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Best NFL Games With a Nickname From the Holy Roller to the Music City Miracle

What are the best NFL games with a nickname? We're counting down the top 10, from the Holy Roller to the Music City Miracle.

Nicknames are part of the NFL‘s lore. While many memorable players ended their careers with notable monikers, some of the league’s most unforgettable games also earned labels.

What are the best NFL games with a nickname? We’re ranking the top 10 in league history.

10) The Holy Roller

The indelible ending of this 1978 game between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers not only earned a nickname but also changed the NFL rulebook.

With 10 seconds remaining in the game, the Raiders trailing 20-14 and Oakland at San Diego’s 14-yard line, Raiders quarterback Kenny Stabler lost control of the ball as he was about to be sacked by Chargers linebacker Woodrow Lowe. Raiders running back Pete Banaszak failed to recover the ball at the 12 before Oakland tight end Dave Casper kicked the ball into the end zone and fell on top of it for a touchdown.

The play was ruled a fumble instead of a forward pass, and Oakland won with an extra point. In response, the NFL altered its regulations after the 1978 campaign. Thanks to the Holy Roller game, fumbles after the two-minute warning may only be advanced by the player who fumbled.

For decades, Stabler maintained that the play was a fumble, not a forward pass. However, he slightly changed his tune in 2008.

“No, I can’t convince you of that, because I did,” Stabler told NFL Films when asked if he did not attempt a pass. “I mean, what else was I going to do with it? Throw it out there, shake the dice?”

9) The Body Bag Game

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan had no issue stirring up controversy during his NFL tenure. Heading into a November 1990 game against division-rival Washington, Ryan declared the Eagles would play so hard that Washington’s players would need to “be carted off in body bags.”

The game became emblematic of an era of brutal NFL football, which is now in the rearview mirror. Philadelphia held firm on its promise to inflict harm on Washington. During the game, one Eagle reportedly shouted, “You guys are going to need an extra bus just to carry all the stretchers!”

Nine Washington players suffered injuries, including starting QB Jeff Rutledge and backup Stan Humphries. With fellow signal-callers Mark Rypien and Gary Hogeboom unavailable, Washington turned to running back Brian Mitchell under center. The rookie completed three of six attempts for 40 yards and rushed for a touchdown in a 28-14 Eagles win.

Like the Holy Roller game, the Body Bag game led to an NFL rule change. In response to Washington losing all its viable passers, the league instituted the third quarterback rule, allowing teams to have an extra QB on their non-active gameday roster.

8) The Fail Mary

With referees on strike in 2012, the NFL was already on edge heading into a late-September, Monday-night matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. The league’s replacement officials had drawn plenty of ire from fans, coaches, and players — but that was nothing compared to what was yet to come after the Fail Mary.

You probably remember the play. With the Seahawks trailing 12-7 and eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Russell Wilson heaved a Hail Mary into the end zone. Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings appeared to intercept the pass and fell to the ground with two hands on the ball. Seahawks wideout Golden Tate landed beneath Jennings with his arms around the Green Bay defender and one hand on the ball.

The two referees nearest the play briefly discussed the result before each extended separate signals: One official indicated the play was a Seattle touchdown, while the other waved his arms to signal a clock stoppage. The ruling on the field was eventually called a touchdown, which a video review did not overturn.

The reaction was swift. Fail Mary became the talk of the sports world. Even President Barack Obama weighed in, calling the outcome “terrible” and noting, “We’ve got to get our refs back.” Two days later, the NFL reached a new agreement with the NFL Referees Association to reinstate its officials.

7) The Miracle at the Meadowlands

Another nicknamed game that ultimately led to an NFL rule change.

The New York Giants were trying to run out the clock in a Nov. 1978 game against the Eagles when disaster struck. Because quarterback kneels were not yet common in the NFL, Giants OC Bob Gibson called for a handoff to running back Larry Csonka, which should’ve ended the contest and given the Eagles a 17-12 win.

Instead, Csonka’s failed exchange with quarterback Joe Pisarcik led to a fumble, which Philadelphia defensive back Herm Edwards returned 26 yards for a game-winning touchdown.

Giants fans were incredulous. Gibson was fired the next day. Meanwhile, NFL teams quickly adapted to New York’s fatal error, adopting a “victory formation” that allowed the quarterback to safely fall on the football and run the clock. By 1987, quarterback kneels were widely accepted in the league.

6) The Fog Bowl

“It will be remembered as the best game you never saw.”

That’s how Chicago Tribune reporter Fred Mitchell opened his post-game column after the Chicago Bears defeated the Eagles in a New Year’s Eve 1988 game that came to be known as “The Fog Bowl.”

A “small but very dense area of fog” hit the Chicago area for this contest, at times limiting visibility to just 10 or 20 yards. Players from both teams said they couldn’t see first-down markers or yard lines.

Somehow, Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham still dropped back 54 times, completing half his attempts for 407 yards, no touchdowns, and three interceptions. The Bears scored two TDs (one passing, one rushing) and walked away with a 20-12 win.

5) The Comeback

An NFL team has to manage a pretty remarkable resurgence for a game to simply be labeled as “The Comeback.” Of course, fighting back from a 32-point deficit in a playoff game fits that label like a glove.

