1998–99 NFL playoffs

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The National Football League playoffs for the 1998 season began on January 2, 1999. The postseason tournament concluded with the Denver Broncos defeating the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII, 34–19, on January 31, at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida.


Within each conference, the three division winners and the three wild card teams (the top three non-division winners with the best overall regular season records) qualified for the playoffs. The three division winners were seeded 1 through 3 based on their overall won-lost-tied record, and the wild card teams were seeded 4 through 6. The NFL did not use a fixed bracket playoff system, and there were no restrictions regarding teams from the same division matching up in any round. In the first round, dubbed the wild-card playoffs or wild-card weekend, the third-seeded division winner hosted the sixth seed wild card, and the fourth seed hosted the fifth. The 1 and 2 seeds from each conference then received a bye in the first round. In the second round, the divisional playoffs, the number 1 seed hosted the worst surviving seed from the first round (seed 4, 5 or 6), while the number 2 seed played the other team (seed 3, 4 or 5). The two surviving teams from each conference's divisional playoff games then meet in the respective AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, hosted by the higher seed. Although the Super Bowl, the fourth and final round of the playoffs, was played at a neutral site, the designated home team was based on an annual rotation by conference.

Playoff seeds
1 Denver Broncos (West winner) Minnesota Vikings (Central winner)
2 New York Jets (East winner) Atlanta Falcons (West winner)
3 Jacksonville Jaguars (Central winner) Dallas Cowboys (East winner)
4 Miami Dolphins San Francisco 49ers
5 Buffalo Bills Green Bay Packers
6 New England Patriots Arizona Cardinals


Jan. 3 – Alltel Stadium   Jan. 10 – Giants Stadium          
 6  New England  10
 3  Jacksonville  24
 3  Jacksonville  25     Jan. 17 – Mile High Stadium
 2  N.Y. Jets  34  
Jan. 2 – Pro Player Stadium  2  N.Y. Jets  10
Jan. 9 – Mile High Stadium
   1  Denver  23  
 5  Buffalo  17 AFC Championship
 4  Miami  3
 4  Miami  24   Jan. 31 – Pro Player Stadium
 1  Denver  38  
Wild Card Playoffs  
Divisional Playoffs
Jan. 3 – 3Com Park  A1  Denver  34
Jan. 9 – Georgia Dome
   N2  Atlanta  19
 5  Green Bay  27 Super Bowl XXXIII
 4  San Francisco  18
 4  San Francisco  30     Jan. 17 – Humphrey Metrodome
 2  Atlanta  20  
Jan. 2 – Texas Stadium  2  Atlanta  30*
Jan. 10 – Humphrey Metrodome
   1  Minnesota  27  
 6  Arizona  20 NFC Championship
 6  Arizona  21
 3  Dallas  7  
 1  Minnesota  41  

* Indicates overtime victory

Wild Card playoffs[edit]

January 2, 1999[edit]

AFC: Miami Dolphins 24, Buffalo Bills 17[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Bills 0 7 7 3 17
Dolphins 3 3 8 10 24

at Pro Player Stadium, Miami, Florida

The Dolphins forced five Bills turnovers, including Buffalo quarterback Doug Flutie's fumble at the Miami 5-yard line with 17 seconds left in the game. Buffalo's wide receiver Eric Moulds set an NFL postseason record with 240 receiving yards, including a 32-yard touchdown catch.

Miami kicker Olindo Mare's 31-yard field goal was the only score of the first quarter. The Bills had a great scoring chance when Moulds caught a 65-yard pass from Flutie, but Terrell Buckley knocked the ball out of his hands and safety Brock Marion recovered the fumble, returning it 17 yards to the Miami 29. Mare kicked another field goal in the second quarter to put the Dolphins up 6-0, but a failed surprise onside kick attempt gave Buffalo the ball on the Dolphins 42. Moulds then caught a 37-yard pass to set up Thurman Thomas' 1-yard touchdown run. Near the end of the half, Buffalo drove to the Dolphins 6-yard line, but Marion intercepted a pass from Flutie in the end zone and the score remained 7-6 going into halftime.

