Home NFC Wild Card Matchup Memories: Games of NFC Championships Past

NFC Wild Card Matchup Memories: Games of NFC Championships Past

by Mike Ferguson

Photo courtesy of San Francisco 49ers

The NFL playoffs is finally here.

This year’s Wild Card slate will feature six matchups for the second season in a row. That includes a Monday Night contest.

In the NFC, the slate features four teams that did not qualify for the playoffs last season. As was the case in the AFC, all three contests are between teams with postseason history against one another.

We look back on that history:

Eagles Take to Tampa

The first NFC game of the weekend takes place on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET as the Philadelphia Eagles travel to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This will be the fifth total postseason meeting between the teams.

The first meeting came in the 1979 NFC Divisional round. In that one, Ricky Bell rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns as the Buccaneers knocked off Philadelphia at the old Tampa Stadium, 24-17. Ron Jaworski threw two touchdowns for Philadelphia in the loss.

From 2000 to 2002, the Buccaneers and Eagles met in Philadelphia in the playoffs each year. In 2000 and 2001, the Eagles topped Tampa Bay in the NFC Wild Card game. In 2000, quarterback Donovan McNabb accounted for three total touchdowns while Tampa Bay was held to just 199 yards in a 21-3 rout for the Eagles.

The following season, Philadelphia again kept Tampa Bay out of the end zone in the Wild Card game in a 31-9 win. The Eagles intercepted Tampa Bay’s Brad Johnson four times. Damon Moore recorded two of those picks, including one that he returned 59 yards for a touchdown to cap the scoring.

Tampa Bay finally got revenge in the 2002 NFC Championship with a 27-10 win at Veterans Stadium. Duce Staley scored less than a minute in to give Philadelphia a 7-0 lead, but from there, it was all Buccaneers. After offensive touchdowns from Mike Alstott and Keyshawn Johnson, cornerback Ronde Barber put the exclamation point on the win with a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown.

The Buccaneers would go on to beat the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, 48-21. Sunday’s contest airs on FOX.

A Postseason Rivalry Renewed

Later on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys will host the San Francisco in what will be the eighth postseason meeting between the teams and the first since 1994. Six of the previous seven meetings took place in the NFC Championship.

Dallas beat San Francisco in consecutive NFC title games in 1970 and 1971 and then again in 1992 and 1993. With the exception of 1970, Dallas would go on to win the Super Bowl each time.

The most memorable of the postseason meetings between the teams was the 1981 NFC Championship at Candlestick Park. On a play known as “The Catch”, quarterback Joe Montana rolled right before finding a leaping Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone for the winning touchdown as San Francisco won, 28-27. The 49ers would go on to beat the Cincinnati Bengals to win their first Super Bowl.

San Francisco also went on to win the Super Bowl after beating the Dallas Cowboys in the 1994 NFC Championship, 38-28. That kept the Cowboys from a potential 3-peat. Eric Davis had two interceptions of Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman and one touchdown.

The lone prior meeting that did not take place in the NFC Championship was in the 1972 Divisional round in which Dallas rallied to win a thriller. The Cowboys scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to pull out an improbable 30-28 win. Roger Staubach threw late touchdown passes to Billy Parks and Ron Sellers to complete the comeback.

Sunday’s contest begins at 4:30 p.m. ET and airs on CBS.

Monday Night Playoffs

For the first time in NFL history, a playoff game will take place on Monday Night Football. It will be a divisional showdown as the Los Angeles Rams host the Arizona Cardinals. Despite being two of the NFL’s older franchises, this is just the second postseason meeting between the teams.

In the 1975 NFC Divisional round, the Los Angeles Rams defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 35-23. Jack Youngblood and Bill Simpson each returned interceptions for touchdowns in the win. In total, the Rams forced five turnovers.

Offensively, Lawrence McCutcheon rushed for 202 yards in the victory. Ron Jaworski passed and rushed for a touchdown for Los Angeles. Jim Hart passed for 291 yards and a touchdown in the loss, but was intercepted three times.

Monday’s contest begins at 8:15 p.m. ET and airs on ESPN and ABC.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.