tie to win the title 24-17 for Los Angeles. The Rams eventually would become the only NFL franchise to win NFL championships representing three cities, winning it in 1945 while in Cleveland, 1951 in Los Angeles, and 1999 in St. Louis.
1952, 1953, 1954, Detroit Lions vs Cleveland Browns
These teams were the first to play in three consecutive title games, so we have two rematches.
1952 Municipal Stadium Cleveland
Hall of Famers Bobby Layne and Doak Walker ran for scores as the Lions won their first NFL title since 1935, beating the uninspired Browns 17-7.
1953 Briggs Stadium, (Name later changed back to Tiger Stadium), Detroit, The 1st Rematch
The Lions became the first NFL team to defeat the same team two years in a row in the title game. Bobby Layne brought the Lions back from a 16-10 deficit when he found back up end Jim Doran for a 33 yard winning touchdown pass. Layne was fined after the game, because he had changed the original play in the huddle sent in by head coach Buddy Parker from a screen pass to the toss to Doran. Layne gladly paid as the Lions defended their championship.
1954 Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, The 2nd Rematch
The Browns got their revenge and then some beating the Lions 56-10. Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham ran for three scores and threw for three scores including one to wide receiver Ray Renfro, Renfro’s son Mike would play a huge part in another revenge title game 25 years later. Also, the voice of the Baltimore Ravens Gerry Sandusky, his father John Sandusky was the Browns starting right offensive tackle this game and in 1972 became head coach of the Baltimore Colts.
1958- 1959 Baltimore Colts vs. New York Giants
1958 Yankee Stadium, New York
In the “Greatest Game Ever Played”, third year quarterback John Unitas brought the Colts back from 17-14 in the last two minutes to tie the game with one of the most masterful drives in NFL history. At 8:15 of overtime in the NFL’s first sudden death game Alan Ameche gave the Colts their first championship, 23-17, by scoring from a yard out courtesy of a classic block by Hall of Famer Lenny Moore.
1959 Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, The Rematch
The Colts defended their title by beating the Giants 31-16. The Colts trailed 9-7 in the 4th quarter when they erupted for 24 consecutive points. Unitas scored on 4 yard run; Andy Nelson’s interception set up a Unitas’ scoring throw to eventual Carolina Panther owner Jerry Richardson; then Johnny Sample returned a Charlie Conerly pass intended for Frank Gifford 40 yards for a touchdown to send the New Yorkers home losers for the second year in a row.
1960-1961 Houston Oilers vs. Los Angeles Chargers 1960, San Diego Chargers 1961
1960 Jeppesen Stadium, Houston
In the first AFL title game, Hall of Fame quarterback and kicker George Blanda’s 88 yard scoring throw to Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon secured a 24-16 victory over Jack Kemp, Paul Lowe, and the Los Angeles Chargers.
1961 Balboa Stadium, San Diego, The Rematch
Charger owner Barron Hilton moved the team south to San Diego for 1961 but they still could not beat the Oilers in the title game. Houston defended their AFL championship with a 10-3 victory, the only touchdown was a Blanda to Cannon 35 yard scoring pass.
1961-1962 Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants
1961 City Stadium, Green Bay
Legendary coach Vince Lombardi won his first NFL title in the first post season game ever played in Green Bay. The Packers dismantled the Giants 37-0. Hall of Famer and 1961 league MVP Paul Hornung tied a then NFL post season record by scoring 19 points, he scored a touchdown, kicked three field goals, and 4 extra points.
1962 Yankee Stadium, New York, the rematch
The Packers defended their NFL championship in a cold and windy New York 16-7. Jerry Kramer kicked three field goals and Hall of Fame fullback Jim Taylor had 31 carries and a touchdown. The Giants only score came on a blocked punt, the Giants outgained the Packers, but for the second title game in a row Giant Hall of Fame quarterback YA Tittle could not find pay dirt. This was the first game filmed by Hall of Famer Ed Sabol and his production company, Blair Motion Pictures, which was later re-named NFL Films
1964-1965 Buffalo Bills vs San Diego Chargers
1964 War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo
Buffalo head coach Lou Saban had the AFL’s best defense, Charger Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman had the league’s best offense, on this day defense beat offense 20-7. The Chargers scored first but an injury to star full back Keith Lincoln and the aggressive Bill defense kept San Diego on their side of the muddy field most of the day.
1965 Balboa Stadium, San Diego, the rematch
The underdog Bills not only defended their title but shut out the heavily favored Chargers 23-0. The Chargers had scored more than 50 points against the Bills in their two regular season games in 1965 but never got inside the Buffalo twenty yard line this game. The Bills used a three man defensive line, dropped a defensive end into zone coverage, blitzed linebackers from all angles, and double teamed Charger Hall of Fame wide receiver Lance Alworth who was held to just 4 grabs for the day. This was the first use of the zone blitz, devised by defensive coordinator Joe Collier. AFL MVP Jack Kemp threw a touchdown pass and pro football’s first soccer style kicker Pete Gogolak added three field goals.
