Before every Super Bowl, you see it. Articles talking of past championships with commentators reminiscing on great games, looking into historical context, and sometimes even ranking Super Bowl winners. The latter are some of my favorite articles, allowing me, a younger fan of the game, to learn about these important games that I couldn’t watch myself. However, they also left me with a question: who are the best teams to lose the big game?
With that thought in mind, I decided to write todays articles. The NFL, and especially the Super Bowl, is filled with stories of great accomplishment and triumph, but what often goes forgotten are the teams who came up a few points short of a world championship. Today, we shine light on those squads, whether for good or for bad, and give them a ranking.
This list is based on three criteria: record, Super Bowl result, and my own discretion. Granted, I wasn’t around for most of these games, so most of this was put together based off of what I could find on the internet. Here’s your warning: you’re going to disagree with this list. Regardless, let’s get into it–here are the 56 Super Bowl losers ranked.
Ranking the 56 Super Bowl Losers
56. 1979 Los Angeles Rams
I almost missed this team when compiling this list, and honestly didn’t know this game existed until I started doing some research. What a bad Super Bowl team. The 9-7 Rams were just an incredibly mediocre squad who snuck into the dance and got hot at the right time. The Steelers, on the last leg of their 1970’s dynasty, dispatched Los Angeles in a comfortable 31-19 win.
55. 2008 Arizona Cardinals
Much respect to the Cardinals for helping to provide one of the most entertaining Super Bowls ever, but they probably didn’t deserve to be here. The team finished 9-7 in the regular season, including multiple blowout losses. As cool as it would have been to see Larry Fitzgerald get a ring, this squad was nothing but a Cinderella story.
54. 1989 Denver Broncos
The ’89 Broncos were by no means a bad team–their five losses in that year’s regular season came by a combined 20 points–but when you suffer the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history, this is where you go. The Broncos managed to fall to the dynasty 49ers 55-10, a 45-point beat down on the game’s biggest stage. Maybe they deserve to be higher, but I don’t care, this is where boring Super Bowls get you.
53. 2021 Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati gets the edge over the Broncos because they were likely one Eli Apple away from winning their first Super Bowl. Regardless, the 10-7 Bengals were just another team to catch fire at the right time, even losing to the measly Bears and Jets during the regular season. An incredibly talented roster, the team likely underperformed in the regular season, but still, it’s impossible to ignore how inconsistent this squad was.
52. 1966 Kansas City Chiefs
Losers of the first ever Super Bowl, the 1966 Chiefs were proof that the AFC still had some catching up to do if they wanted to compete against the NFC. The Len Dawson-led team was solid, but against the Vince Lombardi Packers, they simply couldn’t compete. 35-10 was the final, but the trajectory of the NFL was changed forever.
51. 1967 Oakland Raiders
Even better than the ’66 Chiefs, the Raiders were a powerhouse in the AFC, winning the AFC Championship 40-7 on their way to Super Bowl II. However, just like the previous year, the AFC champ was no match for the Lombardi Packers, as the Raiders fell 33-14. The ’66 Chiefs and ’67 Raiders might as well be a package deal because they both suffered from the same issue: the inferiority of the AFC.
50. 2006 Chicago Bears
The ’06 Bears were one of the rare teams to ever have a truly game changing kick returner. Devin Hester was game breaking, even housing the opening kickoff of Chicago’s Super Bowl matchup against Indianapolis. Unfortunately, having Rex Grossman as your starting quarterback will only get you so far, as Hester and co. couldn’t overcome Peyton Manning’s Colts.
49. 2018 Los Angeles Rams
Here’s another team whose quarterback prevents them from being higher on this list. Jared Goff, although still playing solid football today, was clearly the benefactor of elite coaching and support, unable to overcome the Bill Belichick Patriots. It also doesn’t help their ranking that they received the worst no-pass-interference call in NFL history in the NFC Championship.
