A few ground rules to start off: first, we're limiting this to games we actually saw and remember, which means the list goes back to the mid-1990s. Also, the year we put is the year the game itself was played, not the year of the NFL season (so Pats-Giants would be listed as 2008, not 2007). That said, here's our top 5:
5. 2000: Rams 23, Titans 16
A favorite among many because of its dramatic last play, "the tackle," when Mike Jones stopped Kevin Dyson inches short of a tying touchdown. The reason it's not higher? Its dull first half, where the only scoring was 3 St. Louis field goals.
4. 1995: 49ers 49, Chargers 26
It may look strange to have a blowout on this list, but this is that rare blowout that is compelling to watch because one team plays at such an amazingly high level: Steve Young threw 6 touchdowns as a San Francisco decimated a plucky but completely overmatched Chargers team. Jerry Rice and Ricky Watters each scored 3 times. An honorable mention for this category of masterpiece blowouts: the great 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense's dismantling of the hapless Kerry Collins-led Giants. If the Patriots offense regains its early-season form, this year's Super Bowl may find its way into this category.
3. 2004: Patriots 32, Panthers 29
A strange game in which Adam Vinatieri missed two field goals, there was no scoring in the 1st or 3rd quarters but offensive explosions in the 2nd and 4th, and a relatively unheralded Panthers team gave New England all it could handle. Brady and Delhomme were both money, combining for nearly 700 passing yards and six TDs. It also features perhaps the most crucial botched kickoff in NFL history when John Kasay followed up Carolina's late tying touchdown by booting it out of bounds, giving the Patriots the ball at the 40 needing only a field goal to win.
2. 2002: Patriots 20, Rams 17
It's hard to imagine Belichick and Brady as big-time underdogs in a Super Bowl - to Mike Martz and Kurt Warner of all people - but they seemed more lucky than good before this game. An opportunistic Pats defense picked off Warner twice and kept catalyst Marshall Faulk in check all night, while the offense scored just enough points to hold off a late Rams rally and set up Vinatieri's game-winner.
1. 1998: Broncos 31, Packers 24
Two great teams that each could have won the championship in most other years (indeed, the Packers won it the year before, and the Broncos the year after). Elway making a end-of-career stab at glory, Favre back when watching him felt like just watching a great quarterback instead of a hype machine creation. The AFC finally breaking its 13-year losing streak. And, most importantly, a compelling game featuring a true MVP performance by Terrell Davis, Holmgren's controversial "concession touchdown" decision, and multiple lead changes.
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