In the third quarter, Miami took a 14-7 lead with a 4-play, 81-yard drive to score on Karim Abdul-Jabbar's 3-yard run (and Stanley Pritchett's 2-point conversion). However, Buffalo stormed right back to tie the game with Flutie's 32-yard touchdown pass to Moulds. In the fourth quarter, the Dolphins took a 10-point lead with Mare's third field goal and Dan Marino's 11-yard touchdown pass to Lamar Thomas.

With time running out in the game, Flutie completed a 31-yard pass to Moulds and then threw the ball to Andre Reed, who was tackled on the 1-yard line. Believing he had scored, Reed argued vehemently with the referee Steve Zimmer and bumped into him, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct foul that got the receiver ejected from the game. It also pushed the Bills back 15 yards and forced them to settle for Steve Christie's 33-yard field goal with 1:47 left. Buffalo subsequently recovered an onside kick and drove 64 yards in 10 plays to the Dolphins 5-yard line. But as Flutie stepped up to make a throw, he lost the ball while being sacked by Miami's Trace Armstrong and lineman Shane Burton recovered the fumble.

There wasn't any doubt he was in, Bills coach Wade Phillips said about Reed's ejection after the game. That game looks a lot different at the end. With Andre Reed in the game and us only down 3, we would have done some different things at the end.[1]

NFC: Arizona Cardinals 20, Dallas Cowboys 7[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Cardinals 7 3 7 3 20
Cowboys 0 0 0 7 7

at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

Quarterback Jake Plummer passed for 213 yards and two touchdowns as he led the Cardinals to their first playoff victory since 1947, ending the longest playoff win drought in NFL history. Their victory was especially satisfying against the Cowboys, who defeated them twice during the season (38–10 on opening day and 35–28 in week 11). Arizona running back Adrian Murrell rushed for 95 yards and caught 2 passes for 16 yards and a touchdown, while their defense sacked Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman four times (twice by linebacker Jamir Miller and two more by Andre Wadsworth) and intercepted three of his passes (two by defensive back Aeneas Williams).

On the Cardinals second possession of the game, Plummer completed a 59-yard pass to receiver Frank Sanders, setting up Murrell's 11-yard touchdown catch a few plays later. Later on, the Cardinals increased their lead to 10–0 with Chris Jacke's 37-yard field goal with 19 seconds left in the half. The Cowboys had two drives inside the Arizona 20 in the half, but Richie Cunningham missed a 37-yard field goal on the first one, and running back Emmitt Smith was stuffed for no gain on the second while trying to convert a 4th down and 1 on the 9-yard line.

On the first play of the second half, Murrell took off for a 74-yard run to the Cowboys 3-yard line. It was the longest postseason run ever surrendered by the Cowboys in their 52-postseason game history. On the next play, Plummer threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to fullback Larry Centers, making the score 17–0. In the fourth quarter, Arizona defensive back Aeneas Williams recorded his second interception from Aikman, setting up a 46-yard field goal by Jacke. Meanwhile, all Dallas could do was avoid a shutout with Dieon Sanders' 41-yard punt return setting up Aikman's 6-yard touchdown pass to Billy Davis with 3:33 left in the game.

It was the last time ABC aired a game between these two teams, after six games on Monday Night Football. ESPN has yet to show these teams playing on Monday night (though they did meet on Sunday night on ESPN once).

January 3, 1999[edit]

AFC: Jacksonville Jaguars 25, New England Patriots 10[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Patriots 0 0 7 3 10
Jaguars 6 6 0 13 25

at Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida

Running back Fred Taylor ran for 162 yards and a touchdown as the Jaguars won their first home playoff game in team history. Jacksonville kicker Mike Hollis contributed 4 field goals. Patrtiots running back Robert Edwards, who rushed for 1,115 yards and 9 touchdowns during the season, was held to 28 yards on 17 carries.

The Patriots, playing without starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe, receiver Terry Glenn and linebacker Ted Johnson due to injuries, could not score any points in the first half. Hollis opened up the scoring with two field goals. The second one was set up by a 46-yard run by Taylor and followed two overthrown passes by quarterback Mark Brunell to receiver Keenan McCardell and running back George Jones, who were both wide open in the end zone. Brunell struggled throughout most of the game, finishing with just 14 of 34 completions for 161 yards. Later in the second quarter, Taylor's 21-yard run gave his team a first down on the Patriots 34-yard line. 4 plays later, he scored on a 13-yard touchdown run, giving his team a 12–0 lead after a failed 2-point conversion attempt.

