By Scott Kacsmar
Cold, Hard Football Facts Researcher Extraordinaire

In this week’s Captain Comeback, we looked at how unique it was for Mike McCarthy’s Green Bay Packers to have a late game-winning drive. The Packers took over with just 0:58 left at their own 20, but quickly moved the ball 68 yards to set up the winning field goal with no time left, making it look easy in the process.
Now we’re going to turn our attention towards the entire league. Ever since first introducing the methods for comebacks and game-winning drives, one of the most common requests has been for data relating to the time left in the game for the drive.
We heard you, and this is just the tip of the iceberg for quantifying the historical late-game offense in close games. The “two-minute drill” is the common name for it (probably thanks to the two-minute warning issued each half), but many of these drives start in the last minute, or closer to the three minute mark. From a site like Advanced NFL Stats, we know it is difficult to score in this situation. Most drives end in failure.
We are going to look at all the successes of the last three decades, conjuring up memories of thrilling victory, or bitter defeat depending on which team you root for. We’ll highlight many notable games, anecdotes and facts, such as the one comeback king that has done this type of drive most often, and the surprising active player that tied him this year.
It’s a dataset we’re proud to share, and the plan is to have bigger and better collections in the future.

Data Procurement and Restrictions

The drives that were collected are all from games played during the 1981-2011 seasons where: the team won the game (no ties or losses), and it featured a game-winning or game-tying scoring drive by the offense that started with 1:00 or less on the clock in the fourth quarter or in overtime.
The data comes straight from the Captain’s mighty database that powers all the fourth quarter wins on Much of the drive data came from the research using official NFL gamebooks, which are not always free of error, especially in regards to time (example).
If there’s a time error here, it would likely be due to the time being listed for the start of the drive before the kickoff instead of what we always use, and that is the first play from the line of scrimmage. Some drives that should be here may not be since they are listed as starting with over a minute left.
There were also some games (mostly from the 1980’s) that we don’t have any times for, so it’s possible that not every one-minute drill is presented. It’s unlikely you would need more than a couple of fingers to count the number of missed games on, but just wanted to mention that for completion sake.
A full study of the one-minute drill would also include the failed drives, which can happen in a game that the team still won (most likely winning in overtime). Most often a failed one-minute drill will occur in a loss, for which there are many such drives over the years. Just think of all the times a team gets the ball back with only seconds remaining and are in need of a Hail Mary or a miracle, lateral-filled play. Also, a team could successfully pull off a one-minute drill to send the game into overtime, but still lose. Those too were not counted.
The decision to not include such drives is that we do not yet have a complete database to get the full number, but that is most certainly a work in progress.

