Except for the 1972 Dolphins, every Super Bowl champion has endured a loss. Several have needed to recover from a one-sided defeat, while many champs had a chance to avenge their worst loss in the playoffs. Here is the most lopsided loss each Super Bowl champion has encountered.
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2022: Bills 24, Chiefs 20
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Winning battles but losing wars, the Bills have controlled the regular-season chapters of their Chiefs rivalry. Dispatched to Arrowhead Stadium in 2021 and ’22, the Bills won both games. Josh Allen outplayed Patrick Mahomes in this Week 6 encounter, throwing for 329 yards and three touchdowns — including a go-ahead strike to Dawson Knox with 1:04 left. Big-ticket free-agent signing Von Miller sacked Mahomes twice and pressured him on Taron Johnson’s game-ending INT. This game could have given the Bills home-field advantage, but with the NFL canceling a Week 17 Bills-Bengals tilt after the horrifying Damar Hamlin scene, the Chiefs received a free pass to the No. 1 seed at 14-3.
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2021: 49ers 31, Rams 10
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Both emerging from the Mike Shanahan coaching tree, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay run versions of the same offense. But the 49ers’ offensive whiz has enjoyed a steady run of upending the Rams’. The 49ers have beaten the Rams in nine straight regular-season games. They completed a sweep of the eventual champs on a Week 10 Monday night. Amid his running back moonlighting season, Deebo Samuel scored rushing and receiving TDs. Jimmie Ward intercepted Matthew Stafford twice. This came during a three-game Rams losing skid. While the 49ers interrupted the Rams’ late-season rally, Los Angeles avenged this loss with a narrow NFC championship game win.
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2020: Saints 38, Buccaneers 3
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For much of the 2020 season, Tom Brady’s journey to Tampa brought speedbumps. This was the biggest. Drew Brees and Co. handed Brady a two-score defeat in the season opener in New Orleans and soared to a 38-0 lead in Week 9. In Brees’ final season, he sprayed TD passes to four different receivers. Brady threw three INTs, with Antonio Brown’s Bucs debut sputtering. This powered the Saints to the NFC South title, but with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping fans away or limiting attendance, the Saints’ home-field advantage was largely negated in January. Tampa Bay’s defense ruled the day in Round 2, ending Brees’ career.
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2019: Texans 31, Chiefs 24
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The Chiefs’ Steve Spagnuolo-era defenses have shown a propensity to start slowly. The veteran DC’s first Kansas City unit was mired in a woeful run-defense stretch early, allowing at least 180 rushing yards in four straight games. That put the Chiefs’ explosive offense in too big a hole in Weeks 5 and 6, losses to the Colts and Texans. Houston rampaged for 192 rushing yards, with Carlos Hyde — whom the Chiefs traded to the Texans in August — leading the way with 116. The Texans closed out the Chiefs with a five-minute drive. They were also up 24-0 in the divisional-round rematch, but the eventual champs recovered in a warp-speed comeback.
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2018: Titans 34, Patriots 10
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The last of the Patriot teams to benefit from a downtrodden AFC East, this version became the only AFC team with fewer than 12 wins to secure a bye in the past 20 years. New England lost three games by at least three scores, the worst coming in a Week 10 Nashville trip. In his final season as Tennessee’s full-time starter, Marcus Mariota accounted for 270 yards, which included a 21-yard catch. This came months after the Patriots trounced a Mike Mularkey-led Titans squad in the divisional round. Mike Vrabel’s first season involved this battering of his mentor’s club, and while these Pats pulled it together, the Titans ended Brady’s run with a wild-card upset the following season.
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2017: Seahawks 24, Eagles 10
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Russell Wilson’s only non-playoff team over his first nine seasons picked up a signature win in Week 13, handing the Eagles their second loss. This marked Carson Wentz’s final full game that season, as an ACL tear in Week 14 spoiled an MVP bid. Wentz threw for 348 yards but lost a crucial fumble at the goal line in Seattle. Rather than a game-tying TD, Philly fell behind 17-3 and could not contain Wilson, who tossed three scoring strikes. While these Seahawks were not as talented as the early-2010s squads, the eventual 9-7 team tripped up an Eagles team that entered 10-1 with Wentz at the helm.
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2016: Bills 16, Patriots 0
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Tom Brady’s long-running Deflategate drama produced a 2015 injunction that delayed his four-game suspension to 2016. This led to the Patriots using then-third-year QB Jimmy Garoppolo as their starter. But Garoppolo offered a sneak preview of an injury-prone career, being unable to go in Weeks 3 and 4. While the Pats used third-round rookie Jacoby Brissett and still routed the Texans in Week 3, Rex Ryan’s Bills provided a reality check in Week 4. This uneventful game did not produce 400 combined yards. The Patriots bounced back quickly. They won 14 of their final 15 en route to the most remarkable comeback in Super Bowl history. Finishing 7-9, the Bills fired Ryan late in 2016.
