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NFL playoffs, 1995-96


NFL playoffs, 1995-96

The NFL playoffs following the 1995 NFL season led up to Super Bowl XXX.

Playoff seeds
1 Kansas City Chiefs (West winner) Dallas Cowboys (East winner)
2 Pittsburgh Steelers (Central winner) San Francisco 49ers (West winner)
3 Buffalo Bills (East winner) Green Bay Packers (Central winner)
4 San Diego Chargers Philadelphia Eagles
5 Indianapolis Colts Detroit Lions
6 Miami Dolphins Atlanta Falcons


  Wild Card Playoffs Divisional Playoffs Conference Championships Super Bowl XXX
6  Atlanta 20  
3  Green Bay 37  
  3  Green Bay 27  
    2  San Francisco 17  
  3  Green Bay 27  
  1  Dallas 38  
5  Detroit 37  
4  Philadelphia 58  
  4  Philadelphia 11
    1  Dallas 30  
  N1  Dallas 27
  A2  Pittsburgh 17
5  Indianapolis 35  
4  San Diego 20  
  5  Indianapolis 10
    1  Kansas City 7  
  5  Indianapolis 16
  2  Pittsburgh 20  
6  Miami 22  
3  Buffalo 37  
  3  Buffalo 21
    2  Pittsburgh 40  

Wild Card playoffs

December 30, 1995

AFC: Buffalo Bills 37, Miami Dolphins 22

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Dolphins 0 0 02222
Bills 10 14 31037

at Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, New York

Although Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino completed 33 out of 64 passes for 422 yards, the Bills jumped to a 27-0 lead going into the fourth quarter, forced four turnovers, and rushed 341 yards, the second highest amount in NFL postseason history and the most since Chicago gained 382 rushing yards in the 1940 NFL championship game.

Buffalo started the scoring with a 59-yard drive, 45 yards which came from receptions by Steve Tasker (who normally only played on special teams). Thurman Thomas finished off the possession with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Bills a 7-0 early lead. Later on, after Bills kicker Steve Christie made a 48-yard field goal, John Kidd's punt pinned Buffalo back at their own 1-yard line. Buffalo then drove 98 yards, with receiver Bill Brooks picking up 21 yards on an end-around run and Kelly completing a 26-yard pass to Tasker. Darick Holmes' 34-yard run then moved the ball to the Dolphins 1, but that was as far as the drive would go, as defensive back Gene Atkins intercepted Kelly's pass in the end zone. Still, Miami was unable to build any momentum. They were forced to punt again, and this time Buffalo scored on Holmes' 21-yard touchdown run, increasing their lead to 17-0. Then on the Dolphins' next drive, Dan Marino threw a pass that was deflected by Phil Hansen and picked off by linebacker Marlo Perry. Two plays later, Kelly capitalized on the turnover with a 37-yard touchdown throw to Tasker, increasing the Bills lead to 24-0 at the end of the half.

Early in the third quarter, Marino fumbled a snap out of shotgun formation, and Bills lineman Bryce Paup recovered it, resulting in Christie's second field goal that gave the Bills a 27-0. In the fourth quarter, Miami stormed back with 22 points, scoring on Marino's touchdown passes to O. J. McDuffie and Randal Hill, along with Terry Kirby's 1-yard run. However, Bills fullback Tim Tindale's 44-yard touchdown run and Christie's third field goal of the day kept the game out of reach.

Both teams combined for a playoff record 1,038 total yards (502 for Miami, 536 for Buffalo). Thomas rushed for 158 yards, caught 3 passes for 48 yards, and scored a touchdown. Tasker rushed for 7 yards, while also catching 5 passes for 108 yards and a score, giving him his fist career 100-yard receiving game (he would only have one more before his retirement after the 1997 season). Holmes rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown, while Tindale compiled 68 yards (more then his entire career regular season total) and a score of his own. McDuffie was the Dolphins top offensive performer with 11 receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown. This was the final game in the career of Dolphins head coach Don Shula, who retired as the NFL's all time leader in coaching wins.

