January 16, 1994 – Chiefs at Oilers
Derrick Thomas’ best playoff game came in the 1993 season when the Chiefs traveled to Houston to take on the Oilers in the Divisional Round. Having played and lost to the Oilers in Week 2 of the season, the team no doubt remembered how the 30-0 early season drubbing felt, and used this playoff game to exonerate themselves for that dud of a performance.
And this applied to the defense in particular. Kansas City forced seven fumbles in the contest, intercepted Warren Moon while holding him to only one touchdown pass, and sacked the future Hall of Famer nine times. In the middle of it all was No. 58. Derrick had two sacks in the game, three solo tackles, forced two fumbles and had one pass defensed; and Kansas City avenged the early season loss in a 28-20, playoff upset on the road against the heavily favored Oiler team.
Sam Mellinger of the KC Star summed it up best when recounting the game some 22 years later:
"His teammates had learned to read Thomas, before games. You could tell what kind of day it would be this way. Thomas was always smiling, loved to laugh, and if you could talk to him in the hour or two before kickoff he may or may not have a big day. But if he came back from warmups dancing, unable or unwilling to talk to anyone while rocking back and forth to the music in his own head, well, those were the days that put him in the Hall of Fame. This day in Houston was one of those days, so Thomas rushed upfield until the left tackle and running back stood shoulder to shoulder. He had told friends the Oilers had not seen his inside move, and was waiting for the right time to use it. In less time than it takes for you to read any word in this sentence, he planted his right foot, pushed the tackle forward with his left, and sprang at Moon’s back. The ball came loose, and Dan Saleaumua smothered it. It was the Oilers who were supposed to be the intimidators, but the Chiefs had figured out the perfect balance between disguise and aggression. Thomas’ sack was one of nine for the Chiefs that day. Moon, normally adept at this, struggled to read when and from where the pressure would come. Gilbride, even now, says he regrets not calling special protections and screens the Oilers had installed to counter the Chiefs’ pressure. But for the Chiefs, the moment was just one of many in which Thomas changed a game by knocking the quarterback on his back. “Derrick always seemed to make plays like that,” Schottenheimer says. “He always seemed to rise to the moment.”"
The Chiefs would all later say that Joe Montana and Montana Magic won the game. Quite literally, they’re right. The 37-year-old former MVP led the Chiefs down for a go-ahead fourth quarter touchdown to win the game. But the greatest playoff game in Thomas’ career demonstrated just how transcendent of a talent he was, and lands number three on this list.