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The Top Ten Regular Season Comebacks According to the Stats

As I was going through some old gamebooks, I got curious about what the numbers tell us in terms of the greatest comebacks in the NFL, and - more importantly - how many of these classic collapses involved the NFC East.

I always use nflfastR as the play-by-play model, so my research began with the 1999 season. Sorry, no depression-era data. Win Probability (WP) is based on the nflfastR model and is the best, and most accessible one I have encountered.

10. Week 8, 2020 LA Chargers at Denver Broncos | LA max Win Probability: 96.3%, lost 31-30

The 2020 Chargers had a knack for looking like a playoff team early in games, only to collapse down the stretch in an increasingly brutal fashion with each passing week.

In week 8, they faced a stingy Denver defense that held the underrated LA offense to 3 points for most of the first half. In fact, the score was only 7-3 late in the second. LA then got things going, and put together an impressive 8-play, 78-yard TD drive in just 56 seconds to take a comfortable 14-3 lead - accompanied by an 85.6% WP into the locker room.

They even doubled up after scoring on their ensuing opening half drive to take a commanding 21-3 lead. Hell, with 2:57 left in the 3rd quarter, LA was up 24-10 and faced only a 4.2% chance of losing the game.

17:57 later, Denver had outscored LA 21-6, to complete a comeback that was capped by an 18 play, 80-yard game-winning TD drive as time expired.

9. Week 7, 2020 Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals | SEA max Win Probability: 96.6%, lost 37-34

In what turned out to be the most entertaining game of the 2020 season, Seattle and Arizona traded points like teenagers swap spit.

Locked in a 3 point game, Seattle scored late in the 3rd quarter to take a 34-24 lead off of a wild Tyler Lockett TD catch from Russell Wilson.

Seattle added a field goal to that lead, with their WP reaching all the way to 96.6% before Arizona closed the gap to 34-31 with 2:28 left in the fourth.

After forcing a Seattle punt with 0:52 left in regulation, Seattle still had an 89.7% WP, but a 44-yard Zaine Gonzalez field goal forced OT as time expired.

Each team had two possessions in OT, but a Wilson INT with 1:04 remaining set up ARI on the SEA 49, and Gonzalez's second attempt of OT found the inside of the uprights to complete the comeback.

8. Week 13 2005 Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins | MIA max Win Probability: 98.7%, lost 24-23

In the most irrelevant game of football played in twenty years, the 2005 Bills found an outrageous way to kick the shit out of the Gus Ferotte-led Dolphins, only to see their lead evaporate in front of their eyes to the likes of...Sage - fucking - Rosenfells.

Buffalo came limping into week 13 looking for their first road win of the year, and a safety midway through the 3rd quarter knocked Gus Ferotte out of the game. So - to recap - Buffalo had a 23-3 lead, against a terrible team, who was now forced to deploy their backup Quarterback.

If that wasn't enough, on their ensuing drive, Buffalo looked like they were about extend their lead, but on 1st and Goal from the MIA 3, J.P. Losman threw an interception. Not to worry, despite driving 79 yards, the Dolphins squandered a chance to reduce the lead by coughing up the ball on a failed 4th down conversion to end the third quarter.

Then, in the fourth quarter, Miami rattled off 3 touchdown drives, and despite a Rosenfells' interception with 2:34 left in the game, a Buffalo 3-and-out gave Miami the ball back at the two minute warning.

The Phins then went on to tie the game on a 4th and Goal touchdown from the 4 yardline with 6 seconds remaining in the game. The ensuing extra point put them over the top and capped the most pointless win of the season.

7. Week 1, 2016 San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs | SD max Win Probability: 98.9%, lost 33-27

Before the Chargers were blowing leads in LA, they learned how to blow leads in San Diego.

In their 2016 opener, they came roaring out of the gates, holding the dangerous, yet pre-Mahomes KC offense in check for the entire first half while jumping out to a 24-3 lead.

With 11:28 left in the 3rd, they had a 98.9% WP, but the dam finally broke, and KC scored 23 unanswered points over a 14-minute span across five of their final six drives to come from behind and win in overtime.

6. Week 10, 2005 Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles | PHI max Win Probability: 99.0%, lost 21-20

Philly was sitting pretty with only 3:51 left in the game. Donovan McNabb and the Eagles' offense had the ball, up 20-7 with a 99.0% win probability.

But, after punting on 4th down, the Eric Bledsoe led Cowboys took over at their own 28 yard line, and put together a 40 second, 5-play scoring drive. Still down 20-14, with a measly 10.4% win probability, Roy Williams picked off McNabb on the ensuing drive, and returned it for a TD to take a 21-20 lead.

Things weren't all bad though, with 2:43 left on the clock, the Eagles still had a 50/50 chance at winning the game. They got one more shot, but a missed 60-yard David Akers field goal was good enough to land them at number six on this list.

