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NFL's greatest finishes: Minnesota Vikings miracle the best ever?

Malcolm Butler (R) intercepts a pass intended for Ricardo Lockette (L) late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIX

Was the Minnesota Miracle the greatest-ever finish to an NFL game?

That certainly seemed to be the initial reaction to the stunning scenes at US Bank Stadium on Sunday as, with 10 seconds left, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum found Stefon Diggs down the right sideline for a stunning game-winning 61-yard touchdown.

But, we have done some digging and found some contenders for the crown! We have limited our search to similarly dramatic moments saved for the final seconds, or final play, of the game and picked out our top 10.

In no particular order, read on below to see what made the cut…

Patriots' crazy comeback

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Watch the moment the Patriots won Super Bowl LI and the aftermath from Tom Brady and the rest of the New England team.

Where else to start but with the New England Patriots? The team have made winning a habit, but also dramatic finishes one too. There are so many to list here, including ones in their favour; a couple of Adam Vinatieri Super Bowl-winning field goals spring to mind, but then there's also that David Tyree catch off his helmet that denied them a perfect season in 2007.

But, here we are focussing on their latest Super Bowl triumph, one they are currently in the process of trying to defend. In last year's thrilling Super Bowl LI, the Patriots somehow contrived to come back from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to the Atlanta Falcons. Trailing still by 16 with six minutes to go, the Patriots tied the game up with two TDs and two successful two-point conversions to take a Super Bowl into overtime for the first time. New England got the ball, and Tom Brady did the rest.

Tim Tebow's moment

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Tim Tebow stuns the Steelers, guiding the Broncos to a stunning overtime win.

Talking of overtime drama, the much-hyped Tim Tebow delivered some of his own in his first playoff appearance six years ago. Despite a completion percentage of just 46.5 on the season, Tebow somehow contrived to go on a six-game regular-season win streak to take the Denver Broncos into the playoffs.

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There, the Pittsburgh Steelers were expected to make light work of Tebow's team. Not so, with the game tied up at 23-23 at the end of regulation. Then, just 11 seconds into overtime, Tebow sensationally threw a game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the very first play for a stunning win.

After that high, Tebow would quickly come crashing back to earth, completing just nine of 26 passes in defeat to New England the next week and then losing his job as starting quarterback when Peyton Manning arrived in the summer. He is now is trying his hand at baseball, signing a minor league contract with the New York Mets two years ago.

Rodgers Hail Mary TDs

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A look at Aaron Rodgers' three sensational 'Hail Mary' passes against Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants.

There is nobody better in the NFL at pulling off the impossible than Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay Packers quarterback has made not one, not two, but three Hail Mary touchdown passes in his career, all coming over the course of just a 13-month span. Two came in the playoffs, in the 2015 season (Arizona Cardinals) and 2016 (New York Giants) but, as impressive as they were, both were thrown before half-time, and the Arizona effort was ultimately in defeat.

It is Rodgers' game-winner in Detroit in Week 13 of the 2015 season that is truly the standout! Trailing 20-0 at one stage in the second-half, the Packers had pulled to within two late on, down 23-21. With four seconds left, the game was then seemingly ended when Rodgers was sacked by Devin Taylor as time expired. But, the Lions linebacker was called for a face mask penalty, giving Rodgers one last try. Cue a 61-yard connection to Richard Rodgers, the longest Hail Mary TD in NFL history, dubbed the 'Miracle in Motown'.

Music City Miracle

NASHVILLE, :  Frank Wycheck of the Tennessee Titans celebrates after throwing a lateral to Kevin Dyson on a kick-off return for a touchdown during the seco
Image: Frank Wycheck celebrates Tennessee's incredible Music City Miracle win over Buffalo

That thrilling finish in Detroit is far from the first and, as Sunday's incredible ending in Minnesota proves, is far from the last NFL play to be given the 'miracle' moniker, as proven by the next couple of plays in our top 10, including this stunning finish in Nashville in the 1999 playoffs that saw the Tennessee Titans triumph over the Buffalo Bills, who would fail to recover and return to the postseason until this year.

With only 16 seconds remaining in the game, Bills kicker Steve Christie made a 41-yard field goal to put Buffalo in the lead, 16-15. But, the game was far from over! Somehow the Titans defied the odds, with Frank Wycheck throwing a lateral pass across the field to Kevin Dyson on the ensuing kick-off, who then raced away for the 75-yard game-winning TD.

Miracle(s) at the Meadowlands

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DeSean Jackson's incredible kick-off return for a TD was the second Miracle of the Meadowlands.

Another miracle to add to the mix, in fact two for the price of one. The NFC East so often serves up dramatic moments in the NFL, such is the fierce rivalry between the four teams - Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles and Giants - but it is a couple of contests between the latter two of the four that have included the most incredible finishes.

