The Most Gut-Wrenching Playoff Loss in the History of Every NFL Franchise
Every team has a story of some kind when it comes to the postseason.
Some teams have tales of great triumph in the postseason whether it's dominating the first two Super Bowls, making good on a guarantee, showing perfection, putting a stamp on the decade as the best, revolutionizing the game with an innovative offense or just plain dominating on defense in a way we've never seen before.
This isn't the story of those teams. While many teams have a history of triumph and Vince Lombardi trophies to show for it, every NFL team and their fanbase has had their heart broken in the playoffs at least once, and some franchises have been more unlucky than others.
Today we're going to look at the saddest, most gut-wrenching and heartbreaking playoff defeat of every team in the NFL, well, except for one, technically.
I can't include the Houston Texans because they won't have their heart broken until they blow the AFC Championship game in Houston to Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New England or New York at the end of this season. So for them, I'll actually count a Houston Oilers defeat. Don't worry, the Titans have some heartbreaking losses of their own.
Here's a look at every NFL team's worst playoff defeat.
Atlanta Falcons: 1980 NFC Divisional Playoffs, Dallas 30 Atlanta 27
A screenshot from this fateful game. Photo Courtesy of Lonestarstruck.com
The 1980 Atlanta Falcons would start the season at 3-3, but then went on to win nine out of their last 10 games to finish the season at 12-4 behind quarterback Steve Bartkowski. This was not only their best record at the time, but also marked their first division title in team history. The 12-4 mark was good enough for the Falcons to tie the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles for best record in the NFL.
Oh, those pesky Dallas Cowboys. Thanks to a tiebreaker, the Cowboys would not be NFC East champions but instead finished as the wild card. In the first round Dallas defeated the defending NFC Champion Rams 34-13, which earned them a trip to Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium.
This would be the Falcons' first home playoff game in team history, but also their last home playoff game until 1998. Atlanta started the game hot and in the third quarter led Dallas 24-10.
But the Cowboys behind Danny White orchestrated a comeback where they would outscore Atlanta 20-3 in the fourth quarter dealing the Falcons a 30-27 loss. Dallas would go onto the NFC Championship game where they'd lose to Philadelphia, but for Atlanta, this was a loss that set the franchise back a full decade.
This loss was possibly more devastating to the Falcons than their Super Bowl XXXIII loss to Denver due to the blown lead (at least with Super Bowl XXXIII you felt like Atlanta never really had a chance).
Arizona Cardinals: Super Bowl XLIII, Pittsburgh 27 Arizona 23
Doug Benc/Getty Images
Despite being one of only two charter members of the NFL (along with their former cross-town rivals the Chicago Bears), the Cardinals don't have too many gut-wrenching playoff losses.
Normally this would be a good thing, except it's hard to have a gut-wrenching playoff loss when you've only been to the playoffs six times during the Super Bowl era.
But 2008 was a different year for the Cardinals. They won their first division title since 1975 when they played in St. Louis. After locking up the NFC West, they would defeat Atlanta, Carolina then finally Philadelphia to make it to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Waiting for them was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were playing in their seventh Super Bowl and looking for an NFL record sixth Super Bowl title.
But during the first half this offense was almost non-existent. The Steelers took a 17-7 halftime lead into the locker room thanks in part to a James Harrison interception that he returned for a touchdown.
But the Cardinals offense woke up in the second half, outscoring the Steelers 16-10. With Pittsburgh ready to take the field for their final drive following a 64-yard Warner to Fitzgerald pitch and catch, it looked like the Cardinals would wrap up their first NFL title since 1947.
But Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes had other plans, which involved a six-yard touchdown pass to put Pittsburgh up for good by the score of 27-23.
It was an exciting Super Bowl but in the end, Pittsburgh showed they could overcome their mistake better than the Cardinals.
Baltimore Ravens: 2010 AFC Divisional Playoffs, Pittsburgh 31 Baltimore 24
Nick Laham/Getty Images
I didn't have to go too far for the Ravens' most devastating playoff loss. It was only a matter of going back in time about 11 months.
