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NFL: Greatest AFC Championship Games of All Time

This weekend's AFC Championship Game contains all the ingredients to become a modern classic as No.1 Kansas City Chiefs host the No.3 Cincinnati Bengals.

Cincinnati's Joe Burrow, +110 to have the Most Playoff Passing Yards, and +800 Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City are establishing a new quarterback rivalry for the era to potentially match the decade of duels between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. 

But both teams will have to go some on Sunday to top the drama produced by this selection of the greatest-ever AFC Championship Games.

1. 1986 AFC championship: Denver 23, Cleveland 20 (OT) 

Fourth-quarter lead changes were extremely rare events in AFC title games throughout the 1970s and 80s. 

So when the Browns tied the scores with a field goal and then went 20-13 up at home to the Denver Broncos with under six minutes remaining, it probably felt like an unassailable position to most football fans watching on that January afternoon. 

What followed is now part of football folklore and goes by the name 'The Drive'. Amid a deafening din created by the Dawg Pound at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Broncos quarterback John Elway marched his team 98 yards in 15 plays to tie the game up with 37 seconds left in regulation. 

The Browns' defense could not force Denver into a fourth down as Elway, in what is often referenced as pro football's prototypical clutch performance, kept coming up with the right answers. 

Perhaps the most improbable was the third-and-18 conversion to rookie Mark Jackson, who had dropped a couple of passes earlier in the game, when Elway stooped to scoop up the snapped ball after it had hit the Broncos' man in motion at the start of the play. 

He finished the TD drive off with a nice inside throw to Jackson and Denver's kicker made the extra point. The Browns then punted after a three-and-out in overtime before Elway did it all over again, leading the Broncos from their own 25 to within range for Rich Karlis to make the game-winning kick. 

Elway went 22 of 38 for 244 yards in the air and also added 56 yards on four rushes. He even punted once on a fake fourth-down play and planted the ball inside the Browns' 20.

2. 2006 AFC championship: Indianapolis 38, New England 34 

This was the second of four AFC Championship Game battles between Brady and Manning with the Colts QB looking to avenge a 24-14 loss at Foxborough three years before. 

Manning and the Colts had won both regular-season meetings in 2005 and 2006, but an all-too-familiar feeling of doom retired when New England took a 21-6 halftime lead. 

Indianapolis stormed back into it in the third quarter and tied the game at 21 each and the teams stayed in lockstep until the Pats took a three-point lead with 3:49 remaining on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. 

Manning then drove the Colts 80 yards in a do-or-die drive lasting 75 seconds capped by backup RB Joseph Addai scoring the go-ahead touchdown to send the Hall of Fame QB to his first championship game.

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3. 2015 AFC championship: Denver 20, New England 18 

The final installment of the Brady-Manning AFC title game tetralogy was more of a defensive masterclass. 

The Broncos hounded the Patriots quarterback throughout with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware combining for three sacks, 11 QB hits, and an INT. 

Manning, whose miraculous powers were by now undoubtedly on the wane, finished the game 17 of 32 for 176 yards and two touchdowns - just doing enough to get the Broncos over the line. 

Brady did his best to engineer an unbelievable comeback as he converted a fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line by throwing a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski that made the score 20-18 with 12 seconds left on the clock. 

But on the subsequent two-point conversion attempt, his pass to Julian Edelman was broken up. 

The only reason New England needed to go for two in that situation was Gostkowski's missed extra point in the first quarter, his first in nine years and an NFL record 524 tries.

4. 2018 AFC Championship: New England 38, Kansas City 31 

This game gave fans their first glimpse of Mahomes' playoff powers, but old man Brady - as he was 18 years older than his 23-year-old rival here - proved to be the master. 

New England had shut out the Chiefs' explosive offense in the first half, but the No. 1 seed quickly erased a two-score deficit in a crazy second half in which the lead changed hands several times. 

The Patriots took a three-point lead with 39 seconds left, but Mahomes - foreshadowing his heroics in the 2022 Divisional Round classic against the Buffalo Bills - marched Kansas City downfield in three plays to set up a game-tying field goal. 

After winning the overtime coin toss, New England drove 75 yards in 13 plays for the game-winning touchdown, but this victory is still remembered for Dee Ford's crushing neutral-zone alignment penalty to negate a Charvarius Ward interception that would have ended the Patriots' charge.

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