When you think of the best NFL games of all time, you instantly think of close Super Bowl finishes and thrilling playoff games.
The stakes may not be as high as regular season games. But we shouldn’t forget some of the all-time classics that took part before playoff time.
Let’s dive right into the 10 best regular season games in NFL history.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Rams (Week 11, 2018)
Patrick Mahomes’ stat line: 31 completions, 478 passing yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions.
Jared Goff’s stat line: 31 completions, 413 yards, four touchdowns, no picks.
Yep, it was an all-time Hollywood-drama style thriller, folks! The stats above tell you that it was an insane back-and-forth shootout. So let’s just skip to the crazy fourth quarteR!
Down 40-30 early in the fourth, Mahomes finds Tyreek Hill for a 73-yard score. On the next drive, Goff is strip-sacked and Allen Bailey scoops it up for the go-ahead TD. Then Goff hits Gerald Everett in the end zone for the go-ahead TD with 9:38 remaining.
The two sides exchange punts. With under 3 minutes to go, Mahomes hits Chris Conley on a crossing route to put KC up again.
It takes 58 seconds for the Rams to go up, courtesy of a 40-yard Goff deep bomb to Everett. In the waning seconds, Mahomes is picked off one last time by Lamarcus Joyner to seal it for the Rams. Final score? 54 to 51!
1,001 yards of offense and 105 combined points. Wowza!
Denver Broncos @ Dallas Cowboys (Week 6, 2013)
You know a game was crazy when a guy threw 506 yards and five touchdowns…and still lost.
But that was Tony Romo’s career for ya, ladies and gentlemen. He went toe-to-toe with Peyton Manning for 58 minutes in this thrilling Week 6 late afternoon game at Jerry’s World, but it wasn’t good enough.
Denver had erased a first half deficit of 14 points. Dallas erased a second half deficit of 15 points. 5 scoring drives in the final quarter.
The two defenses basically just took the nights off. Manning completed 33 passes for 414 yards and four scores. Romo had the game of his life…before throwing a costly interception to Danny Trevathan at the two-minute warning.
Denver melted the clock and Matt Prater came out for the game-winning 28-yarder. The Broncos won a whacky thriller, 51-48
Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets (Week 3, 1986)
Dan Marino completed 50 passes for 448 yards and six TDs..only to be outdueled by Ken O’Brien. Who’da thought?
The Jets put up 28 points alone in the second quarter! Miami put up 17 alone in the third frame! On the final play of regulation, O’Brien found Wesley Walker for a 21-yarder that forced overtime.
Needing just a field goal to win, O’Brien decided to go for the ultimate style points. He hit Walker for a 43-yard TD – the latter’s fourth score of the game! – to walk it off.
96 total points. 1,066 yards of offense.
Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots (Week 6, 2018)
The 5-and-0 Chiefs were led by the next young phenom in Patrick Mahomes.
KC struggled in the red zone throughout the first half. A trio of Harrison Butker field goals gave ‘em life, but the Chiefs found themselves trailing 24 to 9 at half. It looked like Mahomes had learned his lesson from the two GOATs.
It took the Chiefs just 1:33 to open the second half scoring. Mahomes found a wide open Kareem Hunt for a 67-yard TD to bring the Chiefs within a score. The two sides swapped field goals. A Brady strip sack gave KC short field position, and Mahomes found Tyreek Hill in the end zone for a 14-yard score. Now it was a one-point game.
New England added a field goal early in the fourth to increase their lead to four. The chaos was now about to unfold.
With 8:38 left in the game , Mahomes found Hill – who else – for the go-ahead touchdown. But Brady and company needed just 3:13 to regain the lead, with TB12 scoring on a four-yard TD run. A subsequent field goal gave NEw England a 7-point lead with 3:15 to go.
And on the first play from scrimmage on the next drive?…Mahomes loaded up and found Hill for his third TD of the game. Butker’s extra point attempt tied the game.
3 minutes was too much time for Brady, however. He pieced together another signature drive and set up Stephen Gostkowski’s game-winning 28-yarder as time expired.
