Here, a cringe-worthy countdown: the top franchises in NFL history to kick butt during season play—and lose their grip on the Lombardi Trophy at the last minute.
Kyle Coleman 1 / 11
The Seattle Seahawks proved that defense wins championships last night when they mashed Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXLVIII, 43-8, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The 35-point rout was the third-worst ever in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks forced a safety on the very first play – the quickest score in Super Bowl history -- and went into halftime with a 22-0 lead, already Denver’s largest deficit of the 2013-14 season. So much for the Broncos’ scoring machine. This round-up goes out to every man who has ever had to resign himself to the fact that his team wrote a check its ass couldn’t cash. Herman Edwards said it best: "You play to win the game." And these teams did a lot of winning—just not when it counted, unfortunately. Who remembers the team that lost out on the Super Bowl? Nobody. Until now. Here, a countdown of the 10 best. Where would you rank Seattle’s beatdown on Denver on this list? Tell us on Twitter @MensFitness.
10. 1984 Miami Dolphins
Talk about a first impression. With 5,084 yards passing and 48 touchdowns, rookie QB Dan Marino had perhaps the greatest single season in NFL history, helping the Dolphins put together a 14-2 regular season record while racking up 513 regular season points. (The receiving corps of the “Marks Brothers”— Mark Clayton and Mark Duper—along with the coaching acumen of the legendary Don Shula, didn’t hurt their cause either.) Too bad they had to go up against the powerful attack of Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers, who made filets of the Dolphins, beating them 38-16 in Super Bowl XIX. Sadly, this would be Hall of Famer Dan Marino’s first and last time playing in a Super Bowl.
9. 1990 San Francisco 49ers
Coming off of two straight Super Bowl victories, the 49ers rolled into the NFC Championship game in 1990 with a 15-2 regular season record and a chance to win three in a row. After all, they still had Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig. But the problem in the end? They still had Roger Craig. Leading 13-12 with two and a half minutes to play, all the Niners had to do was hold onto the ball, but Craig fumbled after a hit from New York Giant Erik Howard. The ball was recovered by Lawrence Taylor, and the upstart Giants rambled down the field and kicked the game-winning field goal as the clock wound down. That would be the last time Roger Craig would touch a football for the 49ers. Wonder why.
8. 1978 Dallas Cowboys
Labeled “America’s Team,” the ‘Dallas Cowboys followed up their 1978 Super Bowl victory by stampeding to a 12-4 regular season record, seemingly destined to repeat the feat with a Hall of Fame team on paper—as well as on the field. They had the powerhouse lineup of Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, and Drew Pearson on offense, and an unstoppable “Doomsday Defense,” led by Randy White, Harvey Martin and Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Unfortunately, though, they had to go up against the equally impressive Pittsburgh Steelers in the title game, whom they had already lost to in Super Bowl X, two years earlier. The Cowboys had a chance to tie the game up in the third quarter when Jackie Smith dropped a pass in the end zone, falling to the ground like a child having a temper tantrum. (Hey, this is totally understandable after dropping a touchdown pass during the Super Bowl, OK?) Dallas had to settle for a field goal—and a 35-31 L.
7. 1990 Buffalo Bills
The ‘90 Bills racked up a stellar 15-3 regular season record and scored 95 points in their first two playoff games. Plus, they were led by not one, not two, but three future Hall of Famers—running back Thurman Thomas, quarterback Jim Kelly and sack master Bruce Smith. Then along came the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV. (Yes, they ruined it for more than one team on this list.) Buffalo’s typically sound passing attack was grounded by the ferocious pressure of New York’s front four, and the usually stout Bills defense gave up two time-killing drives to the rushing attack of the Giants. But the real defining factor? “Wide Right.” This is basically what the game will always be remembered for, as Scott Norwood missed blew a game-winning 47-yard field goal kick with 8 seconds on the clock to give the Giants a 22-20 win. So the Bills came close...but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
6. 2001 St. Louis Rams
The Greatest Show on Turf, the name given to the speedy offense of the St. Louis Rams of this era, breezed into Super Bowl XXXVI with the NFL’s last two reigning MVPs, Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner. The high scoring Rams (still the only team to score more than 500 points in three consecutive seasons) were heavily favored in the game, a mere formality for the boys from the Show Me State, and—after winning the Super Bowl two years earlier—were considered a dynasty in waiting. Problem is, they are still waiting, as they fell to the New England Patriots and their rookie QB, Tom Brady (you may have heard of him?), 20-17. Alas, as one dynasty goes down, another begins.
