Were the New England Patriots the Best Team Ever To Not Make the Super Bowl?

John BaranowskiCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2011

Were the New England Patriots the Best Team Ever To Not Make the Super Bowl?

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    Were the 2010 New England Patriots one of the 10 best teams ever to not make the Super Bowl?  Where would they rank amongst teams all-time that didn’t make the Super Bowl?  See if the Patriots make the list and where they rank and lets count them down beginning with number 10.  

10. 2004 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

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    Led by head coach Bill Cowher, still in search of a Super Bowl victory, the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers had to turn to a rookie quarterback after starter Tommy Maddox got hurt. Things couldn’t have worked out better for the Steelers. Rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finished second in the AFC in completion percentage at 66.4% and would set an NFL record going 13-0 in his first 13 starts. 

    Aiding Roethlisberger was a strong running attack led by Jerome Bettis who rushed for 13 touchdowns as the Steelers became the first AFC team to win 15 games during the regular season, and only the fourth team in NFL history to go 15-1.  

    The Steelers had more than just a strong running game and a hot rookie quarterback. They also had the top-ranked defense in the NFL yielding only 251 points.

    In week eight, the Steelers ended the New England Patriots NFL-record 21-game winning streak and then defeated the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles in week nine leading Steeler fans to believe that this was their year.  

    Pittsburgh had nine players named to the Pro Bowl:  Bettis, guard Alan Faneca, center Jeff Hartings, tackle Marvel Smith, wide receiver Hines Ward, defensive end Aaron Smith, safety Troy Polamalu, and linebackers James Farrior and Joey Porter.  

    The Steelers took a 14-game winning streak into the playoffs but lost at home in the AFC Championship Game to New England 41-27. 

     

9. 2006 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

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    Under the direction of head coach Marty Schottenheimer, the 2006 San Diego Chargers had the best record in the NFL with a 14-2 record and led the league in points scored with 492. 

    On offense, San Diego was led by league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson who rushed for 1,815 yards, and had an additional 508 receiving yards scoring 31 touchdowns, 28 of them rushing. 

    The Chargers had more Pro Bowlers in 2006 than any other team, with a total of 11. This included Tomlinson, quarterback Philip Rivers, center Nick Hardwick, fullback Lorenzo Neal, tackle Marcus McNeil, and tight end Antonio Gates.

    Representing the defense were linebacker Shawne Merriman and nose tackle Jamal Williams, and from the special teams kicker Nate Kaeding, Kassim Osgood and long snapper David Brinn.   

    The Chargers took a 10-game winning streak into the post-season but lost at home in the divisional playoff round to the New England Patriots 24-21, causing Schottenheimer to once again fall short of making the Super Bowl.

     

8. 1999 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

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    In only their fifth year of existence, Coach Tom Coughlin led the 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars to an NFL best 14-2 record with a defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL allowing only 217. The defense, under the direction of defensive coordinator Dom Capers, held half of their opponents to seven points or less.  

    The defense was led by a trio of Pro Bowlers: Defensive end Tony Brackens, linebacker Kevin Hardy and free safety Carnell Lake.  

    The offense was led by the running of James Stewart and Fred Taylor who combined for 1,663 yards and 19 touchdowns. Quarterback Marc Brunell threw to favorite wide receiver Jimmy Smith who had 1,636 yards receiving on the year. Brunell had time to throw and Stewart and Taylor holes to run through thanks to a pair of Pro Bowl offensive tackles in Tony Boselli and Leon Searcy. Brunell and Smith were also named to the Pro Bowl.  

    After starting the season 2-1, the Jaguars reeled off 11 straight wins. The Jaguars only regular season losses were at the hands of the Tennessee Titans.  

    Jacksonville crushed Miami in the divisional playoff round 62-7 but lost in the AFC Championship Game at home to you guessed it, Tennessee, 33-14. 

7. 2005 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

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    The 2005 Indianapolis Colts started the season with a 13-game winning streak and were heavily favored to go to the Super Bowl.  The talk of the NFL then was would the Colts go 16-0 or would head coach Tony Dungy rest his starters before the playoffs.  