The Ravens led Pittsburgh 21-7 at halftime, but saw the Steelers storm back in the second half thanks to untimely Ravens turnovers and a resurgent Steelers offense.
This is a loss that continues to gnaw away at the Ravens even though they've won two straight against the Steelers. They could be headed for a third game against each other this January, and there's sure to be plenty of bad blood between those teams when they play next.
Buffalo Bills: Super Bowl XXV: Giants 20 Bills 19
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
The problem with creating slideshows like this is the fact that with some teams you're going to get a lot of heart break, and if you're not a fan of the team you can't relate that heartbreak.
I'm not a Buffalo Bills fan, but I know it must be tough to be one, especially when lists like this get published and you wonder "so which one did the guy who wrote the piece choose?"
I went with Super Bowl XXV. The Bills were heavy favorites going into the game as they had the highest scoring offense in the NFL at the time.
But the Giants controlled the clock throughout the game, holding the ball for 40 minutes and 33 seconds. Ottis Anderson rushed for 102 yards on 21 attempts and was named that game's MVP.
But the game is most known for the picture showed above.
I don't have any further explanations.
Carolina Panthers: Super Bowl XXXVIII. New England 32 Carolina 29
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
For such a young team (remember, the Panthers were only established in 1995); Carolina has had their fair share of playoff heartbreak.
Whether it's losing to the Packers in the '96 NFC Championship game (which the Panthers made in only their second season in the league), or losing to Seattle in the '05 NFC title game, or of course, the '08 NFC divisional playoff game against the Cardinals where Jake Delhomme forgets how to throw it to the guys wearing Carolina blue and black (I mean how does this happen, you can't contrast the colors anymore between two teams than the Panthers and Cardinals), Carolina fans have been through the proverbial ringer already, and they've only had their team for 16 years!
But most heartbreaking is the fact that they played in the greatest yet most often overlooked Super Bowl of all time (overlooked because of the general weirdness surrounding the game, from wardrobe malfunctions to streakers, there are likely some people who even forgot that the Panthers were New England's opponents in the Super Bowl) and wound up losing.
The way they lost is pretty heart-breaking itself. Who loses a Super Bowl when a kicker that can somehow accurately hit a field goal from 50+ yards out with regularity somehow isn't able to keep the ball down the middle of the field on a kickoff? We've never seen a team lose a game like that before, and I doubt we'll see a team lose like that ever again.
My heart goes out to you Panthers fans. For such a young team, you already have the wounds comparable to other star-crossed franchises like the Browns, Bengals, Seahawks and Dolphins.
Chicago Bears: 1986 NFC Divisional Playoffs. Washington 27 Chicago 13
The season after you win a Super Bowl, you always want to make a huge impression in your drive to repeat.
Losing at home in your first playoff game after going 14-2 isn't the impression you want to make.
But the 1986 Chicago Bears did just that, losing to the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field in the divisional playoffs.
This would wind up costing the Bears a shot at the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the NFC Championship game (a team that the previous year the Bears dominated in the playoffs) and of course more importantly, a shot to repeat.
From 1985-1988, the Bears would go 52-11, but only had one Super Bowl appearance and victory to show for it. Injuries, especially to Jim McMahon, would be a major reason why. This game against Washington was emblematic of this due to the fact that it wasn't McMahon, who was nursing an injury, that started the game, but instead Doug Flutie.
Cincinnati Bengals: Super Bowl XXIII. San Francisco 20 Cincinnati 16
Mike Powell/Getty Images
Super Bowl XXIII was so good and so memorable that we forgive the NFL for saddling it with one of the lamest halftime shows ever: Elvis Presto, an Elvis-impersonating magician who attempted the world's largest card trick in 3D (yes it was as bad as it sounded, video evidence here what else did you expect from the 1980's, and isn't this type of stupidity far more offensive than the Janet Jackson controversy?).
Bengals fans though would gladly remember the epic fail of a 3D card trick over the heartbreaking way that Joe Montana, ever the surgical master of the two minute drill, picked apart a Bengals defense that up to that point held San Francisco to only 13 points (yet couldn't stop Jerry Rice who at the end of the game had 11 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown).