NFC: Philadelphia Eagles 58, Detroit Lions 37

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Lions 7 0 141637
Eagles 7 31 13758

at Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Prior to this game, Detroit tackle Lomas Brown famously guaranteed on television that the Lions would win. The Eagles responded by opening up with a 51-7 lead over the Lions. The Eagles scored 31 points in the second quarter, recorded 6 interceptions, and held running back Barry Sanders to 40 rushing yards en route to a 58-37 victory in the second highest scoring game in NFL postseason history. Philadelphia scored first with running back Charlie Garner's 15-yard touchdown, but was countered with Detroit quarterback Scott Mitchell's 32-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Sloan. Then Philadelphia exploded in the second quarter with Eagles kicker Gary Anderson's 21-yard field goal, quarterback Rodney Peete's 22-yard touchdown to wide receiver Fred Barnett, defensive back Barry Wilburn's 24-yard interception return for a touchdown, running back Ricky Watters' 1-yard touchdown, and wide receiver Rob Carpenter's 43-yard touchdown reception on a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half. In the second half, a 45-yard touchdown reception by Watters and two more field goals by Anderson increased the Eagles lead, 51-7, still with slightly more than nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. From there, backup quarterback Don Majkowski replaced Mitchell and threw 3 touchdowns, and Ron Rivers added a 1-yard touchdown run, but by then the game was well out of reach.

Peete completed 17 of 25 passes for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns, while also rushing for 17 yards. Barnett caught 8 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. Watters rushed for 49 yards, caught 3 passes for 64 yards, and scored 2 touchdowns. Lions receiver Herman Moore caught 7 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown.

December 31, 1995

NFC: Green Bay Packers 37, Atlanta Falcons 20

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Falcons 7 3 01020
Packers 14 13 01037

at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin

The Packers scored 13 unanswered points in the second quarter en route to a 37-20 victory over the Falcons. Atlanta scored first on quarterback Jeff George's 65-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Eric Metcalf. But Green Bay countered with running back Edgar Bennett's 8-yard touchdown, and later took the lead with wide receiver Robert Brooks's 14-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Brett Favre. In the second quarter, the Falcons cut the lead with kicker Morten Andersen's 31-yard field goal. However, Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown, and Green Bay extended their lead to 20-10 (after the two-point conversion attempt failed). In the closing minutes of the first half, the Packers marched 85-yards to score on Favre's 2-yard touchdown to tight end Mark Chmura to reach a 27-10 halftime lead. After a scoreless third quarter, the two teams exchanged touchdowns and field goals during the final period.

Bennett turned in the best postseason performance of his career, finishing the game with 108 rushing yards, 3 receptions for 11 yards, and a touchdown. Favre threw for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns.

AFC: Indianapolis Colts 35, San Diego Chargers 20

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Colts 0 14 71435
Chargers 3 7 7320

at Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego

Rookie running back Zack Crockett, who had only one rushing attempt during the regular season, found himself thrust into the starting lineup to replace injured starter Marshall Faulk on the first play of the game. He proved up to the task, rushing for a franchise playoff record 147 yards and scoring two touchdowns to help the Colts win their first playoff game in 24 years. San Diego gained 429 yards of total offense, but quarterback Stan Humphries threw four interceptions, two to safety Jason Belser. Chargers running back Ronnie Harmon caught 10 passes for 133 yards.

The Chargers jumped to a 3–0 lead in the first quarter with kicker John Carney's 54-yard field goal. Later in the period, Colts linebacker Steve Grant intercepted a pass from Humphries and returned it 13 yards to the Chargers 33-yard line. But his team was unable to capitalize on the turnover. 5 plays later, San Diego linebacker Junior Seau picked off a pass from Jim Harbaugh at the San Diego 1-yard line.

Later on, a 46-yard punt return by Colts defensive back Ray Buchanan set up Harbaugh's 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ken Dilger. But San Diego recaptured the lead on their ensuing possession by moving the ball 68 yards in 18 plays and scoring with Humphries's 6-yard scoring pass to tight end Alfred Pupunu. However, Crockett later scored on 33-yard touchdown run to give the Colts a 14–10 lead. The Chargers countered with a drive to Indianapolis's 17-yard line. But with 17 seconds left in the first half, Humphries' pass was intercepted in the end zone by Colts defensive back Ray McElroy.

