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NFL Playoffs: Greatest AFC Championship Game Performances of All Time

With both teams' seasons and an NFL Championship berth on the line, it's no surprise the AFC Championship has produced legendary performances.

Here, we'll break down the five most impressive AFC Championship performances of all time.

Pittsburgh Steelers defense (1978)

There have been a number of legendary defensive showings in AFC Championship games, and one of the greatest examples is the Pittsburgh Steelers' Steel Curtain defense shutting down Dan Pastorini, Earl Campbell, and the Houston Oilers in freezing rain.

The Steelers picked off Pastorini five times, and the unit combined for four fumble recoveries for nine total takeaways. Pittsburgh was up 31-3 at the half, and the Oilers turned the ball over on four of their six second-half drives.

Hall of Famers Jack Ham, Mel Blount, and Donnie Shell each intercepted a pass, and Hall of Famer 'Mean' Joe Green and Steel Curtain teammate LC Greenwood combined for 2.5 sacks in the 34-5 win.

Ken Anderson (1981)

The air temperature at Riverfront Stadium for the game known as the Freezer Bowl was a bone-chilling -9 degrees Fahrenheit, with the wind chill taking the temperature further down to a reported -59 degrees.

While the Chargers froze on the day, the Bengals produced an all-around excellent performance given the conditions with their defense shutting down San Diego's attack led by QB Dan Fouts.

Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson played with ice in his veins, finishing the day completing 14 of 22 passes for 161 yards, zero interceptions and two touchdowns, while he was also the team's second-leading rusher with 39 yards on five carries.

Given the cold and gusting winds, it was a remarkable showing from Anderson and the Bengals team in general.

Buffalo Bills defense (1990)

The biggest blowout in AFC Championship history took place in Buffalo, New York, where the Bills more than justified their status as favorites to crush the Raiders en route to reaching their first NFL Championship game.

This one was over before it got started as the Bills charged into a 41-3 half-time lead with James Lofton and Kenneth Davis both scoring twice, part of Buffalo's seven-touchdown haul on the day. 

The Bills' defense that stole the show and grounded the Raiders. Buffalo picked off LA six times in total, with Jay Schroeder throwing five picks, the most in AFC Championship game history.

Linebacker Darryl Talley intercepted two of those passes, returning one 27 yards for a touchdown.

Baltimore Ravens defense (2000)

Few defenses have been as effective and as destructive as the Ravens' class of 2000, which would carry Baltimore to NFL Championship glory. Led by future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, they gave up the fewest points (165) and rushing yards in a single season in NFL history. 

Despite how dominant their defense was, they were not great on offense and were expected to be challenged in the AFC Championship game by an efficient Raiders offense that ran the ball well and rarely turned it over. 

But Baltimore never gave Oakland a sniff, limiting them to 24 yards on the ground, contributing to the Raiders posting the fifth-lowest yards total (191) for an AFC decider. Shannon Sharpe's 96-yard TD reception from QB Trent Dilfer less than four minutes into the game was enough, as the Ravens defense allowed just a field goal.

Baltimore picked off Raiders' QB Rich Gannon twice and sacked him four times. He was replaced by Bobby Hoying, who also threw a pair of interceptions. For the Ravens, Duane Starks had two picks, Lewis had seven tackles, and Jamie Sharper got two sacks and picked off a pass.

Tom Brady (and LeGarrette Blount) (2014)

With 11 AFC Championship wins to their, nine of which came with Tom Brady as quarterback, it was inevitable the New England Patriots would end up on the list. 

The Pats have produced some epic showings in AFC deciders down the years, including a remarkable overtime win in Kansas City in 2018 and a couple of impressive successes over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but this lopsided victory over the Andrew Luck-led Colts maybe tops the lot.

On a rain-soaked night at Gillette Stadium in 2014, Indianapolis were torn to shreds as the Patriots stepped on the gas in the second half. 

New England scored touchdowns with all four of their possessions after the interval, LeGarrette Blount rushing for a hat-trick of TDs on the night, while Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes.

Blount opened and closed the scoring: his first score was less than five minutes after the opening kickoff, and he scored late in the third and early in the fourth to seal the blowout win. Between Blount's scores, Brady found running back James Develin, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and even offensive tackle Nate Solder in the end zone.

On defense, the Pats made sure it was a bad night for Colts QB Andrew Luck, who completed 12 of 33 passes for 126 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. 

Everything went right for the Patriots as coach Bill Belichick called the perfect, low-risk game in the rain to set New England, at the height of the Brady-Belichick era, on its way to winning the big one as part of a stretch of three championships in the next five years.

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