This would be the last time that the Bengals, who at the time were coached by former Bill Walsh disciple Sam Wyche (one of my favorite coaches, if only for his infamous "we're not from Cleveland, we're from Cincinnati" speech the following year), would play in the Super Bowl, as the team would only go to the post-season three (possibly at the end of this season, four) more times after this game.
Cleveland Browns: 1986 AFC Championship Game. Denver 23 Cleveland 20
Because of the fact that Earnest Byner was only one yard away I was thinking of using "The Fumble" for the Browns; however I feel it's often more devastating to a team to lose at home than it is on the road (not that "The Fumble" wasn't heart breaking: it was to any die-hard Browns fan).
We all know the story and to be honest with you, most Browns fans already either skipped ahead to the next slide or stopped reading, so I'm not going to further elaborate what happened here. We all know what transpired, we all saw Elway's greatness. If you don't, just watch the video.
Dallas Cowboys: Super Bowl XIII. Pittsburgh 35 Dallas 31
For such an accomplished team, the Dallas Cowboys seem to have a lot of heart-breaking moments in their history.
But enough about Tony Romo (insert stupid, corny joke rimshot).
The Cowboys appeared in more Super Bowls than any other team in the 70's going to five of them. Their record in those games were 2-3. It's worth noting that the two Super Bowls they won were played in New Orleans, while the three Super Bowls they lost were played in Miami. Also their opponents for two of those Super Bowl losses were the Steel Curtain-era Steelers.
Super Bowl XIII was a game that looked great on paper. It was the two best teams of the 70's fighting it out in the final Super Bowl of the 70's. Both teams came into the game with two Super Bowl wins a piece and the winner would be known as the team of the decade.
The Steelers, thanks in part to the play of Terry Bradshaw (17/30 318 yards, four touchdowns, one interception) would come out victorious.
But the symbol of the Cowboys heart-break was in a key third quarter play with Dallas deep into Pittsburgh territory. Staubach dropped back to pass and saw a wide open Jackie Smith in the back of the end zone. Smith would drop what would be a sure-fire touchdown which prompted the infamous quote from former Cowboys Radio Voice Verne Lundquist: "Bless his heart, he's got to be the sickest man in America!"
The Steelers would also benefit from a few controversial penalties including an iffy pass interference penalty on Cowboys defensive back Benny Barnes (a play that likely wouldn't even be called pass interference in today's NFL where if you sneeze on a wide receiver past five yards the yellow flag comes out) that put the Steelers at the Dallas 23 yard line. The Steelers would go on to score on that drive. The next controversial penalty went against Pittsburgh as they were called with a delay of game penalty, yet the ball was snapped and Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson rushed the line and sacked Terry Bradshaw. On the Steelers second chance, Franco Harris would run untouched to a 22-yard touchdown (with help from the umpire who accidentally got in the way of Cowboys safety Charlie Waters who was attempting to tackle Harris).
Despite the score being 35-17 in the fourth quarter, Dallas would come back by scoring 14 unanswered points with help from a recovered onside kick. However a second onside kick couldn't be recovered by Dallas, and the Cowboys would lose 35-31.
Denver Broncos: 1996 AFC Divisional Playoffs. Jacksonville 30 Denver 27
You're the Denver Broncos. You just completed a 13-3 season where you proved that you were head and shoulders above everybody else as the best team in the AFC. It's Mike Shannahan's second year in Denver, and he found a diamond in the rough in the draft named Terrell Davis, who's initials coincidentally are T.D. You've been waiting for years for a return trip to the Super Bowl after the four previous trips were outright disasters, and your quarterback is a living legend.
In comes the Jacksonville Jaguars. It's their second year in the league, a team made up of young guns and veterans that other teams claimed were over the hill. This Jaguars team is OK, you know for a second year expansion team, nothing really too special though. Under other circumstances you would say they're about a year or two away from really making some noise but the AFC is somewhat weak in 1996, meaning a team with a statistically middle of the pack offense and defense that was outscored by three for the season should be no sweat. Plus, this team is from Florida, meaning they're used to humidity, heat, being near sea-level. The altitude, dryness, and cold of Colorado in January could beat them by itself, right?
