AFC Championship Game

The AFC Championship Game is the annual championship game of the American Football Conference (AFC) and one of the two semi-final playoff games of the National Football League (NFL), the largest professional American football league in the United States. The game is played on the penultimate Sunday in January by the two remaining playoff teams, following the AFC postseason's first two rounds. The AFC champion then advances to face the winner of the National Football Conference (NFC) Championship Game in the Super Bowl.

The game was established as part of the 1970 merger between the NFL and the American Football League (AFL), with the merged league realigning into two conferences. Since 1984,[1] each winner of the AFC Championship Game has also received the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named after the founder of the AFL and the founder of the Kansas City Chiefs, Lamar Hunt.

AFC Championship Game
Afc championship logo
AFC Championship logo
First played1971 (1970 season)
TrophyLamar Hunt Trophy

Recent and upcoming games
2017 season
Gillette Stadium
January 21, 2018
Jacksonville Jaguars 20, New England Patriots 24
2018 season
Arrowhead Stadium
January 20, 2019
New England Patriots 37, Kansas City Chiefs 31 (OT)

History

The first AFC Championship Game was played following the 1970 regular season after the merger between the NFL and the American Football League. The game is considered the successor to the former AFL Championship, and its game results are listed with that of its predecessor in the annual NFL Record and Fact Book.[2] Since the pre-merger NFL consisted of six more teams than the AFL, a realignment was required as part of the merger to create two conferences with an equal number of teams: The NFL's Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers joined the ten former AFL teams to form the AFC; while the remaining 13 pre-merger NFL clubs formed the NFC.

Every AFC team except the Houston Texans has played in an AFC Championship Game at least once. The Seattle Seahawks, who have been members in both the AFC and the NFC, hold the distinction of appearing in both conference title games, a loss in the AFC conference title game to the Los Angeles Raiders for Super Bowl XVIII and, in their first appearance in a NFC conference title game, a win over the Carolina Panthers for Super Bowl XL. The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most appearances in the AFC Championship Game at 16, with 11 of those games being in Pittsburgh, the most for either conference. The New England Patriots have won the most AFC Championships at 11, and have played in a record eight straight AFC title games (2011–present).

Playoff structure

Lamar Hunt Trophy - AFC Championship
The redesigned Lamar Hunt Trophy, awarded since 2010-11 season.

At the end of each regular season, a series of playoff games involving the top six teams in the AFC are conducted. In the current (since 2002–03 season) NFL playoff structure, this consists of the four division champions and two wild card teams (those clubs that possess the two best won-loss records after the regular season yet fail to win their division). The two teams remaining following the Wild Card round (first round) and the divisional round (second round) play in the AFC Championship game.

Initially, the site of the game was determined on a rotating basis. Since the 1975–76 season, the site of the AFC Championship has been based on playoff seeding based on the regular season won-loss record, with the highest surviving seed hosting the game. A wild card team can only host the game if both participants are wild cards, in which case the fifth seed would host the sixth seed. Such an instance has never occurred in the NFL.

Lamar Hunt Trophy

Beginning with 1984–85 season,[1] the winner of the AFC Championship Game has received the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named after the founder of the AFL. The original trophy consisted of a wooden base with a sculpted AFC logo in the front and a sculpture of various football players in the back.

For the 2010–11 NFL playoffs, the Lamar Hunt Trophy and the George Halas Trophy, which is awarded to the NFC Champion, were redesigned by Tiffany & Co. at the request of the NFL, in an attempt to make both awards more significant.[3] The trophies are now a new, silver design with the outline of a hollow football positioned on a small base to more closely resemble the Vince Lombardi Trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl.[4]

In recent years Conference championship rings are also awarded to members of the team who wins the AFC or NFC championship since they are the winners of the conference, even though they may not necessarily follow it up with a win in the Super Bowl.[5][6]

