OPINION: Top-5 NFL regular season games D.A. attended

Kirk Cousins
Photo credit Timothy T Ludwig / Stringer / Getty Images

Having spent last weekend in Buffalo -- prior to 2022 Snowmageddon -- I'm reflecting back on the incredible game I witnessed in Orchard Park. The Bills and Vikings staged an instant classic, eliciting massive social media reaction and breakdowns by analysts all week long. And it got me thinking whether it was the best NFL game I'd ever seen in person.

I covered the Steelers' victory over the Seahawks in Super Bowl 40, and the Patriots' third title in four years when they beat the Eagles in Super Bowl 39. Both of those championship games would belong on this list, but we're only counting regular season matchups here.

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No. 5: Patriots 27, Chiefs 19 (Nov. 22, 2004)
I consider Sundays at Arrowhead Stadium as a spiritual experience. The BBQ smoke lifting over the parking lots as you drive down I-70 and descend upon the complex is magical. The crowd inside is deliriously raucous. Kansas City's stadium was built in the 1970s, when the sound was still supposed to bounce around the building, as opposed to the open concourses of modern facilities.

This Monday night crowd in 2004 was worked into a lather as the Pats came to town as defending champs and winners of two of the last three Lombardi trophies. But this era of Chiefs football was defined by explosive offense and lethargic defense. It was a quarterback duel that lived up to its billing.

But the Chiefs' defense was no match for Tom Brady, who threw for 315 yards in New England's 24th win in 25 contests. Trent Green was a worthy adversary -- he threw for 381 yards in a losing effort. The Chiefs cut their deficit to 24-19 with 6:00 to go, but the defense couldn't force a stop. This was the Pats' first half of the dynasty (2001-11) at the height of its power.

No. 4: Patriots 23, Steelers 7 (Dec. 7, 1998)
My cousin Mike and I were hoping for a classic cold-weather, hard-hitting game in Pittsburgh. We bundled up and made the six-hour drive from New York to stay with our cousins in Pennsylvania. We drove through the night, arrived around 2 a.m., and woke up early to go tailgate. When we arrived at Three Rivers Stadium, we were devastated.

It was 68 degrees. A random and completely bizarre warm front had swept through Pittsburgh. And under our hoodies and my cousin's Levon Kirkland jersey, we were sweating while grilling our Italian sausages on a little charcoal grill. The game also marked the last time for 20 years that neither Tom Brady nor Ben Roethlisberger would compete in a Steelers-Patriots game.

Drew Bledsoe played with a fractured right index finger and hit Terry Glenn on an 86-yard touchdown strike. Kordell Stewart and the Steelers only mustered seven total points, and following the game, "Slash" was showered with beer. Stewart proudly claimed that fans wouldn't run him out of town, like they did Neil O'Donnell. But the Steelers' playoff hopes were toast. It was a long ride back to New York, and we didn't even get a snow flurry.

No. 3: Giants 24, Patriots 20 (Nov. 6, 2011)
Two months after this Foxboro clash, these two teams met once again in the Super Bowl. And while the Patriots ruled the era, the Giants owned the series. Sandwiched between a pair of Super Bowl wins in 2007 and 2011, Eli Manning riddled Bill Belichick in New England.

Temperatures dipped as night fell at Gillette Stadium, since it was a 4:25 p.m. kickoff. Manning found Jake Ballard for a touchdown with just 15 seconds left to rip out Patriots fans' hearts once again. My dad, an old-school Giants fan, was taunting them all night. At one point, a lady turned and asked, "What part of New York are you from, anyway?" My dad responded, "The bad part." And we still laugh about it.

Jake Ballard
Photo credit Jim Rogash / Stringer / Getty Images

No. 2: Giants 34, Panthers 28 (Dec. 21, 2008)
By far the coldest I've ever been at an NFL game (Syracuse-Notre Dame the day after a snowstorm was the most freezing, overall). It was a Sunday night football game a few days before Christmas, and it delivered wind-chill temps as low as minus-23 in the Meadowlands. The Giants were the reigning Super Bowl champs, and a win would clinch home field advantage in the playoffs.

The original Giants Stadium rocked as Big Blue turned in a throwback effort. The Giants smashed the rock all night, gaining an incredible 301 yards on the ground. It'll forever be known as "The Derrick Ward Game," as he rushed for 215 yards and a 51-yard scamper in overtime that set up the winning score.

Carolina took a 28-20 lead in the fourth quarter, but New York knotted it up with 3:00 to go and then won in overtime on a Brandon Jacobs touchdown. Giants crowds are notoriously an older, more traditional audience and prefer the early kicks. Primetime tickets are sold to younger, more boisterous fans. This was one of those. The single-most electric, rabid Meadowlands crowd I've witnessed.

No. 1: Vikings 33, Bills 30 (Nov. 13, 2022)
This was by far the zaniest regular season NFL game I've ever attended, and perhaps the best overall -- playoffs included. Justin Jefferson's one-handed grab on 4th & 18 was bonkers. The Vikes getting stuffed on 4th & Goal -- only to recover the fumbled snap on the next play to take the lead -- was surreal.

Josh Allen nearly led two heroic drives to save the bacon, just to be upended with a soul-crushing interception in the end zone during overtime. This game was everything you could ever want, and I'll never forget the emotional chaos of Bills Mafia living through the fourth quarter and overtime. We all walked out of the stadium dazed and confused, wondering what we'd just witnessed. It was just the latest calamity for a tortured Bills fan base starved for a title.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Timothy T Ludwig / Stringer / Getty Images