OK, so it's halftime, and the Jaguars lead by one. No big deal, happens all the time. Hey remember 10 years earlier against a Browns team that was far better than this Jaguars team? Yeah, Elway lead the Broncos back in both of those games. This will be no different, this is John Elway, and destiny is smiling on him, after all, this is his season.
See, look at that, end of the third quarter, Denver's still only down by eight despite not scoring. See, perfect Elway game, it's down to one possession and there's still 15 minutes left.
Wait, what? Denver lost to Jacksonville? Jacksonville? Jacksonville?
The Broncos would get their Super Bowl ring the next year, but losing to the Jaguars at home in 1996 was heartbreaking for Denver even more so than any of their previous Super Bowl appearances.
Detroit Lions: 1991 NFC Championship Game. Washington 41 Detroit 10
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Detroit has only made it to the NFC Championship game once and got killed in the process.
Since this is the closest that the Lions have ever gotten to the Super Bowl, this is my choice for their most heart-breaking playoff defeat.
Green Bay Packers: 2003 NFC Divisional Playoffs. Philadelphia 20 Green Bay 17
The Packers are fortunate in the sense that they break hearts in the playoffs and are rarely the heart-broken ones.
But during the waning years of the Brett Favre-era, the Packers and their fans have had their hearts broken plenty of times.
Who could forget Brett's final game as a Packer?
But that pales in comparison to the infamous 4th and 26 against Philadelphia in 2004 (2003 NFL season).
Letting a team convert a big fourth down when you have the lead with less than two minutes left is deflating enough, but it's even worse when they have to go almost a quarter of the field in order to do it.
Houston Texans (Houston Oilers): 1992 AFC Wild Card Game. Buffalo 41 Houston 38
With the Texans never making the playoffs, they can't technically have a playoff heart break (don't worry Texans fans, it's coming this year, actually, yes, worry, Jake Delhomme is your quarterback now).
I already explained at the start of this slideshow that I'd use the Oilers for this slide, and I couldn't have picked a better game.
Murphy's law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
The Bills knew that and were missing both Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas for the game. They'd then see the Oilers go up 35-3.
But soon the Oilers would learn Murphy's Law in a bad way.
During the second half as you'll see in the video, if it could go wrong for Houston, it did.
Indianapolis Colts: 2005 AFC Divisional Playoffs. Pittsburgh 21 Indianapolis 18
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The Colts were 14-2 in 2005 and finally they felt they had a clear path to the Super Bowl.
The night before their divisional playoff game against Pittsburgh, Indianapolis saw their nemesis Brady, Belichick and the Patriots lose to Denver. The Colts had home field advantage and if they made it to the Super Bowl, it would be played in a dome. Everything looked up for Indianapolis going into the 2005 playoffs.
Until they started.
The Colts would only play one playoff game in 2005, and it would be against the eventual Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh would lead 21-3 going into the fourth quarter, however the Colts would come back and score 15 unanswered points to bring it to within three.
But the Steelers had the ball and just needed Jerome Bettis to take a few steps into the end zone and put it away, but he fumbled it. It was Bettis' first fumble of the season and Indianapolis' Nick Harper would recover the ball and return it to the Colts' 42 yard line where Ben Roethlisberger made the game-saving tackle.
Peyton would then lead the Colts offense down to the Steelers 28 yard line, setting up a field goal for Mike Vanderjagt, who was perfect at home hitting field goals. Vanderjagt missed what would turn out to be his final kick as an Indianapolis Colt and the Steelers would hold on for the victory.
The Colts won their Super Bowl the next season, but at the time it seemed like 2005 was their best shot.
Jacksonville Jaguars: 1999 AFC Championship Game. Tennessee 33 Jacksonville 14
When you go a full NFL season only losing to one team, it's your year and you should be Super Bowl Champions.
That is unless that team beats you three times.
The 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars went 14-2 and looked poised to cruise to their first ever Super Bowl after demolishing the Miami Dolphins 62-7 in the divisional round.
