Saints-Seahawks Playoff Shocker Fails to Rank No. 1 Thanks to '95 Colts, '96 Jaguars
Because in the SportsCenter-dominated, 24-hour sports-news-cycle sports world in which we live there is not only a rush to snap judgment, but a remarkable lack of historical perspective. The Seattle Seahawks' upset victory over New Orleans Saturday afternoon has been hailed as the NFL's all-time great postseason upset.
Uh ... no.
Not so fast, because in one often-overlooked division there is at least one franchise -- and two, more accurately -- with at least one postseason victory bigger than the Seahawks' victory over the defending Super Bowl champions this past Saturday.
The first is the the most obvious:
The 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars, any fan in Denver can immediately tell you, were given absolutely no chance by anyone outside -- or, to be fair, inside -- Jacksonville to beat the Denver Broncos in an AFC Divisional Playoff game in the 1996 postseason.
The Broncos, in their second season under coach Mike Shanahan, had finished 13-3, securing the AFC's No. 1 seed with quarterback John Elway still very much in his prime and with running back Terrell Davis surging toward his. The Jaguars, meanwhile, made it into the playoffs with a five-game season-ending winning streak and a 9-7 record.
The Jaguars, then in their second season, were so discounted that Denver Post columnist Woody Paige famously called them "Jagwads" in a dismissive column that ran the morning of the game.
The Broncos started strong, but with Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell -- now an aging backup with the New York Jets, but then a young, dual-threat player bound for three Pro Bowls -- frustrated the Broncos' defense for the final three quarters of a 30-27 victory.
The Broncos won the Super Bowl the following two seasons, so there can at least be an argument that the Jaguars' upset that day may have prevented the league's first three-peat since Green Bay from 1965-1967. No team ever has won three Super Bowls, but if not for what still is probably the biggest upset in NFL postseason history, the Broncos might have done it.
That wasn't even the Jaguars' only postseason upset that season. The week before, they beat Buffalo, 30-27, in an AFC Wild Card game. While that game doesn't get the same historical cache as Denver-Jacksonville, it ended Bills quarterback Jim Kelly's career and marked the Bills' first postseason loss at Rich Stadium. Ever.
Each Jaguars victory that season came on the road, and the victory over the Broncos came against the top seed in the conference. Any road victory over a top seed in the NFL postseason compares more than favorably to a home victory over a wild card team, which -- despite the Saints' status as defending Super Bowl champions -- they very definitely were in 2011.
Which brings us to the other AFC South team with a historical gripe this week:
The 1995 Indianapolis Colts.
Understandably forgotten in the hype surrounding Jim Harbaugh's brief, strange trip from Stanford to the San Francisco this week was that a decade and a half ago, he was at the center of one of the most improbable postseason runs in recent NFL history.
Harbaugh that season had earned the moniker, Captain Comeback, twice engineering 21-point come-from-behind victories during a season in which the Colts made the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
These weren't your modern-era Colts, they of the NFL record-tying nine consecutive playoff appearances. There were no complaints then of the Colts not taking advantage of postseason opportunities; their issue then was finding a way to get there, not having been in the postseason since 1987 and not having been there for 10 seasons before that.
Harbaugh and the Colts took full advantage of their appearance. First, they beat the defending AFC Champion San Diego Chargers, 35-20, in an AFC Wild Card game -- and did it on the road. Then, they traveled to Kansas City, where they beat the top-seeded 13-3 Chiefs, 10-7, in what is remembered around Kansas City as the Lin Elliott game, with the Chiefs kicker missing field goals of 35, 39 and 42 yards.
The Colts' run may not have quite the historical significance of the Jaguars' victory the year before, but it's not far off. So while the Seahawks' victory on Saturday was remarkable and historical, when discussing the biggest postseason upsets of all time, history suggests these two AFC South teams need to be in the conversation.