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NFL playoffs, 1986–87

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Title: NFL playoffs, 1986–87  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Soldier Field, Ottis Anderson, NFC North, NFC East, List of New York Giants seasons, List of New England Patriots seasons, 1986 New England Patriots season, Kansas City Chiefs
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

NFL playoffs, 1986–87

The NFL playoffs following the 1986 NFL season led up to Super Bowl XXI.

Playoff seeds
1 Cleveland Browns (Central winner) New York Giants (East winner)
2 Denver Broncos (West winner) Chicago Bears (Central winner)
3 New England Patriots (East winner) San Francisco 49ers (West winner)
4 New York Jets Washington Redskins
5 Kansas City Chiefs Los Angeles Rams

Note: As per the rules of the NFL playoffs prior to the 1990 season (notwithstanding the strike-shortened 1982 season), the New York Giants (the NFC one seed) did not play the Washington Redskins (the four seed) in the Divisional playoff round because both teams were in the same division.


Wild Card playoffs

December 28, 1986

AFC: New York Jets 35, Kansas City Chiefs 15

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Chiefs 6 0 0915
Jets 7 14 7735

at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

After Week Eleven in the 1986 NFL season, the Jets possessed the NFL best 10-1 record. After a strangely difficult 31-16 home win against the then winless 0-10 Indianapolis Colts, the NY Jets proceeded to lose five straight blow out games, bookended with a 45-3 thumping by the then 5-6 Miami Dolphins on ABC Monday Night Football and a 52-21 loss by the then 9-6 Cincinnati Bengals. During this five-game losing streak, the Jets were outscored by their opponents by aggregate point total of 183–61. To make the playoffs the Bengals needed a loss by the NE Patriots in Week 16 on ABC Monday Night Football against the Miami Dolphins in the final professional football game at the Miami Orange Bowl. Conversely, the hottest AFC team at the end of the season was the 10-6 Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks finished the season with an AFC best five-game winning streak, but were left out of the playoffs because of a disastrous three game skid where the Seahawks were defeated by eventual playoff participants the NY Jets 38-7, Kansas City Chiefs 34-7 and Cincinnati Bengals 34-7.

The last two weeks of the 1986 season was among the most dramatic in determining the participants in the AFC playoffs.

Quarterback Pat Ryan led the Jets to a facile victory with three touchdown passes. The Chiefs scored first on a 67-yard drive capped by running back Jeff Smith, but Nick Lowery was unsuccessful with the following PAT. On their ensuing possession, the Jets faced fourth down and 6 on the Kansas City 33-yard line. Rather than attempt a long field goal, Ryan faked a handoff and rushed for a 24-yard gain. Two plays later, running back Freeman McNeil scored on a 4-yard rushing touchdown. In the second period, Ryan completed two touchdown pass: a 1-yarder to McNeil and an 11-yarder to wide receiver Al Toon. On the first play of the second half, Jets linebacker Kevin McArthur returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown. Ryan later clinched the victory in the fourth period with a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Billy Griggs. The Chiefs' only scores in the second half was a blocked punt recovery in the end zone, and an intentional safety by the Jets in punt formation.

McNeil finished the game with 135 rushing yards, three receptions for 16 yards, and two touchdowns.

NFC: Washington Redskins 19, Los Angeles Rams 7

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Rams 0 0 077
Redskins 10 3 3319

at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.

The Rams turned over the ball six times en route to a defeat against the Redskins. In the first quarter, a fumble lost by Los Angeles running back Eric Dickerson led to Washington kicker Jess Atkinson's 25-yard field goal. The Redskins then extended their lead, 10-0, after quarterback Jay Schroeder threw a 14-yard touchdown to running back Kelvin Bryant. In the second period, Rams tight end David Hill's fumble set up Atkinson's 20-yard field goal. Atkinson made two more field in the second half. The Rams' lone score of the game was quarterback Jim Everett's 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kevin House during the final period set up by a long run by Eric Dickerson. It seemed that Dickerson was headed for the endzone but he was caught from behind by Redskins CB Darrell Green.

Redskins running back George Rogers finished the game with 119 rushing yards, while Dickerson rushed for 158.

Divisional playoffs

January 3, 1987

AFC: Cleveland Browns 23, New York Jets 20 (2OT)

Game summary
1 2 34OT2OTTotal
Jets 7 3 370020
Browns 7 3 0100323

at Cleveland Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

Thirty-eight-year-old Browns kicker Mark Moseley, a former Washington Redskin whom Cleveland had talked out of retirement in order to replace the injured Matt Bahr less than two months earlier, made the game-winning 27-yard field goal after 2:02 elapsed of the second overtime period, making this the third longest game in NFL history and giving Cleveland their first postseason win since 1969.

The Jets scored first in the opening quarter after an 82-yard drive which was capped by quarterback Pat Ryan's 42-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Wesley Walker on a flea flicker play. Cleveland responded by marching 98 yards to score on running back Herman Fontenot's 37-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Bernie Kosar. In the second quarter, Ryan was knocked out of the game and replaced by Ken O'Brien. Moseley kicked a field goal to give the Browns a 10-7 lead, but late in the quarter, O'Brien led the Jets on a last second field goal drive to tie the game, featuring his season-long 16-yard run on fourth down and four to keep the drive alive.