Unfortunately for them, it would be the Tennessee Titans, the team responsible for the Jaguars two losses, that would meet them for the AFC Championship game.
Thanks to Steve McNair and Eddie George, the Jaguars would find themselves losing the AFC Championship game and beginning a downward spiral. It wouldn't be until 2005 that Jacksonville would return to the playoffs, this after an era where the Jaguars would make the playoffs in five out of their first six years of existence.
Kansas City Chiefs: 1995 AFC Divisional Playoffs. Indianapolis 10 Kansas City 7
Things were looking up for Kansas City in 1995. The Chiefs were in the first year of the Steve Bono era and went 13-3. But they still had their aggressive and stingy defense led by Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith, which was ranked first in points allowed and second in total defense in 1995.
Their opponents were the Indianapolis Colts, a domed team who now had to compete in the elements of Arrowhead Stadium in January with temperatures at 0 degrees.
In a low scoring affair though, the Colts would pull the game out thanks to Kansas City's four lost turnovers and Chiefs' kicker Lin Elliot's three missed field goals, including a 42-yard field goal that would've tied the game with 37 seconds left.
Miami Dolphins: 1981 AFC Divisional Playoffs. San Diego 41 Miami 38
I'm a Dolphins fan born in 1983, so my heart-breaking game is also against San Diego in the AFC's Divisional round, only in 1994. Still the only Dolphins game that made me cry (and I'm convinced that Hootie and The Blowfish recorded that song after that game).
On the flip side, and maybe because I wasn't here to see it, one of my favorite games to watch a replay of is the so-called "Epic In Miami" between the Chargers and Dolphins from 1981-82. It is in my opinion the greatest football game to ever be played and was even called by Sports Illustrated "The Game No One Should Have Lost".
If you lose a game that's given that title by Sports Illustrated, that's a heartbreaking game to lose. I'm a rarity amongst Dolphins fans in that I don't dwell on the team's past unless I saw it first hand on TV, which is why I don't worship the '72 Dolphins in the same way most 'Phins fans do.
It is also because of that that I can watch replays of this game and enjoy it for what it is, a classic NFL playoff game between two fine teams.
Sadly in the future when I somehow have children, my kids might look at that 1994 AFC Divisional Playoff game the same way.
Minnesota Vikings: 1975 NFC Divisional Playoffs. Dallas 17 Minnesota 14
Thanks to this play, we have the Prevent defense.
Dallas, the winners of the NFC's Wild Card that season, traveled to Minnesota to take on the Vikings in a battle between the two best teams in the NFC in that era (apologies to old school Los Angeles Rams fans, remember even though the Rams dominated the NFC West during that time, it wouldn't be until the end of the decade that they made their first Super Bowl, Minnesota and Dallas combined for nine NFC Championships from 1969-1979).
Minnesota led 14-10 with 20 seconds left when Roger Staubach dropped back and connected with Drew Pearson for a 50 yard touchdown pass to give the Cowboys the win.
The play drew anger from Vikings fans as oranges and other debris were thrown on the field (in fact an orange had been thrown while Pearson was making the play). A Vikings fan threw a whisky bottle onto the field that hit referee Armen Terzian over the head and rendered him unconscious and created a huge gash on his forehead. (Wait, you were allowed to bring your own booze to football games, even whisky? Thanks dumb Vikings fan who threw that bottle for screwing it up for the rest of us!)
Even more heart-breaking was what had happened earlier that day. Fran Tarkenton's father, ironically named Dallas Tarkenton, died of a heart attack suffered while watching the game in his home in Savannah, Georgia (during the third quarter, not during the Hail Mary play). Tarkenton would not be notified of this until after the game.
New England Patriots: Super Bowl XLII. New York Giants 17 New England 14
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
I know that showing sympathy for the 2007 New England Patriots is about as popular as showing sympathy for the 2010-2011 Miami Heat, but bare with me and let's pretend for a second that this isn't a team that you hate, but instead your favorite team.
That means ignore SpyGate, Randy Moss, and all of the other "undesirable" elements of this team that made their loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII so great to watch for many and just imagine this as your team.