Over 300 passing yards for both QBS. 83 total points scored. 946 yards of offense. Part one of Brady vs. Mahomes was downright legendary. And yet, they managed to out-do this game when they met in the AFC Championship Game three months later, with the Patriots prevailing 37-31 in overtime at Arrowhead.
New England Patriots @ Indianapolis Colts (Week 10, 2009)
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning met once again under the shiny lights of Sunday Night Football. And this meeting had more hype than most of the previous ones.
The Patriots had cruised to a 6-2 start. The Colts were 8-0 and looking to keep their perfect regular season alive. The last time Brady met Manning, New England came into Indianapolis and handed the Colts their first loss of the 2007 season. The Pats, of course, didn’t lose until Super Bowl 42.
The Colts jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but New England silenced Lucas Oil Stadium with 24 unanswered points. Indy regained momentum before halftime when Peyton found Reggie Wayne for a late 20-yard score.
The third quarter yielded zero points, but there were plenty of adventurous moments! Brady was picked off in the red zone…then Manning took over and threw an INT on the ensuing drive.
Just when New England went in for what should have been the dagger Maroney fumbled near the goal line. Indy recovered but failed to capitalize on the ensuing possession.
New England got it back, and Brady hit Moss for a 5-yard TD to seemingly ice the game.
But it took the Colts just 2:04 to get those seven points back, making it a 10-point game. With 4:13 to go, a Gostkowski field goal put New England up by 13. Aided by a 31-yard defensive PI call on Darius Butler, Indianapolis needed less than two minutes to find the end zone – thanks to Joseph Addai’s four-yard TD.
But oh, it was about to get even crazier! Indianapolis seemingly forced a Patriots 3-and-out on the ensuing drive. However, Bill Belichick didn’t trust his defense and instead called for a pass play on 4th-and-2…at their own 28-yard-line!
Brady’s pass to Kevin Faulk was juggled and ruled short of the goal-line. Because they were out of timeouts, the Patriots couldn’t challenge. And because the play happened before the two-minute warning, the officials wouldn’t conduct a booth review.
So Manning made easy work of the Patriots defense in a short field. They bled the clock and ended the drive when Manning found Reggie Wayne for a one-yard score. Matt Stover’s extra point would win the game.
Belichick may be the GOAT of coaches, but he simply out-smarted himself that very night.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos (Week 7, 1994)
The ‘94 campaign was one of the worst for Denver in the John Elway era. They limped to a 7-and-9 finish and got to see the rival San Diego Chargers reach the Super Bowl…and the archrival Chiefs claim a wild card spot.
‘94 was a forgettable year in Denver, but Elway’s showdown with Joe Montana and the Chiefs in Week 7 on Monday Night Football certainly wasn’t! It turned out to be the final Elway-Montana showdown, and by far the very best as far as entertainment value goes!
After a scoreless first, the Broncos opened the scoring with Leonard Russell’s 12-yard rushing TD. Marcus Allen’s seven-yard rushing score evened the game. Elway and Montana exchanged TD passes to send the game into halftime at 14 apiece.
Montana’s four-yard TD pass to Joe Valerio gave KC its first lead of the game, but Denver responded with an Elway 20-yard TD strike to Jerry Evans. Lin Elliott’s 19-yard field goal put KC up by 3 in the fourth.
With a minute and a half to go, Elway took the snap and ran the ball into the end zone to help Denver regain the lead. But “Joe Cool”would not be denied with the game in his hands.
In what would be his final NFL season, Montana delivered another signature late-game comeback. He pieced together another surgical drive, finding Willie Davis for the game-winning TD with only eight seconds remaining. Game. Set. And Match. KC won 31-28.
Montana had broken the hearts of Elway and the Broncos in Super Bowl 24. He just had to do it to them one last time before retiring.
New York Jets @ Oakland Raiders (Week 11, 1968)
Okay this was technically an AFL game between the Jets and Raiders. But we had to include it anyway. Because it was a true classic.
