What a week of prime-time football in the National Football League!
That fantastic Denver Broncos victory over the New England Patriots last week turned out to be the first of three consecutive nationally televised prime-times game to end in "walk-off" fashion on the game's final play.
Of course, we all know that C.J. Anderson dashed into the end zone for Denver to beat the Patriots in overtime, collect AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors in the process.
Relive the Broncos vs. Chargers series history with photographs dating to the teams' AFL roots in the 1960s.
But then on Monday night, the Cleveland Browns were lined up for the game-winning field goal vs. Baltimore, only to have the Ravens block it and return it all the way untouched for the winning score.
And then on Thursday night, the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers threw a 61-yard touchdown pass on the game's final play.
These were all thrilling games and remind us once again of how great NFL football is, but there have always been other games, sometimes so deep in the vault that the play-by-play form requires a bit of dusting off.
The Broncos have won on a touchdown pass on the final play of the game before, and even on a Hail Mary like Rodgers threw.
I wonder how many fans remember that the very first catch of Ring of Fame wide receiver Rod Smith's illustrious Bronco career was a game-winning touchdown pass on a last play long bomb by Hall of Famer John Elway, and against Washington Redskins Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green, no less.
That play came to me right away when Rodgers connected on his game-winning throw for the Packers.
In the Denver play, it was a Hall of Fame quarterback throwing to a Ring of Fame wide receiver making the first catch of his career while being covered by a Hall of Fame cornerback. How rare is that?
Regarding the Monday Night Football win by the Ravens, several writers noted that the blocked field goal return for a game-winning touchdown was the first in the NFL since Ring of Fame cornerback Louis Wright accomplished that same feat with a 60-yard return of a blocked field goal vs. San Diego at Mile High Stadium on Nov. 17, 1985.
But there was another aspect of that Broncos-Chargers game that made it one of a kind in NFL annals, and since we are playing at San Diego this week, I thought it was worth a quick jog of the memory--or in the case of younger readers, be they fan or press, the very first they have heard of it.
That Denver-San Diego game is the only one in pro football history in which the very first and very last touches of the football resulted in touchdowns.
The game began with San Diego running back Gary Anderson taking the opening kickoff back for a Chargers touchdown, and the teams played a magnificent game, one of the best ever—but by far lacking in the drama of consequence and weather that Sunday's Patriots game provided—and the two teams went into overtime tied at 24-24.
The Chargers drove down to kick the winning field goal, which was blocked by future Ring of Famer Dennis Smith (his second blocked kick of the game), but Denver captain Mike Harden had called for a time out just as the ball was snapped.
The pillar honoring Owner Pat Bowlen in Ring of Fame Plaza was unveiled at a sunset ceremony Oct. 30.
Thus, San Diego and Thomas got a shot at redemption. Smith said in the huddle, "I think I can block it again."
But really, how often have you ever seen the same player block the same field goal attempt on consecutive snaps?
I never had before, and never have since.
Nevertheless, Smith did block the kick (his third of the game, but his second that counted, due to the timeout eliminating the one just before), and this time it took a perfect bounce into the hands of fellow future Ring of Famer Louis Wright, who took it 60 yards untouched for the winning score.
Since there is no extra point attempt when a touchdown is scored to win in overtime, the first and last touches of the ball had been touchdowns, the only time that has happened in pro football history.
And speaking of firsts, the three prime-time games of this past week (on Sunday, Monday and Thursday Night Football) mark the first time that those three consecutive national television games have ended with touchdowns on the final plays.
Great plays and great games continue to define the NFL.