Drive Stats: The One-Minute Drill

Only wanting to post this large table once, we decided to sort it by descending date, so you’ll see Aaron Rodgers and the Packers listed first.
Please feel free to copy and paste the data into Excel so you can sort it any way you want. If you’re interested in a 22-column spreadsheet (.XLS) that also contains the quarterback’s drive stats, contact me (information at the bottom).
Without further ado, here are your 103 successful one-minute drills since 1981:
(Overtime drives have a blue start time; playoff games have a red date)
One-Minute Drills, 1981-2011
Team QB Opp. Date Final Down Start Pts DL End
GB Aaron Rodgers NYG (A) 12/4/2011 W 38-35 0 0:58 3 68 0:00
BAL Joe Flacco CRD 10/30/2011 W 30-27 0 0:52 3 37 0:00
NYJ Mark Sanchez DAL 9/11/2011 W 27-24 0 0:49 3 2 0:27
NYJ Mark Sanchez IND(A) 1/8/2011 W 17-16 2 0:45 3 40 0:00
CLE Jake Delhomme MIA (A) 12/5/2010 W 13-10 0 0:54 3 -4 0:00
ATL Matt Ryan GB 11/28/2010 W 20-17 0 0:49 3 20 0:09
NYJ Mark Sanchez HOU 11/21/2010 W 30-27 4 0:49 7 72 0:10
JAX David Garrard HOU 11/14/2010 W 31-24 0 0:08 7 66 0:00
NYJ Mark Sanchez CLE (A) 11/14/2010 W 26-20 OT 0 0:24 6 37 0:16
TB Josh Freeman CIN (A) 10/10/2010 W 24-21 0 0:14 3 21 0:01
JAX David Garrard IND 10/3/2010 W 31-28 0 0:42 3 36 0:00
SD Philip Rivers CIN 12/20/2009 W 27-24 0 0:54 3 46 0:03
SEA Matt Hasselbeck SF 12/6/2009 W 20-17 0 0:21 3 40 0:00
RAI Bruce Gradkowski CIN 11/22/2009 W 20-17 0 0:27 3 2 0:15
DEN Kyle Orton CIN (A) 9/13/2009 W 12-7 1 0:34 6 87 0:11
ATL Matt Ryan CHI 10/12/2008 W 22-20 1 0:06 3 26 0:00
BUF Trent Edwards WAS (A) 12/2/2007 W 17-16 2 0:56 3 60 0:04
CLE Derek Anderson BAL (A) 11/18/2007 W 33-30 OT 3 0:26 3 24 0:00
ATL Joey Harrington CAR (A) 11/11/2007 W 20-13 0 0:53 7 45 0:20
TEN Kerry Collins HOU (A) 10/21/2007 W 38-36 1 0:56 3 69 0:00
DAL Tony Romo BUF (A) 10/8/2007 W 25-24 2 0:18 3 12 0:00
GB Brett Favre PHI 9/9/2007 W 16-13 0 0:59 3 6 0:02
DAL Tony Romo NYG (A) 12/3/2006 W 23-20 0 1:00 3 40 0:01
BUF J.P. Losman JAX 11/26/2006 W 27-24 0 0:22 3 36 0:00
TEN Vince Young NYG 11/26/2006 W 24-21 0 0:23 3 18 0:06
KC Damon Huard SD 10/22/2006 W 30-27 0 0:33 3 47 0:06
TB Bruce Gradkowski PHI 10/22/2006 W 23-21 1 0:27 3 20 0:00
NYG Eli Manning PHI (A) 9/17/2006 W 30-24 OT 3 0:58 3 63 0:07
TB Chris Simms ATL 12/24/2005 W 27-24 OT 0 0:54 3 26 0:15
RAM Ryan Fitzpatrick HOU (A) 11/27/2005 W 33-27 OT 3 0:23 3 19 0:04
MIN Daunte Culpepper GB 10/23/2005 W 23-20 0 0:17 3 26 0:00
ATL Michael Vick NO (A) 10/16/2005 W 34-31 0 0:37 3 50 0:00
NO Aaron Brooks CAR (A) 9/11/2005 W 23-20 0 0:59 3 49 0:03
KC Trent Green RAI 12/25/2004 W 31-30 2 0:54 3 16 0:22
NO Aaron Brooks RAM (A) 9/26/2004 W 28-25 OT 3 0:24 3 38 0:03
CIN Jon Kitna PIT (A) 11/30/2003 W 24-20 3 0:57 7 52 0:13
BAL Anthony Wright SEA 11/23/2003 W 44-41 OT 3 0:39 3 46 0:00
DAL Quincy Carter NYG (A) 9/15/2003 W 35-32 OT 3 0:11 3 26 0:00
CLE Tim Couch JAX (A) 12/8/2002 W 21-20 6 0:47 7 53 0:00
MIA Jay Fiedler DEN (A) 10/13/2002 W 24-22 1 0:40 3 39 0:06
BUF Drew Bledsoe MIN (A) 9/15/2002 W 45-39 OT 3 0:21 3 29 0:00
KC Trent Green CLE (A) 9/8/2002 W 40-39 2 0:21 3 53 0:00
PHI Donovan McNabb NYG 12/30/2001 W 24-21 0 0:58 3 54 0:07
ATL Chris Chandler BUF 12/23/2001 W 33-30 0 0:42 3 23 0:00
CHI Shane Matthews CLE 11/4/2001 W 27-21 OT 7 0:24 7 47 0:00
CHI Cade McNown DET (A) 12/24/2000 W 23-20 0 0:39 3 19 0:02
