The Most Devastating Postseason Loss in the History of Every NFL Franchise

Dan Van WieContributor IIIJanuary 12, 2012

The Most Devastating Postseason Loss in the History of Every NFL Franchise

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    As we are now in the midst of the NFL playoffs, it is an appropriate time to revisit NFL playoff history and relive the highs and lows of the various franchises successes and failures in the postseason.

    Today, we want to focus on finding the most devastating loss of each NFL franchise in the playoffs.

    There are multiple candidates to consider for some teams and in those cases we will list some of the options and give our reasons for which loss we selected and why.

    On to the presentation.

Arizona Cardinals: Super Bowl XLIII

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    In their franchise history, the Arizona Cardinals have only made one Super Bowl appearance, and that was in Super Bowl XLIII when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-23.

    Since winning the Super Bowl is the goal of every NFL team, we believe that this loss qualifies as the most devastating loss in team history.

    In the 2008 season, few people would have suspected that the Cardinals would have made it to the Super Bowl that year, as they won the NFC West division with a 9-7 record.

    As the Cardinals clearly demonstrated through their playoff run, all you need to do is get in to the playoffs and anything can happen.

    The Cardinals began their run with a home victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card Round, 30-24.

    After that, they traveled to Carolina and disposed of the Panthers in the divisional round, 33-13.

    Next, the Cardinals hosted the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC championship, and again, the Cardinals prevailed, 32-25, allowing for a Super Bowl trip against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Kurt Warner passed for 377 yards and threw three touchdown passes in the Super Bowl, but the only interception he threw, which resulted in a James Harrison touchdown return of 100 yards, wound up being the difference in the game.

    Warner did lead the Cardinals on a comeback attempt, which saw them take the lead, 23-20, on a touchdown pass of 64 yards to Larry Fitzgerald with 2:37 left in the game.

    But Ben Roethlisberger was able to mount his own comeback drive and he hit Santonio Holmes in the final minute of play to steal the Super Bowl victory away from the Cardinals.

    That is a devastating loss.

Atlanta Falcons: Wild Card Loss to N.Y. Giants 2011

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    There are several other games we could have selected, including the Falcons loss in Super Bowl XXXIII to Denver Broncos, 34-19, or the 1980 loss in the NFC divisional playoffs to the Dallas Cowboys, 30-27.

    Another option was the 2010 divisional playoff loss to Green Bay when the Falcons had home-field advantage in the NFC but got blown out at home by the Packers.

    All of those choices are worthy but instead we opted for the Wild Card loss last weekend to the New York Giants.

    The Falcons gave up a reasonable chunk of their future at the 2011 NFL draft when they moved up in the first round to swap with the Cleveland Browns in order to draft wide receiver Julio Jones.

    The Falcons wanted to add more firepower to their offense and the acquisition of Jones was believed to be the missing piece that would put the Falcons over the top.

    The Falcons fell flat last week and the New York Giants shut out the their offense in the 24-2 loss.

    The Falcons offense came up far short of what was expected and this loss is already going to be setting the franchise backwards.

    With the inability of the Falcons offense to gain a single yard on three different fourth down plays, it implies that the Falcons line was soft.

    Since the loss, the Falcons have lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators.

    Mike Mularkey was hired to become the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, while defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder left the team for Auburn University.

    Matt Ryan is now 0-3 in playoff games and his confidence must be at an all-time low. 

Baltimore Ravens: 2010 AFC Divisional Playoff Loss to Pittsburgh

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    Is there anything like a good old family feud to liven up the weekend?

    Whenever the Baltimore Ravens get together with the Pittsburgh Steelers, you know that it is going to be a very physical, hard fought and mentally challenging battle.

    The teams usually play two close games during the regular season, but if they wind up facing each other a third time in a year, you know that playoff game will be a war.

    Such was the case in the 2010 playoffs, when the Ravens had to travel to Pittsburgh for the divisional round of the AFC.

    The Ravens had just defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 30-7, in the Wild Card Round the week before.

    In the regular season, the visiting team each won a game in the series (the Ravens won in Pittsburgh, 17-14, while the Steelers won in Baltimore, 13-10).

    You knew that home-field advantage doesn't mean that much when these two teams square off.

    In the 2010 playoff game, the Ravens jumped out with a strong first half to take a 21-7 lead at halftime.

    With the strong Ravens defense, you would generally like their chances very much to be able to keep that lead. More so when you consider that in the regular season, both teams didn't score more than 17 points.

    In the playoffs, however, anything can happen.

    The Steelers came roaring back in the second half behind Ben Roethlisberger.

    The Steelers outscored the Ravens, 24-3, to win the game, 31-24.

    Roethlisberger passed for 226 yards and two touchdowns.

    The Ravens turned the ball over three times and that really hurt them.

    The win gave the Steelers a 9-0 record against rival AFC North teams in the postseason.

Buffalo Bills: Blown out in Super Bowl XXVII to Dallas Cowboys

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    Don Beebe running down Leon Lett to force a touchback was one of the few positive moments for Buffalo Bills fans to take away from Super Bowl XXVII. For those interested, here is a YouTube video of the play.

    You could take your pick from Super Bowl XXV or XXVII, as these two losses were on the different end of the spectrum.

    In Super Bowl XXV, the Bills were in a position to win the game on the final play but Scott Norwood missed the kick and the Bills lost to the New York Giants, 20-19.

    You could opt for the blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys, 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII and the humiliation that sprung from that debacle.

    I was in attendance for both of those games, so I am going to opt for Super Bowl XXVII.

    The way that the Dallas Cowboys defensive line manhandled the Bills offensive line that day was embarrassing.