List of AFC Championship Games

Numbers in parentheses in the table are AFC Championships. Bold indicates team won Super Bowl that year.
Numbers in parentheses in the city and stadium column is the number of times that metropolitan area and stadium has hosted an AFC Championship, respectively.
Season Playoffs Winning team Score Losing team Score Location Stadium
1970 1970–71 Baltimore Colts (1) 27 Oakland Raiders 17 Baltimore, Maryland Memorial Stadium
1971 1971–72 Miami Dolphins (1) 21 Baltimore Colts 0 Miami, Florida Miami Orange Bowl
1972 1972–73 Miami Dolphins (2) 21 Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Three Rivers Stadium
1973 1973–74 Miami Dolphins (3) 27 Oakland Raiders 10 Miami, Florida (2) Miami Orange Bowl (2)
1974 1974–75 Pittsburgh Steelers (1) 24 Oakland Raiders 13 Oakland, California Oakland Coliseum
1975 1975–76 Pittsburgh Steelers (2) 16 Oakland Raiders 10 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2) Three Rivers Stadium (2)
1976 1976–77 Oakland Raiders (1) 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 7 Oakland, California (2) Oakland Coliseum (2)
1977 1977–78 Denver Broncos (1) 20 Oakland Raiders 17 Denver, Colorado Mile High Stadium
1978 1978–79 Pittsburgh Steelers (3) 34 Houston Oilers 5 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (3) Three Rivers Stadium (3)
1979 1979–80 Pittsburgh Steelers (4) 27 Houston Oilers 13 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (4) Three Rivers Stadium (4)
1980 1980–81 Oakland Raiders (2) 34 San Diego Chargers 27 San Diego, California Jack Murphy Stadium
1981 1981–82 Cincinnati Bengals (1) 27 San Diego Chargers 7 Cincinnati, Ohio Riverfront Stadium
1982 1982–83 Miami Dolphins (4) 14 New York Jets 0 Miami, Florida (3) Miami Orange Bowl (3)
1983 1983–84 Los Angeles Raiders (3) 30 Seattle Seahawks 14 Los Angeles, California Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
1984 1984–85 Miami Dolphins (5) 45 Pittsburgh Steelers 28 Miami, Florida (4) Miami Orange Bowl (4)
1985 1985–86 New England Patriots (1) 31 Miami Dolphins 14 Miami, Florida (5) Miami Orange Bowl (5)
1986 1986–87 Denver Broncos (2) 23a[›] Cleveland Browns 20 Cleveland, Ohio Cleveland Municipal Stadium
1987 1987–88 Denver Broncos (3) 38 Cleveland Browns 33 Denver, Colorado (2) Mile High Stadium (2)
1988 1988–89 Cincinnati Bengals (2) 21 Buffalo Bills 10 Cincinnati, Ohio (2) Riverfront Stadium (2)
1989 1989–90 Denver Broncos (4) 37 Cleveland Browns 21 Denver, Colorado (3) Mile High Stadium (3)
1990 1990–91 Buffalo Bills (1) 51 Los Angeles Raiders 3 Orchard Park, New York Ralph Wilson Stadium
1991 1991–92 Buffalo Bills (2) 10 Denver Broncos 7 Orchard Park, New York (2) Ralph Wilson Stadium (2)
1992 1992–93 Buffalo Bills (3) 29 Miami Dolphins 10 Miami, Florida[fn 1] (6) Joe Robbie Stadium
1993 1993–94 Buffalo Bills (4) 30 Kansas City Chiefs 13 Orchard Park, New York (3) Ralph Wilson Stadium (3)
1994 1994–95 San Diego Chargers (1) 17 Pittsburgh Steelers 13 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (5) Three Rivers Stadium (5)
1995 1995–96 Pittsburgh Steelers (5) 20 Indianapolis Colts 16 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (6) Three Rivers Stadium (6)
1996 1996–97 New England Patriots (2) 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 6 Foxborough, Massachusetts Foxboro Stadium
1997 1997–98 Denver Broncos (5) 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 21 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (7) Three Rivers Stadium (7)
1998 1998–99 Denver Broncos (6) 23 New York Jets 10 Denver, Colorado (4) Mile High Stadium (4)
1999 1999–00 Tennessee Titans (1) 33 Jacksonville Jaguars 14 Jacksonville, Florida Alltel Stadium
2000 2000–01 Baltimore Ravens (1) 16 Oakland Raiders 3 Oakland, California (3) Oakland Coliseum (3)
2001 2001–02 New England Patriots (3) 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (8) Heinz Field
2002 2002–03 Oakland Raiders (4) 41 Tennessee Titans 24 Oakland, California (4) Network Associates Coliseum (4)
2003 2003–04 New England Patriots (4) 24 Indianapolis Colts 14 Foxborough, Massachusetts (2) Gillette Stadium
2004 2004–05 New England Patriots (5) 41 Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (9) Heinz Field (2)
2005 2005–06 Pittsburgh Steelers (6) 34 Denver Broncos 17 Denver, Colorado (5) Invesco Field at Mile High
2006 2006–07 Indianapolis Colts (2) 38 New England Patriots 34 Indianapolis, Indiana RCA Dome
2007 2007–08 New England Patriots (6) 21 San Diego Chargers 12 Foxborough, Massachusetts (3) Gillette Stadium (2)
2008 2008–09 Pittsburgh Steelers (7) 23 Baltimore Ravens 14 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (10) Heinz Field (3)
2009 2009–10 Indianapolis Colts (3) 30 New York Jets 17 Indianapolis, Indiana (2) Lucas Oil Stadium
2010 2010–11 Pittsburgh Steelers (8) 24 New York Jets 19 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (11) Heinz Field (4)
2011 2011–12 New England Patriots (7) 23 Baltimore Ravens 20 Foxborough, Massachusetts (4) Gillette Stadium (3)
2012 2012–13 Baltimore Ravens (2) 28 New England Patriots 13 Foxborough, Massachusetts (5) Gillette Stadium (4)
2013 2013–14 Denver Broncos (7) 26 New England Patriots 16 Denver, Colorado (6) Sports Authority Field at Mile High (2)
2014 2014–15 New England Patriots (8) 45 Indianapolis Colts 7 Foxborough, Massachusetts (6) Gillette Stadium (5)
2015 2015–16 Denver Broncos (8) 20 New England Patriots 18 Denver, Colorado (7) Sports Authority Field at Mile High (3)
2016 2016–17 New England Patriots (9) 36 Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Foxborough, Massachusetts (7) Gillette Stadium (6)
2017 2017–18 New England Patriots (10) 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Foxborough, Massachusetts (8) Gillette Stadium (7)
2018 2018–19 New England Patriots (11) 37a[›] Kansas City Chiefs 31 Kansas City, Missouri Arrowhead Stadium