48. 1985 New England Patriots
This was a David vs Goliath matchup that David had no chance of winning. The Patriots went into a game against the historic ’85 Bears who… well, you know. It was a bloodbath, but good on the Patriots for making it to the championship after entering the playoffs as a wildcard team.
47. 1992 Buffalo Bills
The Bills went to four straight Super Bowls from 1990 to 1993. They won none of them. This one was probably the worst. The ’92 Bills not only finished with the worst record of the four championship teams, but also lost the worst game, getting slaughtered by Dallas, 52-17.
46. 1987 Denver Broncos
In a strike shortened season, the Broncos managed a 10-4-1 record on the way to their second Super Bowl in two years. Neither were particularly strong showings from Denver, but this one was the worse of the two. Washington rolled the Broncos, 42-10.
45. 1986 Denver Broncos
John Elway’s first three Super Bowls didn’t go too well for him, with the 1986 championship being his first loss of the trio. However, this 19-point loss at the hands of the New York Giants was the closest of them all.
44. 1994 San Diego Chargers
Unfortunately for the Chargers, their only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history came against the Steve Young-led 49ers at the end of their historic championship run. Despite the Chargers 11-5 record, this was one of the weakest Super Bowl rosters ever, at least offensively.
43. 1970 Dallas Cowboys
The ’70 Cowboys played a close game against a Colts team desperate for a rebound after faltering in Super Bowl III. However, that’s not what has them this low. Their two blowout losses during their 10-4 regular season are some massive stains on an otherwise solid season. The 12-2 Vikings getting upset in the divisional round was also a massive help.
42. 1971 Miami Dolphins
The precursor to the Dolphins’ undefeated 1972 season, the year ended with an ugly loss against Dallas in the Super Bowl. This might be a bit harsh, especially given the Cowboys were runner ups the year prior, but hey, I make the rules here.
41. 1993 Buffalo Bills
This was a slightly better season for Buffalo than the one prior, but their final Super Bowl season ended just as the first three did. The Cowboys again beat the heartbroken Bills, this time 30-13. Hey, it’s improvement, I guess.
40. 1996 New England Patriots
Not much to say about this squad. The Patriots went into a game against the Brett Favre-led Packers and couldn’t keep up. The Drew Bledsoe-led Patriots were a solid team, but a couple bad regular season losses combined with a fairly sound L in the Super Bowl have them here.
39. 2000 New York Giants
The 2000 Giants were actually a really good team, but I just can’t help but to slot them here after their pathetic performance in the Super Bowl. The Baltimore Ravens were a pretty new franchise at the time and entered the playoffs as a wildcard team, yet the Giants still got demolished 34-7. Ugly stuff.
38. 1976 Minnesota Vikings
At 11-2-1, these Vikings were a solid squad, but got handed an ugly 32-14 loss in the Super Bowl by the Raiders. Just an ugly way for Fran Tarkenton’s Vikings to end their fourth Super Bowl of the decade.
37. 1995 Pittsburgh Steelers
Bill Cowher’s group overcame some ugly losses to start the year, winning eight of their last nine going into the playoffs. However, a bout with a strong Cowboys’ squad proved to be too much as the Steelers lost, 27-17.
36. 1974 Minnesota Vikings
Here’s yet another solid Vikings squad from the 70’s who just couldn’t win the big game. Despite a 10-4 regular season record, they couldn’t overcome the eventual dynasty that was Pittsburgh.
35. 2003 Carolina Panthers
Like the ’95 Steelers, this was a scrappy group that overcame the talent gap to make it to the Super Bowl. They played the early-dynasty Patriots really close too, but eventually fell 32-29.
34. 2016 Atlanta Falcons
28-3. That is all.
33. 1977 Denver Broncos
Here’s yet another Broncos team who fell short at the finish line. This team at least gave it a better shot than the three to follow, only losing 27-10 to the Dallas Cowboys. Still though, not great.
32. 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers
At 12-4, this was a solid team who were favorites going into a Super Bowl against the wildcard Packers. However, they couldn’t get the job done, falling 31-25 in a great back-and-forth battle.