WAS Brad Johnson PHI (A) 10/8/2000 W 17-14 0 0:23 3 13 0:02
IND Peyton Manning MIA (A) 12/5/1999 W 37-34 0 0:30 3 33 0:00
CLE Tim Couch NO (A) 10/31/1999 W 21-16 2 0:15 7 75 0:00
CRD Jake Plummer SD 12/27/1998 W 16-13 0 0:07 3 10 0:00
SEA Jon Kitna TEN 11/29/1998 W 20-18 1 0:28 3 41 0:01
SD Craig Whelihan KC 11/22/1998 W 38-37 6 0:51 7 63 0:09
RAI Donald Hollas SEA 11/15/1998 W 20-17 0 0:57 3 54 0:21
CRD Jake Plummer WAS 11/8/1998 W 29-27 1 0:35 3 50 0:02
PHI Bobby Hoying CIN 11/30/1997 W 44-42 1 0:54 3 61 0:00
CRD Jake Plummer BAL (A) 11/23/1997 W 16-13 0 0:34 3 55 0:00
KC Rich Gannon DEN 11/16/1997 W 24-22 1 0:54 3 36 0:00
TB Trent Dilfer IND(A) 11/2/1997 W 31-28 0 0:52 3 27 0:08
MIN Brad Johnson CRD (A) 10/5/1997 W 20-19 2 0:52 3 58 0:10
KC Elvis Grbac RAI (A) 9/8/1997 W 28-27 5 0:58 6 80 0:03
CRD Boomer Esiason PHI 11/24/1996 W 36-30 1 0:45 7 66 0:14
SD Stan Humphries IND(A) 12/17/1995 W 27-24 0 0:42 3 50 0:03
CHI Erik Kramer NYG (A) 11/26/1995 W 27-24 0 0:48 3 48 0:07
MIN Warren Moon GB 11/5/1995 W 27-24 0 0:50 3 51 0:00
NO Wade Wilson ATL (A) 9/12/1993 W 34-31 0 0:22 3 6 0:00
IND Jack Trudeau CIN (A) 9/12/1993 W 9-6 0 0:45 3 4 0:03
GB Brett Favre PHI 11/15/1992 W 27-24 0 0:43 3 0 0:00
NYJ Ken O'Brien MIA (A) 12/22/1991 W 23-20 OT 3 0:38 3 44 0:00
ATL Billy Joe Tolliver SF 11/3/1991 W 17-14 4 0:53 7 80 0:01
NYG Jeff Hostetler PIT (A) 10/14/1991 W 23-20 0 0:50 3 34 0:04
SEA Dave Krieg KC (A) 11/11/1990 W 17-16 6 0:48 7 66 0:00
NYG Jeff Hostetler CRD 10/21/1990 W 20-19 2 0:58 3 49 0:00
CHI Jim Harbaugh MIN 9/23/1990 W 19-16 0 0:25 3 4 0:04
SD Billy Joe Tolliver DEN 12/24/1989 W 19-16 0 0:31 3 45 0:00
MIN Wade Wilson RAM 11/5/1989 W 23-21 OT 3 0:28 3 43 0:08
ATL Chris Miller BUF 11/5/1989 W 30-28 1 0:24 3 41 0:02
MIA Dan Marino GB 10/22/1989 W 23-20 0 0:53 3 53 0:06
PHI Randall Cunningham WAS (A) 9/17/1989 W 42-37 2 0:57 7 4 0:52
NYG Phil Simms WAS (A) 9/11/1989 W 27-24 0 0:44 3 36 0:00
MIA Dan Marino CLE 12/12/1988 W 38-31 0 0:59 7 65 0:34
NYG Jeff Rutledge NO (A) 11/27/1988 W 13-12 2 0:52 3 33 0:21
TB Vinny Testaverde DET (A) 11/13/1988 W 23-20 0 0:39 3 33 0:10
NO Bobby Hebert DAL 10/3/1988 W 20-17 0 0:16 3 26 0:00
TB Vinny Testaverde GB 10/2/1988 W 27-24 0 0:47 3 32 0:12
CHI Jim McMahon GB (A) 11/8/1987 W 26-24 1 0:56 3 41 0:00
NE Steve Grogan RAI 11/1/1987 W 26-23 0 0:46 3 68 0:01
SF Joe Montana CIN (A) 9/20/1987 W 27-26 6 0:02 7 25 0:00
CLE Bernie Kosar NYJ 1/3/1987 W 23-20 2OT 3 0:51 3 62 0:07
RAM Steve Dils CHI (A) 11/3/1986 W 20-17 0 0:47 3 33 0:04
KC Bill Kenney SD (A) 11/2/1986 W 24-23 2 0:57 3 50 0:07
TEN Oliver Luck SD 11/24/1985 W 37-35 1 0:36 3 45 0:02
MIA Dan Marino NYJ 11/10/1985 W 21-17 3 0:58 7 56 0:41
MIA Dan Marino TB 10/20/1985 W 41-38 0 0:43 3 45 0:06
CRD Neil Lomax CLE (A) 9/8/1985 W 27-24 OT 7 0:33 7 63 0:04
CIN Boomer Esiason CLE (A) 12/2/1984 W 20-17 OT 7 1:00 7 28 0:01
NO Richard Todd CLE (A) 10/28/1984 W 16-14 1 0:59 3 41 0:00
DEN Gary Kubiak RAI (A) 10/28/1984 W 22-19 OT 0 0:38 3 4 0:00
RAI Jim Plunkett DEN 11/13/1983 W 22-20 1 0:51 3 48 0:04
GB Lynn Dickey RAM 9/18/1983 W 27-24 0 0:29 3 0 0:01
CHI Jim McMahon DET 11/21/1982 W 20-17 0 0:49 3 57 0:05
PHI Ron Jaworski CLE (A) 9/19/1982 W 24-21 4 0:52 7 65 0:22
WAS Joe Theismann PHI (A) 9/12/1982 W 37-34 OT 3 0:58 3 32 0:01
BUF Joe Ferguson NE 11/22/1981 W 20-17 4 0:35 7 73 0:05

