From hockey to soccer to golf to football, there was no shortage of memorable games, matches and events this year. Sam Gardner takes a spin around some of our favorites from 2014.
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Jan. 4: Colts 45, Chiefs 44 (AFC wild-card game)
The Indianapolis Colts channeled the 1992-93 Buffalo Bills in an AFC wild-card win over the Kansas City Chiefs in January, rallying from a 28-point third quarter deficit to win 45-44 and advance to the divisional round of the playoffs. In the second half, Andrew Luck led Indy on five touchdown drives, four of which went 80 yards or longer, and the Colts D held KC to 163 yards and six points on its final six possessions to seal the biggest playoff comeback since the Bills overcame a 32-point deficit to beat the Oilers in the '93 wild-card round.
Getty ImagesAndy Lyons
Jan. 6: Florida State 34, Auburn 31 (BCS Championship)
FSU crushed just about everyone en route to the BCS Championship Game, but once there, the 'Noles got a true test from SEC champ Auburn, and the result was a memorable title bout that came down to the final drive. Auburn dominated early and led 24-20 after a field goal with 4:42 to play, but Levonte Whitfield returned the ensuing Tigers kickoff 100 yards to put the ‘Noles ahead. Auburn regained the lead after a Tre Mason touchdown with 1:19 left, but FSU responded with a seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a game-winning touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds to go.
Dubbed “the real Super Bowl” by many, the Seahawks advanced to the actual Super Bowl with a 23-17 win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. After San Francisco took an early 10-0 lead thanks in part to a Russell Wilson fumble on the game’s opening play and a 58-yard run by Colin Kaepernick, Seattle rallied to tie the game after a Wilson 51-yard pass to Doug Baldwin set up a field goal and Marshawn Lynch scored on a 40-yard run. Seattle took the lead for good on a 35-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass on fourth-and-7, and then picked off a Kaepernick pass in the end zone with 22 seconds left to seal the win.
Getty ImagesOtto Greule Jr
Feb. 12: Heat 111, Warriors 110
It seems like every game LeBron James plays has a chance to become must-see TV, and never was that more true than in Miami’s regular-season visit to Oakland last season. With Dwyane Wade out, LeBron dominated with 36 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, but it was his game-winning fadeaway 3-pointer over Andre Iguodala that made this one an instant classic. The dagger thwarted an epic comeback by Golden State, which used a 28-9 third quarter run to erase most of a 21-point deficit, then overcame a nine-point fourth quarter deficit to take the lead just seconds before LeBron’s buzzer-beater.
NBAE/Getty ImagesRocky Widner
March 23: Kentucky 78, Wichita State 76 (NCAA tournament third round)
It seemed like every game Kentucky played on its unexpected NCAA tourney run could have been a "Game of the Year," but none of them was better than the Wildcats’ 78-76 win over unbeaten No. 1 seed Wichita State to advance to the Sweet 16. Though it was Aaron Harrison who would hit huge late shots to lead Kentucky to wins over Michigan and Wisconsin, it was Andrew Harrison who was the star against the Shockers, with a team-high 20 points. The game was the definition of a grudge match, and the only shame was that Fred VanVleet’s 3-point attempt as time expired couldn’t rattle home for Wichita State.
Getty ImagesAndy Lyons
March 29: Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63 in OT (NCAA tournament Elite Eight)
Before losing to Kentucky in heartbreaking fashion in the national semifinal, Frank Kaminsky and Wisconsin pulled out a thrilling overtime victory over No. 1 seed Arizona to earn a spot in the Final Four. One of the breakout stars of the tournament, Kaminsky led the Badgers with 28 points and 11 rebounds in the game, which was a one-possession affair from the 12:11 mark of the second half through the end of overtime. Unfortunately, Arizona can only wonder what might have been had Nick Johnson not been whistled for an offensive foul on the Wildcats' final possession.
Getty ImagesHarry How
April 17: Blues 4, Blackhawks 3 in 3 OTs (NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, first round)
The only triple-overtime game of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, the St. Louis Blues needed an extra 40 minutes and change to knock off the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in the first game of their Western Conference quarterfinal series. After a barrage of first-period goals gave Chicago an early 3-2 lead, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz tied the game with his first career playoff goal with 1:45 left in regulation. Two overtimes weren’t enough to decide a winner, but 26 seconds into the third, Alexander Steen found the net, putting to an end a game that featured some truly incredible goalie play from both Corey Crawford and Ryan Miller.