After future Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly suffered a knee injury in the final game of the regular season, the Buffalo Bills were forced to start backup quarterback Frank Reich in a 1993-94 Wild Card matchup against the Houston Oilers.

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, culminating in the biggest comeback in NFL playoff history.

Reich and the Bills beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Divisional Round the following week. Kelly returned for an AFC Championship Game win, but Buffalo collapsed in Super Bowl 27, a 52-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

4) The Minneapolis Miracle

The Minnesota Vikings had overcome multiple obstacles to finish 13-3 and get to the playoffs in 2017. Starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a devastating training camp injury, forcing the Vikings to trade for fellow signal-caller Sam Bradford. Bradford went down with his own knee injury in Week 1, so Minnesota turned to journeyman Case Keenum under center.

Keenum posted the best season of his career (22 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 73.3 QBR), but the Vikings were on the ropes against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Round. With just 10 seconds remaining in the game, Minnesota had the ball at their own 39-yard line, trailing 24-23. ESPN’s win probability model gave the Vikings a 4% chance of winning the tilt.

You might remember what happened next. On a play called “Buffalo Right, Seven Heaven,” Keenum hit a leaping Stefon Diggs at the Saints’ 34-yard line. New Orleans safety Marcus Williams failed to tackle Diggs, who scampered into the end zone for a game-winning touchdown as time expired.

The Vikings’ season ended quickly after The Minneapolis Miracle, as Keenum and Co. lost to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. Oddly, this nicknamed game — like so many others on our list — led to another NFL rulebook alteration, as teams were no longer required to kick extra points after game-winning touchdowns if the XP would not affect the outcome.

3) The Immaculate Reception

One of the most famous plays in NFL history, the Immaculate Reception entered the lexicon after Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris miraculously caught a fourth-down pass after it ricocheted off Raiders linebacker Jack Tatum’s helmet, taking it 60 yards for what became a game-winning touchdown.

Harris had been blocking on the play, which called for quarterback Terry Bradshaw to hit running back John Fuqua. Heeding advice from his college coach, Joe Paterno (“Go to the ball”), Harris scooped up the deflected pass just before it hit the turf. After stiff-arming Raiders defensive back Jimmy Warren, he found the end zone and gave the Steelers a 13-7 victory.

Widely considered the birth of the Steelers-Raiders rivalry, the Immaculate Reception was a watershed moment for Pittsburgh. After winning this unforgettable game in December 1972, the Steelers would secure four Super Bowls by the decade’s end.

2) The Ice Bowl

How cold was The Ice Bowl, the 1967 NFL Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers? It was the coldest game in league history, with a game-time temperature of minus 15 degrees and an average windchill of around minus 48 degrees.

Referee’s whistles were useless, as skin ripped off officials’ lips when they tried to remove them from their mouths. The University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse’s halftime show was canceled because students couldn’t play their frozen instruments. Eleven band members had to be taken to a hospital for hypothermia after a pre-game rehearsal.

Meanwhile, Lambeau Field’s turf-heating system failed, resulting in a frozen, icy field. However, the brutal conditions’ result didn’t prevent a thrilling game.

Down 17-14, the Packers tried to score a game-winning touchdown with running back Danny Anderson, but he slipped on the field and was tackled at the one-yard line on multiple attempts. On 3rd-and-goal with 16 seconds remaining in the game, Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr told head coach Vince Lombardi he could get in the end zone.

“I ran to the sideline and said to Coach, ‘There’s nothing wrong with the play, but the running backs can’t get to the line of scrimmage because they’re down [in their stance], trying to start, and they’re slipping and sliding,'” Starr said in 2011.

“I said, ‘I’m standing upright. I can shuffle right and lunge in.’ All he said was, ‘Then run it, and let’s get the hell out of here.'”

Packers right guard Jerry Kramer and center Ken Bowman double-teamed Cowboys defensive tackle Jethro Pugh, creating a hole for Starr and giving Green Bay its third straight NFL championship with a 20-17 win. The Packers went on to defeat the Raiders in Super Bowl 2.

1) The Music City Miracle

The Music City Miracle has just about everything you’d want in an NFL nickname. An unforgettable, last-second play. A playoff game. And a moniker that not only rolls off the tongue but incorporates the team in question’s home city.

The Tennessee Titans — using their new team name for the first season after playing as the Tennessee Oilers over their first two years in Nashville, Tenn. — had finished 13-3 in 1999, earning the best record of any team in league history not to win its division. As a result, they had to face the Bills in a Wild Card matchup, the first postseason game between the two teams since The Comeback.

Trailing 16-15 and set to receive a kickoff with just 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Titans had to get creative. Tennessee had used tight end Frank Wycheck to throw a 61-yard TD on an option pass during the 1999 regular season. With that play as inspiration, the Titans developed a similar kick-return play called “Home Run Throwback.”

Buffalo pooch-kicked to the Titans’ 35, where fullback Lorenzo Neal caught the ball and handed it to Wycheck. The veteran TE ran to his right before turning to his left and flinging the ball to wide receiver Andre Dyson, who was alone on the left sideline.

Dyson thought about going out of bounds and allowing Tennessee to kick a game-winning field goal. But with no Bills defenders in his way, Dyson went all the way to the end zone for a touchdown, giving the Titans a 22-16 win and capping The Music City Miracle.