The two teams exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter with Humphries throwing an 11-yarder to wide receiver Shawn Jefferson at the end of a 90-yard drive, and Harbaugh completing a 42-yarder to wide receiver Sean Dawkins. In the fourth quarter, Carney kicked a 30-yard field goal to cut Indianapolis' lead to 21–20. But on the Colts' next drive, Crockett ran for a 66-yard touchdown and the Colts never looked back. On the Charger's next possession, Belser's 33-yard interception return of a Humphries pass set up Harbaugh's game-clinching 3-yard touchdown run.


Divisional playoffs

January 6, 1996

AFC: Pittsburgh Steelers 40, Buffalo Bills 21

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Bills 0 7 7721
Steelers 7 16 31440

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Running back Bam Morris scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the Steelers stopped the Bills, minus Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith who fell ill the day before the game, from coming back. Pittsburgh jumped to a 20-0 lead by the second quarter with running back John L. Williams's 1-yard touchdown, quarterback Neil O'Donnell's 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ernie Mills, and two field goals by Norm Johnson. However, Buffalo running back Thurman Thomas scored a 1-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds left in the first half. But Johnson made a 34-yard field goal with eight seconds left to give the Steelers a 23-7 halftime lead. In the third quarter, Johnson added a 39-yard field goal before Bills tight end Tony Cline caught a 2-yard touchdown reception. With 11:23 left in the game, Thomas scored on a 9-yard touchdown reception to cut the lead, 26-21. But Pittsburgh then marched 76 yards to score on Morris' 13-yard touchdown run. Linebacker Levon Kirkland then intercepted a pass to set up Morris' 2-yard score with 1:58 remaining to clinch the victory.

With the Steelers win, they snapped the Bills' 10 game postseason winning streak against the AFC dating back to 1990.

NFC: Green Bay Packers 27, San Francisco 49ers 17

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Packers 14 7 3327
49ers 0 3 7717

at 3Com Park at Candlestick Point, San Francisco

The Packers jumped to a 21-0 lead en route to a 27-17 victory. Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre threw for 222 yards in the first half, and ended up with completing 21 out of 28 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Robert Brooks caught four passes for 103 yards. Meanwhile, their defense sacked 49ers quarterback Steve Young three times and intercepted him twice. Young ended up setting a playoff record with 65 pass attempts, but completed only 32 of them for 328 yards.

The Packers took the opening kickoff and held onto the ball for 7:11 before kicker Chris Jacke's 44-yard field goal attempt was blocked by 49ers defensive back Tim McDonald. But on San Francisco's first play, running back Adam Walker fumbled after being hit by linebacker Wayne Simmons, and defensive back Craig Newsome picked it up and returned it 31 yards for the touchdown. Then after forcing the 49ers to punt, the Packers advanced 62 yards to score on Favre's 3-yard touchdown to tight end Keith Jackson, who finished the day with four receptions for 101 yards.

Green Bay would later score on tight end Mark Chmura's 13-yard touchdown reception before San Francisco kicker Jeff Wilkins made a field goal to cut the lead to 21-3 before halftime. In the second half, Jacke kicked two field goals while the 49ers could only manage two touchdowns: a 1-yard run by Young and a 2-yarder by running back Derek Loville.

This was the only time during the 1990s that an NFC team won a divisional playoff game on the road.

January 7, 1996

NFC: Dallas Cowboys 30, Philadelphia Eagles 11

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Eagles 0 3 0811
Cowboys 3 14 6730

at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

With Eagles starting quarterback Rodney Peete injured, the Cowboys held Philadelphia to only 11 points, while scoring 27 unanswered points. The two teams exchanged field goals before Dallas capped off a 70-yard drive with Deion Sanders's 21-yard touchdown on an end-around. The Cowboys then marched 79 yards to score on running back Emmitt Smith's 1-yard touchdown. In the third quarter, Dallas kicker Chris Boniol added two field goals from 18 and 51 yards out. Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman then threw a 9-yard touchdown to wide receiver Michael Irvin. Philadelphia quarterback Randall Cunningham, who was the backup for most of the season, scored his team's only touchdown during the final period.