31. 1981 Cincinnati Bengals
One of two Bengals teams to fall victim to the Joe Montana 49ers, they actually played really well in the Super Bowl, only losing 26-21. Another interesting factoid about this squad: Pete Johnson, a fullback, was their leading rusher on the year with 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
30. 1988 Cincinnati Bengals
And right above them is the other Bengals team, this one who lost to the 49ers, 20-16. One point closer, one spot higher.
29. 2012 San Francisco 49ers
Led by Colin Kaepernick, the 2012 49ers employed a dynamic offense centered around the ground game, whether it was the signal caller or running back Frank Gore. However, against an elite Ravens defense, they weren’t able to accomplish much, at least not until a power outage halted the game for a good half hour. This team was very good, but the Ravens exposed their limitations.
28. 2002 Oakland Raiders
The Raiders pulled an unfortunate card for their Super Bowl matchup, having to face their former coach in Jon Gruden. As rumor has it, the Gruden Buccaneers were familiar with the Raiders’ schemes and play calling because of the coaching connection from the year prior. Whether or not that’s true, the 48-21 final score isn’t a great look.
27. 1982 Miami Dolphins
1982 saw the NFL schedule reduced to its smallest number of games ever due to the NFL’s first major strike. In the nine games the Dolphins did play, they won seven of them, suffering their only two losses by a combined nine points. In the Super Bowl against Washington, they actually held a lead for most of the game, but watched it crumble away in the fourth quarter to lose, 27-17.
26. 1991 Buffalo Bills
Following the Bills’ heartbreaking Super Bowl loss the year prior, they were back with a vengeance in 1991, rolling through their regular season schedule with only three losses. However, against the Redskins, they were clearly the inferior team, getting walloped 37-24 in a game that was never truly close. Bonus points for this being their second-best Super Bowl appearance, though.
25. 1973 Minnesota Vikings
With a 12-2 regular season record, this was a tough Vikings squad. However, they pulled an unfortunate matchup against the Dolphins in the Super Bowl, a team which was looking to repeat after completing their undefeated season the year before. The game wasn’t pretty, but that has more to do with circumstance than anything.
24. 1980 Philadelphia Eagles
Here’s yet another Super Bowl where a very good team didn’t put up much of a fight. The Eagles put up a 12-4 regular season record on their way to their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history and faced the wildcard Raiders with a chance to take home a championship. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t ever truly competitive, and the Eagles fell just one step short.
23. 2019 San Francisco 49ers
I’m regrettably putting the 2019 49ers this high despite their liability at quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo was the one weakness in San Francisco’s lineup and likely ended up costing them their game against the Chiefs with a missed touchdown pass to a wide-open Marquise Goodwin. That touchdown would’ve most likely iced the game, but instead, the Niners went on to lose their lead late, falling 31-20.
22. 2005 Seattle Seahawks
The ’05 Seahawks were a strong squad at 13-3 but ended up playing in one of the most controversial championships ever. This game is notorious for being the worst officiated championship in the league’s history with many of the calls going in favor of Seattle’s opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Seahawks fell 21-10, but who knows how this game could have ended had the calls gone the other way.
21. 1969 Minnesota Vikings
Of the Vikings four Super Bowl squads, this one might have been the best as the team went 12-2, losing their only two games by a combined eight points. Unfortunately, their Super Bowl appearance went the same as the rest of them. The Len Dawson Chiefs were hungry for a championship after their 1966 defeat and took the win here.
20. 1975 Dallas Cowboys
Dallas lost to Pittsburgh twice in the 70’s with this year being the first. This four-loss squad actually entered the playoffs as a wildcard team, fighting all the way to the championship game. However, they couldn’t overcome Lynn Swann’s heroics, losing in a very close 21-17 game.
19. 1978 Dallas Cowboys
And here is the second 70’s Cowboys-Steelers matchup. The Cowboys, coming off a Super Bowl championship in the 77-78 season, put together a 12-4 record in an effort to repeat. However, their old friends from Pittsburgh still had their number, beating Dallas by the same point differential, 35-31.