    The Colts had eight Pro Bowlers, five on offense and three on defense. On the offensive side of the ball they had quarterback Peyton Manning, running back Edgerrin James, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, tackle Tarik Glenn and center Jeff Saturday. On defense they had defensive end Dwight Feeney, linebacker Cato June and free safety Bob Sanders. The Colts were the team to beat in the NFL.  

    The #1 seed in the AFC, the Colts were upset at home 21-18 by the #6 seed in the playoffs and eventual Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Kicker Mike Vanderjagt had a chance to tie the game with 17 seconds left in regulation but his kick was wide right.  

    The Colts and Dungy learned a lot from 2005 and would go on to win the Super Bowl the following season. 

6. 1990 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

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    The 1990 San Francisco 49ers started out the season winning their first 10 games for head coach George Seifert and ended up having the league’s best record at 14-2. The 49ers were heavily favored to win their third consecutive Super Bowl. 

    Led by quarterback Joe Montana, the 49ers passing game was once again state of the art. Montana led the NFC in completion percentage with 61.7% and threw for 3,944 yards and 26 touchdowns and Montana was named NFL MVP. 

    Jerry Rice led the NFL in receptions,100, receiving yards 1,502, and touchdowns,13.  The 49ers weren’t just all offense as DE Charles Haley led the NFC with 16 sacks. 

    Pro Bowlers on the 49ers were:  Montana, Rice, fellow wide receiver John Taylor, and guard Guy McIntyre on offense, and from the defense Haley and safety Ronnie Lott.  This would be the last season for Lott and running back Roger Craig as 49ers. 

    The dream of a three-peat ended as the 49ers lost in the NFC Championship Game at home to the eventual Super Bowl Champions New York Giants 15-13 as Matt Bahr kicked a game-winning field goal as time ran out.   

     

5. 1992 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

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    Head coach George Seifert’s San Francisco 49ers had a NFL best 14-2 record in 1992 and led the NFL in points scored with 431 and were loaded on offense. 

    Quarterback Steve Young led the NFL in completion percentage with 66.7%, in touchdown passes 25, and threw for an NFC-best 3,465 yards. Young was named NFL MVP. His primary weapons on offense were Jerry Rice, who had 1,201 yards receiving, and Ricky Watters who averaged 4.92 yards per carry.  

    San Francisco had eight Pro Bowlers on offense:  Young, Watters, Rice, tight end Brent Jones and offensive linemen Jesse Sapolu, Steve Wallace, Harris Barton and Guy McIntyre.  The Niners had two Pro Bowlers on defense in defensive back Tim McDonald and defensive tackle Pierce Holt.  

    The 49ers went into the post-season riding an eight-game winning streak but ended up losing the NFC Championship Game at home to the eventual Super Bowl Champions Dallas Cowboys 30-20.  The Cowboys would go on to win three of the next four Super Bowls.  

4. 2010 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

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    Led by Tom Brady, having one of the greatest seasons ever for a NFL quarterback, the New England Patriots in 2010 were a heavy favorite to not only reach the Super Bowl, but to win their fourth Lombardi trophy in 10 years. Brady threw for 3,900 yards with 36 touchdowns and only four interceptions setting an NFL-record 335 pass attempts without an interception as the Patriots committed an NFL-record low 10 turnovers on the season.  

    Lest one think the Patriots were all Tom Brady, New England had seven other  players named to the Pro Bowl:  Offensive guard Logan Mankins, tackle Matt Light, wide receiver Wes Walker, linebacker Jerod Mayo, cornerback Devin McCourty, safety Brandon Meriweather, and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. 

    The Patriots finished with the league’s best record at 14-2, led the league in scoring with 518 points scored and had home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  New England scored 28 or more points in 12 of their games and was riding an eight-game winning streak going into the post-season.  It looked like head Coach Bill Belichick would be getting sized for a fourth Super Bowl ring.  The Patriots divisional playoff opponent, the New York Jets, had other ideas and upset New England 28-21 in Foxboro.     

     

3. 1987 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

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    The 1987 San Francisco 49ers had a league best record of 13-2 and scored the most points in the NFL with 459. The Niners' defense surrendered the 3rd fewest in the league giving up 253 points on the season. This 49ers team was certainly one of the best under head coach Bill Walsh. 

    After losing the opening game of the season, the 49ers would score no fewer than 24 points in any game the rest of the year. Their only loss during that 14-game stretch was by two points to the New Orleans Saints who finished 12-3 on the year.    

