While it technically was not an NFC Championship Game, the Packers-Cowboys 1967 "Ice Bowl" set the standard by which future championship games have been measured. The game featured several legendary players and coaches, frigid temperatures and an epic finish. With just seconds remaining, quarterback Bart Starr's sneak gave the Packers a 21-17 win en route to the fifth and final championship win under Vince Lombardi.
Three years after the Packers' iconic win, the NFL and AFL merged to what is the modern day NFL. Since 1970, the two best teams in each conference have faced each other for the right to play in the Super Bowl. And while the Super Bowl is pro football's signature event, the conference title games have also featured some of the greatest games in NFL history.
With that in mind, we decided to take a look back at the five greatest NFC championships. While each game is memorable, one particular game turned a regular Joe into household name.
In a game played in sub-zero temperatures, the Giants prevailed behind Plaxico Burress' 11 receptions and Corey Webster's overtime interception of Brett Favre. The pick set up Lawrence Tynes' game-winning field goal, as the Giants went on to upset the previously undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. The bitter defeat was the final game for Favre in a Packers uniform.
5. 2014: Seahawks 28, Packers 22 (OT)
Trailing 16-0 at halftime, the Seahawks cut their deficit to five points on Russell Wilson's short touchdown run with 2:13 remaining in regulation. Seattle then successfully converted the onside kick, setting up Marshawn Lynch's go-ahead touchdown run. While the Packers did mange to force overtime on Mason Crosby's 48-yard field goal, the Seahawks punched their Super Bowl ticket when Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard score on the sixth play of the extra period. The defending champion Seahawks would come up just short in their bid to repeat as champions. The Packers won just one playoff game from 2015-18 before making return trips to the title game in 2019-20.
In a classic championship game, neither team ever led by more than seven points, and the score was tied on four different occasions. The Vikings, following Adrian Peterson's third touchdown that tied the game, were in position to win it after advancing to the Saints' 38-yard-line with 19 seconds left in regulation. But in what would be his final pass of the game, Favre's third-down pass intended for Sidney Rice was intercepted by Tracy Porter, forcing overtime. In overtime, two penalties against the Vikings' defense, coupled by Pierre Thomas' two-yard run on a fourth-and-1 play, set up Garrett Hartley's game-winning field goal. New Orleans would go onto defeat the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, with Porter's pick-six of Peyton Manning sealing the Saints' 31-17 win.
3. 1998: Falcons 30, Vikings 27 (OT)
In one of the most surprising upsets in NFL postseason history, Atlanta's "Dirty Birds" overcame a 13-point deficit to stun the Vikings, who went 15-1 during the regular season. Ahead 27-20, Gary Anderson, who did not miss a field goal during the regular season, missed a 38-yard attempt with 2:07 left. The Falcons fully capitalized on Anderson's miss, as Chris Chandler hit Terance Mathis for the game-tying touchdown with 57 seconds left in regulation.
After winning the coin toss, Minnesota was forced to punt after Randall Cunningham's third-down pass to rookie sensation Randy Moss fell incomplete. The teams would then exchange punts before two Chandler completions to tight end O.J. Santiago and two runs by Jamal Anderson set up Morton Anderson's game-winning, 38-yard kick. The Falcons' luck, however, ran out in the Super Bowl, as John Elway and the Broncos coasted to a 34-19 win. The Vikings are still in search of their first trip to the Super Bowl since January of 1977.
2. 1990: Giants 15, 49ers 13
"There will be no three-peat."
Those words were famously proclaimed by former CBS/Fox play-by-play analyst Pat Summerall after Matt Bahr's 42-yard field goal gave the Giants an upset win over the defending two-time champion 49ers. In one of the most physical football games ever played, the 49ers suffered a crushing blow when Giants lineman Leonard Marshall knocked Joe Montana out of the game with about 10 minutes left and the 49ers ahead, 13-9. After the Giants cut the deficit to one point, Lawrence Taylor gave his offense the ball back when he recovered 49ers halfback Roger Craig's fumble in Giants territory.
Jeff Hostetler's completions to Mark Bavaro and Stephen Baker, and a pivotal two-yard run by Ottis Anderson on a third-and-1 play, helped set up Bahr's game-winning field goal as time expired. Hostetler, Anderson, Bahr, and the Giants' physical defense each played a role in the Giants' upset win over the Bills in Super Bowl XXV. The loss was the final playoff start for Montana with the 49ers, who fell painfully short of becoming the first team in history to win three straight Super Bowls.
1. 1981: 49ers 28, Cowboys 27
Despite a dominant Week 6 win over the Cowboys, the 49ers trailed "America's Team" by six points following Danny White's 21-yard touchdown pass to Doug Cosbie. Needing to travel 89 yards in less than five minutes, the 49ers relied on several sweeping runs by Lenvil Elliott, two clutch catches in traffic by Freddie Solomon and Solomon's 14-yard run on a reverse. Facing a third-down on the Cowboys' 6-yard line, Montana rolled right before he was met by three Cowboys defenders. Facing the pass rush, Montana lofted the ball to a spot in the end zone where he hoped Dwight Clark would be. Clark, who caught a 20-yard touchdown pass earlier in the game, was indeed at the spot Montana hoped he would be. The reliable receiver jumped in the air, snared Montana's pass out of the sky and slammed the ball in the end zone.
With Candlestick Park already in celebration mode, the 49ers' defense still had to stop the Cowboys' offense, who got the ball back at their 25-yard line with two timeouts and 51 seconds left. The crowd got tense after White hit Drew Pearson for 31 yards on the Cowboys' first play. But on the next play, White lost the ball after getting hit by Lawrence Pillers. The ball was scooped up by Jim Stuckey, who in his arms held the 49ers' first Super Bowl ticket.
"You just beat America's Team," Cowboys defensive end Ed "Too Tall' Jones told Montana, as recalled by Clark two decades later. "Well," Montana replied, "you can sit at home with the rest of America and watch the Super Bowl."
The loss was the second of three consecutive NFC title game losses for the Cowboys. The win marked the beginning of the 49ers' dynasty. San Francisco would win five Super Bowls that included four during the 1980s.