^ a: Overtime

Appearances 1970–present

Num Team W L PCT PF PA Last appearance Last championship Home games Home wins Home losses Home Win Pct. Away games Away wins Away losses Away Win Pct.
15 New England Patriots 11 4 .733 371 280 2018 2018 8 7 1 .875 7 4 3 .571
16 Pittsburgh Steelers 8 8 .500 332 303 2016 2010 11 6 5 .545 5 2 3 .400
10 Denver Broncos 8 2 .800 235 200 2015 2015 7 6 1 .857 3 2 1 .667
7 Miami Dolphins 5 2 .714 152 115 1992 1984 6 4 2 .667 1 1 0 1.000
11 Los Angeles/Oakland Raidersd[›] 4 7 .364 202 253 2002 2002 5 3 2 .600 6 1 5 .167
5 Buffalo Bills 4 1 .800 130 54 1993 1993 3 3 0 1.000 2 1 1 .500
7 Baltimore/Indianapolis Coltse[›] 3 4 .429 132 178 2014 2009 3 3 0 1.000 4 0 4 .000
4 Baltimore Ravens 2 2 .500 78 62 2012 2012 0 0 0 —– 4 2 2 .500
2 Cincinnati Bengals 2 0 1.000 48 17 1988 1988 2 2 0 1.000 0 0 0 —–
4 Houston Oilers/
Tennessee Titans
f[›]
1 3 .250 75 116 2002 1999 0 0 0 —– 4 1 3 .250
4 Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers 1 3 .250 63 95 2007 1994 1 0 1 .000 3 1 2 .333
4 New York Jets 0 4 .000 46 91 2010 N/A 0 0 0 —– 4 0 4 .000
3 Jacksonville Jaguars 0 3 .000 40 77 2017 N/A 1 0 1 .000 2 0 2 .000
3 Cleveland Browns 0 3 .000 74 98 1989 N/A 1 0 1 .000 2 0 2 .000
2 Kansas City Chiefs 0 2 .000 43 67 2018 N/A 1 0 1 .000 1 0 1 .000
1 Seattle Seahawksb[›] 0 1 .000 14 30 1983 N/Ab[›] 0 0 0 —– 1 0 1 .000
0 Houston Texans 0 0 —– --- --- N/A N/A 0 0 0 —– 0 0 0 —–
0 Tampa Bay Buccaneersc[›] 0 0 —– --- --- N/A N/A 0 0 0 —– 0 0 0 —–

