Biggest Team Collapses in Sports History
Choke artists. Afraid of the bright lights. Unable to handle the pressure.
These are just a few things that might have been said following a team's failure to either finish an opposing team or wrap up a regular season, instead being remembered for one thing—collapsing.
And, unfortunately, over the years, we have seen a wide variety of teams that have done this exact thing, falling flat after they raced to a big advantage.
Whether that was the byproduct of getting complacent, getting unlucky or good ol' Murphy's Law—where anything that can go wrong, will go wrong—these are the biggest team collapses in sports history.
2003 Minnesota Vikings
After starting the 2003 season with a perfect 6-0 record and led by the quarterback-wide receiver duo of Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss, fans of the Minnesota Vikings thought the team was on its way toward the postseason without much trouble.
That all changed when the team lost six of its next nine, though, putting it in the venerable position of a must-win game in the season's final week to make the playoffs.
Leading a, perceived, hapless 3-12 Arizona Cardinals team by 11 points with two minutes remaining, the Vikes did the unthinkable, giving up a touchdown that cut their lead to five, then saw the Cards recover the onside kick and score on a last-second heave to the end zone, eliminating them from the playoff race.
1969 Chicago Cubs
With over 100 years of postseason futility, it's unsurprising to see the Chicago Cubs on this list.
Still, of all the bad luck the Cubs have endured over the years, the 1969 team might have been the most cursed.
After finding themselves in first place for the majority of the season, the North Siders dropped 17 of 25 in the month of September to fall out of first, watching the New York Mets overtake them and, eventually, go on to win the World Series.
Was it the black cat that infamously ran into the club's dugout during a game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in September? Who really knows. But I wouldn't imagine the vibes were too high following something like that happening, and Cubbies fans had another reason to believe the franchise was, indeed, covered by a black cloud.
2013 Boston Bruins
That was the matter of time in which the 2013 Boston Bruins saw their season literally fall apart.
With the slimmest of leads against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Boston didn't only squander their one-goal lead late in the third period, but then gave up the game-winner just 17 seconds later, sending the home crowd into a complete shock that no sports fan ever wants to experience.
The two goals clinched the second Cup win for the Hawks in four seasons and left the Bruins wondering what might have happened had they just closed out Game 6 and sent the series to a deciding seventh game.
2007 New York Mets
It's one of the more well-known collapses in MLB history, as the 2007 New York Mets—who were up seven games in the NL East with 17 to play—lost 12 of their final 17 to lose their grasp on the NL East.
Making matters worse for the Mets, the team lost five of six to the putrid Washington Nationals in that 17-game span, as the Nats finished with a 73-89 record that year yet still played spoiler in the end.
Meanwhile, as New York was in the midst of its tailspin, the Philadelphia Phillies caught fire, ultimately winning the division in the last game of the regular season by beating those very Nationals, while the Mets were humiliated by the last-place Florida Marlins, 8-1, with starter Tom Glavine getting shelled for seven runs in less than an inning's worth of work.
2013 Kansas City Chiefs
If there were any doubts that the Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck didn't have the moxy to become a great quarterback, the 2014 AFC Wild Card Game against the Kansas City Chiefs probably silenced any critics.
After falling behind, at home, to the Chiefs by as many as 28 points, the second-year player orchestrated a comeback for the ages, stunning Kansas City 45-44 in the end.
2014 Oakland Athletics
While some fans remember the 1995 collapse of the California Angels who lost an 11.5 game lead by going 8-27 over their last 35 games—including two nine-game losing streaks—with the Oakland Athletics collapse occurring just this past season, it's still very fresh in the minds of many.
As baseball's best team, 28 games over .500 and in first place in the AL West on August 9, the A's seemed to have all the pieces to make a deep run into the playoffs.
Hell, even the usually stingy-spending front office did something that was out of routine, with the club acquiring ace Jon Lester and complementing righty Jeff Samardzija for that stretch run.
Things didn't go as planned, though, as the team went just 11-25 over its final 36 games, forced to play the sudden-death Wild Card Game, on the road, against the Kansas City Royals.
Oakland dropped the matchup, ending the campaign about as dramatically as its epic collapse was in the second half of the season.
2000 Portland Trail Blazers
Now, I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I would never want to intentionally seek out an apparent curse of a fellow city from that area. But at some point, doesn't the city of Portland have to assume there's something holding back their Blazers from winning a title?
Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. The collapse in the fourth quarter of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.
After leading the L.A. Lakers by as many as 15 points in the final period on the road, the Blazers found themselves on the outside looking in, surrendering that margin to see the Lakers march on to the NBA Finals.
It was the beginning of a dynasty for L.A., too, as it won three straight titles starting with that 2000 championship.
As for the Blazers, well, they've only advanced passed the first round once since this collapse.
2001 Seattle Mariners
This is one that, as a Cleveland Indians fan, I will never forget.