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2015: Chiefs 29, Broncos 13
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This game lives on due to Peyton Manning breaking Brett Favre’s career passing yardage record — and for the abysmal game, the 18th-year QB had after doing so. It also marked a turning point for the Broncos. Playing on an injured foot that soon required a six-week absence, Manning was just 5-for-20 and threw four INTs. Pulled for Brock Osweiler, the 39-year-old passer began a rehab effort, giving way to the unseasoned backup. Manning had won seven straight over the Chiefs; this effort started Kansas City’s 16-game win streak over Denver. The Broncos went 4-2 under Osweiler, but Gary Kubiak reinserting Manning into the lineup in Week 17 helped Denver clinch home-field advantage.
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2014: Chiefs 41, Patriots 14
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This game preceded Bill Belichick’s “On to Cincinnati” presser, and many wondered if it was the end of the Patriots’ run. The Chiefs ran wild on the Pats, and Brady — coming off an unremarkable (by his standards) 2013 — looked vulnerable. Brady committed three turnovers, while Jamaal Charles combined for three TDs. The Chiefs’ parking lot neighbors, the Royals, won a 12-inning wild-card game across the street a night later and rallied to the World Series. This, however, became the only Andy Reid-era season in which the Chiefs did not make the playoffs. They went 9-7. It turned out Brady had some juice left, with Rob Gronkowski’s re-emergence keying another Super Bowl run.
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2013: Cardinals 17, Seahawks 10
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In December 2012, the Seahawks crushed the Cardinals, 58-0, in one of the most one-sided games in NFL history. A year later, first-year coach Bruce Arians led to Arizona handing Seattle its first home loss of the Russell Wilson era. The ascending QB had gone 14-0 at home before this game. This was not especially pretty, with Carson Palmer throwing four interceptions against the Seahawks’ No. 1-ranked defense. But this helped the Cardinals reach 10 wins in a season for just the second time since the mid-1970s. The Seahawks shook this off, earned the NFC’s top seed and steamrolled to their first title. The Cards finished 10-6 but missed the playoffs.
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2012: Texans 43, Ravens 13
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For much of the 2012 season, the Texans loomed as the favorite for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. A rarity for a team during the Brady-Manning period. Houston flexed its muscle in Week 7, pummeling Baltimore. Connor Barwin notched a safety, and a J.J. Watt tipped pass led to a Johnathan Joseph pick-six. This was early in Watt’s historic breakout, leading to the first of his three Defensive Player of the Year slates. The Ravens endured major hiccups this season, including a 17-point loss to the Broncos in December. They rebounded, upsetting Denver in the divisional round en route to their second Super Bowl title. Houston lost to New England in Round 2.
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2011: Saints 49, Giants 24
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This game created a notable “what if?” for the Giants, who nearly faced the prospect of a Superdome return in the NFC championship game. When the teams convened in Week 12, Drew Brees — during his greatest season — used his array of weapons to shred the visitors. Four Saints surpassed 50 receiving yards, with Brees throwing four TD passes — two to breakout tight end Jimmy Graham — and adding a rushing score. A bewildered Giants team dropped to 6-5 after this Monday-night battering. They managed to recover and avoided a return trip to New Orleans thanks to the 49ers prevailing in a divisional-round classic.
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2010: Lions 7, Packers 3
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This Packers edition lost four games by three points and two games by two. The other four-point loss came against the 14-2 Patriots and without Aaron Rodgers. This Week 14 encounter saw Rodgers — then in his third season as the Packers’ starter — suffer a second concussion of the season. This came before the NFL instituted its concussion protocol, but the injury forced Rodgers out. Matt Flynn replaced him. The Lions, however, had Drew Stanton starting for injured second-year QB Matthew Stafford. A fourth-quarter Stanton toss to tight end Will Heller proved enough for Detroit. Rodgers missed one game but returned to lead the Pack back to the playoffs.
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2009: Panthers 23, Saints 10
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By Week 17 of this season, the soaring Saints had already salted away home-field advantage. New Orleans started 13-0 this season but dealt a blow to the momentum crowd by losing its final three. Sean Payton sat Drew Brees for this Charlotte trip, sending in 17th-year backup Mark Brunell. The ex-Jaguars starter threw for just 102 yards. We are midway through the enduring DeAngelo Williams-Jonathan Stewart partnership here, but Williams was out with a sprained ankle. Stewart gained 125 rushing yards in this meaningless game, which featured Matt Moore in the lineup in Jake Delhomme’s final game with Carolina.