^ b: The Seahawks were members of the NFC in 1976 and then members of the AFC from 1977 to 2001, before rejoining the NFC in 2002. Including their appearances in the NFC Championship Game (3–0), they hold a combined 3–1 record between both Conference Championship Games.

^ c: The Buccaneers were members of the AFC in 1976 before moving to the NFC in 1977.

^ d: Includes appearances during their first tenure in Oakland (the 1970 merger until 1981), where they went 2–5 in AFC Championship Games; their period as the Los Angeles Raiders (1982–1994), where they were 1–1 in AFC Championship Games; and their current tenure in Oakland (1995–present), where they have gone 1–1 in AFC Championship Games.

^ e: Includes appearances as the Baltimore Colts (the 1970 merger to 1983), where they went 1–1 in AFC Championship Games. Since moving to Indianapolis in 1984, the Colts are 2–3 in AFC Championship Games

^ f: Includes appearances as the Houston Oilers (the 1970 merger to 1996), where they went 0–2 in AFC Championship Games. Since moving to Tennessee in 1997, they are 1–1 in AFC Championship Games.

Records

AFCChampionship2005
AFC Championship Game logo, 2001–2005
AFC Championship logo old
AFC Championship Game logo, 2008–2010 (Used with old shield since 2005)

Notes:

  • *Tied for Conference Championship record
  • **Conference Championship record

TV ratings

  • 1982: 51.6 million viewers [1]
  • 2002:
  • 2003: 41.5 million
  • 2004:
  • 2005: 44.3 million
  • 2006: 39 million viewers [2]
  • 2007: 46.7 million viewers (6:44-10:23pm) [3]
  • 2008:
  • 2009: 42 million viewers [4]
  • 2010: 42.352 million viewers
  • 2011: 54.9 million viewers[7]
  • 2012: 48.7 million viewers[8][9]
  • 2013: 47.7 million viewers[10]
  • 2014: 51.3 million viewers [5]
  • 2015: 42.1 million viewers[11]
  • 2016: 53.3 million viewers[12]
  • 2017: 41.2 million viewers[13]

Footnotes

  1. ^ Joe Robbie Stadium, now Sun Life Stadium, is located in Miami Gardens. However, the city was not incorporated until 2003. Prior to that, the area was an unincorporated area of Miami-Dade County, and the stadium used a Miami address.
  2. ^ The Miami Dolphins won 5 AFC Championships before losing their first championship game. The New England Patriots equaled that record before losing a championship game.
  3. ^ a b The franchise was founded in 2002.
  4. ^ The Jets last hosted the 1968 AFL Championship Game during the pre-Super Bowl era.
  5. ^ The Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise last hosted the 1962 AFL Championship Game.
  6. ^ The Jets won Super Bowl III as the 1968 AFL Champion.
  7. ^ The Chiefs won Super Bowl IV as the 1969 AFL Champion