But in the third quarter, Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak managed to spark a rally. First he led New England 85 yards on a drive that consumed 8:48 off the clock and ended with a 1-yard touchdown run from Edwards. Then on the Patriots next possession, he led them to Jacksonville's 9-yard line. Following a dropped pass by tight end Lovett Purnell on third down, Adam Vinatieri's 27-yard field goal cut it to 12–10. But on the Jaguars ensuing possession, quarterback Mark Brunell, threw a pass to receiver Jimmy Smith, who managed to break past defensive back Ty Law and make a 37-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone. On the Patriots next drive, Jacksonville lineman Joel Smeenge forced and recovered a fumble, setting up Hollis' third field goal. He added a fourth field goal to close out the scoring after the Patriots turned the ball over on downs deep in their own territory on their next possession.

NFC: San Francisco 49ers 30, Green Bay Packers 27[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Packers 3 14 0 10 27
49ers 7 3 10 10 30

at 3Com Park at Candlestick Point, San Francisco, California

The 49ers defeated the Packers, who had eliminated them from the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, in one of the wildest back-and-forth games in league history in what would be the last hurrah in the 49ers dynasty.

Both teams took advantage of each other's turnovers and mistakes throughout the game. In the first quarter, Green Bay safety Pat Terrell's recovery of a fumble from receiver Terrell Owens set up a 48-yard drive that ended with a Ryan Longwell field goal. But later in the period, 49ers lineman Chris Doleman recovered a fumble from Dorsey Levens on the Packers 17-yard line. Two plays later, Steve Young threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Clark, giving San Francisco a 7–3 lead. The Packers offense responded by driving 62 yards in 9 plays, and Levens made up for his miscue with a 22-yard run to the 49ers 2-yard line on fourth down and 1. On the next play, quarterback Brett Favre finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman 4 seconds into the second quarter.

Later in the second quarter, 49ers defensive back R. W. McQuarters returned a punt 19 yards to the 47-yard line. Running back Garrison Hearst then rushed 3 times for 28 yards on a 37-yard drive that ended with a field goal by Wade Richey, tying the game at 10. But before the half ended, the Packers retook the lead with a 9-play, 83-yard drive, aided by two 15-yard penalties against San Francisco. Levens finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, giving Green Bay a 17–10 halftime lead.

Early in the third quarter, 49ers linebacker Lee Woodall intercepted a pass from Favre and returned it 17 yards to the Packers 33-yard line. Four plays later, Owens dropped a pass in the end zone, but Young threw his second touchdown pass to Clark on the next play, tying the score at 17. Then after forcing a punt, they took the lead by driving 48 yards and scoring with a 48-yard field goal by Richey.

In the fourth quarter, the Packers drove 60 yards in 11 plays, featuring a 33-yard reception by fullback William Henderson, and scored a 37-yard field goal to tie the game. But on the 49ers ensuing drive, a 34-yard completion for Young to Owens set up another Richey field goal to put them back in the lead, 23–20. With 6:16 left in the game, 49ers defensive back Darnell Walker intercepted a pass from Favre and returned it to the Packers 40-yard line, giving his team a chance to put it out of reach. But after two runs by Hearst failed to make a significant gain, Owens dropped a potential first-down catch, his fourth drop of the day, and San Francisco had to punt.

Taking the ball back at their own 11-yard line with 4:19 remaining, Favre led the Packers back to retake the lead on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Freeman at the end of an 89-yard drive, featuring a 47-yard completion to seldom-used rookie receiver Corey Bradford. But San Francisco responded with an equally impressive drive, in which Jerry Rice visibly fumbled on his first reception of the game, but was ruled down by contact even though replays appeared to show the ball came out before his knee hit the ground.[1] The use of instant replay challenges was not in effect until the following year, allowing the drive to continue behind Young, who completed 7 of 9 passes on a 76-yard drive for the winning score. Owens, who had dropped four passes and lost a fumble, caught the 25-yard winning touchdown pass with eight seconds left in the game.

