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NFL Network to rebroadcast classic games

NEW YORK - Any NFL fan who is into comebacks can get his fill of them for the rest of the month on NFL Network.

The cable/satellite channel will be rebroadcasting four of the greatest come-from-behind victories in league history, beginning Thursday with last season's Bears win at Arizona.

Chicago's 24-23 decision over the Cardinals will be followed on May 17 by Indianapolis' rally to a 38-35 overtime win against Tampa Bay in 2003; the New York Jets' "Monday Night Miracle" 40-37 overtime win against Miami, to be aired on May 24; and the record comeback by the Bills in the playoffs following the 1992 season, when Buffalo was down 35-3 in the second half to the Houston Oilers and won 41-38 in OT. That will be televised May 31.

These games never have been replayed in their entirety on television because the league never allowed it — until now, on its own network.

"The first few are games either football fans will know by memory, or they have compelling story lines," said Charles Coplin, vice president of programming for the NFL. "Last year's Bears-Cardinals was one of the games that was a factor in the Bears' run to the NFC championship. Fans remember it because of Dennis Green's rough news conference after the fact.

"We'll have what many call the best Monday night football game of all time, and we have that great Frank Reich-led comeback by the Bills in the wild-card game. These are games we think are really memorable in terms of the results, and they are part of the lore of football."

For decades, the NFL has been reluctant to replay anything but highlights from its classics. But with the advent of NFL Network, it not only has a place to show them, but an audience seeking such programming.

Last year, the league rebroadcast five top games each week, but in condensed form, on its "NFL Replay" show. When that proved popular, the NFL began planning its abbreviated "NFL Classic" series for this month.

Halftimes will be cut out, but otherwise these are the original broadcasts done by ABC, ESPN or NBC.

Unfortunately, not everything is in the archives. While more than 12,000 regular-season and 400 postseason games have been played, the library of film and tape is limited.

At some point, NFL Network hopes to uncover many of those broadcasts, perhaps of the Ice Bowl between Dallas and Green Bay in 1967, or the Immaculate Reception game between Pittsburgh and Oakland in the playoffs following the 1972 season.

"A lot of this stuff we're still trying to find if it exists, and if so, is it in an airable form?" Coplin said. "We're trying to comb through with our broadcast partners what is available. We don't have an accurate accounting of the inventory right now.

"It's a shame how many things are not still available or have not been found."

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