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2008: Titans 31, Steelers 14
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On their way to one of the most surprising runs to a No. 1 seed, the Titans hounded Ben Roethlisberger in a comeback win. Jason Jones forced three of Big Ben’s four fumbles in this Week 16 matchup, one that led the Steelers to the AFC’s No. 2 line. Tennessee’s defense controlled matters without franchise-tagged D-tackle Albert Haynesworth, and safety Michael Griffin also intercepted Roethlisberger twice. Justin Gage helped out Kerry Collins with a 100-yard day, but this rematch never occurred. A Titans turnover spree against the Ravens kept them out of the AFC championship game. The Steelers were the only favorite to survive the divisional-round weekend that year.
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2007: Vikings 41, Giants 17
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One of the more bizarre box scores this century, the Giants outgained the Vikings by more than 50 yards yet lost by three scores. Eli Manning threw three pick-sixes — to Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith and Chad Greenway — in a Vikings runaway. Being supplied tremendous run support, Vikes starter Tarvaris Jackson needed only 129 passing yards to move past the eventual champs. The Giants did not make a habit of regular-season dominance during their Manning-era Super Bowl runs; they needed to emerge as a No. 5 seed due to the Cowboys’ 13-3 season. The Vikings missed the playoffs, at 8-8.
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2006: Jaguars 44, Colts 17
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Following this game, alarm bells sounded across the league about the Colts’ Super Bowl viability. Struggling with run defense, the Colts bottomed out by giving up an astounding 375 yards to a Jaguars team humming after adding Maurice Jones-Drew to team with Fred Taylor. That Week 14 total still ranks 19th all-time. Despite combining for only 24 carries, Jones-Drew reached 166 yards and Taylor 131; the duo combined for three TDs. Getting to 8-5 after this win, the Jags lost their final three. The Colts recovered and miraculously settled things down against the run, allowing no more than 111 rushing yards in the playoffs. The Jags finished 8-8.
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2005: Colts 26, Steelers 7
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The 2005 Colts’ talent probably surpassed their ’06 edition, with Edgerrin James on the franchise tag. In one of the Indianapolis triplets’ last hurrahs, James, Manning and Marvin Harrison shined on a Monday night. James gained 124 on the ground, while a pinpoint 80-yard Manning-to-Harrison strike set the tempo in the RCA Dome tilt. The Steelers could not catch up, with Roethlisberger throwing for just 133 yards. This came in Week 12; the Steelers went 8-1 the rest of the way. Needing to win four straight to make the playoffs in a loaded AFC year, the Steelers squeaked in. The AFC’s No. 6 seed then took down the top-slotted Colts in the divisional round.
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2004: Steelers 34, Patriots 20
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Counting the playoffs, the Patriots had won 21 straight games; that remains the overall record by two games. While this Pats period would encounter the Spygate cloud, the 2004 team is probably Bill Belichick’s best wire-to-wire squad. The Steelers dismantled it in Week 8. Rookie Ben Roethlisberger found Plaxico Burress, in his final Steelers season, for two TDs to put the hosts up 21-3 in the first quarter. Joey Porter notched two sacks as well. This came midway through a Steelers win streak that hit 15 games. Big Ben did not lose until the AFC championship game, when the Pats exacted revenge via a 14-point win.
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2003: Bills 31, Patriots 0
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This turned into an immediate revenge measure for Lawyer Milloy, who joined Drew Bledsoe in Buffalo as a Patriots castoff. Belichick stunned the football world — including his own team — by cutting Milloy, a Pro Bowler and two-time Pats Super Bowl starting safety. Brady, who replaced Bledsoe two Septembers prior, threw four INTs — one of which led to mammoth nose tackle Sam Adams’ 37-yard TD — and saw his Pats predecessor outplay him. Albeit in hideous uniforms, the Bills dropped an all-time vengeance chapter. New England shook this off, going 14-2. Buffalo went 6-10 in Gregg Williams’ HC finale.
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2002: Eagles 20, Buccaneers 10
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The 2000 and 2001 NFC playoff brackets featured Bucs trips to Philadelphia…and Eagles victories. Derrick Brooks set an NFL record with his fourth defensive TD that season. This came in Week 7. But the Eagles restored the status quo following the early Brooks score. The Eagles’ pre-Brian Westbrook go-to back, Duce Staley stampeded for 152 yards. Donovan McNabb also accounted for two TDs, including a game-sealing score in the fourth quarter. The Eagles could not sustain their dominance in this early-2000s rivalry, with a surging Bucs defense too much for the No. 1-seeded team in an NFC title game that doubled as the Veterans Stadium finale.