    The Cowboys knocked Jim Kelly out of the game in the first half and Frank Reich has used up all of magical comeback dust.

    There was nothing special left in his game for the second half.

    As the Cowboys kept converting one touchdown drive after another, I remember thinking to myself, why do the Bills keep putting themselves in this position to be humiliated in front of a national stage?

    But then I watched Don Beebe run down Leon Lett and I knew that no matter how bad the score is or how badly the game is out of reach, the Bills have the work ethic of the city and they never give up or stop fighting.

    Sure enough, they rebounded from the devastating loss of Super Bowl XXVII to come back and appear the following year (fourth-straight time) to play Dallas again.

    Their resolve is unquestioned. The team just lacked the talent to get past the Cowboys' triple-threats.

    We didn't mention the Music City Miracle yet, but I really don't consider that so devastating.

    It shouldn't have happened, as I still don't believe it was a lateral pass, but the fact that the Bills are the only team that hasn't reached the playoffs since 2000, well, that to me is devastating.

Carolina Panthers: Super Bowl XXXVIII

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    The Carolina Panthers came oh so close to realizing their ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl trophy only to fall just short.

    The scene was Super Bowl XXXVIII and the Panthers had the misfortune of drawing a hot Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

    The Panthers went 11-5 in 2003 to win the NFC South division. From there, the Panthers reeled off three straight wins against Dallas (29-10), St. Louis (29-23) and Philadelphia (14-3) to advance to the Super Bowl. 

    In the Super Bowl, the teams combines for 61 points, but the scoring patterns were strange, as both teams were shut out in the first and third quarters.

    The Patriots took a 14-10 lead at the half and that stood up until the fourth quarter.

    In the fourth quarter, the Panthers were able to mount a comeback, but they failed to get any points on two different two-point conversions, which ultimately might have cost them the game.

    The Panthers were able to battle back to tie the game at 29 only to see Tom Brady lead the Patriots to a game-winning drive capped by a 41-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri to win the game, 32-29.

    The Panthers got three touchdown passes from Jake Delhomme, as he distributed the ball to Steve Smith,. Muhsin Muhammad and Ricky Proehl for one touchdown each.

    They also got a touchdown from running back DeShaun Foster.

    The Panthers were also hurt by 12 penalties for 73 yards..

Chicago Bears: Couldn't Defend Super Bowl Win

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    We wanted to acknowledge the Bears' loss in Super Bowl XLI to the Indianapolis Colts, 29-17, but that isn't the game that we selected.

    The year was 1986.

    The Chicago Bears were the defending Super Bowl champions and they were looking for a repeat.

    The Bears finished the regular season with a record of 14-2, tied for the best in the NFL along with the New York Giants.

    The Bears led the NFL with the biggest point differential (plus-165) of any NFL team.

    All the Bears had to do was get past the Washington Redskins in the divisional round and then they would be back to the NFC championship game.

    The Redskins were 12-4 and were in the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

    The Redskins scored first on a pass from Jay Schroeder to Art Monk.

    The Bears bounced back with 13 straight points to take a 13-7 lead at halftime.

    Willie Gault scored on a 50-yard pass from Doug Flutie and Kevin Butler kicked two field goals.

    But something happened in the second half as the Redskins made some adjustments and the Bears had no answers for them.

    The Bears offense went into a funk and was shut out for the second half.

    The Redskins, meanwhile, went out and scored 20 unanswered points to win the contest, 27-13.

    Jay Schroeder hit Willie Gault on another touchdown pass and George Rogers ran in for another score.

    The Redskins offense generated 302 yards while the Bears managed only 220.

    The more important stat was that the Bears committed four turnovers while the Redskins had only one.

Cincinnati Bengals: Super Bowl XXIII Loss to 49ers

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    The Cincinnati Bengals have two Super Bowl losses that were painful, Super Bowl XXIII and Super Bowl XVI.

    Both losses came at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.

    For the purposes of this article, we went with the loss at Super Bowl XXIII, but a case could be made for either game.

    In 1988, the Cincinnati Bengals had a record of 12-4, which was tied for best in the AFC along with the Buffalo Bills.

    The San Francisco 49ers didn't appear to be anything special that year, as the top spots in the NFC belonged to the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings.

    In fact, the 49ers were one of five other teams in the NFC that were tied with a 10-6 record.

    You could almost say that the 49ers were lucky to make the playoffs, since the Saints failed to get a playoff berth with the same 10-6 record.

    In the playoffs, the Bengals disposed of Seattle (21-13) and Buffalo (21-10) to win the AFC championship and advance to Super Bowl XXIII.

    The 49ers had to beat Minnesota (34-9) and Chicago (28-3) to win the NFC championship.

    In the Super Bowl, neither offense could get much going in the first half and the score was tied 3-3 at halftime.

    In the second half, the Bengals opened up a 13-6 lead at the end of the third quarter, but that lead eventually went away as Joe Montana led the 49ers to two touchdown drives.

    The Bengals were outscored 14-3 in the fourth quarter and lost the game, 20-16.

    The Bengals offense could only muster three field goals for the entire game.

    The Bengals got a special teams TD from Stanford Jennings.

    The 49ers gained 452 yards of offense, while the Bengals only picked up 229 yards of offense.

    In addition, quarterback Boomer Esiason was sacked five times by the 49ers defense.

Cleveland Browns: 1986 AFC Championship OT Loss

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    The Cleveland Browns have a number of strong candidates to choose from.

    There was the 1987 AFC championship game that they lost to Denver, 38-33.

    There was the 1986 AFC championship game that they also lost to Denver in overtime, 23-20.

    Another strong candidate would be a divisional round game on January 4, 1981, when the Browns lost to Oakland, 14-12.