You have the chance to become the greatest team in NFL history. You have an offensive juggernaut, a coach that with a Super Bowl victory likely jumps past Noll, Walsh, Shula and Landry, and a quarterback that also has the chance to pass the likes of Montana, Elway, Staubach and Bradshaw.
Losing the game for New England would feel a million times worse than winning the game. Hell if they lose they go down forever as choke artists (despite the fact that the same team just went through a stretch of winning three out of four Super Bowls) but if they win it will only be because they were supposed to.
On top of that, 19-0 hangs in the balance, the first team to accomplish that feat.
And just like that, it's gone.
Despite their regular season success, I still don't think the Patriots have fully recovered from this game. Their last playoff victory came two weeks prior to this Super Bowl in the AFC Championship game against San Diego. They not only lost their last two playoff games, but were embarrassed both times, with both games coming at home.
I could easily say that their 2009 Wild Card game against the Ravens or even more likely their 2010 divisional playoff game against the Jets was more heart breaking, but sit down and really think about it: do any of those games happen the way they did if the Patriots don't lose to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII?
If Super Bowl XLII doesn't happen the way it does, wouldn't the 2011 Patriots, currently at 8-3 and holding a vice grip over the AFC East, be taken more seriously as AFC contenders? (I say that because they're never mentioned as the best in the AFC anymore, all you hear about now is Pittsburgh or Baltimore).
Would their defense right now be any better (OK that one's a no but still).
Until the Patriots get back to the Super Bowl and win it, this loss will continue to haunt them for years to come.
In fact it's likely only because of this loss that Belichick is still coaching. Had New England won the game, I could definitely see Belichick retiring in 2009 or 2010.
New Orleans Saints: 1991 NFC Divisional Playoffs. Atlanta 27 New Orleans 20
A long time ago the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons weren't the two teams that dominated the NFC South like you see them doing today, but instead were the most hopeless NFC West rivals (don't ask, remember geography and sports don't always match up well and Atlanta seems to always get hurt by it, for God knows what reason from 1969-1993 when there were two divisions in the National League and American League the Braves were in the NL West while the Cardinals, who play in a city that calls itself the "Gateway to the West" played in the NL East).
But in 1991 something happened that we're used to today but has never happened before: the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons finished number one and number two in their division. A division that still featured the San Francisco 49ers who dominated that division (the 49ers went 10-6 behind Steve Young but lost the tiebreaker to Atlanta thanks to the Falcons sweeping the 49ers).
New Orleans at 11-5 and Atlanta at 10-6 were slated to face each other in the NFC Wild Card game. For Atlanta it was a chance to win only their second playoff game in team history as they were making only their fourth playoff appearance. For New Orleans it was only their third playoff appearance, their first division title, and a chance to win their first ever playoff game.
The Saints however would become the 'Aints once more, losing to Atlanta 27-20 at home. The Saints would bounce back the next season going 12-4 before losing again at home in the playoffs to Philadelphia, while the Falcons wouldn't come back to the post-season until 1995.
For New Orleans you know this game had to be heartbreaking, they not only lost a playoff game at home, but they dropped it to a division rival.
New York Giants: 2008 NFC Divisional Playoffs. Philadelphia 23 New York 11
Michael Heiman/Getty Images
I've never seen a defending Super Bowl Champion as motivated as the 2008 New York Giants.
Written off as flukes the previous year, the Giants came into 2008 not content on resting on their laurels. They wanted to not only repeat as Super Bowl champions, but dominate while doing it.
Dominate New York did, going 12-4 and claiming home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. New York was ready to go back to the Super Bowl and defend their crown.
Only they didn't expect Plaxico Burress to do what he did, thus losing one of their key offensive cogs. But hey, the Giants are a power running team, they won't miss him right?
They did during their divisional playoff game against Philadelphia.
Eli was horrid going 15 of 29 for 169 yards and throwing two interceptions as the Eagles beat the Giants to move on to the NFC Championship game.
