The AFC Championship Game following the 1994 regular season took place at Three Rivers Stadium on January 15, 1995, between the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers.
The Steelers and Chargers were the top two seeds in the AFC that season but there didn’t seem to be much doubt about which team would advance to the Super Bowl. In the divisional round, the Steelers blew out the Cleveland Browns by 20 points and the Chargers narrowly escaped the Miami Dolphins 22-21.
The Chargers were also going on the road to face what was the most storied franchise in NFL history and of course, they were the team many felt were just happy to be there.
If you go back and look at the box score of this game, you will wonder aloud how the Chargers managed to get the win. The Steelers outgained them by almost 200 total yards and ran 80 offensive plays to the Chargers 47. They also had a nearly 15-minute advantage in time of possession.
That’s like holding the ball for an entire quarter.
Still, it was the Chargers that made the big plays when it counted most while riding the back of their leader, Junior Seau, who racked up 16 tackles while playing with a pinched nerve in his neck.
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The Steelers took a 13-3 lead into the fourth quarter but Stan Humphries put his team on his back and hit Alfred Pupunu for a 43-yard touchdown. On their next possession, Pupunu would again come up big before Humphries found Tony Martin for a 43-yard touchdown late in the game that silenced Three Rivers.
The Steelers came back with Neil O’Donnell completing several short passes to move the ball down the field and give the Steelers a chance to pull it out in the end. In the late stages of the game, the Steelers had the ball 1st-and-goal at the Chargers’ 9-yard line.
San Diego needed a play and it got one.
Key play: After keeping the Steelers out of the end zone on first, second and third down, the Steelers faced one of the most memorable fourth-down plays in NFL history. That’s when Dennis Gibson comes in.
Gibson was an eighth-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 1987 and played just two seasons with the Chargers. But he is responsible for one of the most famous plays in team history. On fourth down, O’Donnell dropped back to pass and it looked like he had his star running back, Barry Foster, wide open in the end zone. He threw him the ball, but in the nick of time, Gibson got his hand in the way and knocked the pass down, setting off a wild celebration.
The Chargers were headed to their first (and to this day, only) Super Bowl!