In the third quarter New York kicker Pat Leahy made a 37-yard field goal to break the tie. Early in the fourth quarter, the Browns drove all the way to the New York 3-yard line, only to come up empty when Russell Carter intercepted a pass from Kosar in the end zone. Then after a punt, Kosar threw another interception, this time to Jerry Holmes, which set up Freeman McNeil's 25-yard touchdown run to give his team a 20-10 lead with 4:14 left in regulation. This led Jets announcer Charley Steiner to prematurely declare, "The Jets are gonna win this football game!"

But the Browns then drove 68-yards to score on running back Kevin Mack's 1-yard touchdown run, during a drive that was aided by a roughing the passer penalty on Mark Gastineau of the Jets on second down and 24 from Cleveland's 18-yard line. After a failed onside kick attempt, the Browns stopped New York on two consecutive runs and then sacked O'Brien on a quarterback draw, which was a key play since it stopped the clock. Then they got another lucky break when a punt that would have pinned them inside their own 10-yard line was called back by a Jets penalty. Following a second punt, they got the ball on their own 32 with 51 seconds left and no timeouts. Following a 26-yard pass interference penalty on New York, Kosar completed a 37-yard pass to wide receiver Webster Slaughter to set up Moseley's game-tying 27-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining in regulation.

In the first overtime period, Cleveland had a great chance to win after a drive landed them at the Jets 5-yard line. They attempted a field goal on first down, but Moseley missed the 23-yard attempt. In the second overtime period, Moseley got another chance at the Jets 9-yard line, again on a first down, and this time his kick was good to win the game.

Kosar set postseason records for completions (33), attempts (64), and passing yards (483), but threw only one touchdown pass and two interceptions. Browns tight end Ozzie Newsome caught six passes for 114 yards.

The game was featured as one of the NFL's Greatest Games as the Marathon by the Lake.

NFC: Washington Redskins 27, Chicago Bears 13

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Redskins 7 0 71327
Bears 0 13 0013

at Soldier Field, Chicago

The Redskins converted two turnovers into two touchdowns in the second half to overcome the defending champion Bears' 13-7 halftime lead. Washington scored first after quarterback Jay Schroeder threw a 28-yard touchdown to wide receiver Art Monk. Chicago countered in the second quarter with wide receiver Willie Gault's 50-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Doug Flutie. Bears kicker Kevin Butler then made two field goals before halftime. However, the Redskins took the lead in the third period after a Flutie interception set up an Art Monk 23-yard touchdown reception. Chicago then advanced to the Washington 17-yard line, but running back Walter Payton lost a fumble to the Redskins, who then marched 83 yards for a touchdown on a George Rogers 1-yard rush. Washington place kicker Jess Atkinson made two field goals in the final period to close out the scoring.

In only his second NFL start, Flutie was mauled by the Redskins defense, completing only 11 of 31 passes, with just five completions in the second half. Also, Payton was held to just 38 rushing yards on 14 carries.

January 4, 1987

NFC: New York Giants 49, San Francisco 49ers 3

Game summary
1 2 34Total
49ers 3 0 003
Giants 7 21 21049

at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

NY Giants quarterback Phil Simms completed only nine of 19 passes for 134 yards, but threw 4 touchdown passes and no interceptions and sat out the fourth quarter while the New York defense allowed only 29 rushing yards, 184 total yards, and a field goal. They also forced 4 turnovers.

On the 49ers' first drive of the game, wide receiver Jerry Rice caught a very long pass from quarterback Joe Montana and appeared to be on his way for a 50-yard touchdown; however, the future hall of famer inexplicably fumbled the football into the Giants end zone without being touched. (John Madden said during the telecast that the artificial turf at Giants Stadium may have been a factor.) The Giants recovered the football for a touchback. New York then drove 80 yards to score on Simms' 24-yard touchdown to tight end Mark Bavaro. Simms would throw three more touchdowns: a 15-yarder to wide receiver Bobby Johnson, a 28-yarder to wide receiver Phil McConkey, and a 29-yarder to tight end Zeke Mowatt. Running back Joe Morris rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns: a 45-yarder and a 2-yarder. Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor also scored a touchdown on a 34-yard interception return. During that same play, Montana was knocked out of the game with a concussion after a very hard hit by Giant nose tackle Jim Burt.

After the game when 49er head coach Bill Walsh was asked if Jerry Rice's fumble made a difference in the outcome of the game, Walsh replied sarcastically, "Yeah, [that play] did. If it weren't for the fumble, the final score would have been 49 to 10."