18. 1972 Washington Redskins
You can’t really blame the ’72 Redskins for this one. The squad went 11-3 on the way to their first Super Bowl appearance but ran into the buzzsaw that was the undefeated ’72 Dolphins. They played them as close as they could have but lost 14-7 in a defensive slugfest.
17. 2017 New England Patriots
I feel bad about putting this Patriots squad this high because of the way they got to the Super Bowl. In the AFC Championship against the Cinderella Jaguars, the Patriots were given all they could handle, eventually being handed a ten-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter. However, a clear scoop and score by Jaguars’ linebacker Myles Jack was blown down by the officials, giving Jacksonville the ball but not the points. With this lucky break, the Patriots were able to mount a comeback and win the game before losing to the Eagles in the Super Bowl, 41-33.
16. 2014 Seattle Seahawks
Coming off a blowout win over the Broncos in the 13-14 Super Bowl, the Seahawks were looking to repeat, but had to face Tom Brady’s Patriots in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for Seattle, this game saw one of the most embarrassing endings to a championship ever. Rather than handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the one-yard line for the go-ahead touchdown, Pete Carroll and co. opted to throw the ball, and the rest was history.
15. 1998 Atlanta Falcons
The ’98 Falcons went an impressive 14-2 in the regular season and did it despite a lack of top-level talent. They were completely overmatched in the Super Bowl against the Elway-led Broncos, but regardless, this is one of the more impressive seasons of any team, maybe ever.
14. 1997 Green Bay Packers
Following their Super Bowl 32 win, the Packers returned to the Super Bowl hoping to repeat. However, unlike the overmatched Patriots they played the year prior, Elway was on a mission to win his first championship (remember the infamous helicopter play). This game was incredibly close, but the Packers fell just short, 31-24.
13. 2011 New England Patriots
For the second time in a half decade, the Patriots would face the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. Their first matchup will be covered in just a second. As for this game, the Patriots couldn’t overcome the Giants’ vaunted defense, and a few key players from quarterback Eli Manning put this one away, 21-17.
12. 1999 Tennessee Titans
A movie could be made about this Titans team and all they went through in the 1999-2000 playoffs. Just three weeks after beating the Bills in the wildcard round in dramatic fashion (otherwise known as the Music City Miracle), the Titans faced the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams in a game that came down to the wire. On the final play of the game, down seven points, Steve McNair completed a pass to Kevin Dyson who reached the ball out to the goal line… just to come up one yard short. This is perhaps one of the most heartbreaking ways a Super Bowl has ever ended.
11. 1990 Buffalo Bills
Finally, the last installment of the Bills four-year Super Bowl streak on this list is here. The ’90 Bills finished their regular season 13-3 before heading to the first Super Bowl in the franchise’s history, facing off against the New York Giants. In the big game, down 20-19 with just eight seconds left on the clock, Bills’ kicker Scott Norwood lined up for a 47-yard game-winning field goal. Unfortunately for both him and the Buffalo faithful, the kick sailed wide right, dashing the Bills Super Bowl hopes. Of the four years, this was the closest Buffalo ever came to a championship.
10. 2004 Philadelphia Eagles
After three straight NFC Championship losses, the ’04 Eagles finally made it over the hump and landed in the Super Bowl. One of the best teams of the early 2000’s, this team was destined to end their amazing four year run with a championship, right? Unfortunately for them, they had to face what was likely the only team better than them at the time, the New England Patriots, who bested Philadelphia in a fairly tight contest. The 24-21 loss would be the closest quarterback Donovan McNabb would ever come to a ring.
9. 1984 Miami Dolphins
Led by Hall of Famer Dan Marino, the ’84 Dolphins cruised to a 14-2 regular season record, eventually finding themselves in the Super Bowl. When they got there, though, they were met by Joe Montana in the midst of his legendary 49ers’ career. The game was, like many others on this list, a blowout, but the historical implications were even greater as Marino would never get this close to a championship again.
