Poor Matt Ryan. The one legacy was enough. To now be burdened like this…the existential pain must be soul-crushing.

So it turns out that hiring your golf buddy who played Center on your team for many years isn’t exactly the answer for coaching success. In a small, funny twist of fate, the firing of Frank Reich may have cursed the Colts. Reich was the architect behind “the comeback”, which I’ll touch on later, and just weeks after his firing his replacement became the victim of the next biggest comeback.

So hyperbole abounds right now about it being the greatest comeback of all time, but I think that’s a question worth discussing. I think if your idea of “greatest” is simply reduced to “most points”, then yeah, the Vikings comeback against the Colts is the greatest comeback in NFL history. I don’t particularly like saying that though, because to me “Greatest” is more than just a particular number stat. Greatness implies something extra. More context. So let’s put what I think are the 3 contenders for the throne up against each other. The Vikings Comeback, “The Comeback”, and 28-3.

Let’s start with 28-3, otherwise known as Super Bowl 51. We’re all familiar with this. The Falcons led 28-3 midway through the 3rd quarter and the Patriots proceeded to win the game on the first drive in overtime. As far as points go, 25 points is not nearly as impressive a comeback as 32 points or 33 points. However as far as tension and context goes, this is hard to beat. The Patriots had essentially zero margin for error once their comeback began, and the Falcons had to score just 1 time, on a field goal, to ice it. The Patriots managed to force overtime by the skin of their teeth and win. This was the super bowl. You can’t get a more important game in the entire sport than this. No Super Bowl had even gone to overtime before, and the Patriots came back from 25 down in just over a quarter to make that happen. It’s honestly incredible to think about even now.

But to me, what really hurts this game’s argument, besides 25 < 33, is that we don’t remember it as a comeback. 28-3 is called 28-3 because we remember it as a choke. The Patriots? We’d seen Tom Brady and company do this before. We knew they could. The Falcons incredible choke is this game’s legacy. Think about that comeback. What plays do you remember most from it? I’d wager one of the first to pop into your mind was the Edleman Catch, rightfully. A play that only happens because the ball bounced off the Falcon’s arm into his hands. The other most memorable moment is probably Matt Ryan getting sacked out of field goal range. The Falcons had the game won, they decided to throw the ball, and Ryan took the worst sack of his life. This game was an incredible comeback, but it was arguably a more epic choke. Nobody ever really argued this game deserved the title over the Bills comeback when it happened, except for some Patriots fans, probably.

So what about that comeback? The Comeback was a playoff game in 1993 between the Bills and the Oilers. The Bills, down 35-3, rallied to force overtime and then won. This was during the Bills 90’s heyday, in the midst of their sorta dynasty. 32 points is a hell of a comeback, and it was orchestrated by a backup QB (Frank Reich, as Jim Kelly was hurt), against a good playoff team led by future hall of famer Warren Moon. The game is known as a choke in Houston, but to everyone else? This is “The Comeback”. It’s name in NFL lore is literally “The Comeback”. If you talked about the comeback to people, you had to specify if it wasn’t this game. As for context? This was a playoff game. The Oilers had actually beaten the Bills handily the week prior in the final week of the regular season, the game in which Jim Kelly got hurt. So this wasn’t just an incredible comeback, this was revenge.

So now we have a new contender. By points, Vikings/Colts is the biggest comeback of all time. But that’s where I think the argument ends. This is the biggest comeback of all time. The largest comeback of all time. As far as context goes, it’s not much. The game’s most notable result is that the Vikings clinched the NFC north with the win, something they probably would have done anyway. The Colts were not a playoff team or a super bowl team, they were a lost and confused mess of a team coached by an interim guy who has never been a coach before for an owner off his meds. The roster is unimpressive. The fact that the Colts were up 33-0 at half is honestly the most surprising fact about this game to begin with. The Colts are a bad team that seemed to be getting away with it until the Vikings, a team made of chaos, got their shit together. What transpired after that was unbelievable, but also in many ways more believable than you’d think. I saw people calling the comeback as a sure thing as soon as the Vikings got their second TD. The Colts are a disgrace and deserve to go down like one.

But to me, this is not the greatest comeback of all time. The Bills one I think still owns the crown. It was only 1 point less, and was during a playoff game against a hall of fame QB and team that had beaten them, effectively, for 6 straight quarters in two games. And a backup QB did it. The Comeback deserves to still be The Bills. But the biggest comeback ever? That’s now the Vikings crown. The biggest choke ever? Well, Ryan can take his pick between the two. I’m sure he’ll love pondering that one.