AFC: Denver Broncos 22, New England Patriots 17

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Patriots 0 10 7017
Broncos 3 7 10222

at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Broncos quarterback John Elway ran for a touchdown and passed for another one as he led Denver to a victory, while running back Sammy Winder rushed for 102 yards and caught a pass for 16. Denver jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter after kicker Rich Karlis connected a 27-yard field goal. In the second quarter, the Patriots took the lead when quarterback Tony Eason completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Stanley Morgan to cap an 87-yard drive. However, the Broncos countered with an 82-yard drive to score on Elway's 22-yard touchdown run. After both teams exchanged field goals, Eason completed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Morgan to retake the lead, 17-13. But Elway then threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Vance Johnson for the go-ahead score. Denver defensive lineman Rulon Jones then sacked Eason for a safety in the final period to close out the scoring.

Conference championships

January 11, 1987

AFC Championship: Denver Broncos 23, Cleveland Browns 20 (OT)

Game summary
1 2 34OTTotal
Broncos 0 10 37323
Browns 7 3 010020

at Cleveland Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

This game is best remembered for The Drive in Cleveland and Denver sports lore when the Broncos drove 98 yards in 15 plays to tie the game with 37 seconds left in regulation and Denver kicker Rich Karlis kicked the game-winning 33-yard field goal 5:38 into overtime.

The Browns scored first when quarterback Bernie Kosar threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to running back Herman Fontenot at the end of an 86-yard drive. But then Cleveland turned the ball over on three consecutive drives. First Rickey Hunley intercepted Kosar's pass on the last play of the first quarter. Then after a punt, linebacker Jim Ryan picked off a Kosar pass and returned it 21 yards to the Browns 9-yard line. Denver then drove to the 1-yard line, but were halted there and decided to settle for Rich Karlis' 19-yard field goal. After the ensuing kickoff, running back Kevin Mack lost a fumble that was recovered by Ken Woodard on the Cleveland 37. On the next play, Denver QB John Elway's 34-yard scramble moved the ball to the 4-yard line. Once again, they ended up facing fourth down on the 1-yard line, but this time they decided to go for the touchdown and Gerald Willhite scored on a sweep right. Cleveland managed to respond with Kosar's 42-yard completion to receiver Clarence Weathers, setting up Mark Moseley's 29-yard field goal to tie the score at 10 with less than a minute left in the half.

In the second half, Elway threw his first interception of the game, a pass that was picked off near the sidelines by rookie defensive back Mark Harper. But the Broncos defense rose to the occasion and managed to force a punt. Elway then led Denver inside the Browns 20-yard line where Karlis made a 26-yard field goal to break the tie with 2:50 left in the third quarter.

Cleveland responded with a field goal of their own, a 24-yarder from Mosely to tie the game at 13. Then after a punt, Kosar completed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Brian Brennan, making the score 20-13 with 5:43 left in regulation. On the ensuing kickoff, returner Ken Bell misplayed the kick and it hit the ground in front of him, bouncing to the 2-yard line before he managed to dive on the ball. Elway then led his team 98 yards to tie the game on wide receiver Mark Jackson's 5-yard touchdown reception with 37 seconds left in regulation. Jackson also made a big play earlier on the drive, catching a 20-yard pass from Elway on third down and 18 from the Browns 48-yard line with 1:47 to go. Overall, the drive covered 98 yards in 15 plays without ever facing a fourth down, and only facing a third down three times.

After forcing Cleveland to punt on the opening drive of overtime, Elway led the Broncos 60 yards to set up Karlis' game winning 33-yard field goal. The key play of the drive was a 28-yard completion to Steve Watson on third down and 12 at midfield. Two carries by Sammy Winder then moved the ball to the 16-yard line where Karlis made his game winning kick, which barely made it inside the left upright.

This game was later featured on NFL's Greatest Games.

To date, it remains the only AFC Title game to go to overtime.

NFC Championship: New York Giants 17, Washington Redskins 0

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Redskins 0 0 000
Giants 10 7 0017

at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

The Giants shut out the Redskins, allowing only 150 passing yards and 40 rushing yards. New York won the [1]

Washington's best chance to score came in the second quarter, when a 48-yard reception by receiver Art Monk set up a field attempt, but it never got off the ground because quarterback Jay Schroeder fumbled the snap. On their next drive, Simms completed a 30-yard pass to tight end Mark Bavaro and later rushed 8 yards to the Redskins 1-yard line on a QB bootleg. On the next play, running back Joe Morris completed the 51-yard drive by taking it into the end zone from there. Just before halftime, Morris gave the Redskins a scoring opportunity by losing a fumble deep in New York territory. But Washington came up empty when "The Big Blue Wrecking Crew" stopped them on a 4th and 1 conversion attempt.

In the second half, Washington completely abandoned their running game, passing the ball on all but one of their plays, but to no avail. By the end of the game, Schroeder was sacked 4 times, intercepted once by linebacker Gary Reasons and finished with just 20 of 50 completions for 195 yards.

Washington's lone bright spot of the day was Monk, who caught 8 passes for 126 yards.

Super Bowl XXI: New York Giants 39, Denver Broncos 20

Further information: Super Bowl XXI
Game summary
1 2 34Total
Broncos (AFC) 10 0 01020
Giants (NFC) 7 2 171339

at Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

  • Date: January 25, 1987
  • Game attendance: 101,063
  • Referee: Jerry Markbreit
  • TV announcers (CBS): Pat Summerall and John Madden


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