Hearst finished the game with 128 rushing yards and 3 receptions for 15 yards. Levens rushed for 116 yards, caught 6 passes for 37 yards, and scored a touchdown. Favre threw for 292 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Young passed for 182 yards and 3 scores. Both Young and Favre were intercepted twice. Packers receiver Roell Preston set a postseason franchise record with 198 kickoff return yards.

This game was later featured on the NFL's Greatest Games as The Catch II.


Divisional playoffs[edit]

January 9, 1999[edit]

NFC: Atlanta Falcons 20, San Francisco 49ers 18[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
49ers 0 10 0 8 18
Falcons 7 7 3 3 20

at Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta running back Jamal Anderson rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns, while the Falcons defense intercepted three passes from quarterback Steve Young as they barely escaped with a victory in the first playoff game ever played at the Georgia Dome. This would eventually prove to be the final postseason game in Young's Hall of Fame career, as well as the final game for 49ers defensive lineman Chris Doleman, who finished his 14-season career with 142.5 sacks.

On the first play of the game, the 49ers suffered a major setback when running back Garrison Hearst, who rushed for 1,570 yards during the season, suffered a broken ankle. This turned out to be a devastating injury that would prevent Hearst from playing another game until the 2001 season. Without Hearst, San Francisco would rush the ball only 19 times the rest of the game, and finished with just 47 yards on the ground. Heart's 7-yard carry on his injury play would be the 49ers longest run of the day.

San Francisco was unable to get a first down on their first three possessions, while two touchdown runs by Anderson gave the Falcons a 14–0 lead with 3:12 left in the half. On ther 49ers next drive, backup running back Terry Kirby fumbled a pitch from Young. After several players scrambled for it, the ball bounced up in the air and was picked up by Atlanta's Chuck Smith, who returned it for an apparent touchdown. However, line judge Ron Baynes ruled that Kirby briefly gained possession of the ball and his knee was down when touched by Atlanta linebacker Henri Crocket, and the 49ers regained possession. A few plays later, Young threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Rice, cutting the score to 14–7. Then on the Falcons ensuing possession, linebacker Charles Haley deflected a pass from Chris Chandler into the arms of defensive end Junior Bryant, who returned the interception to the Falcons 36-yard line. On the final play of the half, Wade Richey kicked a 36-yard field goal to cut the 49ers deficit to 14–10 at halftime.

In the third quarter, the 49ers drove all the way to the Falcons 3-yard line. But safety Eugene Robinson intercepted a pass from Young and returned it 77 yards to the 49ers 20-yard line, setting up Morten Andersen's 29-yard field goal. Later in the quarter, the 49ers drove deep into Falcons territory again, only to have Young throw an interception to William White, who returned the ball 14 yards with a personal foul on the 49ers adding another 15. Atlanta got the ball on the 49ers 36-yard line, and eventually scored on Andersen's second field goal, giving his team a 20–10 lead early in the fourth quarter.

With 2:57 left in the regulation, Young finished off an 87-yard, 13-play drive with an 8-yard touchdown run. Backup quarterback Ty Detmer fumbled the snap on the extra point attempt, but he picked up the ball and threw it to tight end Greg Clark for a successful 2-point conversion to make it 20–18. San Francisco managed to force a punt, but Dan Stryzinski managed to pin them back at their own 4-yard line with 34 seconds and no timeouts left. Young started out the drive with a 24-yard completion to Chuck Levy. But on the next play, William White's interception at midfield as time expired sealed the victory. This was the last game for Jerry Markbreit as he retired from officiating NFL football.

AFC: Denver Broncos 38, Miami Dolphins 3[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Dolphins 0 3 0 0 3
Broncos 14 7 3 14 38

at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Denver blew out Miami, outgaining them in rushing yards 250–14 and scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions. On their opening drive, they took 7:55 off the clock on the way to a 1-yard touchdown run by Terrell Davis. Then after forcing a punt, they moved the ball much faster, driving 66 yards in four plays and scoring with Davis' second touchdown on a 20-yard burst. Miami managed to respond with a 22-yard field goal from Olindo Mare. However, the Broncos stormed right back, driving 87 yards in 11 plays and scoring with Derek Loville's 11-yard touchdown run, giving them a 21–3 lead by halftime

On the first play of the second half, Davis had a 62-yard run, setting up Jason Elam's field goal to make it 24–3. Miami prevented Denver from scoring for the rest of the period, but in the fourth quarter, Broncos quarterback John Elway threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith. Then on Miami's ensuing drive, defensive end Neil Smith closed out the scoring by returning a fumble 79 yards for a touchdown.