5. Week 6, 2006 Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinal | ARI max Win Probability: 99.1%, lost 24-23

The late Dennis Green said it best, "We let them off the hook."

The undefeated Bears (yes, I still can't believe I'm typing that) walked into the retirement home of the NFL with the number one defense in the league to face the lowly Cardinals, who almost pulled off the upset of the 2006 season.

Arizona lost this game despite a +4 turnover differential, being +6 in first downs, and owning a 23-3 lead late in the 3rd quarter. That's when the wheels came off. The Cardinals gave up 2 defensive TDs and a Punt Return for a TD to Devin Hester over the course of the last frame to lose in crushing fashion 24-23.

If the Bears' comeback wasn't enough, Arizona still had a chance to win the game. But, Neil Rackers missed a 40-yard game-winning field goal with 0:52 left. Chicago escaped Pheonix undefeated en route to their only super bowl appearance since 1985.

4. Week 7, 2011 Denver Broncos at Miami Dolphins | MIA max Win Probability: 99.4%, lost 18-15

Skip Bayless forgive me for not taking this Tebow miracle overly serious.

It's hard to decide what is funnier, rewatching the highlights of this game and hearing Steve Mariucci trying to convince everyone that Tim Tebow is a good quarterback or the fact that the Dolphins had a shot at getting their first notch in the win column, only to have their hopes dashed by a guy who throws a worse spiral than I do.

Through two and a half quarters of what could only loosely be described as a football game, the score was 15-0 with 5:23 left in the 3rd when Denver finally put a drive together and put the ball in the endzone to make it a one-possession game.

Denver would score again on their final possession of regulation to tie the game on a Tebow draw with 17 seconds left and force OT on what Mooch described as "a great football play."

As if blowing a two-possession lead to a team that - at that point - had missed a field goal on their sole trip to the RedZone wasn't enough, Miami even had the ball in OT. However, Denver forced a fumble on the MIA 35, and after doing zilch with the ball, trotted their biggest offensive weapon that season - Matt Prater - out on the field to send Miami to 0-5 with an 18-15 win.

With 5:38 left in the 3rd quarter, MIA had a 99.3% WP, but their mathematical inevitability was no match for the holy savagery of Tim Tebow's noodle arm.

3. Week 12, 2006 New York Giants at Tennessee Titans | NYG max Win Probability: 99.5%, lost 24-21

The Giants collapsed in the most boring possible fashion of the 2000s.

The scoring timeline of this game almost looks like a rectangle. New York jumped out to a 21-0 lead against the lowly Titans and future Green Bay Quarterback Vince Young.

After the Giants' score with 8:05 left in the

half, neither team did anything until the fourth quarter.

Late in the 3rd quarter, Pacman Jones set up the Tennessee offense with their best field position of the day after picking off Eli Manning on his first of two brutal INTs on the day.

Tennessee then capitalized and scored on all four of their final drives of the game, including a Rob Bironas 49-yard field goal with 0:11 seconds left in regulation to seal a comeback against one of the most boring teams of the millennium.

2. Week 4, 2011 Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys | DAL max Win Probability: 99.7%, lost 34-30

In Detroit's first playoff season in 14 years, the Lions traveled to Dallas for a matchup with the Boys in Jerry World.

Up 27-3 in the 3rd Quarter, and with a 99.7% WP, renowned CBS broadcaster, Tony Romo threw pick sixes on back-to-back drives, allowing Detroit to get right back in the game 27-17.

Later in the quarter, Dez Bryant made a circus catch which was subseqently overturned (which was a trend that season). Even after all of that, and despite all their fuckery, Dallas still had a 30-17 lead early in the fourth quarter until Matthew Stafford found Megatron in the back of the endzone.

All of a sudden, Detroit had lif, an 18.4% WP, and only trailed by 6 points.

After tacking on a field goal to make it a 3-point game, Stafford found Johnson again on a fade with only 1:44 left in the game to take a 34-30 lead they would never relinquish.

Detroit left Dallas with a 4-0 record before finishing 6-6, and a playoff berth.

Number ONE: The (New) Miracle at the Meadowlands | NYG max Win Probability: 99.8%, lost 38-31

When I was researching these games, there were a whole bunch of instances where the Giants were on the rough side of all these collapses. But, none of them remotely come close to The Miracle at the Meadowlands.

There wasn't a single game since 1999 where a team had a higher win probability, and ended up losing the game.

New York entered this game 0-5 in their last five meetings with the Iggles. That record looked to be in jeopardy after they took a 24-3 lead going into halftime. As fate would have it, that 21-point lead was about as safe as Bobby Bacala in a hobby train shop.

The G-men proceeded to score on just one of their second half drives, while turning the ball over once, and punting five times including the now infamous Desean Jackson game winning punt return TD. I'll let the video do the talking...

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