Getty ImagesDilip Vishwanat
May 2: Blazers 99, Rockets 98 (NBA Western Conference playoffs, first round)
Houston and Portland engaged in a slugfest in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, but it was the game and shot that ended the series that will be remembered most vividly. Game 6 featured 14 ties and 16 lead changes, and in the fourth quarter, neither team led by more than four. Chandler Parsons thought he’d won the game for Houston and forced a Game 7 when his putback layup with 0.9 seconds left put the Rockets up two, but after a Blazers timeout, guard Damian Lillard hit a game-winning 3 at the buzzer, inciting the Rose Garden crowd and sending Houston home.
NBAE/Getty ImagesSam Forencich
May 31: Spurs 112, Thunder 107 in OT (NBA Western Conference Finals)
Fans expected a serious clash when the Spurs and Thunder met in the Western Conference Finals, and the titans didn’t disappoint, particularly in a deciding Game 6 in Oklahoma City. After trailing by 12 early in the fourth quarter, OKC made a furious rally late and outscored the Spurs 16-8 over the final 5:23 to force overtime, capitalizing on two Serge Ibaka blocks and a rare missed free throw by Manu Ginobili to force the extra period. But once there, the eventual champs imposed their will, holding OKC to 1-of-11 shooting to advance to the Finals against the Miami Heat, which they'd also win.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNathaniel S. Butler
June 3: Kings 3, Rangers 2 in 2 OTs (Stanley Cup Final Game 5)
The LA Kings won an incredible three Game 7s on the road to reach the Stanley Cup Final, including one in overtime against the defending champion Blackhawks, so when they had the chance to close a series at home against the New York Rangers, LA made sure to get it done. The Game 5 victory didn’t come easy, though, as LA needed two overtimes before Alec Martinez scored on a rebound 14:43 into the second overtime to give LA its second Cup in three years. The game was the longest in Kings franchise history and one we won’t soon forget.
NHLI via Getty ImagesJuan Ocampo
June 7: California Chrome's Triple Crown bid spoiled (Belmont Stakes)
Tonalist played the role of spoiler in this year’s Belmont Stakes, ending California Chrome’s bid for the first Triple Crown in nearly 40 years this June. The Christophe Clement-trained horse came from the outside post to win in 2:28:52, edging out second-place Commissioner (20-1) by a head and third-place Medal Count (20-1) by a length. The favorite Chrome (sent off at 3-5) finished in a dead heat for fourth, sparking an uncharacteristic, nationally televised outburst/meltdown by owner Steve Coburn, but the disappointing result in no way spoiled the spectacle of the event, which truly is one of the most exciting in sports.
Getty ImagesRob Carr
July 1: Belgium 2, USA 1 (World Cup Round of 16)
This summer, the World Cup captivated the globe, and for much of it, the US men’s national team was the biggest story in American sports. Unfortunately, the Americans' run ended against Belgium in the round of 16, but the game that saw them eliminated was one of the best of the year. The teams played to a scoreless draw in the first 90 minutes, but Kevin De Bruyne got Belgium on the board in the 93rd minute, and Romelu Lukaku added a second goal in the 105th. American Julian Green made it 2-1 in the 107th minute, but Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois snuffed out a potential game-tying attempt from Clint Dempsey in the 114th to preserve the win.
Getty ImagesLaurence Griffiths
July 6: Djokovic defeats Federer (Wimbledon final)
Coming into this year’s Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer had squared off 34 times, with Federer taking 18 wins to Djokovic’s 16, and perhaps no match between the two stars was more entertaining than Djokovic’s five-set win over Federer in the finals at the All England Club. Djokovic, who lost to Federer in the finals of the 2007 US Open, had faced Federer once before at Wimbledon, falling in four sets in the 2012 semis., but this time, Djokovic got the better of the seven-time champ despite a Federer rally from a 5-2 hole in the fourth set. Djokovic won 6–7 (7), 6–4, 7–6 (4), 5–7, 6–4 in a match that featured 143 winners and 42 aces and took nearly four hours to complete.
Getty ImagesAl Bello
July 13: Germany 1, Argentina 0 (World Cup final)
Though the United States’ World Cup run ended in the round of 16, the fantastic play continued long after the Americans’ elimination, culminating in an instant classic in the tournament championship between Germany and Argentina. The two historic soccer powers played to a scoreless draw in regulation and seemed poised to do the same in extra time, as both sides struggled to solve each other, seemingly anticipating a shootout for the Cup. But German sub Mario Goetze broke through with a sliding goal in the 113th minute, sending Germany to its fourth World Cup victory.
