Some of the most dramatic NFL games have taken place when the NFC Championship is on the line and, like this year, the San Francisco 49ers have been involved.
Originally published 27/01/2022
Can the 5/4 Niners and the 20/29 Philadelphia Eagles produce anything to match this selection of the conference's greatest-ever title showdowns?
An iconic moment in the sport's history 'The Catch' was the six-yard touchdown completion Joe Montana made to Dwight Clark at the back of the endzone on a crucial third down late in the game.
It marked the birth of the San Francisco 49ers dynasty under Bill Walsh and stopped the great Dallas Cowboys, who had become known as 'America's Team', from prolonging theirs.
Dallas took a six-point lead at Candlestick Park on a Danny White-to-Doug Cosbie 21-yard hookup, leaving the Niners just over five minutes to respond.
Walsh confused a Cowboys defense prepared for Montana's passes by calling some sweeping runs before two clutch catches in traffic by Freddie Solomon and Solomon's 14-yard run on a reverse got San Francisco down to Dallas' six-yard line.
On third down, Montana rolled right before he was encircled by three Cowboys defenders.
But the legendary QB floated a pass that initially looked like it was headed out of bounds to a spot where only Clark, sliding back into range after abandoning his original route, leapt to make the iconic two-handed grab.
The 49ers' defense still had to make a stop after the Cowboys, who got the ball back at their 25-yard line with two timeouts and 51 seconds left, cranked up the tension when White hit Drew Pearson for 31 yards on the first play of the drive.
But the Cowboys QB lost the ball on the next play after getting hit by defensive end Lawrence Pillers and Jim Stuckey scooped it up to punch the 49ers' first NFL Championship ticket.
In this closely-contested Championship Game, neither team ever led by more than seven points and the score was tied on four different occasions.
Adrian Peterson's third touchdown tied the game for the Vikings, who had a chance to win it at the Saints' 38-yard-line with 19 seconds left in regulation.
However, Brett Favre's final pass of the game was intercepted by Tracy Porter, sending the game into overtime.
New Orleans ultimately won the game thanks to two penalties against the Vikings' defense and a two-yard run by Pierre Thomas on a fourth-and-1 play, which set up Garrett Hartley's game-winning field goal.
The Saints subsequently defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL Championship, with Porter's pick-six of Peyton Manning securing the win.
NFL: NFC Championship Game Preview
In the first of their back-to-back NFC Championship wins, the Seahawks washed away a 10-point 49ers lead to beat the reigning conference champions.
Colin Kaepernick improvised one of the great TD passes in playoff history - a jump-toss to Anquan Boldin - but will also be remembered for fumbling twice and throwing a pick to end San Francisco's final three drives.
The Legion of Boom shut down Kaepernick for the most part and when the Niners had one last chance to win the game with the ball inside Seattle's 20 with 30 seconds left, the Niners' QB chose to test Seattle's shutdown corner, Richard Sherman.
Kaepernick's pass to Michael Crabtree in the end zone was deflected by Sherman and intercepted by Malcolm Smith, locking up the win for Seattle.
A physical Giants team denied San Francisco a third straight NFC title and a shot at a historic NFL Championship three-peat, knocking Montana out of the game when the 49ers were up 13-9 with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Bill Parcells' men got the ball back, but were stopped on a key third down and one. Then, on fourth down, Parcells called a fake punt.
With only 10 men on the field for the play, the Niners could not prevent a long run by Gary Reasons that set up another Giants field goal and cut the deficit to a single point.
San Francisco tried to eat up the clock, but Giants nose tackle Erik Howard made a key play, fighting through a double-team to knock the ball out of running back Roger Craig's hands with his helmet.
Lawrence Taylor fought through two blockers to catch Howard's forced fumble in mid-air, giving New York's offense the ball at their own 43-yard line.
QB Jeff Hostetler completed passes to Mark Bavaro and Stephen Baker to take the Giants into Matt Bahr's field-goal range and from 42 yards out the kicker made his fifth the day as time expired.