Being on the precipice of a championship is something that not a lot of teams in professional sports are able to experience, especially since only two teams are able to represent their respective leagues in their championship affairs. But for the NFL, they have experienced quite a few teams that have been favorites to take home the title that year but fell victim to shortcomings and unfortunate circumstances.
While there are countless teams that easily fit into this criteria, only five teams were chosen for this list, and these are the five best teams that failed to fulfill their season-long goal of winning the Super Bowl.
1967 Oakland Raiders
Outcome: Lost to the Green Bay Packers in the 2nd AFL-NFL World Championship Game (later renamed to the Super Bowl), 33-14
Going way, way back to find this relic of a team, the 1967 Oakland Raiders amassed a one-loss record against AFL play, and their second defeat came at the hands of the Green Bay Packers in what eventually became known as Super Bowl II.
Oakland ran through the AFL (except for their Week Six defeat to the New York Jets), and throttled the Houston Oilers in the AFL Championship, 40-7. But when it came to see which league between the AFL and NFL was king, it was really no contest.
QB Daryle Lamonica, WR Fred Biletnikoff, and OL Jim Otto were just some of the key players for Oakland, yet they were unable to stop Bart Starr, Boyd Dowler, Max McGee, Herb Adderley, and Willie Davis and fell in their hopes to reign supreme over the sport of football.
2001 St. Louis Rams
Outcome: Lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 36, 20-17
‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ had a bit of trouble staying afoot in the Superdome against the New England Patriots, and their 2001 dynasty ended up finishing up short of the finish line.
Even as Marshall Faulk amassed 21 scores and over 2,100 total yards, and Kurt Warner won league MVP, the Patriots, based on the leg of kicker Adam Vinatieri and the arm of Tom Brady, covered the 14-point underdog spread that they were put behind and took home the franchise’s first NFL championship victory.
Head coach Mike Martz led the charge for this franchise, and their offensive firepower set the league on fire, leading all teams by scoring 31.4 points per game, while their defense ranked seventh by allowing 17.1 PPG. An easy testament to how dominant their offense was in ‘01 was that Faulk scored more points than kicker Jeff Wilkins on the year – by one point.
The Rams, on their way to the Super Bowl, trounced Green Bay by 28 points and slid past the Eagles by five, but then fell to NE in the Super Bowl by three, their first defeat since Week 11 of the regular season, ending their season right before reaching the finish line.
1998 Minnesota Vikings
Outcome: Lost to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Conference Championship Game, 30-27
When a team puts up almost 35 points per game on a weekly basis, it is very hard to beat that team. But when you are the Minnesota Vikings, you manage to find out a way to mess things up in the end.
Living, and in this case dying, by the leg of kicker Gary Anderson doomed the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons, even as they jumped out to a 20-14 lead going into half time. The offense that was led by QB Randall Cunningham and receivers Chris Carter and rookie Randy Moss were unable to help out the team enough when they needed it.
Carter and Moss combined for 12 catches for 142 yards and a score (Moss), but the Falcons’ WR Tony Martin, who only spent the ‘98 season with Atlanta, went off for 129 yards (including a long of 70).
Chris Chandler tore the sixth-ranked D apart in the Metrodome, and that ultimately led to the disappointment that kept the Vikings out of the Super Bowl.
2007 New England Patriots
Outcome: Lost to the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42, 17-14
The only real threat to the Miami Dolphins 19-0 record for an entire season, the 2007 Patriots were one win away from joining the perfect Dolphins in a very special club… but apparently the New York Giants were not told about the history that was at stake.
The helmet catch by journeyman receiver David Tyree that has circulated around the internet ever since that fateful night was the big memory from that game, but it was the Eli Manning show that really made this game turn out the way that it did.
The 14-point outburst by the Giants in the fourth quarter was what put the game away after no team scored in the third quarter. Tyree kicked off the scoring in the fourth quarter on a TD catch, the Patriots countered with a Randy Moss TD catch to take the lead with 2:32 left, but Plaxico Burress ended the scoring run with 35 seconds left in the game on a 13-yard catch that ended the Tyree catch drive.
Manning was able to get out of his brother Peyton’s shadow with the win, cementing his status in the league’s upper echelon of QB play for the next few seasons. Tyree’s status at the top of the world did not last long in the NFL and was out of the league soon after, Burress ended up getting into legal trouble after shooting himself accidentally, and the Giants dealt with the drop-off from this game for a few seasons before going back to the Super Bowl in 2012, defeating the Patriots yet again.
1968 Baltimore Colts
Outcome: Lost to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III, 16-7
Being the first game to be labeled as the ‘Super Bowl,’ the Baltimore Colts ended up dropping this game to Hollywood Joe and the rest is history.
Tight end John Mackey and quarterback Earl Morrall led the Colts to a 13-win regular season, with their only loss coming against the Cleveland Browns, 30-20. Led by their league-leading defense (10.3 ppg) and the second-best offense (28.7 ppg), the Colts were seen as the easy favorites in this game.
But they were unable to muster any sort of offensive push, not putting any points on the board until Jerry Hill took the ball in from one yard out for a TD in the fourth quarter. That score was preceded by a four-yard TD run and three field goals by the Jets, and that was all the offensive push that they needed.
Of the 17 games, regular season and postseason, that the Colts played in ‘68, 13 games saw the Colts win by double digits, a testament to how dominant they were.
While many people may see more recent teams, like the ‘07 Patriots, as bigger disappointments, it truly should be the Colts. Their status as boasting both sides of the ball as being top-2 ranks is very impressive and not something that is touched by practically any franchises in the history of the NFL.