References

  1. ^ a b "Patriots Blog: AFC Championship Trophy In The House". WBZ-TV. January 18, 2012. Retrieved August 16, 2014. The Lamar Hunt Trophy, given to the winners of the AFC Championship since 1984
  2. ^ "Playoff". NFL Record and Fact Book 2009. Time, Inc. Home Entertainment. ISBN 978-1-60320-809-3.
  3. ^ "NFC's Halas trophy has new look". Chicago Sun-Times.
  4. ^ Bell, Jarrett (January 25, 2011). "NFL Replay: Gritty Steelers aren't pretty, but they are Super". USA Today.
  5. ^ "First look at the Atlanta Falcons NFC Championship rings". 247sports.com. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  6. ^ "Brandin Cooks thanks Patriots for AFC Championship ring". 247sports.com. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  7. ^ "NFL passes new records in TV ratings". USA Today. 1 February 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  8. ^ "NFL Ratings Spike: 48.7 Million Watch AFC Title Game, NFC Game Draws 57.6 Mil". Deadline Hollywood. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  9. ^ "AFC Championship Ratings". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  10. ^ "Astonishing Chart Shows How The NFL Dominates TV Ratings". Business Insider. 17 December 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  11. ^ Patten, Dominic (19 January 2015). "AFC Championship Game Ratings Stumble For CBS, 'Revenge' Rises". deadline.com.
  12. ^ Hipes, Patrick (25 January 2016). "AFC Title Game Ratings Score For CBS With 53.3 Million Viewers". deadline.com.
  13. ^ "NFL Conference Championships Overnight TV Ratings 2006-2016". sportstvratings.com. 23 January 2017.
1970 Oakland Raiders season

The 1970 Oakland Raiders season was the team's 11th season in Oakland. It was also their first season as members of the NFL. The Raiders would ultimately win their fourth consecutive division title (as well as their first AFC West title). They advanced to the AFC Championship Game, where they lost to the Baltimore Colts.

The Raiders' 1970 season is best remembered for a series of clutch performances by veteran placekicker/quarterback George Blanda. Blanda, despite being cut during the 1970 preseason, eventually re-joined the Raiders' roster. His ensuing season (the twenty-first of his professional career) would rank as one of the more dramatic comebacks in sports history. Over a span of five consecutive games, Blanda would come off the bench to spark a series of dramatic rallies. The Raiders went an impressive 4–0–1 over this span.

Blanda's five-game "streak" began on October 25, 1970. In an away game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Blanda threw for two touchdowns in relief of an injured Daryle Lamonica. One week later, his 48-yard field goal (with three seconds remaining on the clock) salvaged a 17–17 tie with the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. One week later, on November 8, Blanda would come off the bench against the Cleveland Browns. His late touchdown pass (with 1:34 remaining in the game) tied the game at 20–20. He would ultimately kick a 53-yard field goal, as time expired, to give the Raiders a stunning 23–20 victory. The following week, against the Denver Broncos, Blanda again replaced Lamonica in the fourth quarter. His touchdown pass to Fred Biletnikoff, with 2:28 left in the game, gave the Raiders an unlikely 24–19 win. The incredible streak concluded one week later against the San Diego Chargers. The Raiders managed to drive deep into Chargers territory in the game's final seconds. Blanda's last-minute 16-yard field goal would seal a dramatic 20–17 triumph.

Blanda's streak played a huge role in the Raiders' 1970 division title, as the team went a mediocre 4–4–1 in "non-streak" games. Indeed, their final record of 8–4–2 (itself a four-win drop from a 12–1–1 finish in 1969) placed them only one game ahead of the Chiefs at season's end.

The Raiders would ultimately advance to the 1970 AFC Championship Game, where they met the heavily favored 11–2–1 Baltimore Colts. During this game, Blanda again came off the bench in relief of an injured Lamonica. Blanda's solid play (17 of 32 passes for 217 yards, two touchdowns, and a 48-yard field goal) kept the Raiders in the game until the final quarter, when he was intercepted twice. At age 43, Blanda became the oldest quarterback to ever play in a championship game.

Blanda's eye-opening achievements resulted in his winning the Bert Bell Award. Chiefs' owner Lamar Hunt quipped that "...this George Blanda is as good as his father, who used to play for Houston." While he never again played a major role at quarterback, Blanda would serve as the Raiders' kicker for five more seasons.