1966-1967 Green Bay Packers vs Dallas Cowboys
1966 Cotton Bowl, Dallas
Tom Landry led his Cowboys into their first post season game to face Lombardi’s veteran Packers. The favored Packers jumped to a 14-0 lead but the Cowboys rallied and trailed 34-27 with five minutes remaining. Cowboy quarterback Don Meredith drove the Cowboys to the Packer 2 yard line but was intercepted in the end zone on fourth down by Tom Brown after being blitzed by linebacker Dave Robinson. Hall of Fame Packer quarterback Bart Starr threw for three scores.
1967 Lambeau Field, Green Bay, the rematch
Playing in -13 degree temperatures with a fifteen mile an hour wind, the Cowboys and Packers played a rematch of the 1966 title game that was famously named “The Ice Bowl”. The Packers again jumped to 14-0 lead but the Cowboys came all the way back to take the lead 17-14 in the 4th period on a halfback option pass from Dan Reeves to Lance Rentzel. With just under 5 minutes left Starr led the Packers on the winning drive which ended with his one yard touchdown sneak on 4th down with 16 seconds to play. This gave the Packers their third consecutive NFL championship and was Lombardi’s 5th and final league title.
1970-1971 Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers
1970 Kezar Stadium, San Francisco
Rookie halfback Duane Thomas rushed for 143 yards and a score as Tom Landry won his first conference or league championship by beating 1970’s surprise team the 49ers. The Cowboys jumped to 17-3 lead and had to hold off 1970 NFL MVP 49er quarterback John Brodie and wide receiver Gene Washington’s desperate comeback attempt to win 17-10.
1971, Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas, the rematch
Roger Staubach was promoted to starting quarterback in 1971 for the Cowboys, but it was their defense that defended their NFC championship against the 49ers. The Doomsday defense intercepted three John Brodie passes and San Francisco could mange just nine first downs. Duane Thomas and Calvin Hill’s scoring runs gave Dallas their second title in as many years 14-3.
1974, 1975, 1976, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders
They played each other three consecutive years, we have two rematches
1974, Oakland Alameda County Coliseum
The favored Raiders led 10-3 after three periods. After that the Steeler defense and rushing attack took over. Franco Harris rushed for the go ahead score to open the 4th period. The next possession Pittsburgh linebacker Jack Ham intercepted a Ken Stabler’s pass to set up a Terry Bradshaw scoring throw. The Raiders countered with a field goal but a sustained Steeler drive ended with Harris’ second scoring run. After 42 years of futility, the Steelers won their first league or conference championship 24-13.
1975, Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, the rematch
The Steelers won the rematch 16-10 on an icy field that Raider owner Al Davis claimed was purposely watered the night before to mitigate his team’s outside speed. Neither team could move the ball for three periods as Pittsburgh led 3-0 going into the 4th. In the last period the Steelers scored two touchdowns, the Raiders one, and Pittsburgh led 16-7 with just a minute remaining. Stabler drove the Raiders to the Steeler twenty-four yard line with 17 seconds left. Head coach John Madden opted to attempt a 41 yard field goal. Forty eight year old George Blanda attempted the last kick of his Hall of Fame career and made it, cutting the Steeler lead to 16-10. The Raiders recovered the onside kick, but with just one play left Stabler found Cliff Branch at the Pittsburgh 15-yard line where he was tackled and time ran out. The Steelers won the first rematch and their second title 16-10.
1976, Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, the second rematch
John Madden won his first and only league or conference championship and gained revenge on the Steelers with an easy 24-7 victory. The Steelers due to injury were without running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. With the Raiders focused just on the Steeler passing game, Pittsburgh’s offense was a non factor. Oakland led 17-7 at the half then controlled the second, Ken Stabler’s third period scoring throw to veteran Pete Banaszak finished off the Steelers.
1978-1979 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Houston Oilers
1978, Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh
The surprising Wild Card Oilers played their way into the title game behind the running of rookie of the year Earl Campbell. Their run ended with a thud in the title game. In rainy Pittsburgh, the Steelers raced to a 31-3 halftime lead and won 34-5. Pittsburgh intercepted 5 Dan Pastorini passes, Campbell fumbled, and the Steelers collected nine Houston turnovers in total.