The first came in November 1978 when with the Giants up 19-17 in the final moments of the game, incredibly, rather than take a knee in victory formation and run the clock out, quarterback Joe Pisarcik fumbled while trying to get the ball to Larry Csonka, allowing Philadelphia's Herman Edwards to scoop up the loose ball and race in for a 26-yard TD for the win. New York offensive coordinator Bob Gibson was fired the next day.

'New Miracle and the New Meadowlands' as it came to be inventively titled happened in December 2010. With eight minutes to go, the Giants appeared to have the game in the bag, up 31-10. But, two Michael Vick passing TDs either side of a rushing one tied the game up with still more than a minute left on the clock. That dwindled down to 14 seconds by the time New York came to punt again - DeSean Jackson initially fumbled the return before then escaping the swarming Giants to sensationally score the game-winner. It was the first time in NFL history a game ended in regulation with a punt return TD.

Malcom Butler's interception

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Malcolm Butler intercepts Seattle QB Russell Wilson at the goal line to clinch another Patriots Super Bowl win.

Do not worry, we had not forgotten about you Malcolm. New England's stunning overtime Super Bowl win over Atlanta last year is not their only moment that makes our list, as two years prior, the Pats were beating the Seattle Seahawks to earn another championship in dramatic fashion.

It is easy to forget given their dominance over the past two decades that the Patriots were, at the time, in the midst of a 10-year title drought and had also suffered two heart-breaking defeats to the Giants on their previous two Super Bowl trips, in 2008 and 2012. Here, they led the Seahawks 28-24 with 26 seconds to go, but Seattle had the ball at their goal line, with second down coming up. Give the ball to your 1,000-yard Pro Bowl rusher, right? They did not, and Butler intercepted Wilson on the resulting pass play.

Late lateral drama denied

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Jerome Pathon scores with no time on the clock  December 21, 2003 at Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. Pathon scored
Image: New Orleans receiver Jerome Pathon scores a TD after a series of lateral passes

A somewhat lesser known number this, partly due to it being a case of what could have been. In a mid-season match-up between the New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003, playoff hopefuls New Orleans trailed 20-13, and were backed up at their own 25-yard line with only seven seconds remaining.

Quarterback Aaron Brooks found Donte Stallworth near midfield, who then broke a couple tackles before lateraling the ball to Michael Lewis, who in turn tossed it back to Deuce McAllister, who then found Jerome Pathon across the field for the game-tying touchdown. Or was it? Incredibly, kicker John Carney missed a chip shot of an extra point attempt and so the Saints lost 20-19, eliminating them from playoff contention.

Immaculate Reception

1977:  Quarterback Terry Bradshaw #12 of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops back to pass as teammate Franco Harris #32 runs to get open during a game against th
Image: Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris teamed up for the immaculate reception

With the Steelers trailing the Oakland Raiders 7-6 in the final 30 seconds of their meeting in the 1972 playoffs, Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a last-ditch pass to John Fuqua. The ball was deflected away by Raiders safety Jack Tatum, then fortuitously into the hands of fullback Franco Harris, who ran in for the game-winning touchdown.

Controversy swirled, with many believing the ball touched only Fuqua or the ground before Harris caught it, either of which would have resulted in an incomplete pass by the rules at the time. But, the TD stood, gifting the Steelers their first postseason victory, and though they would be knocked out of the playoffs by the undefeated Miami Dolphins the following week, the team would go on to win four Super Bowls over the next six years.

Holy Roller

9 Dec 1979:  Quarterback Ken Stabler of the Oakland Raiders prepares to pass the ball during a game against the Cleveland Browns at the Oakland-Alameda Cou
Image: Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler deliberately fumbled the ball resulting in an NFL rule change

The Raiders may have been on the wrong end of the late drama against the Steelers, but they got the rub of the green themselves in this crazy finish to a regular season meeting with the San Diego Chargers in 1978 dubbed the 'Holy Roller'.

"The most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play," described on commentary at the time as, trailing 20-14 at the Chargers 14-yard line with 10 seconds to go, Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler purposefully fumbled the ball, realising he was about to be sacked, ending the game. The loose football was pushed further towards the goal line Pete Banaszak before Dave Casper ultimately fell on it in the endzone. The bizarre finish led to a rule change in the offseason to ensure an intentional fumble couldn't be scoring method going forward.

Minnesota Miracle

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Here's how Scott Hanson, Shaun Gayle and Jeff Reinebold reacted to Stefon Diggs's game-winning TD for the Vikings.

How can we not end with the incredible events of Sunday? Trailing 24-23 with 10 seconds left of their divisional round match-up with New Orleans, the Vikings were desperately looking for a quick completion to move into field-goal range to hopefully have an attempt at a game-winning kick.

Incredibly, quarterback Keenum's pass to Diggs down the right sideline was not only completed but, rather than dart out of bounds to stop the clock, the Minnesota receiver then had the presence of mind to race away for the game-winning TD after a missed tackle from Saints safety Marcus Williams left him with the field in front of him, sparking scenes of wild celebration in Minnesota, and also in the Sky Sports studios. The greatest ever finish in the NFL? Quite possibly.

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