1970–71 NFL playoffs

The National Football League playoffs for the 1970 season began on December 26, 1970. The postseason tournament concluded with the Baltimore Colts defeating the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V, 16–13, on January 17, 1971, at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.

This was the first playoff tournament after the AFL–NFL merger. An eight-team playoff tournament was designed, with four clubs from each conference qualifying. Along with the three division winners in each conference, one wild card team, the second place team with the best record from each conference, was added to the tournament. The first round was named the Divisional Playoffs, while the Conference Championship games were moved to the second playoff round and the Super Bowl became the league's championship game.

However, the home teams in the playoffs were still decided based on a yearly divisional rotation, excluding the wild card teams, who would always play on the road. Also, a rule was made that two teams from the same division could not meet in the Divisional Playoffs.

1971 Miami Dolphins season

The 1971 Miami Dolphins season was the team's sixth, and second in the National Football League (NFL). The team improved on their 10-4 record from 1970 and finished 10–3–1. The Dolphins opened the season tying the Denver Broncos, the first season opener in NFL history to end in a tie, the Steelers vs Browns game in 2018 became the second season opener that ended up in a tie, before splitting their next 2 games to sit at 1–1–1. The Dolphins then won 8 in a row to sit at 9–1–1. The Dolphins won their first division title, finishing first in the AFC East, and then defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round in 2 overtimes, the game is considered the longest in NFL history by time, and then advanced to their first ever AFC championship game, where they defeated the reigning champion Colts, 21–0, and went on to play in Super Bowl VI, their first Super Bowl berth. However, in the Super Bowl, Miami was walloped 24–3 by Dallas.

1974–75 NFL playoffs

The National Football League playoffs for the 1974 season began on December 21, 1974. The postseason tournament concluded with the Pittsburgh Steelers defeating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX, 16–6, on January 12, 1975, at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana.

This was the last season in which the sites for the playoff games annually alternated by division.

1977 Oakland Raiders season

The 1977 Oakland Raiders season was the team's 18th season overall, and 8th season since joining the NFL. The Raiders entered the season as the defending Super Bowl champions.

The 1977 Raiders reached the AFC Championship Game for the fifth consecutive season, and their sixth time in eight years. They lost the AFC Championship, however, to the division rival Denver Broncos.

The 1977 Raiders set a professional football record with 681 rushing attempts. Fullback Mark van Eeghen 324 times for 1273 yards, and running back Clarence Davis ran 194 times for 787 yards.

1979 Houston Oilers season

The 1979 Houston Oilers season was the franchise's 20th overall and the 10th in the National Football League. The franchise scored 362 points while the defense gave up 331 points. Their record of 11 wins and 5 losses resulted in a second-place finish in the AFC Central Division. The Oilers appeared once on Monday Night Football and returned to the AFC Championship Game for the second consecutive year. Earl Campbell would lead the NFL in rushing for the second consecutive year and set a franchise record for most touchdowns in a season with 19. The Oilers would make the playoffs again as a wild card. In the wild card game, they beat the Denver Broncos 13-7, and then defeated the San Diego Chargers 17-14 in San Diego to reach their second straight AFC Championship game. Unfortunately for them, they had to once again run into the Pittsburgh Steelers, who a year earlier had eliminated them 34-5 in the previous AFC Championship game. The Oilers lost the game 27-13. The game included a controversial moment in which wide receiver Mike Renfro had a touchdown called back after the referees of the game took a long time to decide the ruling on the field. The call went down as one of the most controversial calls in NFL history.

1983 Seattle Seahawks season

The 1983 Seattle Seahawks season was the team's eighth season with the National Football League.

The 1983 season was the first season head coach Chuck Knox coached the team. It was also the first season in which the Seahawks made the AFC playoffs, where they won the first two postseason games in franchise history, before losing in the AFC Championship Game. The AFC Championship game against the Raiders would be the only time the Seahawks would appear in the AFC Championship game, as they failed to appear in one from 1984-2001. They would not reach a conference championship again until 2005, when they were in the NFC West.

1985 Miami Dolphins season

The 1985 Miami Dolphins season was the 20th season in franchise history. The club won their fourth consecutive AFC East championship and appeared in the AFC Championship Game.

