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NFC Championship logo
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The National Football Conference (NFC) Championship Game is one of the two semi-final playoff matches of the National Football League, the largest professional American football league in the United States. The game is played on the penultimate Sunday in January and determines the champion of the National Football Conference. The winner then advances to face the winner of the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game in the Super Bowl.
The game was established as part of the 1970 merger between the NFL and the American Football League (AFL), with the merged league realigning into two conferences. The first NFC Championship Game was held on January 3, 1971, with the Dallas Cowboys defeating the San Francisco 49ers, 17-10. The most recent game was played on January 23, 2011, with the Green Bay Packers defeating the Chicago Bears, 21-14.
The first NFC Championship Game was played following the 1970 regular season after the merger between the NFL and the American Football League. The game is considered the successor to the original NFL Championship, and its game results are listed with that of its predecessor in the annual NFL Record and Fact Book. The NFC consists of the pre-merger NFL teams with the exception of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Colts, and Cleveland Browns, who were moved to the American Football Conference following the merger to make the number of teams in each conference even at thirteen apiece.
Every NFC team has played in an NFC Championship 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. Only the Detroit Lions have yet to win an NFC Championship Game.
For the first time in the history of either Championship game, the NFC has seen 10 different winners in ten years between 2001 and 2010.
At the end of each football season, a series of playoff games involving the top six teams in the NFC are conducted, consisting of the four division champions and two wild card teams. Wild card teams are those teams who possess the two best won-loss records after the regular season yet fail to win their division. In the current (post 2002) NFL playoff structure the two teams remaining following the Wild Card round (first round) and the divisional round (second round) play in the NFC Championship game.
Initially, the site of the game was determined on a rotating basis. Since the 1975–76 season, the site of the NFC Championship has been based on playoff seeding based on the regular season won-loss record, with the highest surviving seed hosting the football game. A wild card team can only host the game if both participants are wild cards, in which case the fifth seed would host the sixth seed. Such an instance has never occurred in the NFL.
George Halas Trophy
Since 1984, the winner of the NFC Championship Game has received the George Halas Trophy, named after the longtime owner and coach of the Chicago Bears, a charter member of the NFL. The original design consisted of a wooden base with a sculpted NFC logo in the front and a sculpture of various football players in the back.
It, and the Lamar Hunt Trophy that is awarded to the AFC Champion, were redesigned for the 2010–11 NFL playoffs by Tiffany & Co. at the request of the NFL in an attempt to make both awards more significant. The trophies are now a new, silver design with the outline of a hollow football positioned on a small base to more closely resembles the Vince Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl.
The George Halas Trophy should not be confused with the Newspaper Enterprise Association's George S. Halas Trophy which was awarded to the NFL's defensive player of the year from 1966 to 1996 or the Pro Football Writers Association's George S. Halas Courage Award.
List of NFC Championship Games
- Numbers in parentheses in the table are NFC Championships
^ a: Sudden-death overtime.
NFC Championship Game appearances 1970–present
|Num||Team||W||L||PCT||PF||PA||Last appearance||Last championship||HOME games||Home wins||Home losses||Home Win Pct.||ROAD games||Road wins||Road losses||Road Win Pct.|
|12||San Francisco 49ers||5||7||.417||224||198||1997||1994||8||4||4||.500||4||1||3||.250|
|9||Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams||3||6||.333||82||187||2001||2001||4||2||2||.500||5||1||4||.250|
|5||Green Bay Packers||3||2||.600||121||98||2010||2010||2||1||1||.500||3||2||1||.667|
|4||New York Giants||4||0||1.000||96||33||2007||2007||2||2||0||1.000||2||2||0||1.000|
|3||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1||2||.333||33||30||2002||2002||1||0||1||.000||2||1||1||.500|
|2||New Orleans Saints||1||1||.500||45||67||2009||2009||1||1||0||1.000||1||0||1||.000|
NFC Championship Game records
- Most Victories: 8* - Dallas Cowboys (1970-71, 1975, 1977-78, 1992-93, 1995)
- Most Losses: 7* - San Francisco 49ers (1970–71, 1983, 1990, 1992–93, 1997)
- Most Appearances: 14 - Dallas Cowboys (1970-73, 1975, 1977–78, 1980-82, 1992–95)
- Most Consecutive Appearances: 4
- Most Consecutive Victories: 2 - (tie)
- Most Victories Without a Loss: 4** - New York Giants (1986, 1990, 2000, 2007)
- Most Consecutive Losses: 3* - (tie)
- Los Angeles Rams (1974-76)
- Dallas Cowboys (1980–82)
- Philadelphia Eagles (2001-03)
- Most Games Hosted: 8 - San Francisco 49ers (1970, 1981, 1984, 1989–90, 1992, 1994, 1997)
- Most numerous matchup: 6** - Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers (1970–1971, 1981, 1992–1994)
- Most points scored: 41 (tie) - Washington Redskins, January 12, 1992 (1991 season); New York Giants, January 14, 2001 (2000 season)
- Largest margin of victory: 41 points - January 14, 2001 (2000 season), New York Giants (41) vs. Minnesota Vikings (0)
- Fewest points scored, winning team: 9**[›]; January 6, 1980 (1979 season) - Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Most points scored, losing team: 28 (tie); January 15, 1995 (1994 season) - Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers, January 24, 2010 (2009 season) - Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints
- Most aggregate points scored: 66; January 15, 1995 (1994 season) - San Francisco 49ers (38) vs. Dallas Cowboys (28)
- Fewest aggregate points scored: 9**; January 6, 1980 (1979 season) - Los Angeles Rams (9) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0)
- Longest game: 71 minutes, 52 seconds**; January 17, 1999 (1998 season) - Atlanta Falcons (30) @ Minnesota Vikings (27), OT
- Current teams which have never won an NFC Championship
- Detroit Lions (0–1)***
- Longest drought without appearing in an NFC Championship Game: 20 years
- Detroit Lions (last appearance - 1991)
- Washington Redskins (last appearance - 1991)
- Longest drought without an NFC Championship: 53 years***; Detroit Lions
*Tied for Conference Championship record
- Time Almanac 2004
- "Playoff Games". NFL Record and Fact Book 2009. Time Inc Home Entertainment. ISBN 9781603208093.
- Chicago Sun-Times. http://www.suntimes.com/sports/3411365-418/trophy-halas-lombardi-nfl-silver.html.
- Bell, Jarrett (January 25, 2011). "NFL Replay: Gritty Steelers aren't pretty, but they are Super". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/steelers/2011-01-25-nfl-replay-steelers_N.htm.
- Last NFL Game in Kezar Stadium.
- These 1972 Dallas Cowboys were the first ever NFC wild card franchise to advance to the Conference championship game.
- These 1975 Dallas Cowboys were the first ever wild card franchise to advance to the Super Bowl.