5. 1997 Green Bay Packers
Fresh off his third consecutive MVP season, Gunslinger QB Brett Favre led the ‘97 Packers into a Super Bowl XXXII showdown with the Denver Broncos. The Pack were the defending champs and had one of the best defensive players of all-time in Reggie White (may he rest in peace)—it seemed like there was no way they could lose. In fact, the NFC was so dominant at the time (they had, after all, won the previous 13 Super Bowls), that many had been calling the conference championship game between the Packers and Niners the “Real Super Bowl.” Too bad it wasn’t. And too bad John Elway and Terrell Davis showed up and ruined the real “Real Super Bowl” for Green Bay, giving the Broncos—and the AFC—a 31-24 win.
4. 1969 Minnesota Vikings
Known as the Purple People Eaters, the Vikings of Minnesota were the most dominant team in the NFL in ‘69. They compiled a 12-2 regular season record, led the league in scoring with QB Joe Kapp, and had a defense— spearheaded by Alan Page and Carl Eller—that is still considered to be one of the best of all time, allowing only 133 points all season. But in the last Super Bowl before the AFL and the NFL merged, the Vikings were man-handled by the Kansas City Chiefs 23-7, and they would then go on to lose three more Super Bowls in the 70s. Poor Vikings. Always a bridesmaid. Never the bride.
3. 1998 Minnesota Vikings
After losing four Super Bowls, Minnesota seemed like it finally had a team that could get it over the hump. The ‘98 Vikings rode the arm of Randall Cunningham and the amazing hands of rookie-sensation wide receiver Randy Moss to a regular season record of 15-1, scoring 556 points along the way. Not only did Moss and Cunningham link up for 17 TD passes, but Gary Anderson was also the first kicker to ever complete the regular season without missing a field goal or extra point. What a feat! Unfortunately, though, he choked when it mattered, missing a 38-yard field goal in the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons that would have put them up by 10 with time running out. Atlanta seized the opportunity, driving the ball 71 yards to tie the game and eventually winning in OT on a field goal. Now that’s the kicker.
2. 1968 Baltimore Colts
Many in the media labeled the ‘68 Colts as the best team ever. Of course, this was only 1968, but they were that good. Want proof? Baltimore finished the season 13-1 and allowed only 144 points—while scoring 402. And their only loss was to the Cleveland Browns, who they then destroyed in an NFL Championship game rematch. Yes, the Colts—who were coached by legendary Hall of Famer Don Shula and had an offense helmed by QB Earl Morrall—were poised to go all the way...until a cocky, panty-hose-wearing quarterback named Joe Namath and his New York Jets stepped into their path, handing the Colts the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. (The Colts had been an 18-point favorite, largely because most thought that the NFL was so much better than the AFL. Guess not.)
1. 2007 New England Patriots
The Patriots played like a team possessed in ‘07, completing the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history while scoring a record 589 points. Tom Brady (remember him from #6?) tossed 50 touchdown passes, 23 of those to Randy Moss (he’s in #3), and the two were unstoppable in the regular season. So it comes as no surprise that the Patriots had the game in the bag until Eli Manning and David Tyree hooked up for one the Greatest Catches in Super Bowl History. Manning eluded the pressure of several Patriots and threw a pass high in the air that Tyree caught on top of his helmet, keeping the ball off the ground and the drive alive. Manning was then able to complete the game-winning pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left. Yup, the Patriots would finish with 18 victories and one Giant loss.