This game is usually referred to as “The Heidi Game” because on the East Coast, NBC switched over to the broadcast of the new film “Heidi” late in the fourth quarter. That meant the Jets fans watching in New York wouldn’t be able to see the epic conclusion.
The Jets kicked two field goals to build a 6-0 lead, but a pair of Daryle Lamonica TD strikes put Oakland up 14-12. Two more Jets TDs would put them up 19-14 in the third quarter.
The Raiders kept clawing their way back, eventually tying it 29-apiece on a Fred Biletnikoff TD. Jim Turner’s 26-yarder gave New York a 3-point lead with just over a minute to go.
However, Lamonica pieced together a quick and efficient drive, hitting Charlie Smith for the go-ahead 43-yard score. Now, the Raiders were up four points while Jets fans were watching Heidi!
On the ensuing kickoff, Jets’ return man Earl Christy fumbled the football. Preston Ridlehuber of the Raiders returned it for the score, clinching the “Heidi Game” for the Raiders. Final score: 43-22.
All turned out fine for the Jets. They would beat the Raiders in AFL Championship Game, en route to stunning the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders (Week 18, 2021)
The situation for both teams was simple: Win and you’re in the postseason. Lose and you’re out. Tie and you’re…both in the postseason!
The Raiders put up 10 points in the first quarter, but a pair of Austin Ekeler TDs in the second quarter put the Chargers ahead by a four. A controversial 41-yard defensive PI call on Chris Harris Jr. set up Josh Jacobs’ go-ahead TD before halftime.
On a 4th-and-21 play with four and a half minutes to go, Herbert found rookie Josh Palmer in the end zone to keep the season alive. A successful two-point conversion made it a seven-point game.
After the Chargers forced a punt, Herbert drove the Bolts downfield – hitting Mike Wililams for a TD as the clock hit zero. The extra point forced overtime.
Both teams scored a field goal on their first possessions of OT. The Raiders could have taken several kneel downs to send both teams in the playoffs, but they opted to stay aggressive. Daniel Carlson *officially* sent Vegas to the playoffs with a 47-yarder.
The Chargers were headed home, and it was the Steelers who managed to sneak into the AFC’s final wild card seed.
Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers (Week 2, 1978)
The two rivals met for what turned out to be one of the most epic albeit controversial endings in NFL history.
The Chargers led 13-7 at halftime, then added some insurance in the fourth on Hank Bauer’s two-yard rushing TD. But Ken Stabler’s 44-yard TD to Morris Bradshaw suddenly gave the Raiders new life.
The Raiders defense held the fort and gave Stabler one last chance to win the game. Oakland advanced to the Chargers’ 14-yard line. Enter the infamous “Holy Roller” play. The crazy fumble sequence ended with Dave Casper recovering the ball in the end zone for a TD. The ensuing extra point gave Oakland the 21-20 win.
The play was controversial because Stabler’s “fumble” appeared to have actually been a pass. Furthermore, the Raiders got away with some blatant fumbling-the-ball forward, which should have been a penalty.
Still, it was a thrilling finish between the two longtime rivals. And an unforgettable one at that.
Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys (Week 16, 1979)
Last game of the regular season. Winner takes home the NFC East crown.
The soon-to-be dynastic football team against a Dallas team looking to win a third Super Bowl in the Roger Staubach-Tom Landry era. What more could you ask for?
Washington jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter. But Staubach – AKA “Captain Comeback” led Dallas to 21 straight points to get the lead in the third quarter.
And then came the fourth quarter. A Mark Moseley field goal and two John Riggins TDs put Washington up by 13 in the fourth quarter. Now in clock-melting mode, the visitors coughed up the football on a fumble, and the Cowboys recovered. A few plays later, Staubach hit Ron Springs in the end zone for six.
Needing one yard to ice the game, Dallas’ defense stuffed Riggins on 3rd-and-1. Washington punted away to Staubach, who had 1:46 to play hero.
“Captain Comeback” struck again and hit Tony Hill for an eight-yard TD to put Dallas ahead. The defense would hold the fort and help the ‘Boys escape with a thrilling 35-34 victory that locked up the division.
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