The 10 Biggest Postseason Disasters in NFL History
You might say the New York Giants discount double-checked the Green Bay Packers.
I wonder if Aaron Rodgers and his teammates asked about disaster insurance when shooting those commercials.
They would have made a claim on that policy Sunday after their 37-20 loss to the Giants in an NFC Divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field.
After a 15-1 regular season, Green Bay went all "Green Lantern" and turned into one of the year's biggest flops.
Is this one of the 10 biggest postseason disasters in NFL history?
NFL postseason disasters come in all shapes and sizes. You don't need to have a monster regular season and get upset in the playoffs to make this list.
That's what's great about the NFL playoffs. Anything can happen. You can make history as a Super Bowl champion—or as a postseason disaster.
No. 10: 1997 New York Giants
NFC Wild Card game
At East Rutherford, N.J.
Vikings 23, Giants 22
If you're a Giants fan, you must like roller coasters, because there are a lot of ups and downs.
For every glorious moment in Giants history, there's a disastrous moment in Giants history.
The 1997 Giants collapsed when they seemingly had a game under control, which is one way to make the list of top 10 postseason disasters in NFL history.
The Giants blew a nine-point lead to the Vikings with a minute and a half to play.
The unraveling began when a bad punt gave the Vikings the ball at midfield, and Randall Cunningham threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jake Reed, beating Giants' safety Tito Wooten (pictured) on the play, to narrow the Giants' lead to 22-20.
Then the Vikings recovered the onside kick, with Giants' receiver Chris Calloway muffing the ball, and Eddie Murray kicked a game-winning, 24-yard field goal with 10 seconds left.
The Giants, who finished 10-5-1 in 1997, led the 9-7 Vikings 19-3 at halftime, but by the end were bickering with each other.
Quite a disaster.
No. 9: 2006 San Diego Chargers
AFC Divisional game
At San Diego
Patriots 24, Chargers 21
So how does losing to a Tom Brady-led team in the playoffs qualify as a "disaster?"
If you're 14-2 or better and can't get past the divisional round of the playoffs, you make the list of top 10 postseason disasters in NFL history.
Plus, this could be a lifetime postseason disaster achievement award for Marty Schottenheimer (pictured) as well as the Chargers.
Schottenheimer has been recorded in pregame huddles on NFL Films telling his players, "There's a gleam."
Legend has it he was talking about the gleam of the Lombardi Trophy. That gleam, however, has been fool's gold for any Schottenheimer-led team.
Schottenheimer took 13 teams to the playoffs, but none of them to the Super Bowl. In 1986, his 12-4 Cleveland Browns were victimized by "The Drive" engineered by John Elway.
Schottenheimer coached the Kansas City Chiefs to 13-3 records and the top seed in the AFC playoffs in 1995 and 1997. But the Chiefs were one-and-done in the playoffs both times.
In 2004, his 12-4 Chargers lost at home to the Jets in the wild card round.
Then in 2006 came a nice little mini-collapse as Schottenheimer's crowning achievement.
The Chargers finished the regular season with 10 straight wins, and had a 21-13 fourth-quarter lead against the Patriots. Marlon McCree intercepted Brady with about six and a half minutes left, then fumbled. Former Charger Reche Caldwell recovered at the San Diego 32. Five plays later, Caldwell caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Brady, and the two-point conversion tied it.
Stephen Gostkowski provided the winning points with a field goal, and Nate Kaeding's 54-yard attempt with eight seconds left was short.
Schottenheimer hasn't coached in the NFL since that game.
Maybe it's not Schottenheimer, though. In 2009, the Chargers went 13-3 and had a first-round bye in the playoffs, only to lose 17-14 to the Jets in the divisional game.
Thirty years earlier, the Air Coryell Chargers probably had their best shot at making the Super Bowl in 1979, when they went 12-4 and had the top seed in the playoffs. They were upset by the Houston Oilers 17-14 in the divisional playoffs.
