NFC Championship Game
The 1982 NFC Championship Game (played at the end of the 1981 season) is arguably the most important game in the history of the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers 28-27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys ushered in the era of the “West Coast” offense. It propelled the 49ers to their first of five Super Bowl appearances in 14 years and made quarterback Joe Montana a national hero. The Cowboys wouldn’t reach the Super Bowl for another decade. Also, there was a four-year-old boy who watched the game from the stands that day. He was so enamored by what he saw that he decided to become a NFL quarterback. That little kid was Tom Brady.
The game is also noted for one of the most important plays in NFL history, The Catch. That’s when 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark made a leaping grab in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. While everyone knows “The Catch” few people know that the Cowboys still had time to mount a drive. In fact, they almost pulled out the win. Cowboys quarterback Danny White connected with wide receiver Drew Pearson on a long pass play. Pearson would have run into the end zone but defensive back Eric Wright grabbed the inside of his jersey and pulled him to the ground (a move that’s now illegal). White fumbled the ball on the next play and the 49ers recovered. The Catch has made it into NFL lore, but Wright’s nearly-forgotten tackle preserved the victory.
Held annually, the winner of the NFC Championship Game advances to the Super Bowl where they play the winner of the AFC Championship Game. The site of the game is the home stadium of the division-winning team with the best win-loss record. The winner of the NFC Championship receives the George Halas Trophy. The game has been played since 1970, the year the NFL merged with the American Football League.
It’s fitting that we began this article talking about the 49ers and Cowboys as they clashed in the very first championship game and are tied for the most NFC championship appearances with 14. They have also met one another in the NFC title game six times making them the game’s most frequent championship matchup.
The New York Giants are 5-0 in NFC Championship contests—that’s the most wins without a loss in either conference’s big game. Chicago Bears are 2-3, Green Bay Packers are 3-2, Minnesota Vikings are 3-5, Philadelphia Eagles are 2-4, Saint Louis Rams are 3-6, and Washington Redskins are 5-1. Every team in the National Football Conference has reached the championship game at least once. Only the Detroit Lions are without a victory in the NFC Championship game.
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