One thing a team will never forget is losing at the Super Bowl. In a similar vein, embarrassing oneself during the Super Bowl might haunt a player for the rest of his or her career.
After losing, teams may get another chance, but more often than not, this is their only chance to win. Losing is difficult for any team, but these teams that advanced to the Super Bowl find it especially difficult. Particularly those who looked great prior to the game but ultimately failed to perform as expected.
This interesting phenomenon of “failing to meet expectations” is why we’ll take a look at some of the biggest letdowns in Super Bowl history, letdowns that will always be part of the legacy of each of these teams.
Dolphins – Super Bowl XIX
Dan Marino, a rookie quarterback, achieved the best single season in NFL history with 5,084 passing yards and 48 touchdowns, leading the Dolphins to a 14-2 regular season record and scoring 513 regular season points. Important to note that the receiving group of the “Marks Brothers,” Mark Clayton and Mark Duper, as well as the famous Don Shula’s coaching abilities, didn’t help their cause either.
It’s too bad they had to compete with Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers, who in Super Bowl XIX destroyed the Dolphins by defeating them 38-16. Dan Marino, a member of the Hall of Fame, would, regrettably, play in his first and last Super Bowl.
Bills – Super Bowl XXV
The 1990 Buffalo Bills had a remarkable regular season, holding a record of 15-3 and scoring 95 points in their opening two playoff contests. Additionally, they were headed by three future Hall of Famers, quarterback Jim Kelly, sack king Bruce Smith, and running back Thurman Thomas, rather than just one, two, or even one.
Unfortunately for them, in Super Bowl XXV, the New York Giants showed up big time. The fierce pressure of New York’s front four halted Buffalo’s ordinarily reliable passing attack, while the usually resilient Bills defense allowed the Giants’ rushing attack to mount two time-wasting drives.
The “Wide Right” moment ended up being the real defining factor, though. The fact that Scott Norwood ruined a game-winning 47-yard field goal kick with 8 seconds left to give the Giants a 22-20 victory is essentially what the game will be known for. The Bills were so close, but in the end, it didn’t even matter.
St. Louis Rams – XXXVI
Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner, the last two reigning NFL MVPs, helped the St. Louis Rams‘ explosive attack, known as “The Greatest Show on Turf,” easily advance to Super Bowl XXXVI. After winning the Super Bowl two years prior, the high-scoring Rams were considered a dynasty in the making and were widely favored in the game. The Rams are still the only team to score more than 500 points in three straight seasons.
They lost to the New England Patriots and their rookie quarterback, Tom Brady, 20-17. And at that moment, one dynasty ended, and another rose.
Packers – Super Bowl XXXII
The 1997 Packers were led by quarterback Brett Favre into their Super Bowl XXXII matchup with the Denver Broncos, fresh off his third consecutive MVP season. The Pack were the defending champions, and Reggie White (may he rest in peace), one of the greatest defensive players ever, made it appear impossible for them to lose.
The NFC was so dominating at the time, winning the previous 13 Super Bowls, that many referred to the Packers-Niners conference championship game as the “Real Super Bowl.” Shame it wasn’t. Unfortunately, John Elway and Terrell Davis turned up and wrecked Green Bay’s chance to win the “Real Super Bowl,” giving the Broncos a 31-24 victory.
Vikings – Super Bowl IV
The Minnesota Vikings, sometimes known as the Purple People Eaters, were the most dominant team in the NFL in 1969. With Joe Kapp at quarterback, they had a 12-2 regular season record, led the league in scoring, and had one of the top defenses of all time thanks to Alan Page and Carl Eller, who combined to allow just 133 points throughout the whole season.
However, the Vikings lost the final Super Bowl before the AFL and NFL united 23-7 to the Kansas City Chiefs, and they would later lose three other Super Bowls in the 1970s.
Colts – Super Bowl III
The 1968 Colts were hailed as history’s greatest team by many in the media. Even though it was just 1968, they were excellent. Need proof? Baltimore finished the year 13-1 and scored 402 points while only surrendering 144. Their lone defeat came at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, who they later routed in a rematch of the NFL Championship game.
Yes, the Colts were in a position to win it all under the guidance of QB Earl Morrall and great Hall of Fame coach Don Shula. At least, that is what everyone believed until the New York Jets and their arrogant, pantyhose-sporting quarterback Joe Namath blocked their way, causing the Colts the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. (The Colts headed into the game as 18-point favorites, mostly because everyone thought that the NFL was so much better. Guess not.)
Patriots – Super Bowl XLII
In 2007, the Patriots displayed exceptional play as they finished the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history and set a record 589 points scored. Randy Moss caught 23 of Tom Brady’s 50 touchdown passes, and the two were unstoppable during the regular season. That the Patriots had the game in hand when Eli Manning and David Tyree connected for one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history should come as no surprise.
In order to keep the ball off the ground and the drive going, Manning escaped the pressure of three Patriots and fired a pass high in the air that Tyree grabbed on top of his helmet. With 35 seconds remaining, Manning was able to deliver the clinching pass to Plaxico Burress. That’s right, the Patriots would finish the season with 18 wins and one loss to the Giants, making this one of the most disappointing endings to a campaign.