Statistical Analysis

We took the data and broke it down into several splits.
Total Drives 103
Touchdowns 22
Field Goals 81
Home Wins 51
Road Wins 52
OT Drives 3
Playoff Games 2
Avg. Deficit 1.38
Avg. Time Left 0:40
Avg. Yards/Drive 39.86
Comeback Drives 51
Time-Expiring Drives 41
Game-Tying Drives 14
Game-Winning Drives 89
Out of the 103 drives, perhaps a not so surprising 81 (78.6%) of them ended with a field goal compared to 22 touchdowns. Teams averaged 39.86 yards/drive, which is a number that would rank you near first in the league in most seasons.
Fourteen of the games were tied in regulation and then later won in overtime, while only three of the drives actually started in sudden death’s final minute.
Believe it or not, there has been almost a perfect 50/50 split in home wins (51) and road wins (52), so there goes the theory that it’s not as likely to happen on the road.
Finally, 41/103 drives (39.8%) ended with no time left on the clock, including Sunday’s game at New York.
Deficit Drives FG TD
0 (tied) 52 48 4
1-2 26 22 4
3 13 11 2
4-6 9 0 9
7 3 0 3
Just like the home/road split, it was nearly a 50/50 split of drives with the team trailing (51) versus being tied (52). You can see that only 12 of the 22 touchdowns were must-have touchdowns (trailing by 4+), and just three forced overtime (all against the same franchise: Cleveland).
When a team was down exactly 3, they settled for the field goal and overtime win 84.6% of the time. Only Dan Marino and Jon Kitna went for the quick strike touchdown for the win in regulation.
When the game was tied, the team settled for the winning field goal 92.3% of the time. Perhaps the most unlikely touchdown was when Joey Harrington (2/3 for 40 yards, TD) threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler for the Falcons in 2007 to beat Carolina. We’ll talk about the other three times in detail later.
Just to reiterate this fact: only 12 times since 1981 have we seen a team take over in the last minute, needing a touchdown, and getting that touchdown to go on and win the game. One dozen times.
Drive Length:
Distance (yards) Drives FG TD
<10 11 10 1
10-19 7 7 0
20-29 14 12 2
30-39 15 14 1
40-49 21 19 2
50-59 15 12 3
60-69 14 7 7
70-79 3 0 3
80+ 3 0 3
The six drives that went 70+ yards all finished in the end zone for touchdowns. The 11 teams that had the favorable field position and didn’t gain 10 yards settled for 10 field goals.
The only team that went for the end zone was Philadelphia in 1989 against the Redskins. Washington fumbled the ball and the Eagles returned it to the 4. It only took Randall Cunningham one play to throw a touchdown to Keith Jackson to cap off a 9-point comeback late in the fourth quarter (the Eagles trailed 20-0 in the first quarter).
Speaking of teams, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise for which team has suffered the most losses from a one-minute drill.
Teams - One-Minute Drill Games
Team Wins Losses Total
Cleveland 5 8 13
New York Giants 5 6 11
Philadelphia 4 7 11
Green Bay 4 6 10
Atlanta 7 2 9
Cincinnati 2 7 9
Chicago 6 2 8
Kansas City 6 2 8
Arizona 5 3 8
Miami 5 3 8
New Orleans 5 3 8
San Diego 4 4 8
Tampa Bay 6 1 7
New York Jets 5 2 7
Buffalo 4 3 7
Oakland 3 4 7
Minnesota 4 2 6
Denver 2 4 6
Indianapolis 2 4 6
Washington 2 4 6
Dallas 3 2 5
Seattle 3 2 5
St. Louis 2 3 5
Tennessee 3 1 4
Baltimore 2 2 4
Jacksonville 2 2 4
Houston 0 4 4
San Francisco 1 2 3
Detroit 0 3 3
New England 1 1 2
Carolina 0 2 2
Pittsburgh 0 2 2
That’s right. The Cleveland Browns have been part of the most one-minute drill games (13) since 1981, and no one has suffered more losses (8).  To their credit, they do have one of the two playoff wins (1986 AFC Divisional in double overtime against the New York Jets).
No team has won more games with a one-minute drill than the Atlanta Falcons (7). We’ll talk about a few of those memorable wins later.
Only four teams have no wins via the one-minute drill. It’s not surprising to see Detroit, Houston and Carolina on that list, but Pittsburgh? Shocking, but true. The Patriots have also been involved in a league-low 2 games, and their one win did not come in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era.

Historical Analysis

We won’t detail all 103 games (though it could be done if we wanted to…that’s just how the Captain rolls), but here is a jam-packed collection of the facts you need to know about many of them.

One-Minute Drill Champs: Dan Marino and…Mark Sanchez?

It’s not surprising to see comeback king Dan Marino lead the way with 4 one-minute drills in his career. This topic was touched on a year ago (see comment 39).
In 16 career opportunities, Marino led Miami to wins on two touchdowns and two field goals. He would have had a fifth one-minute drill if the kicker did not miss a game-winning field goal.
What is surprising is that Mark Sanchez is the other quarterback to have 4 one-minute drills. Maybe the most incredible part is that they came in a span of 12 games. That’s from last year’s overtime win in Cleveland to the 2011 season opener against Dallas.
In Cleveland, the Jets were in overtime and in danger of having a tie with the Browns. They took over with 0:24 left at the Cleveland 37, and Santonio Holmes did what he does best: make a move and score a game-winning touchdown with 0:16 left.
A week later, Houston came back from a 23-7 deficit to take a 27-23 lead. Sanchez got the ball with 0:49, no timeouts, and had to go 72 yards for the touchdown. He threw arguably the best pass of his career to Braylon Edwards deep down the right sideline for a 42-yard gain. That put the ball at the 6, and it was Holmes with another game-winning touchdown with 0:10 left.
In the playoffs, the Jets fell behind Indianapolis 16-14 in the final minute. Thanks to a 47-yard kick return by Antonio Cromartie, Sanchez had the ball at the NYJ 46 with 0:45 left. An 18-yard completion to Edwards would set up Nick Folk for the 32-yard game-winning field goal with no time left. This actually helped Marino maintain his record for most fourth quarter comebacks (36), as it prevented Peyton Manning from tying him.
Then to start the 2011 season, the Jets had an unorthodox comeback/Romo meltdown on Sunday Night Football. Romo’s interception put the ball at the DAL 34 with 0:49 left, and Sanchez just threw two incomplete passes. Folk made the 50-yard field goal, and Sanchez had his 4th one-minute drill, and none less impressive. It’s one of just 11 drives (out of 103) where the quarterback gained no positive yardage.
On his four winning drives, Marino was 10/12 for 218 yards and a touchdown. It didn’t take long for him to move the ball down the field. On his four one-minute drills, Sanchez completed 8/11 passes for 147 yards and 2 TD. Marino’s four came on 16 opportunities. Sanchez has matched him on 7 opportunities. The only other player to have at least three one-minute drills is Jake Plummer (all with Arizona).
While they may not have been as consistently flawless as Marino’s, Sanchez has put himself in rare company, and we’re not sure anyone would have expected this result.