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2001: Dolphins 30, Patriots 10
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Tom Brady’s first start produced a win over then-AFC East rival Indianapolis. A week later, another division foe smacked the eventual champs. With the Week 4 game knotted at 10 at the half, the defending AFC East champions reeled off 20 straight. Neither Brady nor Dolphins QB Jay Fielder topped 90 passing yards in an ugly game. As the Dolphins have during much of Bill Belichick’s Pats tenure, they took care of business at home. Future Hall of Famer Jason Taylor punctuated the win by scooping up a Brady fumbled snap for a 1-yard TD. The Dolphins went 11-5 in ’01 but endured a home loss to the Ravens in the wild-card round.
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2000: Dolphins 19, Ravens 6
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The Dave Wannstedt era began well in Miami; the Dolphins produced back-to-back 11-5 seasons. The first of those involved a win over a not-yet-clicking Ravens juggernaut. During Baltimore’s Tony Banks portion of the season, Miami prevailed in another substance-over-flash display. Taylor sacked Banks 2.5 times on a rainy night in Week 3, and Patrick Surtain intercepted the ultimately benched QB. Lamar Smith, who would produce an all-time great workhorse effort at this stadium in the playoffs three months later, scored twice as well. The Dolphins lost in Round 2. Baltimore’s historic defense eventually lifted this operation, though Trent Dilfer was at the helm by then.
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1999: Eagles 38, Rams 31
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Like the Saints 10 years later, the championship-winning Rams’ worst loss came in a meaningless game. Dıck Vermeil yanked MVP Kurt Warner late in this Week 17 matchup in Philadelphia, but both he and Marshall Faulk reached statistical milestones. Faulk broke Barry Sanders’ single-season scrimmage yards record, while Warner joined only Dan Marino (at this point) in throwing 40-plus TD passes in a season. But then-rookie Donovan McNabb posted three TD tosses; and Al Harris tallied a pick-six on Rams backup Joe Germaine. Andy Reid’s first Eagles outfit went 5-11, but in two years, these teams met for the NFC championship.
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1998: Dolphins 31, Broncos 21
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Four years before the current schedule format became law, two of the greatest QBs ever coexisted in the AFC for 16 years and faced off twice in the regular season. A truly bizarre occurrence, but Dan Marino interrupted John Elway’s late-career heater in Week 16 of the greatest season in Broncos history. The Broncos had just seen a sub-.500 Giants team upend their bid at perfection, dropping a chance for a historic Monday-night scene in Miami. Ex-Hurricanes great Lamar Thomas bested the Broncos with a three-TD showing, helping the Dolphins erase a 10-0 deficit. This had no bearing on the sides’ divisional-round meeting, which Denver won 38-3.
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1997: 49ers 34, Broncos 17
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Also coming on a Week 16 Monday night, the Broncos could not handle a somewhat forgotten 49ers team that claimed the NFC’s No. 1 seed. This game is best remembered for Jerry Rice making an improbable comeback from a Week 1 ACL tear — only to reinjure his knee on a second-quarter TD reception — and for ABC cameras catching Bill Romanowski spitting in J.J. Stokes’ face. Even in the pre-viral 1997 world, that received considerable attention. Sans Rice, the 49ers rode their defense to disrupt Elway and Co. Merton Hanks and Kevin Greene scored defensive TDs. The Chiefs won the AFC West this season. Steve Mariucci’s 49ers voyaged to the NFC title game but fell flat against the Packers.
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1996: Cowboys 21, Packers 6
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This turned into a wildly entertaining night for kicking purists; for most fans, not so much. Cowboys third-year kicker Chris Boniol received seven field goal opportunities and made all seven in this Week 12 Monday-nighter. Those were the only points the Cowboys tallied in this game, which did not feature a Packers score until a meaningless Brett Favre-to-Derrick Mayes fourth-quarter pass. Boniol’s field goal septet broke a single-game record, though Barry Switzer giving his kicker a shot at No. 7 in the final seconds irked some Packers. Though the defending champions had eliminated Green Bay in three of the previous four seasons, Dallas lost in the divisional round.
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1995: 49ers 38, Cowboys 20
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This convening of elites did not feature Steve Young and involved only a handful of plays from Troy Aikman. Young missed the game, and Aikman left early with a knee injury. But the Cowboys were in a 17-0 hole in this Week 11 matchup before the three-time Super Bowl champ left. Young’s longtime backup, Elvis Grbac lit up the Cowboys — with a heavy Jerry Rice assist. Amid his most prolific receiving season, the 33-year-old legend scored an 81-yard touchdown and was at 155 total before halftime. Grbac finished with 305 to move the 49ers to 6-4. These 49ers ranked first in offense and second defensively, but the Packers impeded a fourth NFC title showdown with the Cowboys.