    How dominant was Jerry Rice in 1987?  He led the NFL with 23 touchdown receptions in a 15-game season,12 more than runner-up Mike Quick of the Philadelphia Eagles. 

    Looking nearly unbeatable going into the playoffs winning their final three regular season games by a total score of 124-7, the 49ers were shocked at home in the divisional playoff round by the Minnesota Vikings 36-24 as the 49ers couldn’t stop Anthony Carter’s record-setting performance of 227 yards receiving in a playoff game.   

     

2. 1998 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

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    The 1998 Minnesota Vikings became the third team ever to go 15-1 regular season and set a record for the most points scored in a season scoring 556 points. Minnesota never scored fewer than 24 points a game and their only loss came in week nine to Tampa Bay by three points.  

    The record-setting offense was led by quarterback Randall Cunningham and had weapons such as running back Robert Smith and arguably the best wide receiver tandem ever in Cris Carter and record-setting rookie Randy Moss.  Moss had 17 receiving touchdowns which still is an NFL rookie record.  

    Head coach Dennis Green turned over the offense to offensive coordinator Brian Billick and Cunningham responded with the best season of his career.  

    In all, the Vikings had 10 Pro Bowlers, seven on offense:  Cunningham, Smith, Carter, Moss, tackle Todd Steussie, guard Randall McDaniel and center Jeff Christy.  On defense the Vikings Pro Bowlers were defensive tackle John Randle, and linebacker Ed McDaniel and Gary Anderson was named the Pro Bowl kicker  Anderson was perfect during the regular season going 35-for-35 on field goals.  

    If any Vikings team could get to a Super Bowl and win it, surely this was that team. 

    The Vikings took an eight-game winning streak into the playoffs but lost at home in overtime to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game 30-27. The normally automatic Anderson missed his first field goal of the year with just two minutes left in the 4th quarter that would have put the game out of reach. The miss left the door open for the Falcons to come back and tie the game in regulation. Anderson's counterpart, Morten Andersen, kicked the game winning field goal sending the 14-2 Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl. 

     

     

     

1. 1976 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

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    Steelers owner Art Rooney, Sr. said that the 1976 Steelers team was Pittsburgh’s best team ever, better than any of the Super Bowl winning Steeler teams he saw. 

    The ’76 Steelers under the direction of future Hall-of-Fame coach Chuck Noll was loaded with future Hall-of-Famers:  Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Franco Harris, Mike Webster, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount. 

    With starting quarterback Terry Bradshaw hurt very early in the season, the Steelers turned to their running game of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier who became only the second pair of running backs on the same team to each gain over 1,000 yards. Harris gained 1,128 yards finishing third in the AFC, and Bleier finished fourth with 1,036 yards rushing.  Rookie quarterback Mike Kruczek set a rookie record winning his first six games as a starter mostly by relying on Harris and Bleier and the Steeler defense. 

    The Steel Curtain, arguably the greatest defense in NFL history, was at its zenith in 1976. In a nine-game stretch during the regular season, the Steelers gave up only 28 points, outscoring their opponents 234-28 with eight of their nine opponents failing to score a touchdown and in five of those games shutting out their opponent. In one five-game stretch the Steelers gave up only nine points. After a 1-4 start, the Steelers finished 10-4 allowing only 138 points on the season, best in the NFL.  

    Just how good were the ’76 Steelers?  The Steelers had 11 Pro Bowlers, eight on defense and three on offense. From the defense there was tackle Joe Greene and defensive end L.C. Greenwood, all three linebackers made the Pro Bowl, Ham, Lambert and Andy Russell and from the secondary cornerback Mel Blount and both safeties Glen Edwards and Mike Wagner.  On offense, Bradshaw, Harris and Swann were named to the Pro Bowl.

    In the first round of the playoffs on the road against the Baltimore Colts, the highest scoring team in the NFL, the Steelers crushed the Colts 40-14 but in the process lost both Harris and Bleier to injuries.

    The Steelers offense however couldn’t overcome the loss to Harris and Bleier the following week in the AFC Championship Game at Oakland, losing to a very good Raiders team 24-7.  If Harris and Bleier both been healthy, the Steelers may well have been the first team to win three consecutive Super Bowls, instead they became the best team ever to not make the Super Bowl. .