The greatest performances in NFL conference championship history

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Jason Ence

January 25th, 2022

As we recover from one of the greatest weekends of NFL playoff action, it's time to start looking ahead to this weekend’s conference championship games.

Young gunslingers Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow will square off in the AFC, as the Bengals visit the Chiefs, while a California clash will see the 49ers and Rams vying for the NFC title.

In anticipation of another exciting weekend of football, let's take a look at the five best individual performances in NFL conference championship history.

5. Ty Law, 2003 AFC Championship

Peyton Manning made a career out of spreading the ball around and turning average receivers into reliable stars. In the 2003 AFC Championship, he completed three or more passes to six different players, including Ty Law.

Unfortunately for Manning, Law played on the other team. Law caught as many of Manning’s passes in the game as star Colts receiver Marvin Harrison, as the Patriots intercepted a total of four passes in a 24-14 victory.

Manning came into those playoffs having thrown just 10 interceptions in 566 attempts.

Law’s first pick came as he made a terrific read and broke off coverage to haul in a deep pass down the sideline by Manning. His second pick occurred when he was in the right place to catch an overthrow to a Colts running back down the sideline. And, the third interception came as Manning tried a deep throw to the opposite side of the field that hung in the air.

4. A.J. Duhe, 1982 AFC Championship

Coming into the 1982 AFC Championship, Duhe had just three career interceptions in 108 regular-season contests. The 1977 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year had converted from defensive end to linebacker two seasons prior, and was mostly known for his run-stopping ability.

However, he made history in the “Mud Bowl” game, as he matched Law’s conference championship record with three interceptions in Miami’s 14-0 win over the Jets. The Dolphins picked off Jets quarterback Richard Todd five times in a contest that was played in some of the worst conditions ever seen in an NFL game.

Duhe’s first pick came off a deflected pass, setting up the only offensive touchdown of the game. He undercut a throw for his second pick, aided by an underthrown ball.

The third interception was a legendary play, as Duhe evaded a cut block and jumped to block a flare pass. He was able to catch the deflected ball and rumbled nearly 40 yards for the touchdown.

3. Michael Irvin, 1994 NFC Championship

The only performance on the list to come in a losing effort, Irvin set an NFC championship record as he gained 192 receiving yards in a 38-28 defeat to the 49ers.

He made 12 receptions on the day and found the end zone twice, including a 44-yard touchdown to get the Cowboys on the board in the second quarter.

Making the performance even more impressive, he was covered nearly the entire game by star cornerback Deion Sanders.

Irvin could have had even more, as he was targeted 26 times on the day.

Despite his numbers, Irvin was partly responsible for the Cowboys committing three turnovers in the first quarter, all of which were converted into touchdowns. On Dallas’ second drive, Irvin was stripped after a catch, leading to an easy touchdown for the 49ers.

2. Cam Newton, 2015 NFC Championship

Newton put together a season that boggled the mind in 2015, winning the NFL MVP award as he threw for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns and added another 636 yards and 10 scores on the ground.

In the 2015 NFC championship, he led the Panthers to a 49-15 demolition of the Arizona Cardinals. The 49 points are the most ever scored in an NFC Championship Game since the NFL-AFL merger. 

Newton completed 19 of 28 throws for 335 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and threw an interception.

He hit Corey Brown for an 86-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. Newton also rushed for 47 yards and two touchdowns, with the first one late in the second quarter to put Carolina ahead 24-7. The other rushing score built a 34-7 lead late in the third quarter and sealed the win.

1. Kerry Collins, 2000 NFC Championship

This game was over as soon as it began, as Collins led the Giants to a 41-0 romp over the Minnesota Vikings. Collins completed 28 of 39 attempts for 381 yards and five touchdowns, and he and receiver Ike Hilliard connected 10 times for 155 of those yards and a pair of scores.

Collins’ five touchdown passes are tied for the most in an NFC Championship Game.

The Giants shut out a Vikings team that had Randy Moss and Cris Carter. At one point in the third quarter, Collins had more completions than Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper had passing yards.

Collins could have done even more, but with the Giants leading 34-0 at halftime, he threw for just 43 yards in the second half.