    Any of these three will work, but for the article, I will select the 1986 AFC championship game.

    In 1986, the Browns owned the best record in the AFC at 12-4.

    In the divisional round, the Browns got by the New York Jets, 23-20 in double overtime, while the Broncos beat the New England Patriots, 22-17.

    The stage was then set for the Browns to enjoy their home-field advantage and host the Broncos for the AFC championship.

    We can only imagine how much that double overtime game took out of the Browns for the following weekend.

    The Browns opened up the scoring in the first quarter when Bernie Kozar hit Herman Fontenot with a touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead.

    In the second quarter, the Broncos scored 10 straight points until Mark Moseley kicked a field goal to tie the game up at 10 at halftime. 

    In the third quarter, the Broncos kicked a field goal to go up 13-10, but the Browns then scored 10 straight points to go up 20-13.

    Kozar hit Brian Brennan on a 48-yard pass to put the Browns up by a touchdown with less that six minutes left in regulation.

    A botched kick return left the Broncos at their own 2-yard line and needing to drive 98 yards to tie the score.

    What flowed is now known as "The Drive," as Elway drove the team the length of the field.

    Elway hit Mark Jackson with a touchdown pass with just 37 seconds left in regulation.

    Jackson also caught a key 20-yard pass when the Broncos were faced with a 3rd-and-18.

    In overtime, the Broncos drove down the field again on their first possession and Rich Karlis kicked a 33-yard field goal to give the Broncos the win in overtime.

Dallas Cowboys: Lose Super Bowl XIII in Heartbreaker to Steelers

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    The Dallas Cowboys have lost three Super Bowl games and a number of other playoff games.

    From the Super Bowl losses, we have Super Bowl V (Baltimore won 16-13), Super Bowl X (Pittsburgh won 27-17) and Super Bowl XIII (Pittsburgh won 35-31).

    Of those three options, we will go with Super Bowl XIII as the most devastating loss.

    In 1978, the Cowboys were the defending Super Bowl champions.

    They were tied for the best record in the NFC with the Los Angeles Rams at 12-4.

    They were a better team than the Rams, as the Cowboys enjoyed a plus-176 point differential in their games that year, while the Rams were at plus-71.

    In the NFC playoffs, the Cowboys beat the Atlanta Falcons, 27-20 and then had to travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams in the NFC championship game.

    The Cowboys shut them out 28-0.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers owned the best record in the NFL that year at 14-2.

    They beat Denver, 33-10 and Houston, 34-5 to set up the teams for Super Bowl XIII.

    Both teams had already won two Super Bowls in the 1970s, so whoever won the game would have bragging rights as the team of the decade.

    In the Super Bowl, Terry Bradshaw had a great game and passed for 318 yards and four touchdowns with only one interception.

    Roger Staubach did his part by throwing three touchdown passes, but in all likelihood, he should have been credited with four, thanks to Jackie Smith's dropped pass when he was all alone in the end zone.

    The Cowboys recovered an onside kick in the fourth quarter but it wasn't enough to come back all the way.

Denver Broncos: Blown out in Super Bowl XXIV

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    The Denver Broncos have had mixed results in the Super Bowl.

    There were the John Elway back-to-back wins but there were also a number of Super Bowl losses.

    There are four candidates we are looking at: Super Bowl XXIV (San Francisco won 55-10), Super Bowl XXII (Washington won 42-10), Super Bowl XXI (New York Giants won 39-20) and Super Bowl XII (Dallas won 27-10).

    Of these candidates, we selected Super Bowl XXIV.

    In 1989, the Denver Broncos were the best team in the AFC.

    They owned the best record at 11-5 and would wind up going to their third Super Bowl over a four year time period.

    The only problem was that they had lost the earlier two Super Bowl games and didn't want to come up short again.

    The San Francisco 49ers owned the best record in the NFL in 1989 at 14-2 and their 189 point differential was tops as well.

    Denver's point differential was No. 2 with 136, so at least the top two teams were meeting in the Super Bowl.

    In the Super Bowl, the Broncos had absolutely no answer for MVP Joe Montana.

    The 49ers opened up a 27-3 lead at halftime, ended up scoring at least 13 points in all four quarters and won a 55-10 drubbing.

    Jerry Rice caught three touchdown passes and Montana threw five touchdowns and no interceptions.

    The Broncos didn't help themselves with four turnovers in the game.

    This game would mark the end of the Broncos AFC domination.

    The Broncos would get their chance later, but this loss was as a humbling and devastating as you could imagine.

Detroit Lions: Lions Lose 1991 NFC Championship Game

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    In the modern era of the NFL, the Detroit Lions have not had much playoff success, so we are going to go back to the NFC championship game of 1991 to find the last time that the Lions were just one game away from going to the Super Bowl.

    In the 1991 season, the Lions won the NFC Central with a record of 12-4.

    The best record in the league belonged to the Washington Redskins, who owned a 14-2 record.

    Even though these teams were just two games apart in the win column, you have to seriously wonder how close they were to each other in talent.

    The Redskins owned the best point differential mark in the NFL by a wide margin at plus-261, while the Lions were at plus-44.

    In the playoffs, the Lions easily handled the Dallas Cowboys, 38-6, while the Redskins beat the Atlanta Falcons, 24-7.

    That set the table for the NFC championship game and Detroit would have to come up with a road victory in Washington if they wanted to face the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl.

    In the championship game, the Redskins proved that they were just that much better than everybody else in the NFL.

    They jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but the Lions came back on a touchdown pass from Erik Kramer to Willie Green.

    The Redskins were only up 17-10 at halftime.