The Hail Marys That Actually Worked

It’s not uncommon to see a last-minute effort end with a Hail Mary pass into a mass of humanity. It’s very common for that pass to fail, Brian Urlacher be damned
But what about the few times it’s actually worked? We have four of those to highlight.
11/3/1991 Atlanta vs. San Francisco – After the 49ers took a 14-10 lead behind Steve Bono’s touchdown pass to John Taylor, the Falcons were left with 0:53 left to go 80 yards. They had Billy Joe Tolliver at quarterback, and he replaced starter Chris Miller in the second quarter. Tolliver had just 49 yards passing before the final drive started. After getting a fourth down conversion to Andre Rison, the Falcons had the ball at the SF 44. With 0:09 left, Tolliver threw up a bomb and Michael Haynes came down with it for a 44-yard touchdown with one second left. This loss led to Atlanta making the playoffs over San Francisco, who would make the playoffs in every season from 1983-1998 except for in 1991.
Eight years earlier the Falcons beat the 49ers with a last-second Hail Mary (Steve Bartkowski to Billy Johnson). That just missed the cut, as that drive started with 1:10 left.
10/31/1999 Cleveland at New Orleans – The Saints have just taken a 16-14 lead over the Browns with 0:21 left. By the time rookie Tim Couch gets the ball, he has just 0:15, but all his timeouts. He uses one with two seconds left after a 19-yard completion to his own 44. That’s when it happened. Rookie receiver Kevin Johnson catches the 56-yard Hail Mary in the end zone off the tip for the game-winning touchdown. Browns win 21-16.
12/8/2002 Cleveland at Jacksonville – If you kept watching you seen another one by Couch. That’s right. He had another Hail Mary to win a game with no time left three years later. This time Jacksonville took a 20-14 lead in the last minute, and Couch was down to 0:47 and no timeouts. He needed 53 yards after a Jaguars’ squib kick (oh Tom Coughlin, you poor soul). Even after starting the drive with a sack, Couch hurried to get one last snap off on third down, and the not-so Hail Mary looking pass defense resulted in Quincy Morgan hauling in the 50-yard bomb with no time left. Who says Cleveland always chokes?
11/14/2010 Jacksonville vs. Houston – Perhaps the Football Gods made amends for the Jaguars eight years later with this one. With the game tied, Houston fumbled the ball. David Garrard had 0:08 left at his own 34. An 11-yard gain and offside penalty put the ball the 50 for one last play. Everyone’s probably seen this one a dozen times by now, but Mike Thomas caught the deflection and walked into the end zone with no time left. Gus Johnson fittingly was the play-by-play man that day.

Once, Twice, Three Times a 26-Yard Dagger

This is just an interesting little trio of eerily similar finishes the Captain noticed one day when compiling these drive stats.
10/12/2008 Atlanta vs. Chicago – Remember this finish from 2008? The Bears had taken a 20-19 lead on a Kyle Orton touchdown pass to Rashied Davis with 0:11 left. Atlanta would get the ball back with 0:06 at their own 44. It was another situation where the coach didn’t kick it deep. Matt Ryan, in his rookie year, hits Michael Jenkins on the left sideline with a 26-yard pass that was perfectly timed to leave one second on the clock. Jason Elam booted the 48-yard winning field goal on the last play for the 22-20 win.
9/15/2003 Dallas at New York Giants – Flash back five years earlier, and Dallas was in a similar game with the Giants, who had just taken a 32-29 lead with 0:11 left. The Giants’ Matt Bryant kicks the ball out of bounds, giving Dallas the ball with the same 0:11 left at their own 40. Dallas had one timeout and they needed it, after Quincy Carter made a 26-yard pass to Antonio Bryant with 0:04 left. Billy Cundiff made the 52-yard game-tying field goal to force overtime, where Dallas would win on Cundiff’s 7th field goal of the game.
10/3/1988 New Orleans vs. Dallas – Flash back 15 years from that time, and once again Dallas is involved. After tying the game at 17, Dallas kicked off to New Orleans, who was able to return it to their own 42. Bobby Hebert had 0:16 left, and two timeouts. His first two passes were incomplete, setting up a 3rd and 10 with 0:07 left. He finds WR Brett Perriman on the left side for a 26-yard pass. Morten Andersen made the 49-yard winning field goal as time expired for the 20-17 win.
We put the key numbers in bold. Three games, three drives, each where the opponent made a special teams error to put the ball at the 40-44, the quarterback completed a 26-yard pass to his wide receiver to set up a 49-52 yard field goal.
How quick can you get 26 yards to set up a realistic field goal? These teams showed us. Defend those sidelines, defense. Or just kick it deep and in bounds, special teams.
Josh Freeman almost joined the club last season with a 21-yard completion to set up a winning field goal against the Bengals. He got the ball back with 0:14 left after a Carson Palmer interception. Just five yards short.