That loss, though, wasn't nearly as gut-wrenching as the loss suffered by the 2006 Chargers. That's the postseason disaster by which all other Chargers' postseason disasters will be measured.
No. 8: 2005 Indianapolis Colts
2005 AFC Divisional playoffs
Steelers 21, Colts 18
Over the past decade, it seems the Indianapolis Colts always have a zero next to their name in the standings. Usually, it's in the "L" column. This year, for obvious reasons, that goose egg lingered in the "W" column until Week 15.
You don't need Vince Lombardi to tell you that losing the first 13 games of the season is no way to win the Super Bowl.
In 2005, winning the first 13 games didn't get the Colts there either. They started 13-0 and finished 14-2 to earn the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
However, they found themselves down 21-3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth quarter of their AFC Divisional playoff game.
The Colts pulled to within 21-18, and then knocked the ball loose from Jerome Bettis just as the Steelers were about to score the clinching touchdown.
Nick Harper recovered the fumble at the Colts' 7 with a minute and 20 seconds left, and had nothing but open field in front of him. Somehow, he let Ben Roethlisberger catch up to him at the Colts' 42. It didn't help that Harper had a knee wound suffered in a supposed domestic dispute with his wife.
The Colts still had a chance to tie the game when Mike Vanderjagt lined up for a 46-yard field goal attempt. But the "idiot kicker," who a few years earlier bad-mouthed Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning (pictured) after a playoff loss, was wide right.
The New England Patriots eliminated the Colts from the postseason in 2003 and 2004. But the night before the Colts' playoff game against the Steelers, the Patriots were knocked out of the playoffs. So the 2005 Colts seemingly had a clear path to the Super Bowl.
Then, disaster struck.
No. 7: 1986 Chicago Bears
NFC Divisional playoffs
Redskins 27, Bears 13
It turns out the "Super Bowl Shuffle" was nothing more than a one-hit wonder.
A year after winning Super Bowl XX in one of the most dominant seasons in NFL history, the Bears were one-and-done in the playoffs.
It looked like the Bears were well on their way to becoming the 1980's answer to the Steel Curtain. They followed their 15-1 season in 1985 with a 14-2 season in 1986. They had won 32 of their previous 35 games before laying an egg at home against the Redskins in the 1986 playoffs.
As legendary as the 1985 Bears were, the 1986 Bears allowed fewer points. Their 187 points allowed was an NFL record for a 16-game season to that point.
But Hall of Famer Art Monk caught two touchdown passes from Jay Schroeder, no Hall-of-Famer, but good enough to figure out the Bears' storied defense on this day.
Bears' quarterback Doug Flutie completed just 11 of 31 passes and threw two interceptions.
The Bears led 13-7 at halftime, but went scoreless in the second half. A Walter Payton fumble in the third quarter didn't help.
The Bears reached the playoffs four of the next six seasons, but only made it as far as the NFC Championship Game once, losing in 1988 to the San Francisco 49ers 28-3 at Soldier Field. Head coach Mike Ditka (pictured) eventually was fired after a 5-11 season in 1992.
No. 6: 2010 New England Patriots
AFC Divisional playoffs
At Foxboro, Mass.
Jets 28, Patriots 21
When you lose a home playoff game to a team you beat 45-3 six weeks earlier, that's a postseason disaster.
Despite their beating at Gillette Stadium in Week 13, the Jets (11-5) talked lots of trash heading into their postseason encounter with the 14-2 Patriots.
The Patriots couldn't shut them up.
This game turned on a disastrous fake punt attempt late in the second quarter, giving the Jets the ball at the Patriots' 37 with just over a minute left in the first half.
The Jets turned that into seven points and a 14-3 halftime lead when Mark Sanchez threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards.
The Patriots pulled to within 14-11 on a two-yard pass from Tom Brady (pictured) to Alge Crumpler and a two-point conversion late in the third quarter.