Terrell Davis ran for 199 yards, caught a pass for 7 yards, and scored 2 touchdowns. Elway threw for 182 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 19 yards. Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino threw for 243 yards, but could not lead his team to a single touchdown and was intercepted twice. This was the only time that Hall of Famers Elway and Marino (both members of the famous 1983 draft class) faced each other in the playoffs; Elway was in his last season, and Marino in his next-to-last.

This game was Bill Carollo's first playoff game as a head referee.

January 10, 1999[edit]

AFC: New York Jets 34, Jacksonville Jaguars 24[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Jaguars 0 7 7 10 24
Jets 7 10 14 3 34

at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

Quarterback Vinny Testaverde passed for 284 yards as the Jets held the ball for 39:16. Receiver Keyshawn Johnson caught 9 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 28 yards and a touchdown, recovered a fumble, and intercepted a pass on defense near the end of the game when he was brought in as an extra defensive back. Jets running back Curtis Martin rushed for 124 yards, caught 6 passes for 58 yards, and scored 2 touchdowns. Jacksonville receiver Jimmy Smith caught 5 passes for 104 yards and 2 touchdowns. Quarterback Mark Brunell threw 3 touchdown passes, but was held to just 12 of 31 completions for 156 yards and intercepted 3 times.

Johnson's 21-yard touchdown reception on the opening drive of the game was the only score from either team in the first quarter. Most of the second quarter belonged to the Jets, who held the ball for all but 51 seconds of the period and added 10 points to their lead. First, John Hall made a 51-yard field goal. Then on New York's next drive, Martin lost a fumble that safety Chris Hudson initially recovered on the Jaguars 18-yard line. But during the return, he fumbled while attempting a lateral to teammate Dave Thomas as he was being tackled by Testaverde, and Johnson recovered the ball on New York's 34-yard line. The Jets then drove back into Jacksonville territory and scored with Johnson's 10-yard run. However, Brunell threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith on the last play of the half, cutting the score to 17–7.

Early in the third quarter, Jets defensive back Corwin Brown intercepted a pass from Brunell on third down and returned it 40 yards. On the ensuing drive, Testaverde's 23-yard completion to Johnson set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Martin. However, Jacksonville's Reggie Barlow returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards, setting up a 3-yard touchdown pass from Brunell to Keenan McCardell and cutting their deficit to 24–14. New York struck right back, with Testaverde throwing for 70 yards on a six-minute drive then ended with Martin's second touchdown to put them up 31–14 going into the fourth quarter.

But Jacksonville refused to give up. First, Brunell threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Smith. Then a fumble from Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet set up a field goal from Mike Hollis, bringing the Jaguars to within one touchdown, 31–24. New York responded by driving inside the Jacksonville 20-yard line. With 2:30 left in the game, rookie safety Donovin Darius intercepted a pass from Testaverde in the end zone, but instead on kneeling down for a touchback, he attempted to return the ball and was tackled at the one-yard line. Jacksonville was unable to get a first down on their ensuing drive and turned the ball over on downs. A few plays later, Hall kicked a field goal to put the game away.

NFC: Minnesota Vikings 41, Arizona Cardinals 21[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Cardinals 0 7 7 7 21
Vikings 7 17 10 7 41

at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Running back Robert Smith led the Vikings to a victory as he ran for a team-playoff-record 124 yards and caught 2 passes for 14 yards. Fullback Leroy Hoard scored franchise playoff record 3 touchdowns, while quarterback Randall Cunningham completed 17 of 27 passes for 236 yards and 3 touchdowns with 1 interception. Arizona quarterback Jake Plummer threw for more yards than Cunningham, but was intercepted twice by Robert Griffith. Running back Mario Bates scored 3 touchdowns, but had only 4 rushing yards.