Three Long Field Goals

On 10/22/2006 against Philadelphia, Bruce Gradkowski completed an 11-yard pass and scrambled for 9 more. The drive started with just 0:27 left, so there wasn’t much time to do anything else. Matt Bryant came on for a 62-yard field goal, and he made it. It’s only the second longest field goal in NFL history.
The Jaguars overachieved a bit on their record in 2010 thanks to some abnormal late-game victories. We already talked about the Hail Mary, but earlier in the season they had another fortunate win. After the Colts tied the game at 28, the Jaguars were content to play for overtime. But Jim Caldwell called a timeout, and Jacksonville actually tried to win the game. Josh Scobee made a 59-yard field goal, because that’s what Scobee does against the Colts.
On 10/23/2005 against Green Bay, Daunte Culpepper had just 0:17 left. He threw for 26 yards, but needed two completions to do it. Paul Edinger made a 56-yard field goal to win the game, which is the third longest winning field goal in these one-minute drills.

The Most QB-Productive One-Minute Drills

As stated above, we do have the quarterback stats for each drive, but space limitations make it difficult to post them along with all the other game identifiers.
Here is an abbreviated list of the drives that featured the most production from the quarterback as determined by QBY, which is:
QBY = passing yards + QB rushing yards – sack yards.
QB Opp. Date Down Start Pts DL End QBY TD
Kyle Orton CIN (A) 9/13/2009 1 0:34 6 87 0:11 87 1
Elvis Grbac RAI (A) 9/8/1997 5 0:58 6 80 0:03 80 1
Billy Joe Tolliver SF 11/3/1991 4 0:53 7 80 0:01 75 1
Tim Couch NO (A) 10/31/1999 2 0:15 7 75 0:00 75 1
Joe Ferguson NE 11/22/1981 4 0:35 7 73 0:05 73 1
Mark Sanchez HOU 11/21/2010 4 0:49 7 72 0:10 72 1
Aaron Rodgers NYG (A) 12/4/2011 0 0:58 3 68 0:00 68 0
Dave Krieg KC (A) 11/11/1990 6 0:48 7 66 0:00 66 1
Boomer Esiason PHI 11/24/1996 1 0:45 7 66 0:14 66 1
Kerry Collins HOU (A) 10/21/2007 1 0:56 3 69 0:00 63 0
Steve Grogan RAI 11/1/1987 0 0:46 3 68 0:01 63 0
Neil Lomax CLE (A) 9/8/1985 7 0:33 7 63 0:04 63 1
Bobby Hoying CIN 11/30/1997 1 0:54 3 61 0:00 61 0
David Garrard HOU 11/14/2010 0 0:08 7 66 0:00 61 1
These are the 14 drives where the quarterback netted at least 60 yards for his offense. Ten of them ended in touchdown passes thrown by the quarterback (three of them being the aforementioned Hail Mary’s).
Kerry Collins had a critical drive in 2007, seeing as how the Titans blew a 32-7 lead in the fourth quarter to Sage Rosenfels and Houston. Collins completed a 46-yard pass to Roydell Williams to set up Rob Bironas for his record 8th field goal in the game.
Joe Ferguson has the oldest drive on our list, and one of the luckiest. Trailing 17-13 to the Patriots with 0:35 left, a 37-yard pass to Roland Hooks put the ball at the NE 36. After a throw out of bounds, Ferguson’s pass was tipped by Buffalo receiver Frank Lewis, and caught by Hooks for the 36-yard game-winning touchdown.
Seattle’s Dave Krieg’s drive in 1990 against the Chiefs may have been the most impressive; given the fact he was sacked 9 times that day (7 by the late Derrick Thomas). Down 16-10 with 0:48 left and needing 66 yards, Krieg moved the ball to the KC 25, then avoided Thomas’ 8th sack attempt to find Paul Skansi for the game-winning touchdown with no time left. Some will say Martyball struck again, with three punts and 4 yards of offense in the fourth quarter by the Chiefs.

Overtime One-Minute Drills

We already talked about Sanchez’s pass to Holmes in Cleveland last year. That leaves two other one-minute drills in overtime.
10/28/1984 Denver at LA Raiders - Filing in for John Elway, backup Gary Kubiak forced overtime with a comeback. The teams struggled to move the ball in overtime. Marc Wilson threw an interception, which was returned to the RAI 22 with 0:38 left. Denver ran the ball one time for 4 yards, then Rich Karlis kicked the game-winning field goal with no time left to avoid a tie.
12/24/2005 Tampa Bay vs. Atlanta – Like the previous game, Tampa Bay forced overtime by scoring a late touchdown. Amazingly, each kicker (Todd Peterson for Atlanta; Matt Bryant for Tampa Bay) missed a field goal of less than 30 yards to start overtime. Eventually, Chris Simms and the Buccaneers got the ball with 0:54 left at the ATL 49. Two completions for 26 yards (there it goes again; 5th time) set up Bryant for the 41-yard game-winning field goal with 0:15 left.