    In the second half, the Redskins turned it up a notch and shut out the Lions 24-0 to win the game rather handily by a final score of 41-10.

    Erik Kramer passed for 249 yards and Barry Sanders was held to just 44 yards on 11 rushes.

    The Lions committed three turnovers to none for the Redskins.

Green Bay Packers: Lose Super Bowl XXXII

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    There are two main candidates for the Green Bay Packers' most devastating playoff loss in my opinion.

    Those are the Super Bowl XXXII loss to Denver and the 2003 divisional playoffs loss to Philadelphia.

    I am selecting the Super Bowl XXXII loss for this article.

    In 1997, the Green Bay Packers were tied for the best record in the NFL at 13-3 with the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

    The Packers owned the best point differential of any NFC team at a plus-140, while the best point differential in the NFL belonged to the AFC West Denver Broncos at 185.

    It should be noted that the Broncos were No. 2 in the AFC West behind Kansas City with a 12-4 record.

    The Packers didn't have much trouble surviving the NFC round of the playoffs as they beat Tampa Bay, 21-7, and then beat the San Francisco 49ers on the road, 23-10.

    Maybe the lack of competition proved to be their downfall.

    Denver had to win three games (Jacksonville, 42-17, Kansas City, 14-10 and Pittsburgh, 24-21) to reach the Super Bowl.

    In the Super Bowl game, the teams combined for 55 points and both teams managed to score in every quarter.

    The Packers jumped out to a 7-0 lead, only to see Denver score 17 straight points.

    The Packers scored again before the half to make it 17-14 at the break.

    In the third quarter, the Packers scored first again to tie the game at 17, but then the Broncos outscored the Packers 14-7 over the rest of the second half to win, 31-24.

    Brett Favre threw three touchdown passes but he was matched by Terrell Davis scoring three rushing touchdowns.

    John Elway added a fourth rushing touchdown.

    Both teams had 21 first downs.

    The Packers had three turnovers and the Broncos had two.

Houston Texans/Houston Oilers: Oilers Let Buffalo Make Huge Comeback

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    The Houston Texans franchise is officially 1-1 in NFL playoff games, but they do not yet have a devastating loss on their record.

    Therefore, we will have to go back to the Houston Oilers to find one, and there is one that sticks out more than any other.

    If you want to see a YouTube video on highlights of this game, here is your link.

    That would be the 1992 AFC Wild Card game between the Houston Oilers and the Buffalo Bills, which to this day is still referred to as the "Greatest Comeback in the History of the NFL."

    For those not very familiar with the game, I wonder if you have been living in a cave?

    This game saw the Oilers jump out to a 28-3 lead at halftime, and on the opening drive of the second half, Bubba McDowell came up with a pick-six to extend the lead to 35-3.

    Game over, right?

    The Bills found a way to come back after being down 35-3 to take the lead, 38-35 late in the fourth quarter, only to see the Oilers come back and tie the game at 38 late in regulation to send it to overtime.

    The Bills intercepted a pass from Warren Moon in overtime to set up Steve Christie for the winning kick to complete the Bills' improbable comeback win.

    Warren Moon threw for 371 yards, four touchdown passes and two interceptions, but it wasn't enough to win.

    This is by far the most devastating loss in Houston's history.

Indianapolis Colts: Drops Super Bowl XLIV to New Orleans

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    In the history of the Colts franchise, there are two games that deserve the most consideration.

    The first game would be the Baltimore Colts who lost Super Bowl III to Joe Namath and the New York Jets.

    The other game would be Super Bowl XLIV, which is the game we chose for the presentation.

    In the 2009 regular season, the Indianapolis Colts owned the best record in the NFL with a record of 14-2.

    The Colts had the best record, but their point differential for the season (plus-109) was only the fifth-best mark in the AFC.

    The New Orleans Saints had the best record in the NFC at 13-3, and their point differential at 169 was the best in the NFC.

    The Colts enjoyed their home-field advantage to sweep through the two AFC playoff games by defeating the Baltimore Ravens, 20-3, and then knocked off the New York Jets, 30-17, to go to the Super Bowl.

    The Saints blasted the Arizona Cardinals, 45-14, and then edged the Minnesota Vikings, 31-28.

    The best AFC record would then be meeting the best NFC record in the Super Bowl.

    The two teams didn't disappoint.

    Peyton Manning threw a touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon and a Matt Stover field goal gave the Colts an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

    The Colts hung on to lead 10-6 at the half.

    However, the Saints dominated the second half, outscoring the Colts 25-7 to win going away, 31-17.

    For all of the years that the Indianapolis Colts have dominated the AFC South, they only have two Super Bowl appearances to show for all of the Peyton Manning years.

    You would like to see them make the most of those chances, which is why this loss was so devastating.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Lose AFC Championship Game in 1999

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars have yet to appear in a Super Bowl game, but they did get very close to one in 1999.

    That year, the Jaguars lost the AFC championship game to the the Tennessee Titans, 33-14, which has to go down as the most devastating playoff loss in team history.

    The 1999 regular season saw the Jaguars come up with the best record in the entire NFL at 14-2.

    Not only did the Jaguars have the best record, but they also owned the best point differential of any AFC team by a wide margin at plus-179.

    The Tennessee Titans were one game behind the Jaguars at 13-3, but their point differential was just 68 points.

    This is probably the right time to interject that the two losses suffered by the Jaguars were due to being swept by the Titans in the regular season.

    It is safe to say that the Titans had the Jaguars' number.

    In the playoffs, the Jaguars coasted to the AFC championship game by blasting the Miami Dolphins, 62-7.

    The Titans were tested by edging the Bills, 22-16 on the Music City Miracle Play and then beating the Indianapolis Colts, 19-16, on the road.