Getty ImagesMatthias Hangst
Aug. 10: McIlroy holds off Mickelson (PGA Championship final round)
Say what you will about golf being boring — there was nothing dull about the final round of this year’s PGA Championship. Rory McIlroy took a one-shot lead into Sunday, and after a torrential downpour soaked Valhalla early, McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler each played superbly in one of the most exciting finishes you'll see. McIlroy struggled early but an eagle on 10 put him within a shot of the lead. A birdie on 13 moved McIlroy into a tie at the top with Mickelson, and a birdie in the dark on 17 was the difference as McIlroy claimed the Wanamaker Trophy.
Getty ImagesAndrew Redington
Sept. 25: Yankees 6, Orioles 5
Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium came complete with a storybook ending. The Yanks took a 5-2 lead into the top of the ninth against Baltimore, and it seemed as though Jeter’s final hit in the Bronx would be a first-inning RBI double (not necessarily a bad way to go out). But New York gave up three runs in the frame — a disaster, had it not opened the door for Jeter to come to the plate one more time in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on second. We all know what happened from there, as Jeter slapped a single to right to win the game and give chills to everyone watching.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner
Sept. 28: Nationals 1, Marlins 0
There were five no-hitters thrown in Major League Baseball during the 2014 calendar year, but none was more memorable than Jordan Zimmermann's 1-0 mastery of the Miami Marlins on the final day of the regular season — if only for the way it ended. Zimmermann's only blemish on the afternoon was a fifth-inning walk, and the play of the game came with two outs in the top of the ninth, when defensive replacement Steven Souza made a full-extension diving catch on a liner to deep left-center to rob Christian Yelich of extra bases and finish off the Nats' first no-hitter in franchise history.
The most exciting game in this year’s MLB postseason may have been the first, as Oakland and Kansas City played a game for the ages in the AL Wild Card play-in. After pummeling James Shields and Yordano Ventura, the A’s took a seemingly comfortable 7-3 lead into the top of the eighth. But KC plated three in the eighth and used small ball to tie it in the ninth. In the 12th, Oakland used a walk, bunt, wild pitch and single to retake the lead, but Kansas City responded with two runs in the bottom of the frame to advance to the ALDS. They ended up going all the way to the World Series.
MLB Photos via Getty ImagesAmy Stroth
Oct. 11: Baylor 61, TCU 58
In arguably the most exciting college game this season, Baylor used an incredible fourth-quarter rally to steal a 61-58 win from TCU. After a back-and-forth first three quarters, TCU used two early fourth-quarter scores to take a 58-37 lead with 11:38 to go. But the Frogs stalled late, and QB Bryce Petty guided Baylor to three long, quick touchdown drives to tie the game with 4:42 remaining, and after a failed fourth-down attempt by TCU, Petty set up a 28-yard Baylor field goal by Chris Callahan as time expired for the win. The collapse cost TCU an undefeated season and sure spot in the College Football Playoff, and the win wasn't enough to get Baylor into the four-team field, either.
Getty ImagesTom Pennington
Oct. 29: Giants 3, Royals 2 (World Series Game 7)
As wild-card teams, the Giants and Royals surprised everyone by reaching the World Series, and once there, neither team disappointed in a seven-game classic that ended with Madison Bumgarner earning a five-inning save (on top of two series wins) in the Giants' 3-2 Game 7 victory in KC. Second baseman Joe Panik helped the cause early, starting an outstanding third-inning double play to end a Royals threat, and though a misplayed ball put the tying runner on third with two down in the ninth, KC couldn't capitalize as Salvador Perez fouled out to third, ending the game and giving the Giants their third championship in five seasons.
Dec. 24: Western Kentucky 49, Central Michigan 48 (Bahamas Bowl)
Of all the games to make the list, this had to be the most unlikely. Few were in attendance and given the time of year, the matchup didn't inspire people to sit and watch. However, Cooper Rush and Central Michigan turned it into a thriller, scoring 34 points in the final quarter. The final six came on a Hail Mary with multiple laterals that became a 75-yard touchdown extravaganza with no time left. The Chippewas went for the two-point conversion and win, but the pass failed and the Hilltoppers survived.