In rewarding the motivation for this one, let’s take a specific look at the Packers and Giants.
This was Green Bay’s fourth one-minute drill victory since 1981, and it was easily the most impressive of the four. The first was in 1983 when Eric Dickerson fumbled the ball for the Rams with 0:29 left in a tied game. Green Bay quarterback Lynn Dickey just snuck ahead for no gain, and they kicked the winning field goal with a second left.
Brett Favre’s pair of one-minute drills were no better. On 11/15/1992, the Eagles’ Herschel Walker fumbled with 0:43 left in a tied game. The Packers just ran it once for no gain, then kicked the winning field goal. Favre didn’t have to do anything. He only had to do a little more in 2007, also against the Eagles, after Philadelphia muffed a punt with 0:59 left. Favre took a knee on third down and Mason Crosby made the first game-winning field goal of his career in his NFL debut.
Crosby would make his fourth game-winning field goal on Sunday at New York, but just his second game-winner in the last five minutes of a game. So when you look at it from a Green Bay perspective, it’s not even a debate. Aaron Rodgers’ drive was the best the Packers have had in the last minute in three decades.
The distance of 68 yards ties it for the 8th longest out of the 103 drives, and as shown above, makes it for Rodgers one of the most QB-productive one-minute drills since 1981.
Meanwhile for the Giants, it was a familiar fate to a game from five years ago. On 12/3/2006, they hosted Dallas in a fourth quarter shootout that featured 20 points and no defensive stops. After Eli tied it with a touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress, Tony Romo had 1:00 left to answer (making it one of only two drives out of 103 that started with exactly 1:00 remaining).
Romo hit Jason Witten with a 42-yard pass on the first play of the drive, and just like that the Cowboys were in field goal range. On Sunday, it was Rodgers hitting his tight end Jermichael Finley to get that drive moving. The Cowboys would win on Martin Gramatica’s 46-yard game-winning field goal.
In the previous week, the Giants blew a 21-0 lead in the fourth quarter to Vince Young and the Tennessee Titans. After an Eli interception, Young had 0:49 left and only needed two completions for 18 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.
It hasn’t been all bad for the Giants.
Earlier in that same 2006 season they had a 17-point comeback in the fourth quarter in Philadelphia. Eli took over with 0:58 left at his own 20 (just like Rodgers on Sunday), needing a field goal to tie. He completed 4/5 passes for 48 yards and Jay Feely made the 35-yard field goal. The Giants would win in overtime on a touchdown to Burress.

The Twenty-Second Drill

Just 10 drives started with less than 0:20 on the clock. All but three have already been mentioned.
In 2007 the Cowboys broke the hearts of Buffalo fans with a crazy Monday night win. After Dallas, trailing 24-22, failed on their two-point conversion with 0:20 left, they had no choice but to try the onside kick. Dallas recovered, but had just 0:18 left at the BUF 47. Romo completed two passes for 12 yards, and Nick Folk came on for the 53-yard game-winning field goal. It was good, but it didn’t count (icing the kicker). When it counted, it was good again, and Dallas stole a 25-24 victory.
On 12/27/1998, the Chargers scored a late touchdown to tie Arizona at 13. But a 46-yard kick return by Eric Metcalf put the ball at the SD 44 with 0:07 left. That was enough time for Jake Plummer to complete a 10-yard pass to Frank Sanders with 0:03 left. Chris Jacke booted the 52-yard field goal for the win.
Would you believe that Joe Montana authored the fastest one-minute drill of the last three decades?
This one deserves its own article for the most ludicrous decision making since the Miracle at the Meadowlands, but we’ll condense it.
The Bengals were leading 26-20. The 49ers just punted instead of trying a hopeless 4th & 18 deep in their own end. The Bengals have the ball, first down, with 0:54 left. Boomer Esiason takes three consecutive losses on runs. The 49ers could only stop the clock twice, and in 1987 the play clock was 30 seconds. The Bengals take the delay of game penalty, and are faced with 4th & 25 at their own 30 with 0:06 left.

This is where Cincinnati coach Sam Wyche blows it. He has many options to choose from. We’re talking about six seconds.
1. He can punt it straight up and stop the return.
2. He can tell his punter to just boom it out of bounds, which should take care of the clock.
3. He can have Esiason or the back just take an intentional safety since they were up 6.
4. He can have Boomer throw a Hail Mary (possibly out of bounds too)
Instead, Wyche makes the worst choice. He runs the ball and James Brooks is crushed in the backfield. The 49ers get the ball back with two seconds left at the CIN 25.
Then the Bengals botch the defense on top of it. Jerry Rice is somehow left one-on-one in the end zone, making it an easy pitch and catch for Montana to win the game. And that was with Dick LeBeau as the defensive coordinator.
Two seconds – the shortest one-minute drill of the last three decades, Joe Montana was the triggerman, and the Bengals were the victims. Go figure.

The Game-Tying Touchdowns (AKA Cleveland’s Misery)

We mentioned there were only three game-tying touchdowns in the one-minute drill that forced overtime. They all came against Cleveland.
12/2/1984 Cincinnati at Cleveland – After blocking a punt, the Bengals had 1:00 left and the ball at the CLE 28. Boomer Esiason would complete 4/4 passes for 18 yards; the last coming for a 1-yard touchdown to eligible tackle Anthony Munoz with 0:01 left. The Bengals would win on a field goal in overtime.
9/8/1985 Cardinals at ClevelandNeil Lomax delivered some excellent comebacks in his career, and this was another. After the Browns took a 24-17 lead in the last minute, Lomax had 0:33 at his own 37. He completed passes of 43, 15 and then 5 yards for the touchdown to Pat Tilley with 0:04 left to force overtime. The Cardinals kicked the game-winning field goal on the only drive of overtime.
11/14/2001 Chicago vs. ClevelandThis is one of the greatest/flukiest comebacks in NFL history. Chicago trailed 21-7 and just got the ball back with 1:52 left in the game. They would go 80 yards for a touchdown with 0:28 left. They recovered the onside kick, and had 0:24 left to go 47 yards with one timeout left. After gaining 13 yards on two passes and using that last timeout, they had just 0:08 left at the CLE 34. James Allen caught the pass only after it was deflected by the Browns for the 34-yard touchdown with no time left. Tim Couch would later throw a game-ending pick six in overtime to Mike Brown, who scored a pick six in overtime off Jeff Garcia the previous week after a 15-point comeback in the fourth quarter that time. It was the most exciting two weeks the Bears have had since their 1985 Super Bowl season.