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1994: Eagles 40, 49ers 8
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Young suited up for this game, but he did not finish it. An Eagles team in transition decked the 49ers, going up 33-8 at halftime. Rookie (and future 49er) Charlie Garner scored twice and totaled 139 scrimmage yards in this Week 5 rout, with Randall Cunningham-era staple Calvin Williams adding 122. Young finished with 99 passing yards, and George Seifert yanked him as he was calling a play early in the fourth quarter. A visibly agitated Young nearly wound up in a sideline skirmish with Seifert during this ugly afternoon. These Eagles ended up 7-9, ending Rich Kotite’s four-year stay and wrapping Cunningham’s final season as a full-time Philly starter.
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1993: Washington 35, Dallas 16
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In what amounted to a last hurrah of sorts for the Joe Gibbs-era staples, Washington ran away from a Cowboys team embroiled in an Emmitt Smith holdout. Smith skipped Dallas’ first two games — both losses — and the process eventually included Charles Haley slamming his helmet into a locker-room wall in anger over the Cowboys needing to use a rookie backup to fill in. Mark Rypien’s troops took full advantage on a Week 1 Monday night, hitting aging “Posse” members Ricky Sanders and Art Monk for scores. The Cowboys committed four turnovers. Gibbs had retired after the ’92 season, and Richie Pettibon became a one-and-done after Washington’s 4-12 season. This was the team’s clear peak.
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1992: Eagles 31, Cowboys 7
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While the Cowboys are lauded for fleecing the Vikings in 1989’s Herschel Walker deal, the former superstar bested his initial NFL team on this Week 5 Monday night in Philly. Dropped by the Vikings in 1992, Walker signed with the Eagles. He tallied 100 scrimmage yards and scored twice, with the Eagles finishing the game on a 24-0 run. Aikman threw three INTs against the Eagles’ final Reggie White-led defense, providing an early roadblock for the best of the 1990s Cowboy squads. The Eagles ended up returning to the playoffs, after Cunningham’s ACL tear stonewalled a better 1991 roster, but lost a divisional-round game in Dallas.
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1991: Dallas 24, Washington 21
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Perhaps the NFL’s most underrated great team, this Washington squad entered its Week 13 Dallas rematch at 11-0. The team that would end the season first in offense and defense fell behind 21-7 to a Cowboys team finishing off its Jimmy Johnson-run rebuild. Dallas lost Aikman to what turned out to be a season-ending knee injury early in the second half — after a Hail Mary connection with Alvin Harper — but 1991 trade pickup Steve Beuerlein held his own. The other two Triplets helped stave off Washington, with Michael Irvin winning a Hall of Famer-Hall of Famer matchup with Darrell Green. Beuerlein piloted the Cowboys to a wild-card win weeks later.
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1990: Eagles 31, Giants 13
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We wrap this NFC East-heavy portion of the list with another Eagles blowout. The Giants entered the Week 12 clash at 10-0, heightening anticipation for a Week 13 Monday-night showdown with the unbeaten 49ers. It turns out, both NFC titans lost on this Sunday. Nearly pulling off a 3,000-1,000 season, Cunningham accounted for three TDs and nearly 300 yards. Versatile back Keith Byars accumulated 128 receiving yards, and a Seth Joyner deflection ended up in linebacker Byron Evans’ hands for a pick-six. The Eagles pushed this momentum to the playoffs but lost to Washington in the wild-card round, ending Buddy Ryan’s Philly tenure.
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1989: Packers 21, 49ers 17
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In the running for the greatest team ever, this 49ers edition continued the road win streak that eventually reached 18. Candlestick Park contests became a slight issue for this dynasty, and the 1989 matchup with the 5-5 Packers pitted the top two MVP finishers against each other. Don Majkowski’s finest season involved a three-TD day in Week 11, with Brett Favre’s predecessor rushing for two scores — including the game-winner on a QB draw. Sterling Sharpe added a juggling TD grab, and the Packers’ pass rush hounded MVP Joe Montana for six sacks. Green Bay won five of its final six but missed the playoffs, in a historically strong NFC, at 10-6.
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1988: Rams 38, 49ers 16
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Events earlier during Week 16 gave the 49ers the NFC West title, via a three-way tiebreaker, but Joe Montana still played long enough to be sacked eight times. Hall of Famer Kevin Greene ran amok in the rivals’ Candlestick Park rematch, notching 4.5, and Bill Walsh opted to use Steve Young extensively with a first-round bye sewn up. Jim Everett threw four touchdown passes, three of which going to tight end Damone Johnson, and the Rams finished the regular season on a three-game win streak to clinch a wild-card spot. Los Angeles could not edge Minnesota in the NFC wild-card game, however.