1979, Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, the rematch (The 1st time the title game was played in the same venue 2 years in a row)
Again the Wild Card Oilers played their way into the title game in Pittsburgh. The Steelers defended their title and won the rematch 27-13, but the game was much closer than the score would indicate and a play at the end of the third period would bring on the call for instant replay. The Oilers grabbed a 10-3 second period lead before Terry Bradshaw connected on two scoring throws before the half, giving them a 17-10 halftime lead. The game was tight back and forth, on third and goal from the Steeler six, Pastorini hit wide receiver Mike Renfro for an apparent score. But the officials after talking ruled that he bobbled the ball as he crossed the end line. TV replays did not show this, and instead of the game being tied in the 4th period, the Steelers led 17-13 after the Oilers settled for the field goal. Pittsburgh would score ten late points after turnovers to make the spread bigger than what the game actually was. The Steelers got a gift and replay got it’s start this day.
1986-1987 Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns
1986, Municipal Stadium, Cleveland
The Browns led 20-13 with 5:43 left in the game. In what would later be named “The Drive”, Denver quarterback John Elway drove the Broncos 98 yards on fifteen plays to tie the score with a 5 yard scoring strike to Mark Jackson. The stunned Browns punted in overtime and Elway drove the Broncos 60 yards in nine plays to set up Rich Karlis’ winning field goal. Which by the way was wide, but NBC so focused on Elway did not even show the replay.
The Browns did not complain, they did not even watch it go through the posts, assuming they were going to lose anyway after Elway’s drive. Years later Brown head coach Marty Schottenheimer said perhaps it was wide, Karlis remains silent. It was wide. This is the biggest not talked about controversy in NFL history. Watch the replay if you can, he missed it and the stunned Browns did not seem to care. “The Drive” got the press but the kick should have gotten the attention.
1987, Mile High Stadium, Denver, the rematch
In the rematch, the Broncos led 21-3 at the half. Led by running back Ernest Byner, who had sixty seven yards rushing, 120 yards on 7 receptions, and scored a pair touchdowns on the day, brought the Browns back to within 38-31 in the 4th period. With 65 seconds left Byner appeared to be heading for his third and the tying touchdown when Bronco cornerback Jeremiah Castille forced then recovered Byner’s fumble at the Denver three yard line. The Broncos gave up a safety and defended their AFC title 38-33.
1992, 1993, 1994 Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers
They played each other three consecutive years, we have two rematches
1992, Candlestick Park, San Francisco
The game was tied at 10 at the half. Two Troy Aikman to Alvin Harper passes, one for 38 yards and another for 70 yards set up second half Cowboy touchdowns en route to a Dallas 30-20 road victory over the favored 49ers.
1993, Texas Stadium, Irving, the first rematch
The Cowboys had little trouble defending their NFC title in the first rematch. Dallas scored on 4 of their first 5 possessions and coasted to a 28-7 half time lead. Troy Aikman received a concussion in the second half but his back up Bernie Kosar led the Cowboys to ten second half points as the Cowboys won another NFC championship game 38-21.
1994, Candlestick Park, San Francisco, the second rematch
San Francisco exploded for 21-0 lead in the opening minutes of the second rematch. The Cowboys trimmed the lead to 24-14, but Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jerry Rice connected for a score a few seconds before halftime for a 31-14 lead. Dallas rallied but the 49ers held them several times on downs in the 4th period to gain revenge for 1992 and 1993 with a 38-28 victory
This was the last rematch of a league or conference title game before this Sunday’s Ravens Patriots game.
2011-2012, New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens
2011, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
Patriot quarterback Tom Brady leapt over the Baltimore defensive line on 4th down for a one yard score giving the Patriots a 23-20 lead with more than 11 minutes left to play. Brady and Raven quarterback Joe Flacco exchanged interceptions. The Ravens gave the ball over on downs at the Patriot thirty three yard line. Baltimore then forced a punt and started a drive with 1:40 left from their twenty one yard line. Baltimore reached the Patriot 14 yard line with twenty seven seconds left. On second and one Flacco threw to the right side of end zone and his pass was momentarily grabbed by Lee Evans but Patriot defensive back Sterling Moore knocked the ball from Evans’ grasp. After another incomplete pass, the Ravens rushed a Billy Cundiff field goal attempt which sailed left. The Patriots won their 7th AFC title game 23-20.
2012, Gillette Stadium. FoxBorough, the rematch
As you can see the Ravens are right in the middle of NFL history. There have been 19 league or conference championship rematches in NFL history. When you add the records, the teams that lost the first title game were 8-11 in the rematch game.
History may not be completely on our side but it is almost even. If the 1934 Giants, 1939 Packers, 1943 Bears, 1948 Eagles, 1951 Rams, 1954 Browns, 1976 Raiders, and 1994 49ers, all teams with legendary Hall of Famers can win a rematch, then the 2012 Baltimore Ravens with legendary Hall of Famer to be Ray Lewis certainly can.
Bring on New England and let’s make new history.