Hoard's 1-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the game gave the Vikings a 7–0 lead. Later in the period, the Vikings drove all the way to the Cardinals 7-yard line, but on the first play of the second quarter, defensive back Aeneas Williams intercepted a pass intended for Randy Moss in the end zone. However, Griffith recorded interceptions on each of the Cardinals next two possessions, setting up Cunningham's 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Glover and a 34-yard field goal by Gary Anderson. It gave the Vikings a 17–0 lead before Arizona had made a single completion or gained a first down. Arizona managed to respond with a 1-yard touchdown run from Bates, but Smith's 45-yard run on the ensuing drive set up Hoard's 16-yard touchdown reception, increasing the Vikings' lead to 24–7 by halftime.

Leading 27–14 late in the third quarter, Minnesota took advantage of a fumbled snap by Plummer by converting it into Cunningham's third touchdown pass of the day, a 3-yard pass to Moss. Arizona responded with another touchdown run from Bates, but the Vikings struck back with Hoard's 6-yard touchdown run at the end of a 12-play drive to seal the victory.

The Cardinals 9–7 record and wildcard win in Dallas ultimately did not signal a turnaround for the long-troubled franchise. They fell to 6–10 in the following year and would not make the playoffs again until the 2008 season.

Conference championships[edit]

January 17, 1999[edit]

NFC Championship: Atlanta Falcons 30, Minnesota Vikings 27 (OT)[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 OT Total
Falcons 7 7 3 10 3 30
Vikings 7 13 0 7 0 27

at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota

This was the first conference championship game to feature two teams who play their home games in domes. The 14–2 Falcons came into the game as 11-point underdogs, but managed to overcome a 13-point deficit (the largest comeback in an NFC championship game until the Falcons blew a 17-point lead against the 49ers in 2012) and win an extremely competitive game late in overtime, making Minnesota the first 15–1 team ever to fail to reach the Super Bowl (a dubious feat since matched by the two other 15–1 teams, the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers and 2011 Green Bay Packers). The Vikings had set an NFL record with 556 points and won their nine previous home games by an average of 23 points, but they could not win this game despite maintaining a lead for nearly all of the time in regulation. Fox Sports ranked it the third most exciting NFC Championship Game ever.

Atlanta took the opening kickoff and stormed down the field, scoring with Chris Chandler's 5-yard pass to Jamal Anderson. Aided by a 30-yard pass interference penalty on Falcons defensive back Ray Buchanan, Minnesota struck right back on their first drive with Randall Cunningham's 31-yard scoring strike to Randy Moss. In the second quarter, the Vikings converted an Atlanta fumble into a Gary Anderson field goal. Then after forcing a punt, Cunningham's 1-yard touchdown run increased his team's lead to 17–7 with 5 minutes left in the half. Atlanta lost another fumble on their next possession, giving the ball back to Minnesota again. The Vikings blew a chance at another touchdown when Moss dropped a pass in the end zone, but Anderson kicked another field goal to make the score 20–7. After forcing another Atlanta punt, the Vikings attempted to increase their lead more before halftime, but this time Falcons lineman Chuck Smith forced a fumble from Cunningham and Atlanta recovered the ball deep in Vikings territory, setting up Chandler's 14-yard touchdown pass to Terance Mathis to cut their deficit to 20–14 by the end of the half. It was the turning point for the Falcons, as the game's momentum began to shift their way (albeit subtly).

Atlanta forced the Vikings to punt on the opening drive of the second half, and two plays by receiver Tim Dwight, a 26-yard punt return and a 21-yard run, set up Morten Andersen's 27-yard field goal to cut their deficit to 3 points. The Vikings countered on their ensuing possession, driving 82 yards in 15 plays and scoring on Matthew Hatchette's 5-yard reception (his only touchdown of the season) to make the score 27–17 with just over 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Atlanta responded with Chandler's 70-yard completion to Tony Martin setting up a score on Andersen's 24-yard field goal that narrowed the gap to 27–20. Minnesota took the ensuing kickoff and marched down to the Falcons 30-yard line, but lost their scoring opportunity when Cunningham fumbled a snap and Atlanta recovered the ball. The Falcons subsequently marched deep into Vikings territory, but also failed to score when Chandler's incomplete pass on a fourth down and 2 attempt turned the ball over on downs with 6 minutes left in regulation.

