Trevor Lawrence, Doug Pederson, and the Jacksonville Jaguars pulled off an incredible comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers in Saturday night’s Wild Card Round, rebounding from a 27-0 deficit to win 31-30. While it was one of the biggest comebacks in NFL playoff history, two other teams — believe it or not — have made even larger comebacks in the postseason.
Biggest Comebacks in NFL Playoff History
1) Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Oilers (32-point deficit) | 1993-94 AFC Wild Card
The biggest comeback in NFL playoff history belongs to the Bills, whose resurgence against the Oilers in the 1993-94 playoffs has come to be known simply as “The Comeback.” After future Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly suffered a knee injury in the final game of the regular season, backup QB and former Colts head coach Frank Reich was required to start Buffalo’s Wild Card matchup against Houston.
Things didn’t go well in the first half, as Oilers quarterback Warren Moon tossed four touchdown passes and led Houston to a 28-3 halftime lead. A Bubba McDowell pick-six gave the Oilers a 35-3 advantage with 8:53 left in the third quarter.
Bills running back Kenneth Davis managed a touchdown to cut the lead to 25, and then Reich took over. He threw four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter — the first to Don Beebe and the final three to Andre Reed — to put Buffalo back up front. The Oilers sent the game to overtime with a late field goal, but the Bills kicked a field goal of their own to win in the extra period, marking the biggest comeback in NFL playoff history.
Reich and the Bills beat the Steelers in the Divisional Round the following week. Jim Kelly returned for an AFC Championship win, but Buffalo collapsed in the Super Bowl, a 52-17 loss to the Cowboys.
2) Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs (28 points) | 2013-14 AFC Wild Card
Andrew Luck tried to hand this game to the Chiefs by tossing three interceptions, and Kansas City held a 28-point lead with 11:48 remaining in the third quarter. The Colts then managed to score three touchdowns in the third quarter to claw back into the game.
Down 10 points with fewer than 11 minutes left in the fourth, Luck recovered a Donald Brown fumble near the goal line and took it in for a score. The Chiefs hit a field goal to go up with 5:36 remaining, but Luck subsequently connected with T.Y. Hilton — who ended up with 224 receiving yards — for a 64-yard touchdown.
KC couldn’t advance past the Colts’ 43-yard line on their ensuing drive, and Indianapolis escaped with a 45-44 win and a spot on the list of the biggest comebacks in NFL playoff history.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Los Angeles Chargers (27 points) | 2022-23 AFC Wild Card
Lawrence threw four picks in the first half of Saturday’s Wild Card game against the Chargers, stunning the Jacksonville home crowd as the Jaguars fell behind 27-0. Lawrence found Evan Engram for a touchdown near the end of the second quarter to bring the deficit to only 20 points, but it still felt like Los Angeles would coast to a victory.
Instead, the Jaguars outscored the Chargers 24-3 in the second half to walk away with a 31-30 win. Lawrence tossed three touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters, then led Jacksonville on a 10-play, 61-yard drive that ended with a game-winning field goal.
Lawrence, Pederson, and the rest of the Jaguars deserve credit for one of the biggest comebacks in NFL playoff history, but the Chargers’ history of collapsing was just as big of a storyline. “Chargering” has become a verb, and Los Angeles mastered the technique against Jacksonville.
4) New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons (25 points) | Super Bowl 51
The fourth-largest comeback in NFL playoff history occurred in the most important game in the sport. 28-3 has become a legend, a meme, a nightmare, and an expletive — all depending on which team you were rooting for.
The Falcons, searching for their first Super Bowl trophy, held a 25-point lead with just over 17 minutes remaining in regulation. Two James White touchdowns, a Danny Amendola score, and a Stephen Gostkowski field goal later, the Patriots had tied the score and sent the game to overtime.
New England received the ball first, giving Tom Brady the chance to earn his fifth Super Bowl with a touchdown drive. The Patriots methodically marched down the field in nine plays and less than four minutes, with a White TD run capping the astounding win.
T-5) Kansas City Chiefs vs. Houston Texans (24 points) | 2019-20 AFC Divisional Round
The defining moment of Houston’s devastating loss to the Chiefs in the 2019-20 Divisional Round will always be Texans head coach Bill O’Brien’s decision to opt for a field goal on 4th-and-1 from Kansas City’s 13-yard line with 10:54 remaining in the first quarter. That kick made the score 24-0, which ended up being mere child’s play for Patrick Mahomes.
Not only did Mahomes and the Chiefs reclaim the lead, but they did so before the second quarter had even concluded. Mahomes hit Damien Williams for a score to make it 24-7, then connected with Travis Kelce three times before halftime.
Kansas City’s never lost their lead, scoring three more touchdowns in the second half and earning a 51-31 victory. Mahomes finished with five touchdown passes, then defeated the Titans and 49ers en route to winning the Lombardi Trophy.
T-5) San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Giants (24 points) | 2002-03 NFC Wild Card
Amani Toomer scored three first-half touchdowns to help the Giants to a 38-14 lead with 2:03 remaining in the third quarter, but that margin wasn’t enough to hold off Jeff Garcia and the 49ers in the NFC Wild Card Round.
Garcia tossed a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion to Terrell Owens near the end of the third quarter, then ran for a touchdown of his own before hitting Owens for another two-pointer. After a Jeff Chandler field goal to bring San Francisco within five with 7:49 remaining in regulation, Garcia led a two-minute scoring, culminating in a 13-yard TD pass to Tai Streets with 1:05 left.
Down 39-38, Kerry Collins quickly got the Giants into a game-winning field goal position. But a bad snap and an offensive penalty ruined any chance New York had to win the game and escape infamy, thus giving the 49ers a place in this list of the biggest comebacks in NFL playoff history.