    The Titans were traveling to face the Jaguars for the AFC championship game.

    The Titans got solid performances out of Steve McNair and Eddie George to continue their domination of the Jaguars team in winning the contest, 33-14.

    The Jaguars held a 14-10 lead at halftime, but were shut out the rest of the way, while the Titans put up 23 answered points in the second half.

    The Jaguars proved that they weren't ready for the big dance by coughing up six turnovers in the game. That will likely end your season every time you turn it over that often.

Kansas City Chiefs: Lost 2003 AFC Divisional Playoff to Indianapolis

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    The Kansas City Chiefs had a few options to consider, ranging from their Super Bowl I to the loss suffered in the 2003 playoffs to the Indianapolis Colts.

    There was also the 1995 AFC divisional playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 10-7 to consider.

    The Super Bowl I game was not a game that anybody in the AFL was ready to play, so that can easily enough be overlooked.

    We will go with the 2003 playoff game as the most devastating loss in team history.

    In the 2003 season, the Chiefs won the AFC West division with a record of 13-3.

    The Chiefs team was so good that year that they enjoyed the best point differential in the NFL at plus-152.

    The Indianapolis Colts won the AFC South with a 12-4 record. 

    In the playoffs, the Chiefs received a bye in the first round, while the Colts were forced to play a game.

    The Colts beat Denver, 41-10, so were coming in to Kansas City with a little momentum built up.

    In the divisional playoff game, the Colts jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter.

    Both teams added a touchdown in the second quarter, so the Colts still had an 11-point lead of 21-10 at halftime.

    In the second half, the Chiefs managed to score 21 points, but it wasn't enough, as the Colts scored 17 points of their own to ultimately win the game, 38-31.

    With 69 points scored in the contest, neither defense did much to slow down the other team.

    Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes for the Colts, while Trent Green threw one for Kansas City.

    The Chiefs got two touchdowns from Priest Holmes and a kick return for a touchdown from Dante Hall.

Miami Dolphins: The 1981 'Epic in Miami'

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    There are four games that come to mind for the Dolphins.

    The 1981 Epic in Miami (see photo), which is one of the most famous football pictures from that era, and then the three Super Bowl losses.

    Those three were Super Bowl XIX (lost to San Francisco, 38-16), Super Bowl XVII (lost to Washington, 27-17) and Super Bowl VI (lost to Dallas, 24-3).

    We selected the Epic in Miami for this presentation.

    In the 1981 regular season, the Dolphins won the AFC East with a record of 11-4-1.

    The San Diego Chargers won the AFC West with a record of 10-6.

    Both teams received a bye in the Wild Card Round and then San Diego had to travel to face the Dolphins for the divisional round.

    The game was played in 80 degree heat, and as the game proceeded, players started to cramp up due to heat exhaustion.

    The contest got off to a strange start as San Diego jumped all over the Dolphins by storming to a 24-0 lead in the first quarter.

    The Dolphins finally started playing in the second quarter and scored 17 straight points to make it interesting at halftime, 24-17.

    In the third quarter, the Dolphins got two touchdown passes from Don Strock and the game was tied at 31.

    In the fourth quarter, both teams managed to score a touchdown to leave the score tied at 38 at the end of regulation.

    The Dolphins had a chance to win the game in regulation with a field goal, but Chargers tight end Kellen Winslow blocked the kick.

    The teams had generated 76 points in regulation, and they were both exhausted.

    The overtime period would be a testament to who wanted the game more.

    In overtime, the Chargers were able to kick a field goal to end the contest at 41-38.

    In total, the teams combined for 1,036 yards of offense, seven turnovers and 16 penalties.

    "The Epic in Miami" seems like a fitting name for this classic game.

Minnesota Vikings: Lose Heartbreaking 2009 NFC Championship Game in OT

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    The Minnesota Vikings are a franchise that has far more key playoff losses than key playoff wins, so there are a number of different directions we can roll with here.

    There are the three Super Bowl losses, Super Bowl XI (Oakland, 32-14), Super Bowl IX (Pittsburgh, 16-6) and Super Bowl VIII (Miami, 24-7).

    There is the Hail Mary pass versus Dallas in the 1975 divisional playoffs.

    More recently, there is the Brett Favre final playoff hurrah with the 31-28 loss to New Orleans in the NFC championship game.

    For our article, we are going with the 2009 NFC championship game.

    The 2009 Vikings team was an older team that had a narrow window of time to win it all.

    They were led by quarterback Brett Favre and a strong defensive line that wreaked havoc.

    The Vikings won the NFC Central with a 12-4 record and received a first-round bye.

    They easily dispatched of the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round, 34-3, which meant that they would travel to the dome in New Orleans for the NFC championship game.

    The Saints went 13-3 to win the NFC South.

    They also had a first-round bye and won their playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, 45-14.

    The Saints owned the best point differential in the NFC with a 169, while the Vikings were No. 3 in the NFC with 158.

    In the NFC championship game, the Vikings jumped out to a 14-7 lead on a touchdown run by Adrian Peterson and a touchdown pass from Brett Favre to Sidney Rice.

    The Saints scored a touchdown in the second quarter, so the teams were tied at 14 at the half.

    In the second half, both teams scored 14 points for the half, so the game was knotted up at 28 at the end of regulation.

    Adrian Peterson scored both of the Vikings touchdowns in the second half.

    In overtime, Garrett Hartley nailed a 40-yard field goal to give the Saints a 41-38 win, cancelling the  Vikings plans to win it all now. 

New England Patriots: Lose Perfect Season and Super Bowl

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    The New England Patriots have lost three different Super Bowl games (Super Bowls XLII, XXXI and XX) but to me, this is a very easy selection.