But the Jets needed just five plays to make it a two-score game again. Santonio Holmes caught a seven-yard TD pass from Sanchez to make it 21-11 early in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots still had a pulse when Shayne Graham kicked a field goal with two minutes left to make it 21-14, but the Jets recovered the onside kick, and Shonn Greene scored the clinching touchdown on a 16-yard run.
It was the third straight postseason loss for the Patriots, and the second straight season in which they were one-and-done after home playoff losses.
No. 5: 1999 Miami Dolphins
AFC Divisional playoffs
At Jacksonville, Fla.
Jaguars 62, Dolphins 7
This probably wasn't the swan song that Dan Marino envisioned.
OK, so the 9-7 Dolphins were underdogs on the road against the 14-2 Jaguars.
This looked like an early-September college game between Jock Factory U and East Central Happy to Be Here College. The Jaguars jumped out to leads of 24-0 in the first quarter, 41-7 at halftime and 55-7 after three quarters.
The Dolphins were embarrassed so badly that the Jaguars got away with a blooper of their own.
When Jacksonville's Tony Brackens recovered a fumble deep in Dolphins territory, he did a little dance until a teammate reminded him that he should try to score a touchdown. Despite his premature celebration, the Dolphins couldn't stop Brackens, who went 16 yards for the touchdown to increase the Jaguars' lead to 24-0 in the first quarter.
In his last NFL game, the 38-year-old Marino completed just 11 of 25 passes for a career-low 95 yards and two interceptions. The Dolphins were already down 38-0 by the time Marino completed his first pass.
The Dolphins' defense allowed 520 yards and the offense lost five fumbles.
It was a disastrous performance.
No. 4: 2002 New York Giants
NFC Wild Card game
At San Francisco
49ers 39, Giants 38
Trey Junkin never wanted any fame. Instead, he found infamy.
Junkin retired from the NFL after 18 years with very few people having heard of him.
Then the Giants called him out of retirement, and he made a name for himself as a punchline.
The combination of a blown 24-point lead late in the third quarter and Junkin's errant snap on the game's final play puts this on the list of the NFL's biggest postseason disasters.
Matt Bryant's 21-yard field goal gave the Giants a 38-14 lead with less than five minutes left in the third quarter.
The 49ers scored two touchdowns, added two-point conversions on both, and kicked a field goal to pull to within 38-33 with under eight minutes left in the game.
Bryant missed a 42-yard field goal with just over three minutes left. That miss was costly, but it was overshadowed by what happened minutes later.
The 49ers took a 39-38 lead on a touchdown with just over a minute to go. Then with six seconds left, the Giants lined up for a 41-yard field goal. The snap was low, forcing holder Matt Allen (pictured) to attempt a desperate pass that fell incomplete.
Junkin is widely blamed for the loss because of his bad snap on the field-goal attempt.
Of course it didn't help that after the 49ers pulled to within 38-22, Allen shanked a 29-yard punt and Dhani Jones committed an unnecessary roughness penalty that gave the 49ers the ball at the Giants' 27.
Three plays later, Jeff Garcia ran for a 14-yard touchdown, and the two-point conversion made it 38-30. The 49ers were back in the game one play into the fourth quarter.
According to a story in the New York Daily News, Junkin can't escape the memory of his bad snap, even though there's plenty of blame to go around for this postseason disaster.
No. 3: 2011 Green Bay Packers
NFC Divisional playoffs
At Green Bay
Giants 37, Packers 20
Finally, a pleasant memory for Giants fans in this countdown.
For the Packers, however, it was a disaster.
The Packers became the first 15-1 team to fall short of the conference championship game when they lost to the Giants at Lambeau Field.
The defending Super Bowl champions self-destructed, losing three fumbles and repeatedly dropping passes from Aaron Rodgers (pictured).
On defense, the Packers were a disaster waiting to happen all year. They allowed Eli Manning to throw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half.
Instead of trailing 13-10 at halftime with the ball at the start of the second half, the Packers went into the locker room down 20-10.