The Giants still haven't gone back to the post-season since then, and it's looking like this could be Tom Coughlin's final season in New York. Could it be possible that things would've been different for the Giants had they not lost this game?
New York Jets: 1982 AFC Championship Game. Miami 14 New York 0
Since Namath guaranteed victory (and delivered) in Super Bowl III, the Jets have had yet to get back to the big game, but have gone to four AFC Championship games, losing them all.
Their best shot at the Super Bowl though came during the strike-shortened 1982 season. The Jets would play their AFC East rivals the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship game on a muddy and wet Orange Bowl field.
The muddy field kept the Jets' speedy offense in check and Miami capitalized on five Jets turnovers, which included three AJ Duhe interceptions (one of them returned for a touchdown, the clip you see here) to defeat the Jets 14-0.
Before, during and after the game, Jets head coach Walt Michaels complained about the Dolphins not covering the Orange Bowl field with tarp prior to the game and letting it get soaked the night before, saying that it nullified the Jets' speed advantage. To this day many Jets fans complain about this game because of the wet and muddy field.
First thing I'd say to confirm that is the fact that the Miami Dolphins never owned or operated the Orange Bowl: the city of Miami did (had the Dolphins owned and operated the Orange Bowl, it would still exist and the Marlins would likely be playing elsewhere). I know how the city of Miami runs: backwards. So it's likely that instead of hiring a real groundskeeper to tend to the field, they just hired a couple of bums and told them to put the tarp on if it started raining. They got drunk, they forgot, and let's face it, if it gave the Dolphins an advantage, I doubt Don Shula will complain about it.
Secondly, it was a problem for both teams. The Dolphins offense wasn't exactly tearing it up either and had turned the ball over four times.
Despite the complaints surrounding the game, this was likely New York's best chance at a Super Bowl among their four AFC Championship game appearances, and considering it came to a hated division rival, their most painful as well.
Oakland Raiders: 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff: Pittsburgh 13 Oakland 7
There really isn't much I have to add other than what's on the video, but I will say this:
If Jack Tatum had been more concerned with playing the ball than he was with knocking Fuqua down, there's no Immaculate Reception, the Oakland Raiders win the game, and there's no 1972 Undefeated Miami Dolphins (Pittsburgh's opponents the next week).
Philadelphia Eagles: Super Bowl XXXIX. New England 24 Philadelphia 21
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images
After losing three straight NFC Championship games, Philly finally broke through and beat Atlanta 27-10 in the 2004 NFC Championship game to go to their second Super Bowl in franchise history.
But the results of the game itself are enough to make Eagles fans feel like Donovan McNabb while he attempted the two minute offense in the waning moments of Super Bowl XXXIX.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 1972 AFC Championship Game. Miami 21 Pittsburgh 17
Its hard to find heart breaking defeats in Pittsburgh Steelers history. Unlike the Cowboys have plenty of memorable ones of their own, the Steelers playoff losses tend to be somewhat forgettable. That happens when you have six rings (and the fact that thus far the Steelers have been prominently featured on this list as the team doling the heart-break to that team, that's more than any other NFL team, and we haven't gotten to the Seahawks yet since you know the Steelers are featured there).
So I'll go back to when the Steelers were still waiting for their first Super Bowl ring, 1972.
It was the first AFC Championship game in Steelers history and they were set to take on the undefeated Miami Dolphins. Pittsburgh was up 7-0 but saw Terry Bradshaw hurt and not able to return until the fourth quarter. With the Steelers leading 7-0, Dolphins punter Larry Seiple faked a punt and ran 39 yards, setting up a touchdown by Larry Csonka to tie the game.
From that point on the Dolphins were in control of the game and put it away winning 21-17.
If Pittsburgh wins, do they wind up with five or even six Super Bowl titles in the 70's? It's a good question to ask which makes it somewhat heart breaking for Steelers fans that they lost this game.
San Diego Chargers: 2006 AFC Divisional Playoffs. New England 24 San Diego 21
Going into their Division round game against the Patriots, the Chargers were 14-2 on the regular season and undefeated at home.
Undefeated at home and clinched home field advantage? Easy path to the Super Bowl right?