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1987: Los Angeles 30, Washington 26
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In a rematch of the 1986 NFC wild-card game, the Rams avenged their playoff loss. Using Jay Schroeder as its starter for much of the 1987 regular season, Washington received a glimpse at its stretch-run QB with Doug Williams starting in relief. Williams outplayed Everett on this Week 11 Monday night in Washington, throwing for 305 yards, but a previously 2-7 Rams team prevailed. Olympic gold medalist-turned-wideout Ron Brown scored twice, including on a 95-yard kick return, and Charles White — in place weeks after the Eric Dickerson trade — rambled for 112 yards. The Rams finished 6-9 but planted seeds for a late-’80s resurgence.
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1986: Seahawks 17, Giants 12
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The greatest Giants team in the Super Bowl era opened its season with a loss, and a depleted offense ran into more trouble in the Kingdome in Week 7. The Seahawks intercepted Phil Simms four times, two of which coming by cornerback Dave Brown, and D-lineman Jacob Green sacked the eventual Super Bowl XXI MVP four times. The Seahawks, at 4-2, were favored coming into this game. And this loss dropped the Giants to 5-2 and behind Washington in the NFC East. The Giants did not lose again, rampaging to their first Super Bowl title. Chuck Knox’s Seahawks went 10-6 but missed the AFC playoffs.
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1985: Dolphins 38, Bears 24
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Still the highest-rated “Monday Night Football” broadcast, the Dolphins protected their 1972 edition’s legacy by tripping up the unbeaten Bears in Week 13. With Jim McMahon battling an injury and playing minimally, Steve Fuller was tasked with matching Dan Marino. While the Bears’ 46 defense was that storied team’s driving force, Fuller threw two INTs. Marino operated more as a rollout passer to avoid the teeth of Buddy Ryan’s 46 and threw three TD passes — one involving a friendly carom Mark Clayton took for a fourth-quarter score. Favored to face the Bears and McMahon in Super Bowl XX, the Dolphins lost to the Patriots in the AFC title game.
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1984: Steelers 20, 49ers 17
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This was the ’84 49ers’ only defeat, and were it not for a questionable pass interference call, the 49ers would have been in position to pursue perfection. Down 17-10 facing a fourth-and-goal from the 49ers’ 6-yard line in the fourth quarter, the Steelers received a late flag after an incomplete Mark Malone-to-John Stallworth offering. A late flag on cornerback Eric Wright led to the Steelers tying the game soon after, and Gary Anderson gave the visitors the lead in this Week 7 matchup at Candlestick Park. 49ers kicker Ray Wersching missed a 37-yarder with 7 seconds remaining. These Steelers nearly forced a Super Bowl rematch but were no match for Marino in the AFC title game.
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1983: Seahawks 34, Raiders 21
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The Seahawks swept the Raiders in 1983, a season that saw the team begin the Jim Zorn-to-Dave Krieg transition. Chuck Knox began the Krieg era in the Week 9 Raider rematch. Undrafted out of Division III Milton College, Krieg replaced the longtime starter and kept the reins through 1991. Rookie Curt Warner supported Krieg with 132 scrimmage yards, and the Seahawks intercepted Marc Wilson — whom the Raiders were still trying to make happen at this point — four times. Linebacker Shelton Robinson also notched a fumble-six for the second straight Raiders game. Seattle went 9-7 and made a surprise run to the AFC title game, but Los Angeles exacted revenge in January.
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1982: Dallas 24, Washington 10
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Joe Gibbs’ second Washington season featured only one loss, and it doubled as the Cowboys’ sixth straight win over their NFC East rivals. Tom Landry picked up his 200th regular-season win in this Week 13 matchup, which came after a players’ strike wiped out nine games. Danny White threw for 216 yards and, in his dual role as Dallas’ punter, executed a fake punt that buried the hosts on this December day. A blitzing Cowboys team intercepted Joe Theismann three times and glided to a 17-0 lead. The strike nixed the first Dallas-Washington matchup, but the sides reconvened at RFK Stadium for the NFC championship — a 31-17 Washington win.
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1981: Falcons 34, 49ers 17
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Bill Walsh went 8-24 in his first two 49ers seasons, constructing a rebuild effort that was not expected to ignite in 1981. By Week 3, the 49ers were 1-2; the defending NFC West champion Falcons ensured that with this romp at Fulton County Stadium. Atlanta went up 17-0 and never trailed, with Steve Bartkowski throwing three TD passes despite playing through a rib injury. The Falcons intercepted Joe Montana twice, and Walsh remarked postgame Atlanta had a shot to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XVI. As it turned out, the 49ers lost one game the rest of the way and ended up doing that. The Falcons went 7-9.