AFC: Indianapolis Colts 10, Kansas City Chiefs 7

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Colts 0 7 3010
Chiefs 7 0 007

at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

The Chiefs, who held the league's best record during the regular season (13-3), were heavily favored to beat the 9-7 Colts, particularly since Indianapolis star running back Marshall Faulk was inactive due to injury, along with defensive lineman Tony Siragusa due to illness. But by the end of the game, Kansas City lost four turnovers and kicker Lin Elliot missed three field goals en route to a 10-7 Colts upset.

After the first four possessions of the game resulted in punts, Kansas City scored on quarterback Steve Bono's 20-yard touchdown to wide receiver Lake Dawson with 29 seconds left in the first quarter on a drive that covered 62 yards in 5 plays. Indianapolis countered with a long methodical 18-play drive in which they converted five third downs and one fourth down on the way to Jim Harbaugh's 5-yard touchdown pass to receiver Floyd Turner to tie the game. Harbaugh had made several key plays on the drive, converting a 3rd and 11 with an 18-yard scramble and two plays later finding receiver Aaron Bailey for a 13-yard completion on 3rd and 10. Running back Lamont Warren also made a big play by converting a 4th and 1 situation with a 4-yard gain. Later on, Colts kicker Cary Blanchard missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with 57 seconds left in the half. Kansas City then drove to the Colts 17-yard line, only to have Elliot hit the uprights from 35 yards out.

In the third period, Colts defensive back Ashley Ambrose intercepted a pass from Bono at midfield, setting up Blanchard's 30-yard field goal to give his team the lead. Early in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs reached the Indianapolis 22-yard line, but all they got was another missed field goal, this one from 39 yards with 10:36 left to play. Indianapolis failed to gain a first down with their next two drives, while Bono threw consecutive interceptions, one to linebacker Quentin Coryatt and then other to cornerback Eugene Daniel. After the Coryatt interception, the Colts had a chance to increase their lead, but Blanchard missed a field goal attempt from 49 yards out. With 4:12 left in the game, Rich Gannon replaced Bono and led the Chiefs from their own 18 to the Colts 25-yard line. But with 42 seconds left, Elliot missed his third field goal of the day, a 42-yard attempt, and Indianapolis escaped with a win.

Conference championships

January 14, 1996

AFC Championship: Pittsburgh Steelers 20, Indianapolis Colts 16

Main article: 1995 AFC Championship game
Game summary
1 2 34Total
Colts 3 3 3716
Steelers 3 7 3720

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

On the Steelers opening drive, Neil O'Donnell's first pass of the game was tipped by defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and intercepted by Jeff Herrod, who returned it to the Pittsburgh 24-yard line. But the Colts drive was halted when Ray Seals tackled running back Lamont Warren for a loss on third down and one. On the next play, Cary Blanchard hit the right upright on his 34-yard field goal, but it still bounced in and the Colts took a 3-0 lead. After each team punted, Pittsburgh's Norm Johnson kicked a field goal to even the game with under two minutes left in the first quarter. The field goal occurred after Kordell Stewart dropped a pass in the end zone. Replays showed Colts safety Jason Belser made contact with Stewart just before the ball arrived, but no penalty flag was thrown.

In the second quarter, a 30-yard reception by Colts receiver Sean Dawkins set up Blanchard's second field goal. But later on, Pittsburgh drove 80 yards in 17 plays, featuring three third down conversion runs by Kordell Stewart, and scored on O'Donnell's 5-yard third and goal touchdown pass to Stewart with 13 seconds left in the half to make it 10-6. Replays showed Stewart had put half a foot out of bounds before making the catch, which would have made him an ineligible receiver, but the penalty was not called.