    The choice has to be Super Bowl XLII when the Patriots lost their perfect season and the Super Bowl simultaneously.

    The goal of every NFL team is to win the Super Bowl. The ultimate goal of every team is to accomplish the feat by winning every game and going undefeated.

    The ability to accomplish that is so rare, that very few players would ever talk about it openly, because you are setting yourself up with a level of expectations that would be too difficult to achieve.

    The Patriots had gone through the 2007 season undefeated, a perfect 16-0, and were plus-315 in point differential.

    The Giants were just plus-22.

    The Patriots beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 31-20, in the divisional round of the playoffs and then won the AFC championship by beating the San Diego Chargers, 21-12.

    The New York Giants' road to the Super Bowl was clearly much harder.

    As a Wild Card team, they had to win three playoff games on the road; beating Tampa Bay, 24-14, beating Dallas, 21-17, and beating Green Bay, 23-20, to advance to the Super Bowl.

    You could say that the Giants were more battle-tested than the Patriots were.

    In the Super Bowl, we all know the infamous pass where Eli Manning evades the rush and heaves a pass to David Tyree that he traps against his helmet in one of the most famous catches in Super Bowl history.

    The Giants rallied to score 14 points in the final quarter to defeat the Patriots, 17-14, and ruin their perfect season bid.

New Orleans Saints: 2010 Wild Card Loss to Seattle

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    For my money, the most devastating loss in the history of the New Orleans Saints has to be the Wild Card loss they suffered to the Seattle Seahawks in 2010 as defending Super Bowl champions.

    To win the whole thing and then come out the following year and get ousted in the very first round of the playoffs had to be a humbling experience for the entire team.

    To know that you were eliminated by the first playoff team to enter the playoffs with a losing record is even more devastating.

    The Saints entered the 2010 playoffs as a Wild Card team, as they finished at 11-5, two games behind the Atlanta Falcons, who were 13-3.

    The Seahawks got in to the playoffs by winning the NFC West division title with a record of 7-9.

    The Saints didn't exactly fall flat in the Wild Card game, as they did manage to score 38 points, which for most playoff games should be more than sufficient to win.

    However, it was the Saints defense that failed to perform in this game.

    The Saints allowed a shaky Seahawks offense to generate 415 yards of offense and allowed them to score in every quarter of the game.

    Then there were the missed tackling issues, as Marshawn Lynch ran through the Saints defenders like they weren't even there.

    Just a devastating way for the Saints to go out as defending champions.

New York Giants: Giants Come Up Short in 2008 Playoffs

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    After the New York Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007, the targets were clearly on their backs as the team that everybody wanted to beat.

    The Giants took the challenge head on and emerged from the regular season in 2008 with a record of 12-4, good enough to win the NFC East and also good enough to be tied with the Carolina Panthers for the best record in the NFC.

    With a plus point differential of 133, the Giants also owned the top score in the NFC, making them the odds-on favorite to get back to the Super Bowl.

    First, there was the little matter of getting through the NFC playoffs.

    The Giants received their bye in the first round and learned that their opponent in the divisional round would be the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The Eagles entered the playoffs as a Wild Card team with a record of 9-6-1.

    The Eagles won their first playoff game on the road at Minnesota, 26-14.

    The teams had split their regular season series, with each visiting team winning the game on the road.

    That fact alone should have sent a warning to the Giants that an upset was very possible.

    In the playoff game, the Giants offense could only generate three field goals and no touchdowns.

    The defense came up with a safety, while the Eagles got two touchdown drives out of Donovan McNabb to upset the Giants, 23-11.

    The Giants' plans to repeat as champions abruptly went up in smoke.

New York Jets: 2010 AFC Championship Loss to Pittsburgh

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    Ever since the New York Jets won Super Bowl III, it has surely been a long wait for Jets fans to get back to the Super Bowl party.

    With losses in the AFC championship game in 2010, 2009 and 1982, the Jets have had their chances to get back, but just couldn't find a way to survive the AFC gauntlet.

    We are selecting the 2010 AFC championship game loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers as the most devastating loss in Jets playoff history.

    In 2010, the Jets emerged from the regular season with a record of 11-5, good enough for a Wild Card berth, but one that assured the team that they would be traveling on the road for every round of the playoffs.

    The Jets seem to relish in road wins in the playoffs under Rex Ryan, as they managed to pull off two road playoff wins in both 2009 and in 2010.

    The road wins in 2010 included a narrow 17-16 defeat of Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, followed by a 28-21 defeat of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

    With Manning and Brady out of the way, the only quarterback left for them to worry about was Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers who would serve as host for the 2010 AFC championship.

    The Jets looked like they were a road-weary team in the first half, as the Steelers jumped out to a commanding 24-3 lead.

    The Jets fought back in the second half, as they shut out the Steelers and put up 16 points of their own.

    The comeback wasn't enough though, as the Jets came up just short, 24-19.

    Mark Sanchez threw two touchdown passes in the second half and the Jets defense came up with a safety.

Oakland Raiders: 1972 Loss to Pittsburgh Via the Immaculate Reception

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    There isn't much analysis required to select the most devastating loss in Oakland Raiders team history.

    To think that you had a game won coming down to the final seconds of regulation, only to see the victory turned into a sudden and devastating loss via a pass deflection is a pretty hard way to end your season.

    Based on some of the crazy ways that Ken Stabler pulled out victories at the end of games, there might have been some karma involved in the Immaculate Reception.

    The Raiders were up 7-6 in the waning moments of this 1972 divisional playoff game when Terry Bradshaw unleashed the pass that Franco Harris scooped up and ran in untouched for a 13-7 win.