Due to Dan Marino's offseason holdout, and an injury to receiver Mark Duper, the Dolphins were only 5–4 through Week 9, and in third place in the AFC East, behind the 7–2 Jets and 6–3 Patriots. Their 220 points scored through Week 9 were fifth in the league, and 85 points fewer – 9.4 per game – than in 1984 at the same point in the season.The Dolphins righted the ship, however, and won their final seven games, including a stunning upset of the then-undefeated Chicago Bears in a Week 13 Monday Night contest. Miami won the division and defeated the AFC Central champion Cleveland Browns 24–21 in their first playoff game. Their season would end, however, with a 31–14 home loss to division rival New England in the AFC Championship Game.

1986 Cleveland Browns season

The 1986 Cleveland Browns season was the team’s 37th season with the National Football League. The death of Don Rogers, a promising young defensive back who was preparing to enter his third season in the NFL, cast a black cloud over the team as it prepared for the 1986 season.

Cleveland won their first postseason game since 1969, and for the first time in franchise history, the Browns reached the AFC Championship Game, where they would eventually fall to the Denver Broncos, in the game famous for “The Drive.” It would be the first of three AFC Championship games that the Browns would reach in four seasons, all losses to Denver. It remains the best post-merger Browns season as of 2017.

1987 Cleveland Browns season

The 1987 Cleveland Browns season was the team's 38th season in the National Football League.

Led by another 3,000-yard season from Bernie Kosar, the Browns captured their third-straight AFC Central crown. In the divisional playoffs, against the Indianapolis Colts at Municipal Stadium, the Browns routed the Colts 38–21 to advance to their second-straight AFC Championship Game. For the second year in a row, the Browns were matched up against the Denver Broncos for a trip to Super Bowl XXII. The Browns fell behind early at Mile High Stadium, as the Broncos roared out to a big halftime lead. However, the Browns scored 30 points in the second half, and drove down the field in the late fourth quarter with a chance to score a game-tying touchdown. With 1:12 left in the game, RB Earnest Byner was stripped of the ball at the 2-yard line by Broncos' defensive back Jeremiah Castille in a play since dubbed The Fumble. Denver ran down the clock and took an intentional safety with 8 seconds left, and the Browns fell 38–33. Denver returned to the Super Bowl for a second straight year at the expense of the Browns.

1991 Denver Broncos season

The 1991 Denver Broncos season was the team's 32nd year in professional football and its 22nd with the National Football League (NFL). The team improved on its 5–11 from 1990, winning their third AFC West title in five years, and advanced to the AFC Championship game.

1992 Miami Dolphins season

The 1992 Miami Dolphins season was the franchise's 27th season in the National Football League.

The season began with the team attempting to improve on their 8–8 record in 1991.

The season was a success as the Dolphins finished the season 11–5, won the AFC East and returned to the playoffs after a one-year absence. After beating the Chargers 31-0 in the Divisional Playoffs, they played host to their AFC East rivals the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. However, 5 turnovers and a huge disparity in the running game meant they lost the game 29-10.

As of 2018, this was the closest the Dolphins have gotten to returning to the Super Bowl.

1995 AFC Championship Game

The 1995 AFC Championship Game was the championship game for the American Football Conference for the 1995 season. The game was played on January 14, 1996 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who hosted the Indianapolis Colts for the chance to play the winner of the National Football Conference in Super Bowl XXX in Tempe, Arizona.

While it was considered a mismatch between an expected Super Bowl contender (Pittsburgh) and a Cinderella team (Indianapolis) in the week leading up to the game, it turned out to be very competitive, going down to the last play of the game when Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh threw a Hail Mary pass that was dropped in the end zone by the intended receiver, Aaron Bailey. The dropped pass gave the Steelers a 20–16 victory and sent them to Super Bowl XXX, the team's first Super Bowl appearance since Super Bowl XIV sixteen years earlier.