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1980: Bills 24, Raiders 7
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Dan Pastorini’s Raiders stint is a footnote on the team’s journey to Super Bowl XV, but with the Raiders and Oilers swapping QB1s that offseason, he was the team’s original plan. Buffalo stonewalled Oakland’s offense in a Week 4 game in Orchard Park, holding the Raiders without an offensive TD. Rookie sensation Joe Cribbs scored twice and totaled 126 scrimmage yards, and defensive end Ben Williams posted two sacks and forced two fumbles. The Bills moved to 5-0 a week later and pushed the Chargers to the brink in the divisional round. A Pastorini injury in Week 5 ended his season, beginning Jim Plunkett’s memorable second act.
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1979: Chargers 35, Steelers 7
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While the Steelers’ late-season work prevented this Week 12 drubbing from becoming a torch pass, the Chargers showed the firepower that would define their memorable ascent. Known for its explosive offense, Don Coryell’s team dominated the Steelers on defense, intercepting five Terry Bradshaw passes to give the offense short fields against a Steel Curtain crew that peaked in prior years. Woodrow Lowe and Ray Preston each intercepted two passes. Lowe returned one for a 77-yard score — the only time the Steelers crossed the Bolts’ 30-yard line. San Diego could not book a Pittsburgh rematch, enduring a shocking upset to a depleted Houston team in the divisional round.
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1978: Oilers 24, Steelers 17
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Midway through a trajectory-altering run that elevated a rebuild to the AFC championship game, the Oilers knocked the Steelers from the unbeaten ranks on a Week 8 Monday night. Rookie sensation Earl Campbell scored three times, the third of which punctuated a lengthy Houston drive that put the team up 24-10 on the AFC Central kingpin. Pittsburgh recovered a Campbell fumble on that drive, but an L.C. Greenwood offside call bailed out the visitors. The Oilers defense held the Steelers henceforth, despite a successful fourth-quarter onside kick, and improved to 5-3. The Oilers went 10-6 and lost 34-5 to the Steelers in the AFC title game.
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1977: Steelers 28, Cowboys 13
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Although the Steelers did not finish atop the AFC in 1977, their mastery over the Cowboys continued. That came thanks to Franco Harris, who mowed down the eventual champions’ defense for a career-high 179 rushing yards. The Hall of Fame-bound fullback added two TDs, including a 61-yarder in the second quarter of the Week 10 matchup in Pittsburgh. Bradshaw found Lynn Swann and John Stallworth for a TD apiece as well, and a Jim Allen INT set up a Harris 2-yard game-clincher in the fourth quarter. The Steelers beat the Cowboys five straight times from 1974-82, but their ’77 edition lost to the Broncos in the divisional round.
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1976: Patriots 48, Raiders 17
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En route to an unexpected AFC East crown, the Patriots began the season with upsets over the two AFC blue bloods. New England downed Pittsburgh in Week 3 and routed Oakland in Week 4. Led by Steve Grogan’s five-touchdown day (three passing, two rushing), the Pats buried the Raiders in what became the champions’ only loss. Fullback Sam Cunningham totaled nearly 200 scrimmage yards, and wideout Darryl Stingley turned both his receptions into TDs. The Pats had gone 3-11 in 1975. Their 1976 squad endured a controversial divisional-round loss to the Raiders in Oakland, with a still-debated roughing-the-passer call saving the Raiders from losing twice to Chuck Fairbanks’ team.
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1975: Bills 30, Steelers 21
As the Steelers began to craft their dynasty footprint, O.J. Simpson represented a Week 2 hiccup. The Bills superstar gashed the Steelers for 227 rushing yards, the most the Steel Curtain-era Pittsburgh defense allowed to one player. This Pittsburgh showcase marked Simpson’s third-highest total, but considering the opposition, it is tough to beat. Simpson’s 88-yard sweep put the Bills up 23-0 in the third quarter, and the Steelers benched Bradshaw, who had already thrown a pick-six — on a lateral team-up between Earl Edwards and Mike Kadish. The Steelers responded by winning their next 10 games; the Bills finished 8-6.
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1974: Raiders 17, Steelers 0
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Bradshaw endured a bumpy path to stardom; the Steelers’ first Super Bowl season began with Joe Gilliam at the controls. With Bradshaw honoring a players’ strike during training camp in 1974, Gilliam crossed the picket line and won the job from the former No. 1 pick. Gilliam played well early in 1974 but was 8-for-31 against the Raiders, drawing Steeler fans’ ire in the Week 3 tilt at Three Rivers Stadium. Oakland intercepted three passes, with a George Atkinson theft setting up a short Cliff Branch second-quarter TD. No scoring occurred in the second half. Bradshaw emerged in this rivalry months later, helping the Steelers beat the Raiders in the AFC title game.