Philadelphia Eagles: Losing Super Bowl XXXIX by Three Points

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    Despite all of their regular season success, the Philadelphia Eagles have struggled to make it all the way to the Super Bowl.

    The last trip there almost allowed the team to realize their first Super Bowl win, but it was not meant to be.

    The Eagles lost Super Bowl XXXIX by three points to the New England Patriots and Tom Brady, 24-21.

    That, to me, is the most devastating loss in Eagles team history. To be that close and yet so far away.

    In the 2004 regular season, the Eagles put up the best record in the NFC at 13-3 and had the best NFC point differential at 126.

    Their eventual Super Bowl opponent, the New England Patriots, had the best point differential in the AFC with 177, and with a 14-2 record it appeared that this should be a good, entertaining Super Bowl to watch.

    In the playoff run, the Eagles beat the Minnesota Vikings, 27-14, and then defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 27-10, to advance to the Super Bowl.

    In the Super Bowl, the Eagles opened up the scoring on a Donovan McNabb touchdown pass, but the Patriots tied the game 7-7 by halftime.

    In the second half, McNabb threw two more touchdown passes, but the Patriots outscored the Eagles 17-14 to win 24-21.

    McNabb passed for 324 yards compared to only 219 yards for Tom Brady, but the Eagles only rushed the ball for 45 yards.

    The other major problem was that the Eagles turned the ball over four times, while the Patriots only did that once.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Losing Super Bowl XLV to Green Bay

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers have enjoyed far more success than failures when it comes to the Super Bowl and the playoffs in general.

    The recent loss to the Denver Broncos last weekend is devastating to a degree in that Ben Roethlisberger was defeated by Tim Tebow, but when you consider the condition that Roethlisberger played in and the key personnel that the Steelers had to play without, I don't consider the loss that devastating in reality.

    There were the Super Bowl losses in Super Bowl XLV, XXX and the 1972 AFC championship to Miami.

    Of those three games, the loss at Super Bowl XLV gets my vote as the most devastating in the history of the Steelers organization.

    In the 2010 season, the Steelers won the AFC North division with a record of 12-4.

    Their point differential of 143 was second only to the New England Patriots in the AFC.

    The Steelers had a first-round bye and then defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 21-14, followed by a win over the New York Jets, 24-19, to qualify for the Super Bowl.

    Their opponent, the Green Bay Packers, were a No. 6 seed in the NFC with a 10-6 record and a similar point differential of 148.

    The Packers had lost a number of players to injury, but had been on a roll, winning three straight road games to make it to the Super Bowl.

    In the first quarter, the Packers got one touchdown from their offense and one from their defense to open up a quick 14-0 lead.

    The Steelers won the second quarter, 10-7, but trailed at the half, 21-10.

    In the third quarter, the Steelers scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-17 on a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown.

    But the Packers won the decisive fourth quarter, 10-8, to take the Super Bowl, 31-25.

    The Steelers were done in by three turnovers while the Packers never turned the ball over once.

San Diego Chargers: Lost 2006 AFC Playoff to New England

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    For the San Diego Chargers, the most devastating playoff loss in their history had to be the 2006 AFC divisional round defeat, when the New England Patriots came in to San Diego and beat the Chargers, 24-21.

    The 2006 season was a great year for the Chargers.

    They owned the best record in the NFL at 14-2 and also owned the highest point differential at 189.

    The Chargers were set to enjoy home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, and only had to win two games at home before they went on to the Super Bowl.

    Well, that is how it looked on paper.

    The Chargers had finished the regular season by winning their last 10 games and LaDainian Tomlinson was voted the MVP of the NFL.

    The Chargers had their first-round bye and then had to play the New England Patriots in the divisional round.

    The Patriots had won the AFC East with a 12-4 record and they had just defeated the New York Jets, 37-16, in the Wild Card Round.

    The Chargers had opened up a 14-3 lead in the second quarter, but Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass before halftime to close the margin to 14-10.

    A third quarter field goal made it a one-point lead at 14-13 entering the fourth quarter.

    Things were getting pretty tense in San Diego.

    LaDainian Tomlinson scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter (his second score of the day) to increase the lead to 21-13, but Brady led the Patriots on a touchdown drive and they converted the two-point play to tie the game at 21.

    A late field goal by New England clinched the upset and the Chargers' Super Bowl dreams were finished with the 24-21 loss.

    There were a total of seven turnovers in the game, four of them committed by the Chargers.

Seattle Seahawks: Losing Super Bowl XL to Pittsburgh

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    The Seattle Seahawks have been able to play in one Super Bowl in their history, which was Super Bowl XL.

    The Seahawks unfortunately lost that game to the Pittsburgh Steelers and haven't been back to the big game since, so that qualifies as the most devastating loss in their history.

    The Seahawks emerged in the 2005 season with the best record in the NFC at 13-3.

    They earned the right to enjoy home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and they used that to their advantage as they beat the Washington Redskins, 20-10, and then defeated the Carolina Panthers, 34-14, to win their first NFC championship game.

    The Seahawks had a solid team and also enjoyed the highest point differential in the NFC at plus-181. The Seahawks only trailed the Indianapolis Colts for highest in the entire NFL in that stat.

    The Seahawks' opponent in the Super Bowl was the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The Steelers got into the playoffs by winning three road games in the AFC playoffs as a Wild Card team.

    The Steelers beat the Cincinnati Bengals, the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos in the AFC championship to punch their Super Bowl ticket.

    In the Super Bowl, the Seahawks took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and then watched as the Steelers scored the next 14 points to open up a 14-3 lead in the third quarter.