Minnesota then drove to the Falcons 20-yard line, setting up a 38-yard field goal attempt for Gary Anderson, who had not missed a field goal all season. Another successful kick would have wrapped up the NFC title for Minnesota, but Anderson's kick sailed wide left, giving the ball back to Atlanta with 2:07 left and new life. Chandler then led his team down to the Vikings 16-yard line. Following a near interception by Minnesota Strong Safety Robert Griffith, Mathis' 16-yard touchdown catch tied the game with 49 seconds left. Vikings coach Dennis Green then chose to kneel down and sent the game into overtime. By this point, the Vikings had lost five starting players to injury, including hall of fame defensive tackle John Randle.

After the first 3 possessions of overtime ended in punts, Vikings punter Mitch Berger's 52-yard kick gave Atlanta the ball at the own 9-yard line. Chandler, now visibly limping due to an ankle injury, completed two passes to tight end O.J. Santiago for gains of 15 and 26 yards on a 70-yard drive to the Minnesota 21-yard line where Andersen kicked a 38-yard field goal to win the game.

Chandler had one of the best games of his career, throwing for 340 yards and 3 touchdowns. Martin caught 5 passes for 129 yards. Cunningham also had a solid performance, throwing for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also rushing for 13 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Numerous references to this game are made in "Little Minnesota", an episode from the television series How I Met Your Mother.

The game was featured as one of the NFL's Greatest Games as Andersen and Anderson.

This was the first NFC Championship Game to go to overtime (since, there have already been four other instances, with the 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2014 NFC Championship Games going to overtime).

AFC Championship: Denver Broncos 23, New York Jets 10[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Jets 0 3 7 0 10
Broncos 0 0 20 3 23

at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

In John Elway's last home game of his career, he completed only 13 of 34 passes. However, running back Terrell Davis, the NFL MVP in 1998, ran for 167 yards and a touchdown, and Denver capitalized on 6 turnovers (two interceptions by defensive back Darrien Gordon and four fumbles) by the Jets to overcome a 10–0 deficit. Jets running back Curtis Martin was held to just 14 rushing yards on 13 carries. New York quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw for 356 yards, but no touchdowns and was intercepted twice. Gordon returned 5 punts for 79 yards and two interceptions for 48.

Both teams blew scoring opportunities throughout the first half. The Jets took the opening kickoff and drove deep into Denver territory, only to have John Hall miss a 42-yard field goal attempt. New York forced the Broncos to punt on their ensuing possession, and Dave Meggett gave his team good field position with a 33-yard return. However, Martin lost a fumble on the Broncos 44-yard line and defensive back Tyrone Braxton recovered it. Then Denver took the ball and drove all the way to the Jets 1-yard line, only to give it back when linebacker Mo Lewis deflected Elway's pass on a fourth down conversion attempt.

In the second quarter, Broncos punter Tom Rouen fumbled a snap and was downed on the Denver 43-yard line. New York subsequently drove to the 18-yard line, but then fullback Keith Byars fumbled the ball and linebacker John Mobley recovered it. On their next drive, New York opened up the scoring with Hall's 32-yard field goal. Then early in the second half, the Jets tight end Blake Spence blocked a punt and recovered it on the Broncos 1-yard line. On the next play, Martin scored a 1-yard touchdown run to increase their lead to 10–0.

However, Denver stormed back with 23 unanswered points. On their ensuing possession, Elway completed a 47-yard pass to Ed McCaffrey. Two plays later, his 11-yard touchdown pass to Howard Griffith cut the score to 10–7. Then the Broncos caught a lucky break when the ensuing kickoff bounced back in their direction and was recovered by linebacker Keith Burns, setting up Jason Elam's 44-yard field goal to tie the game. The next time Denver got the ball, Elam kicked another field goal, giving the Broncos their first lead of the game.

With time running out in the third quarter, Gordon's 36-yard punt return gave the Broncos great field position. A few plays later, Davis' 31-yard touchdown burst 18 seconds into the fourth quarter gave them a 20–10 lead. Later in the quarter, Elam kicked a 35-yard field goal to close out the scoring.

This game would be Bill Parcells' only career loss in a Conference Championship Game,

Super Bowl XXXIII: Denver Broncos 34, Atlanta Falcons 19[edit]

Further information: Super Bowl XXXIII
Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Broncos (AFC) 7 10 0 17 34
Falcons (NFC) 3 3 0 13 19

at Pro Player Stadium, Miami, Florida