Well it is, if you know Marlon McCree doesn't try to return the interception and just falls to the ground after catching the interception.
San Francisco 49ers: 1992 NFC Championship Game. Dallas 30 San Francisco 20
Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers. The two best teams of the early 90's. Dallas held the edge, and it started with this game.
San Francisco had the better record at 14-2, however the Cowboys wound up victorious. The monkey would remain on Steve Young's back for another two years.
Seattle Seahawks: Super Bowl XL. Pittsburgh 21 Seattle 10
G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images
Fun fact: Jerome Bettis is from Detroit!
Wait, if you saw Super Bowl XL, I'm sure you knew that, that's all they could talk about. Also this was going to be Jerome Bettis' final game.
So the Pittsburgh Steelers (and the officials) went out there Super Bowl XL and did everything they could to ensure a Steelers victory so that Bettis could ride off into the sunset.
This had to be the most poorly officiated game out of all of the Super Bowls, and Seahawks fans are correct for being pissed along with being heart-broken.
Now Mike Holmgren did make some baffling coaching decisions that didn't make things easier on the Seahawks, but the officiated was so horrid that even if Seattle managed to play a perfect game (and they were far from perfect) it seemed like they would do anything to ensure the Steelers would win the title.
After all, it was Jerome Bettis' final game. And he's from Detroit, where the game was played.
Interesting I thought you knew that already...
St. Louis Rams: Super Bowl XXXVI. New England 20 St. Louis 17
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Maybe I look too far into things like this but this game seems a bit like one of those "Turning point in history" games.
The Rams came into Super Bowl XXXVI with a 14-2 record and "The Greatest Show On Turf". Kurt Warner was the NFL's top quarterback at the time and Marshall Faulk was the NFL's top running back.
The Patriots were the little team that could. Winners of the AFC East and fortunate to have a few key games go their way, the team picked by many to finish last in their division (when is the next time you expect that to happen by the way) and without their starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe was suddenly in the Super Bowl behind a back up named Brady.
The Patriots won, and since that game they've been back to the Super Bowl three more times, winning two of them, have won their division in seven out of nine seasons and now they're the team with the high powered offense.
The St. Louis Rams on the other hand are a punchline hoping for better days.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1979 NFC Championship Game. Los Angeles 9 Tampa Bay 0
In 1976 the Buccaneers became the laughing stock of football when as an expansion team they went 0-14.
Three years later they were one win away from going to the Super Bowl and hosting the NFC Championship game. Only problem is the fact that the team decided to revert back to their 1976 ways and not score, losing to the Rams 9-0.
By the way, hot gambling tip: if the Bucs and Rams meet in the NFC Championship game, parlay the Rams and the under. In addition to the '79 9-0 NFC championship game, the two teams met in the '99 NFC Championship game. The Rams won that game 11-6. In two NFC Championship games against each other, The Rams have outscored the Bucs 22-6. That's in two games 20 years apart.
So yes, if somehow next year the Bucs and Rams are playing for the NFC Championship, expect the Rams to come out victorious 3-0.
Tennessee Titans: Super Bowl XXXIV. St. Louis 23 Tennessee 16.
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I'm sorry Mr. Dyson, but no matter how much you stretch that arm, you're not going to get any closer to winning the Super Bowl.
All kidding aside, is there any more heart breaking way to lose a football game? To me this is worse than a missed field goal since at least with a missed field goal you can blame the kicker, who's nothing more than a specialist anyways.
Talk about the ultimate tease.
Washington Redskins: Super Bowl XVIII. LA Raiders 38 Washington 9
Prior to this game, the 14-2 Washington Redskins were being discussed as one of the best teams of all time, all that was needed was a Super Bowl victory and they would enter into the discussion.
Marcus Allen and the rest of the Los Angeles Raiders begged to differ though and stomped the Redskins to the curb.
Now instead of the 1982 and 1983 Washington Redskins being discussed as a great all time team, they're just a team that made it to two straight Super Bowls and went 1-1.
But that's 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 times better than having your team owned by Dan Snyder right?