Most Comedic Moment

Once again, no surprise this will involve the Cleveland Browns.
In the 2002 season opener, the Kansas City Chiefs visited the dog pound, and Cleveland took a 39-37 lead in a wild shootout with 0:29 left. Trent Green would get the ball back with just 0:21 left at his own 35.
After a 12-yard scramble and an incompletion, the Chiefs were down to two seconds and one play. Green was on the verge of being sacked and got the ball on a lateral to tackle John Tait, who ran 28 yards to the Cleveland 25 before being tackled. The game was over, right?
Wrong. Cleveland linebacker Dwayne Rudd was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, because he removed his helmet during the play, thinking the game was over. He didn’t recognize the ball was still alive on the lateral.
The Chiefs would get the automatic first down, move half the distance closer to the goal, and Morten Andersen kicked the 30-yard game-winning field goal on an untimed down to end it.
Only in Cleveland.

The Worst: Short and Long

They can’t all be good, so here’s a little tribute to the worst.
No one hard a worse “drive” than the Browns (again?) with Jake Delhomme at Miami in 2010. You see, what had happened was the game was tied 10-10. Chad Henne is intercepted and Cleveland returns it to the MIA 2 with 0:54 left. They play it safe by having Delhomme take 3 anti-climatic knees, losing 4 yards in the process. Then Phil Dawson kicked the 23-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. The strategy is perfectly defensible, but still.
Out of 103 drives, it’s the only one to actually lose yardage.
The longest drive out of the 103 is also the contender for worst play, because it was a fluke. On opening day 2009, the Bengals had just taken a 7-6 lead over Denver.
Kyle Orton had 0:34 left at his own 13. After one incompletion, his next pass was tipped in the air by the Bengals and caught on the way down by Brandon Stokley, who raced 87 yards for the lucky touchdown.
The 87 yards makes it the longest drive, but so far from being the best.
That also means that for our six touchdown drives of 70+ yards, two ended with a Hail Mary, two ended on flukes/tips, and then you have Sanchez against the Texans. That leaves one more, but we’ll save that for the final category.

The Best One-Minute Drill Since 1981

We’ve looked at a lot of great moments, and then some moments of opponent futility that set up wins.
Now we’ll pick out the best one-minute drill of the last three decades, and it’s a surprising pick.
On 9/8/1997, the Chiefs and Raiders battled in Oakland on Monday Night Football in the second game of the season. The Raiders were holding on to a 27-22 lead throughout the fourth quarter.
Elvis Grbac had 0:58 left at his own 20, and no timeouts left to work with.
The drive started with a completion of 21 yards to Lake Dawson, who then got out of bounds to stop the clock on the next play; a completion for no gain. After being ruled out of bounds on first down, Brett Perriman made a 27-yard catch (hey, it was 26 for the Saints in 1988) to move the ball to the 32. That’s where Grbac spiked it with 0:11 left.
Andre Rison then caught the 32-yard touchdown over double coverage on a perfect pass with 0:03 left. The two-point conversion failed, but it didn’t matter. The Chiefs went 80 yards in 0:55 behind Grbac’s passing. Kansas City would finish the season 13-3, #1 seed in the AFC, and lose to Denver in a tight AFC Divisional game.
That’s your best one-minute drill in the last three decades. Why? It was one of only 12 where the team absolutely had to score a touchdown, and it didn’t involve a fluke or controversial play like a tip, Hail Mary, or pass interference penalty. It was also as long as any of the must-have touchdown drives.
You don’t like Elvis Grbac? Well when your other choices are drives engineered by Mark Sanchez, Dave Krieg and Neil Lomax…This is what happens when rational, fact-based analysis is used. Tom Brady and John Elway never did it, so we can only choose from those who did.


When you watched the Packers take the field on Sunday, you probably expected them to go for the win. Offenses are more aggressive today, and who wants to let the NFL’s overtime system settle things? Under a minute left, they made it happen, and now you hopefully have the context to judge how impressive and significant that one-minute drill truly was.
We’ll leave you with one more fact: expect to see more one-minute drills.
Seasons One-Minute Drills
1981-1989 30
1990-1999 26
2000-2011 47
With the advancements of spread formations and no-huddle offenses, and the improved range and accuracy of kickers, more games are going to be won in this fashion than there have been in the past.
We hope you enjoyed this exclusive collection of data, and find it useful. Everyone has their own definition of “clutch”, and we hope to take that definition and turn it upside down by quantifying every clutch situation we can find. That way we can take perceptions and turn them into cold, hard football facts (reality).
Quarterbacks, kickers, defenses, coaches, none of you will be safe. This was just the tip of the iceberg. We’ll come back with our two-minute drill next year.
Scott Kacsmar is a football researcher/writer who has contributed large quantities of data to, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. This article actually made it over 7,000 words without a single Tebow mention…oops. You can send any questions or comments to Scott at and you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.