On Indianapolis' first drive of the second half, they drove 61 yards in nine plays, featuring a 29-yard completion from Jim Harbaugh to tight end Ken Dilger. Blanchard finished the drive with his third field goal to cut their deficit to 10-9. Then after forcing a three and punt, Indy drove 35 yards in nine plays to set up another field goal try, which would have put the Colts up 12-10. But this time Blanchard's 47-yard attempt sailed wide right. Taking over on their own 37, Pittsburgh mounted a drive in Colts territory where Johnson's 37-yard field goal put them back up by four points, at 13-9.

Early in the fourth quarter, a long punt return by Steelers receiver Andre Hastings gave them the ball at midfield. But all they got out of their great field position was a missed field goal. After that, Harbaugh threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Floyd Turner to take the lead, 16-13. After a Steelers punt, their defense got a big chance when Warren fumbled deep in Colts territory, but guard Joe Staysniak recovered the ball in mid-air to keep the drive going. Later on, defensive back Willie Williams tackled Warren behind the line on third down and one to force a punt, giving Pittsburgh the ball back with 3:03 left in the game.

Pittsburgh then marched 67 yards to score the winning touchdown. Running back Byron Bam Morris scored the game-winning 1-yard touchdown run with 1:34 remaining in the game to pull Pittsburgh ahead for good. The drive was aided by O'Donnell's 9-yard completion to Hastings on fourth down and 3 from the 47-yard line, as well as an earlier dropped potential interception that went in and out of the arms of linebacker Quentin Coryatt. On the next play after Hastings' fourth down conversion catch, O'Donnell completed a 37-yard pass to Ernie Mills on the Indianapolis 1-yard line, setting up Morris' 1-yard scoring run. The Colts got the ball back and advanced to the Steelers' 29 with 5 seconds left, narrowly avoiding a turnover when defensive back Chris Oldham dropped a wide open interception. On the game's final play, Harbaugh attempted a hail mary pass which he lofted high and came down into a crowd of players in the endzone, the ball momentarily was against Colts' WR Aaron Bailey's chest but it hit the turf before he could haul it in.

The Colts were the first No. 5 seed to advance to a conference championship game since the 1990 playoff expansion. Harbaugh completed 21 of 33 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown.

The game was featured as one of the NFL's Greatest Games as 60 Minutes. It marked the end of a thrilling and hard fought season for the Colts, in which 15 of their 19 games were decided by one score, including three that went into overtime[1]

NFC Championship: Dallas Cowboys 38, Green Bay Packers 27

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Packers 10 7 10027
Cowboys 14 10 01438

at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

Running back Emmitt Smith rushed for 150 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns as the Cowboys overcame a Packers 27-24 lead in the fourth quarter. Green Bay scored first on kicker Chris Jacke's 36-yard field goal, but Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman responded by throwing 2 touchdowns to wide receiver Michael Irvin. Packers quarterback Brett Favre countered with two touchdown passes of his own: a 73-yarder to Robert Brooks and a 24-yarder to tight end Keith Jackson. However, Cowboys kicker Chris Boniol made a 34-yard field goal to tie the game at 17. Dallas then took the lead with 24 seconds before halftime after marching 99 yards to score on running back Emmitt Smith's 1-yard touchdown. Green Bay then scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a 27-24 lead with Jacke's 37-yard field goal and 1-yard touchdown completion from Favre to Brooks. But Dallas regained the lead in the fourth quarter after Smith's 5-yard touchdown capped off a 90-yard possession. Then, Cowboys cornerback Larry Brown's 28-yard interception return set up Smith's 16-yard touchdown run to clinch the victory. Brooks finished the game with 6 receptions for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns.

After the contest, Reggie White was so visibly upset, he started shouting at television crews who were filming him on the sidelines. This was the third consecutive year that Dallas eliminated Green Bay from the playoffs.

Super Bowl XXX: Dallas Cowboys 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Further information: Super Bowl XXX
Game summary
1 2 34Total
Cowboys (NFC) 10 3 7727
Steelers (AFC) 0 7 01017

at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona

  • Date: January 28, 1996
  • Game attendance: 76,347
  • Referee: Red Cashion
  • TV announcers (NBC): Dick Enberg, Phil Simms and Paul Maguire


  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)

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