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. The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most appearances in the AFC Championship Game at 15.

5. January 12, 1986 New England 31 Miami 14

Glen Farley, Brockton Enterprise:
Even without QB Steve Grogan, the good times for the Patriots rolled, as Tony Eason came back and they won three of their final four regular-season games, the exception being their then annual loss to the Miami Dolphins at the Orange Bowl (their 18th straight defeat in South Florida), 30-27, in a Monday night game on Dec. 16.

For the AFC Championship, there were 74,978 fans in attendance on a wet and cloudy day in the Orange Bowl. The Patriots turned the ball over twice on fumbles while Miami lost the ball six times, including four fumbles.

The Patriots rushed for 255 yards on 59 rushes. RB's Craig James(105 yards), Robert Weathers(87), and Tony Collins(61) allowed the offense to control the ball for 40 minutes. QB Tony Eason threw only 12 times, completing 10 with three TD's. His QB rating was 130.9. Miami QB Dan Marino struggled completing 20 of 48 passes for 248 yards, two TD's and two costly interceptions. Dan's rating was 54.8.

It was on to New Orleans for Super Bowl XX.

4. January 20, 2008 New England 21 San Diego 12

Tom Brady made several stunningly poor throws that fluttered in the wind, Randy Moss was a non-factor for the second straight game and the highest-scoring team in NFL history sputtered all afternoon. Instead, the Patriots (18-0) relied on Laurence Maroney's spins, cuts and helmet-rattling runs.

The New England defense held Chargers' RB Ladanian Tomlinson to five yards on two carries. A leg injury forced Tomlimson to the sidelines in the first quarter. The Chargers were held to four Nate Kaeting field goals. San Diego QB Philip Rivers played injured with a partially torn ACL. Rivers passed for 211 yards on 19 of 37 passing with two interceptions. TE Antonio Gates played with a dislocated toe.

A fourth quarter six yard TD pass from Tom Brady to WR Wes Welker widened the New England lead to 21-12.

This marked the first time in more than 100 years that a team in the four major pro sports opened a season with 18 straight victories. The record for wins to start a season was set in 1884 by St. Louis in Baseball's Union Association, the Elias Sports Bureau said.

3. January 12, 1997 New England 20 Jacksonville 6

Jacksonville had done the Patriots a huge favor by knocking off the top-seeded Denver Broncos the week before, 30-27. New England hosted the AFC title game against the second year Jaguars, coached by Tom Coughlin.

There was a scare at the end of the first quarter when the power went out briefly at Foxboro Stadium. With winds of 20 mph and a wind chill of nine degrees, neither offense had much success in moving the chains. New England was held to only 13 first downs. RB Curtis Martin did have one short TD run, but was held to 59 yards rushing.

The Jaguars had their chances, but fumbled twice and had two interceptions thrown by QB Mark Brunell. One fumble was returned 47 yards for a fourth quarter TD by Patriots' CB Otis Smith. Brunell finished with 20 of 38 passing for 190 yards and a QB rating of only 44.8.

New England QB Drew Bledsoe had a rough time against the Jacksonville defense. Drew was sacked twice and completed 20 of 33 passes for 161 yards with a QB rating of 62.4. He was saved by the Patriots' defense which put heavy pressure on QB Mark Brunell. New England forced three turnovers in a four minute fourth quarter span, including a goal line interception by S Willie Clay.

It was the last game in Foxboro for Bill Parcells as the team’s head coach.

2. January 27, 2002 New England 24 Pittsburgh 17

It wasn't a perfect performance by the quarterback who lost his job to Brady after being injured Sept. 23 in the season's second game. Drew Bledsoe got plenty of help from Troy Brown, who returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown and was the middle man on a 60-yard return of a blocked field goal that put New England ahead 21-3 early in the third quarter.

Mark Cannizzaro, NYPost:
Belichick, according to a coach who was on the Jets staff back then and who requested anonymity, was telling Jets coaches on the sideline before that game that he expected to be fired.
“He and [then offensive coordinator] Charlie Weis were saying, ‘We’re going to get fired,’ ’’ the coach recalled. “They were struggling and they didn’t want Bledsoe as the quarterback, but they couldn’t get rid of him because he had too much power in the locker room.’’

Other than having a solid backup to Tom Brady in Drew Bledsoe, the Patriots caught a bigger break with Kordell Stewart running the Pittsburgh offense. Kordell threw three interceptions while completing only 24 passes in 52 attempts for 255 yards. His QB rating was just 36.9.

With just under three minutes remaining until halftime, Pittsburgh S Lee Flowers injured QB Tom Brady with a low hit. Drew Bledsoe came off the bench to throw a 10 yard TD pass to WR David Patten to make the score, 14-3. Drew would finish 10 of 21 for 102 yards in a rusty outing.

In the third quarter, a Pittsburgh field goal attempt was blocked by Patriots' DE Brandon Mitchell. Troy Brown picked up the ball at the 40 and ran 11 yards before lateraling to Antwan Harris, who took it 49 yards for the score that made it, 21-3.

Late interceptions by New England safeties, Tebucky Jones and Lawyer Milloy sent the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXVI.

1. January 23, 2005 New England 41 Pittsburgh 27

It was a battle of 14-2 Patriots' versus 15-1 Steelers'. Pittsburgh didn't play like a one loss team, losing the turnover battle, 4-0.

New England jumped on the Steelers early with a 60 yard TD pass from QB Tom Brady to WR Deion Branch for a 10-0 first quarter lead. Brady was efficient in completing 14 of 21 passes for 196 yards and two TD's. His QB rating was 128.3. The Patriots were able to rush for 126 yards on 32 carries with RB Corey Dillon gaining 73 of those.

With New England holding a 24-3 halftime lead, the Steelers scored twice in the third quarter to cut the margin to 14, 31-17 heading to the fourth quarter. The teams traded field goals before New England WR Deion Branch ran 23 yards on a reverse for a TD, extending the lead to 41-20. Branch caught four passes for 116 yards to go along with his two scores.

The Patriots intercepted three Ben Roethlisberger passes, two by S Eugene Wilson and one by S Rodney Harrison. Rodney returned his interception 87 yards for a touchdown.

A late seven yard TD pass from Ben Roethlisberger to WR Plaxico Burress completed the scoring with 52 seconds to play, 41-27.

The Patriots were on to Super Bowl XXXIX against the Philadelphia Eagles. This spoiled the potential all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl.

Paul Murphy is a freelance writer from New Hampshire.

Follow me on Twitter at @_prmurphy

For more of my articles, click here.

Paul Murphy 1/17/2015 08:00:00 AM Edit

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