Five best Sunday Night Football regular season finales in NFL history originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
It all comes down to Game 271.
The 2022 NFL regular season will conclude with one last Sunday Night Football matchup. This week’s edition will take place at Lambeau Field with the Green Bay Packers hosting the Detroit Lions and the NFC’s final wild card spot up for grabs.
For years, the NFL has waited until the penultimate week of the season to reveal which game would be moved to NBC’s primetime showcase as the last game before the playoffs. The league intentionally chooses a showdown with the most playoff implications, particularly ones with win-and-in stakes.
This year’s tilt falls under that bucket for the Packers, who can earn the NFC’s No. 7 seed with a win. The Lions, meanwhile, need a win in Green Bay and a loss from the Seattle Seahawks Sunday afternoon to secure a playoff berth. Even if the Seahawks beat the Los Angeles Rams, the Lions could be eager to play spoiler against the Packers on Sunday.
Lions-Packers has some tough acts to follow when it comes to the last Sunday Night Football game given how epic recent finales have been. Here are five of the best SNF games that wrapped up an NFL regular season.
2012: Washington 28, Cowboys 18
From 2011 to 2013, the NFC East title was decided on Sunday Night Football in Week 17, and there was a common loser in each matchup.
The 2012 edition was played between 9-6 Washington and the 8-7 Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field. Rookie Robert Griffin III had Washington on the verge of its first playoff berth in five years, while Tony Romo and the Cowboys were seeking a bounce-back after falling to the New York Giants in Week 17 of the 2011 season with the division on the line.
Alfred Morris put Washington up 21-10 in the fourth quarter with a 32-yard touchdown, but Dallas countered with a touchdown and two-point conversion to make it a three-point game with less than six minutes remaining. The Cowboys got the ball back with a chance to tie the game or take the lead, but Romo then lofted a back-breaking interception. Morris proceeded to find the endzone for the third time and punctuated a 28-18 Washington win.
2013: Eagles 24, Cowboys 22
The Cowboys were on home turf against the Birds for the 2013 regular season finale, and it was once again a close contest. The Eagles pushed their lead to 24-16 with six minutes to go on a Bryce Brown rushing touchdown. Just over two minutes later, Kyle Orton found Dez Bryant for a 32-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-9. Orton tried finding Bryant again on the ensuing two-point try, but the pass was incomplete as the Eagles closed out on a 24-22 victory.
2015: Vikings 20, Packers 13
Sunday will not be the Packers’ first time hosting the NFL regular season finale against a division rival. They welcomed the Minnesota Vikings to town to conclude the 2015 campaign, but it was the visitors that left Green Bay with the NFC North crown.
The Vikings went up 20-3 in the third quarter thanks to an Aaron Rodgers fumble that was returned for a touchdown, but the Packers weren’t done fighting. Aaron Rodgers and Richard Rodgers connected on a 16-yard touchdown and Mason Crosby later tacked on a field goal to make it a seven-point deficit.
Green Bay had a pair of golden chances to tie the game, but Minnesota’s defense stepped up when it mattered most. Xavier Rhodes intercepted a pass in the endzone on a Packers fourth-and-goal attempt with 2:09 left in regulation, and the Vikings batted down a Hail Mary attempt on the final play of the game to cement a 20-13 win.
2019: 49ers 26, Seahawks 21
It’s exciting enough when the NFL regular season comes down to the last game. The intensity gets even higher when it comes down to the last yard.
The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks had already clinched playoff berths when they met at Lumen Field in Week 17 of the 2019 season. However, the NFC West was on the line with the 49ers chasing the No. 1 seed and the Seahawks chasing the No. 3 seed.
The Seahawks trailed 13-0 at the half and 19-7 entering the fourth quarter, but a pair of late touchdowns put them down five points heading into their final drive. Seattle got the ball to the 1-yard line with 23 seconds left, but San Francisco's defense came up with a goal-line stand for the ages. Dre Greenlaw made the play of the game by crushing Jacob Hollister within feet of the endzone on fourth-and-goal, giving his team the ball back and the NFC’s top seed.
2021: Raiders 35, Chargers 32 (OT)
The 2021 SNF finale offered a strange scenario. The Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders had the chance to eliminate the other from playoff contention, but there was also a path to both teams reaching the postseason – all they needed to do was tie one another in Week 18.
The possibility of a tie got even more real as the game went on. After falling behind 29-14, Justin Herbert brought the Chargers back even with two touchdown passes, including one from 12 yards out on the final play of regulation. Once overtime began, the teams exchanged field goals to put the score at 32-32 with 4:30 left.
Daniel Carlson trotted out to the field with two seconds remaining in OT and the playoff chances for three teams hanging in the balance. If he made the kick, the Raiders and Steelers would move on. If he missed it, the Raiders and Chargers would move on. It was the Chargers he sent home packing, as he nailed his fifth field goal of the game to give the Raiders an iconic 35-32 win.