The game would mark a turning point for both franchises. For Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, it would be the first of only two times the Steelers would advance to the Super Bowl during his 15-year tenure at home, as the team would host the AFC Championship Game five times between 1994 and 2004 but would lose nearly all of them, with the 1995 game being the one exception. For the Colts, it marked an unexpected period of success in the mid-1990s for a franchise that otherwise struggled between its 1984 move to Indianapolis (as well as the team's last few years in Baltimore before that) and the team drafting Peyton Manning with the number one overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.

The game has been ranked among the best Conference Championship games in the history of the National Football League by several publications, including Sports Illustrated, ESPN, AOL, and several local publications throughout the United States. NFL Films would go on to feature the game in both its ongoing NFL Films Game of the Week and NFL's Greatest Games series.

A. J. Duhe

Adam Joseph Duhe Jr. (born November 27, 1955) is a former American football linebacker who played eight seasons for the Miami Dolphins from 1977 to 1984 in the National Football League (NFL).

Duhe played college football at Louisiana State University and was drafted in the first round of the 1977 NFL Draft. He was the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in his rookie year. He was a one-time Pro Bowler, in 1984.In the 1982 AFC Championship game, Duhe intercepted Richard Todd three times as the Dolphins defeated the New York Jets 14-0. He returned the third interception 35 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal Miami's trip to Super Bowl XVII.

Deflategate

Deflategate was a National Football League (NFL) controversy involving the allegation that Tom Brady ordered the deliberate deflating of footballs used in the New England Patriots victory against the Indianapolis Colts in the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game of the 2014–15 NFL playoffs. The controversy resulted in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady being suspended for four games and the team being fined $1 million and losing two draft picks.For his alleged part in the scandal, Tom Brady was originally suspended by the league for four games of the 2015 regular season, which was upheld by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in an internal appeal. The matter moved to federal court, where Judge Richard M. Berman vacated Goodell's four-game suspension of Brady, allowing Brady to resume his playing duties for the entirety of the 2015 season. However, following the conclusion of the season, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated Brady's four-game suspension, which became effective for the 2016 regular season. After losing a request for a rehearing, Brady announced he would accept the suspension. The controversy remained a topic of discussion during the 2016 season, which concluded with the Patriots winning Super Bowl LI and Brady being named the MVP of the game. The season also saw the NFL change the procedure for monitoring football pressure.

List of AFC Championship Game broadcasters

The following is a list of the television and radio networks and announcers who have broadcast the American Football Conference Championship Game throughout the years. The years listed concentrate on the season instead of the calendar year that the game took place. The forerunner to the AFC Championship Game (prior to the 1970 AFL–NFL merger) was the AFL Championship Game.

List of AFC champions

The American Football Conference (AFC) is one of two conferences within the National Football League, the National Football Conference (NFC) being the other. The AFC has its roots in the American Football League (AFL), which began to play in 1960. In 1970, the AFL merged with the NFL. As part of the merger, the former AFL teams, plus three former NFL teams (the Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers), were placed into the AFC. The remaining former NFL teams were placed in the NFC.

The Drive

The Drive was an offensive series in the fourth quarter of the 1986 AFC Championship Game played on January 11, 1987, at Cleveland Municipal Stadium between the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns. Broncos quarterback John Elway, in a span of 5 minutes and 2 seconds, led his team 98 yards in 15 plays to tie the game with 37 seconds left in regulation. Denver won the game in overtime making a 38-yard field goal, the Broncos pulled off a 23–20 win over the Cleveland Browns.

The 98-yard drive ranks as pro football's prototypical clutch performance. Elway and his team spanned almost all of the 100-yard football field. According to an article by Sports Illustrated columnist and Colorado resident Rick Reilly, when Elway started the drive, Broncos offensive guard Keith Bishop said of the Browns, "We got 'em right where we want 'em!" Cleveland could not force a fourth down against Denver.

The Fumble

In American football, The Fumble was a play in the 1987 AFC Championship Game between the Browns and Broncos on January 17, 1988 at Mile High Stadium. With 1:12 left in the game, Browns running back Earnest Byner fumbled on the Broncos 1 yard line while trying to score a touchdown to pull within one point. The Broncos went on to win 38–33 after taking an intentional safety.

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