8. 1983 Washington Redskins
Doing research for this article, I recognized this Super Bowl by its result without knowing anything else about it. With the Redskins taking an ugly 38-9 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders, I planned on slotting them lower on the list and moving on, but when I started digging into it, I was shocked by what I saw.
This Washington team was incredible, only having lost two games in the ’83 regular season by a combined two points! Then in the playoff’s divisional round, they handed the Los Angeles Rams a 51-7 beatdown, putting the league on notice. As ugly as their championship game was, this is unarguably one of the greatest teams to ever fall short of a Lombardi Trophy.
7. 2009 Indianapolis Colts
As is the case for all of these top teams, the 09′ Colts finished the regular season 14-2. However, what is even more impressive is the fact that they started the season 14-0, only losing when they were already locked into the postseason. That is beyond impressive. Just three years removed from a Super Bowl win over the Bears, they headed into a matchup with the New Orleans Saints, a team desperate for a win after the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina. This added motivation gave the Saints the extra boost they needed, hoisting them over Peyton Manning’s squad, 31-17.
6. 2020 Kansas City Chiefs
This is the part of the list where I’ll start ignoring Super Bowl results for the sake of elite teams. The Chiefs took a beating in Super Bowl 55 as the Buccaneers defense destroyed their crippled o-line, but the 31-9 result does not define this team. Their 14-2 record (one loss of which came without the starters) combined with the play of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce make this team one of the best Super Bowl losers ever.
5. 2015 Carolina Panthers
The Panthers lost a pretty sloppy game to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50, but let’s not forget just how special this team was. For starters, Cam Newton was playing at an otherworldly level, using his rare blend of size and athleticism to crush opposing defenses both through the air and on the ground. This 15-1 squad was truly dominant during the regular season, only faltering once due to some Julio Jones late-game heroics.
4. 2013 Denver Broncos
One of the greatest offenses ever, Peyton Manning’s Broncos were truly a force to be reckoned with. Despite dropping three games during the regular season, Denver saw its quarterback set records for both passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) in a season, numbers that remain untouched today. In the Super Bowl, everything that could’ve gone wrong for Denver did go wrong as they lost 43-8 to the Seahawks. Still, this was a historic season.
3. 1968 Baltimore Colts
Following the retirement of legendary coach Vince Lombardi, the door for a new NFC champion was opened. This Colts team was the first to take on the role. Unfortunately for them, as good as their 13-1 regular season record was, they were handed one of the biggest upset losses in Super Bowl history, falling to Joe Namath’s Jets, 16-7. Despite the loss, this was still an all-time great team who probably should’ve won this game handedly. Oh well, Baltimore has multiple Super Bowls from multiple different teams now, so I’m sure they don’t mind.
2. 2001 St. Louis Rams
The “Greatest Show on Turf” makes its second appearance on the list, but this time on the losing side. Kurt Warner’s squad was two years removed from their first championship and looked to repeat against a Super Bowl rookie in Tom Brady. However, the Patriots’ elite defense put a damper on the Rams’ fun, holding their historic offense to just 17 points. Tied 17-17 in the waning seconds of the game, Adam Vinatieri lined up for a 48-yard game-winning field goal which he promptly buried in between the goal posts to deliver New England its first Super Bowl. Despite the loss, however, this Rams team was truly something special.
1. 2007 New England Patriots
Ah yes, the king of Super Bowl losers, the ’07 Patriots. The team which came just one game… no, just three points shy of the first and only 19-0 NFL season ever. The Giants, who came into the playoffs as a wildcard team, rode their defense through the first three playoff rounds, all to be presented a matchup with arguably the greatest team ever. And yet, they didn’t flinch. The G-men held Brady and his offense to just 14 points, and with a few miracles down the stretch (most notably David Tyree’s helmet catch), New York was able to score just enough to knock off the Patriots.
Not only was this New England squad the best team to lose a Super Bowl, but they could quite possibly be the best team to ever play the sport, period. All they’re missing is the trophy to prove it.
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