A nationally televised game in the ballpark formerly known as Jacobs Field, my Tribe overcame an insane 12-run deficit to the Seattle Mariners to complete the biggest comeback in MLB history.
Sure, the M's would eventually set an MLB record by finishing with 116 wins in the regular season—yet collapsed in the postseason too—but, for one night, Cleveland got the best of them, as the M's gave up 13 runs from the seventh frame on, ending up winning the game 15-14 in extra innings.
1982 Edmonton Oilers
Simply known as the "Miracle on Manchester," Game 3 of the divisional semifinals between the L.A. Kings and Edmonton Oilers was one of the worst collapses, by one of the finest teams, the NHL had ever seen.
Led by future Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Grant Fuhr, the Oilers—who finished with a conference-leading 111 points—blew a 5-0 lead to the Kings, losing the game 6-5.
The game gave the Kings a 2-1 series lead, and, while the Oilers did force a deciding fifth game, L.A. came out victorious, with Game 3 remembered as being the turning point of the entire series.
2005 AC Milan
As someone who has both played and watched the game of soccer since the age of three, I can tell you that a three-goal lead at halftime of a match is typically insurmountable.
For Liverpool F.C., though, they proved to hit opponent A.C. Milan with all the right hooks and jabs to overcome the deficit.
Playing in the 2005 Champions League Final, Milan raced out to a 1-0 lead in the first minute and added two more goals in the final five minutes of the first half, seemingly deflating Liverpool's spirits.
Yet the Reds somehow found themselves all square with three goals from the 54th to the 60th minute, ultimately winning the league title on penalty kicks for a collapse by their opponent that will forever live in the annals of UEFA history.
2011 Boston Red Sox
One of the most stunning collapses in sports history, the 2011 Boston Red Sox wasted a golden opportunity to add to their postseason history with one bad month.
Playing 27 games in the month of September, the Sox lost 20 of them, losing in thrilling fashion in the last game of the season to see their hopes of making the playoffs vanish when the Tampa Bay Rays overcame a huge deficit to win the AL Wild Card.
Starting the month at 84-54 with a nine-game lead over the Rays in the wild-card chase, Boston crushed itself with bad play during the worst time possible, ending the season with a stretch that proved to be one of the most woeful in sports history.
2013 San Antonio Spurs
Although the San Antonio Spurs ultimately got revenge on the Miami Heat by capturing their fifth NBA title in 2014, the 2013 matchup was one that they would rather not have had to endure.
Holding a 10-point lead in Game 6 of the Finals and a 3-2 series lead, they were 12 minutes from getting a ring for their thumb a year sooner but couldn't close out their opponents.
Costly turnovers and missed free throws in the final period proved to be the demise of the Spurs, as they watched a five-point lead with 28 seconds left turn into one of the most clutch shots in sports, as Ray Allen buried a game-tying three with 5.2 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
In the extra frame, the Heat kept their foot on the gas, winning the game to force a Game 7—which they won a couple days later.
1951 Brooklyn Dodgers
Of all the other collapses in MLB history, the Brooklyn Dodgers' of 1951 is one that ended with an all-time radio call.
Does, "the Giants win the pennant!" ring a bell to you?
It should, because it's what announcer Russ Hodges declared following the New York Giants defeating the in-town rival Dodgers to capture the NL Crown.
But it's what occurred to get to that point that was even more improbable, as the Dodgers blew a 13-game lead from late August on to the Giants, leading to the "Shot Heard 'Round the World," when Bobby Thomson blasted a ninth-inning walk-off to complete the league comeback and one of the most memorable collapses in sports history.
1993 Houston Oilers
It's the largest deficit ever squandered in an NFL playoff game, so, of course, I was going to add it to this list.
When the Buffalo Bills overcame a 32-point margin to the Houston Oilers in the 1993, it became known simply as, "The Comeback," as Bills backup quarterback Frank Reich shook off a first half that saw his team trailing 28-3.
Miraculously, though, Houston allowed Buffalo to roll off 28 straight points in the third quarter, eventually giving up a Steve Christie field goal in overtime to be left out in the upstate New York cold wondering how the hell they just lost.
2004 New York Yankees
It had never been done before in the history of baseball, but the 2004 Boston Red Sox didn't seem to care about history, as they did the unthinkable by overcoming a three-game deficit in the American League Championship Series to reach the World Series.
In a matchup between the Evil Empire against the Curse of the Bambino, the Sox fell behind by being outscored 32-16 in the first three games, failing to have anything come together and looking lifeless.
Boston fans had seen this movie before, and it never ended well—except this time.
From Dave Roberts' steal on legendary Yanks' closer Mariano Rivers to the pounding that Johnny Damon gave New York in the deciding Game 7, the Yanks allowed their most bitter rival to defeat them in the most memorable postseason series in MLB history, with Boston eventually winning the World Series to rid themselves of the dark cloud cast by the sale of Babe Ruth 86 years prior.