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1973: Colts 16, Dolphins 3
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Although a No. 1 seed did not yet mean home-field advantage in the playoffs, the Dolphins rested Bob Griese in this Week 13 divisional encounter in Baltimore. The one-loss team, which beat more impressive competition compared to the 1972 unbeaten squad, could not win with 39-year-old backup Earl Morrall at the helm. The Colts had also moved on from Johnny Unitas in 1973, starting Marty Domres. A young Lydell Mitchell rushed for 104 yards, and the Colts shut out the Dolphins through three quarters. Under new ownership, the Colts finished 3-11. No team threatened the Dolphins’ most talented team again that season.
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1971: Saints 24, Cowboys 14
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Belatedly more famous for siring two 21st-century QB icons, Archie Manning initially gained NFL notoriety for being trapped on a number of bad Saints teams. The talented passer, however, led an upset victory in Week 5 of his rookie year. Throwing one TD pass and rushing for two more scores, Manning piloted the Saints to a 17-0 halftime lead against a Cowboys team unsure of its QB direction. Craig Morton started, but Tom Landry inserted Roger Staubach at halftime. Saints cornerback Delles Howell intercepted two passes in this victory. The Cowboys decided on Staubach at QB temporarily, but the legend did not fully take the reins until the 1973 season.
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1970: Chiefs 44, Colts 24
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As the NFL and AFL merged, the Colts agreed to be placed in the AFC. Although the Chiefs did not make a strong transition from the AFL after their Super Bowl IV win, they had plenty for the Colts on the second game in “Monday Night Football” history. Len Dawson threw only 12 passes; four of them went for touchdowns in the Week 2 matchup. The Colts yanked a battered Johnny Unitas after falling behind 24-0. Unitas and Morrall combined for five INTs — all winding up in the hands of Hall of Fame DBs Johnny Robinson (three) and Emmitt Thomas (two). The Chiefs went 7-5-2 in 1970 but were back in the playoffs a year later.
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1969: Bengals 24, Chiefs 19
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From the Chiefs’ end, this was a blip as they charted a defense-powered course to Super Bowl IV. For the Bengals, this game changed their big picture. Promising rookie QB Greg Cook, whom Cincinnati chose fifth overall, suffered a shoulder injury in this Week 3 game in Kansas City. Cook returned in 1969, but it devolved into a quick career-ender and morphed into a “what if?” for the franchise. Cook had thrown a 73-yard TD pass to Eric Crabtree, and backup Sam Wyche hit tight end Bob Trumpy on an 80-yard score to put the Bengals ahead for good. Cook’s absence soon led the Bengals to go with a short pass-oriented attack that became known as the West Coast Offense.
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1968: Raiders 43, Jets 32
Remembered more for NBC’s seminal decision to stop its broadcast prematurely to air “Heidi,” this game also featured a frantic Raiders comeback. Known as the “Heidi Game,” the Week 11 event in Oakland featured 692 combined passing yards and two Hall of Fame receivers dueling. Don Maynard set a still-standing Jets single-game record with 228 receiving yards, while Fred Biletnikoff totaled 120 yards and caught two of Daryle Lamonica’s four TD throws. Lamonica’s 43-yard strike to Jim Smith gave the Raiders a late lead, and Preston Ridlehuber’s fumble-six on the ensuing kick return — both plays occurring after the “Heidi” switch — foiled a Jets comeback bid. The Jets avenged this loss in the AFL title game.
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1967: Steelers 24, Packers 17
Closing out a 4-9-1 season, the Steelers remained a consistent NFL basement bastion at this point. But they caught a Packers team assured of a playoff spot in Week 14. A muddy Lambeau Field led to sloppy work from an offense only partly led by Bart Starr, with Vince Lombardi using all three of his QBs in this regular-season-ending loss. The Steelers produced two defensive touchdowns, from Ben McGee and Chuck Hinton, and the Packers fumbled six times. After a win over the Rams in Milwaukee to start the postseason, the Packers prevailed in the “Ice Bowl” to give Lombardi a third straight NFL title in his Green Bay finale.
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1966: Vikings 20, Packers 17
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In the final year of a steadily dissolving partnership, Fran Tarkenton helped Norm Van Brocklin’s Vikings to an upset over the Packers. A superior squad to their “Ice Bowl” unit, the Packers finished this season 12-2. In their sixth season of existence, the Vikings won this Week 9 back-and-forth game after a 1-yard TD run from fullback Bill Brown in the fourth quarter. This game also marked Jim Taylor’s final regular-season score as a Packer, with the sides separating over money in 1967. The Vikings ended up firing Van Brocklin after the season, and Tarkenton sought a trade he eventually received (to the Giants) in March 1967.