The NFC North is one of the most iconic and historically great divisions in the history of the NFL.
Despite the lack of championships in Detroit and Minnesota, the cities of Green Bay and Chicago have done their fair share in ensuring that the history of football cannot be told without the NFC North playing a large role.
The combination of championship teams, Hall-of-Fame players, and record-setting performances helps mask the division’s blemishes that you’ll read about in the article.
In the event you’ve missed any of the previous Most Iconic Moments articles that we’ve already completed, take a look below and get caught up.
Have a top moment for one of these teams that wasn’t selected? Let us know your top choice either on Twitter or in the comments section below.
Moment: Minneapolis Miracle
There have been some pretty wild and iconic moments throughout the history of the Minnesota Vikings. Gary Anderson’s missed field goal in the NFC Championship game against the Falcons, losing all four Super Bowl appearances, Randy Moss’ Thanksgiving Day game, but I can’t put these or any other moments ahead of Stefon Diggs and the Minneapolis Miracle.
After the Saints took a 24-23 lead with just 25 seconds remaining, Vikings’ quarterback Case Keenum delivered a 27-yard pass to Diggs who turned the play into a 61-yard touchdown on the game’s final play. The play, now known as the Minneapolis Miracle, gave the Vikings the 29-24 victory over the Saints and propelled Minnesota into the NFC Championship game where they’d eventually be eliminated from the playoffs via the Philadelphia Eagles.
Even though the play didn’t lead to a Super Bowl championship and/or appearance, it will forever go down as one of the most unlikely-to-occur plays in the history of the league thanks in large part to Saints’ safety, Marcus Williams, who found himself in no man’s land after lowering his head to make a hit on Diggs rather than making a play on the ball or tackling/pushing Diggs out of bounds after he caught the ball.
The play would likely be held in even higher regards had the Vikings gone onto win the Super Bowl that season, but until the Vikings can clear that hurdle and capture a Super Bowl victory, remarkable plays made in Divisional Round games will have to suffice as the team’s most iconic moment.
Moment: One-Loss 1985 Super Bowl Team
One Monday night game against the Miami Dolphins is all that stood between the 1985 Chicago Bears and just the second perfect season in NFL history.
Despite the lone blemish on the regular-season record, the Bears went onto demolish the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 20 by a final score of 46-10. There’s a lot to unwrap about the ‘85 Bears, and there’s been no shortage of articles, documentaries, etc, that tell the complete story, but one of the top things that come to mind when you think about this team is the dominating defense guided by Buddy Ryan.
The defense led the league in seven different categories in 1985 including points allowed, total yards, rushing yards, first downs, rushing touchdowns (allowed 6 all year!), interceptions and total takeaways.
Had it not been for the one regular-season loss, the ‘85 Bears would have a strong case for being considered the best team in NFL history. Although, even with the loss, it’s hard to deny this team’s placement among the NFL’s elite.
Moment: Barry Sanders Retiring at the Peak of His Career
The Detroit Lions have been in rebuild mode since 1957, and when they have a star players on their team retire at his peak, it’s devastating. But when two do it, it’s just an embarrassment, and is one of the only teams that have had it happen.
First, we can’t forget about Barry Sanders. He was the best running back in the 90’s hands down. He would run 45 yards in the backfield just to gain 10, or break a tackle and take it to the house.
At the end of the 1998 season, Sanders was contemplating retirement and Bobby Ross gave him a deadline of June 1st. That came and went, so the assumption was “Barry will be back!” just to find out on the eve of training camp, that the greatest running back in Detroit Lions’ history was hanging his cleats up for good.
He left football healthy, unlike Calvin Johnson (that’s a whole other story), accumulating 15,269 rushing yards (the highest ever by a running back in a 10-year career), 2,921 receiving yards and 109 touchdowns (99 rushing and 10 receiving). He retired when he knew he could have broken Walter Payton’s rushing record of 16,726 yards, which we all know Emmitt Smith broke a few years later.
Sanders wasn’t about himself. He didn’t care about personal records. He wanted a championship. But when you have no playoff wins, no division titles and only two double-digit winning seasons? What’s the point? Most Detroiters called his “sudden” retirement “clumsy”. However, I don’t blame him for doing it.
If the team is the same as it was when you’re drafted, why continue?
Thanks for the memories, Barry!
Green Bay Packers
Moment: ’96 Super Bowl Victory (Favre’s helmet-less sprint)
There may not be a team in all of the NFL with more historic moments than the Green Bay Packers. Everything from the Ice Bowl, the “Improbable Bobble,” the 2010 Super Bowl and many many more. However, when you think about the Packers’ most memorable moment, it’s hard to put anything ahead of the 1996 Super Bowl.
There is hands down one iconic picture that every Packers fan, or any NFL fan for that matter, that comes to your mind when thinking about this game.
After the Patriots started with the ball and failed to score on their opening possession, they punted away to Desmond Howard who set the Packers up with good field position. On just the second play of the game for the Packers, Brett Favre called an audible at the line of scrimmage and changed the play, resulting in one of the most iconic moments in NFL history. He took the snap, dropped back and threw a beautiful arching, rainbow pass that dropped into the hands of Andre Rison and he sprinted off for a 54-yard touchdown.
The iconic moment was not the touchdown, though. The iconic moment is what happened after the play. Favre proceeded to take off his helmet and run down the field holding it to the sky in celebration. That picture will go down in Packers history as one of the most feel-good moments any Packers fan has ever had.
The Favre celebration essentially led to the rule change that you cannot remove your helmet until you leave the field of play.
There were many memorable moments in this game. A few that come to mind are Antonio Freeman’s 81-yard touchdown, Favre reaching for the pylon, Howard’s 99-yard touchdown (I still argue he touched the goal line), and Reggie White’s three sacks.
Not only was Favre’s sprint around the field a picture used in Packers galore, but it’s also frequently used by the NFL. A lot of people will argue the “Ice Bowl” as the team’s most iconic moment, however, in my opinion it’s not even close. Favre and the ’96 Super Bowl is the only answer.
Be sure to check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as we discuss which players should be your league mates headache rather than yours this upcoming fantasy football season in an episode called, Fantasy Dad Bod!