Green Bay mounted a decent drive to start the second half, but Rodgers was strip-sacked by Osi Umenyiora at the Giants' 30.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Packers were down 23-13 when Ryan Grant fumbled and Chase Blackburn returned it 40 yards to the Packers' four-yard line. On the next play, Manning threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham to make it 30-13 with less than seven minutes left.
Rodgers threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver to make it 30-20 with just under five minutes left, but the Packers could not recover the onside kick.
The Packers started the season 13-0. Their 12th victory was a 38-35 thriller over the Giants at MetLife Stadium six weeks earlier, but for the second time in five years they watched the Giants celebrate a playoff victory at Lambeau Field
No. 2: 1992 Houston Oilers
AFC Wild Card game
Bills 41, Oilers 38, OT
There was no way the Oilers could lose this game, it seemed.
Not only did they lead the Bills 28-3 at halftime, but they were playing against the Bills' backup quarterback, Frank Reich.
Then, the Oilers showed that halftime did nothing to disrupt their momentum when Bubba McDowell returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown and a 35-3 lead.
But Reich, replacing an injured Jim Kelly, knew a thing or two about comebacks. In 1984, he led Maryland back from a 31-0 deficit to beat Miami 42-40 at the Orange Bowl.
It seemed harmless enough when Kenneth Davis scored on a one-yard run to trim the Oilers' lead to 35-10 with 8:52 left in the third quarter. All the Oilers had to do was eat up some more clock to put the game away.
The problem was, they didn't get the ball back. Kicker Steve Christie recovered his own onside kick, and Don Beebe caught a 38-yard pass to give the Bills their second touchdown in less than a minute, making it 35-17.
A 25-yard Greg Montgomery punt set up the Bills' next touchdown, a 26-yard pass from Reich to Andre Reed, making the score 35-24 with 4:21 to go in the third quarter.
The Oilers kept crumbling when a Henry Jones interception led to another touchdown pass to Reed—the Bills converted a fourth-and-5 on the drive—to chop the Oilers' lead to 35-31 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
With the wind at their back, the Oilers appeared to regain control in the fourth quarter, until a bad snap on a field-goal attempt.
The Bills took a 38-35 lead when Reed caught his third TD pass with 3:08 left
Houston forced overtime on Al Del Greco's 26-yard field goal with 12 seconds left, then had the ball to start overtime. But Nate Odomes intercepted Warren Moon, and Christie eventually kicked a 32-yard field goal to win it.
Oilers' defensive coordinator Jim Eddy was fired in the aftermath of this meltdown.
This was the sixth of seven straight playoff appearances for the Oilers, but they never reached the conference championship game. This 1992 disaster was the flash point of postseason frustration for the franchise.
No. 1: 1940 Washington Redskins
NFL Championship Game
At Washington, D.C.
Bears 73, Redskins 0
The numbers are just too staggering to put any modern-day NFL postseason disaster ahead of this one.
The Bears' 73 points are an NFL record that still stands, and more than half of the 142 points the Redskins allowed during the regular season.
It's not like the Redskins were overmatched.
They defeated the Bears 7-3 three weeks earlier, and at 9-2 finished with a better record than the 8-3 Bears.
If an NFL team scored 73 points in a game today, there would be a lot of passing. The Bears, though, completed just six passes in this game, two less than the eight Redskins passes they intercepted. Three of those picks were returned for touchdowns.
Bears' Hall of Fame quarterback Sid Luckman ran for a touchdown and threw for one. Bill Osmanski ran for 109 yards to lead the Bears' 381-yard rushing attack.
Osmanski scored on a 68-yard touchdown run in the first minute. That was all the points the Bears would need, even though they scored 10 more touchdowns.
On their ensuing possession, the Redskins dropped a touchdown pass and missed a field-goal attempt. That turned out to be their best chance to get on the scoreboard on this disastrous day at Griffith Stadium.