    The Seahawks came back with a touchdown of their own in the third quarter with a Matt Hasselbeck pass to cut the lead to 14-10.

    But that was as close as the Seahawks could get, eventually losing by the score of 21-10.

    The Seahawks actually out-gained the Steelers in the game, 396 to 339, and won the turnover battle, two to one, but lost the game.

San Francisco 49ers: 1992 NFC Championship Game Loss to Dallas

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    The San Francisco 49ers are another one of those NFL franchises that have had much more Super Bowl success and playoff success than they have failures.

    Of the various key playoff losses in their history, the game I selected was the 1992 NFC championship that the 49ers lost to the Dallas Cowboys.

    In 1992, the San Francisco 49ers had the best record in the NFL at 14-2.

    They were the NFC West division champions and had home-field advantage established in the NFC playoffs.

    The 49ers enjoyed the largest point differential of any team in the NFL that year at plus-195.

    The 49ers beat the Washington Redskins in the divisional round, 20-13.

    All the 49ers had to do to return to the Super Bowl was defeat the Dallas Cowboys at home in the NFC championship game.

    Dallas had also earned a first-round bye and went on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 34-10.

    In the game with Dallas, the 49ers were only able to win the first quarter of the game, 7-3, and the Cowboys continued to pull away from there.

    The game was tied at 10 at halftime.

    In the third quarter, the Cowboys opened up a 17-13 lead and then in the fourth quarter, they finalized the deal with a 30-20 final margin of victory.

    An ironic twist of this game was that the two teams were only one yard apart in total offense, 416 to 415, despite the 49ers turning the ball over four times and the Cowboys having no turnovers.

    The four turnovers were the deciding factor in the game.  

St. Louis Rams: Lost Super Bowl XXXVI by Three Points

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    The Greatest Show on Turf being upset by a young, upstart Tom Brady and the New England Patriots?

    Nonsense.

    No way that could happen, considering all the weapons that the Rams had on offense.

    But that was what happened after Super Bowl XXXVI and it qualifies as the most devastating loss in the St. Louis Rams' franchise history.

    In the 2001 NFL regular season, the St. Louis Rams enjoyed the best record in the NFL at 14-2.

    The Rams were regularly blowing out their opponents, so it shouldn't be a major surprise that the Rams had a very high point differential of 230.

    The Patriots, on the other hand, went 11-5 in the season and they had a point differential of 99 points.

    The Rams should have blown them out of the water.

    The Rams were loaded.

    Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk were splitting the various awards being handed out that year.

    The Rams enjoyed their home-field advantage to crush the Green Bay Packers, 45-17, and then they beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 29-24, to qualify for the Super Bowl.

    The Patriots squeaked out a 16-13 win over the Oakland Raiders and then beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road, 24-17, to advance to the Super Bowl.

    In the Super Bowl, the Rams offense ran into Bill Belichick and his defensive game-planning skills.

    The Rams got a field goal in the first quarter and finally figured out how to move the ball to score 14 points in the fourth quarter, but they got nothing in either the second or third quarters.

    The Patriots had jumped out to a 14-3 lead at the half and were able to hang in there during the Rams' comeback bid to see the game tied at 17 in the fourth quarter.

    That is when Tom Brady led the Patriots on a game-winning drive as time ran down and Adam Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard field goal to give the Patriots there first Super Bowl championship, 20-17.

    The Rams had more first downs, 26-15, but they also had more turnovers, three to none for the Patriots, and that is your difference in the game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Shutout in 1979 NFC Championship Game

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't have a real rich tradition when it comes to playoff appearances, so finding a number of playoff losses is not the easiest thing to do.

    The most devastating playoff loss I could find happened back in 1979 and it was in the NFC championship game against the Los Angeles Rams.

    In the 1979 season, the Bucs won the NFC Central division with a record of 10-6.

    In that particular year, there wasn't any NFC team that was very dominating in the conference.

    To give you a better idea, the highest point differential in the NFC belonged to the Dallas Cowboys and that was just 58 points.

    The Bucs advanced to the NFC championship game by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-17.

    The Bucs would only have to beat the Los Angeles Rams at home to advance to the Super Bowl.

    The Rams were nothing special that year either, as they won the NFC West with a record of 9-7 and only had a point differential of plus-14.

    If there was a time for Tampa Bay to advance to the Super Bowl, this was it.

    In the NFC championship game, the Bucs offense was non-existent.

    They only generated seven first downs for the entire game, while Los Angeles picked up 23.

    The Rams offense generated 369 yards, compared to 177 for Tampa Bay.

    The Rams managed to kick three field goals, while the Bucs were shut out for the entire game.

    The Bucs lost their golden chance to go to the Super Bowl with the 9-0 loss.

    The Bucs had two quarterbacks that each went 2-of-13 in the game, Doug Williams and Mike Rae.

    I trust that they burned the tape footage of this game, as it must have been painful to watch.

Tennessee Titans: One Yard Short in Super Bowl XXXIV

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    The Tennessee Titans' most devastating loss in their playoff history would have to be the Super Bowl XXXIV game where they came up one yard short of winning the game in the final seconds.

    The year was 1999 and the Titans had emerged as a serious contender in the AFC with a regular season record of 13-3.

    The Titans advanced to the Super Bowl thanks to the Music City Miracle play against the Buffalo Bills and then edged out the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round, 19-16.

    In the AFC championship game, the Titans handled the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road, 33-14, to advance to their first Super Bowl game.

    The Titans were up against the St. Louis Rams and their offense of Kurt Warner throwing the ball to Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce.

    The Titans countered with the running of Eddie George and the passing of Steve McNair.

    In the Super Bowl, Kurt Warner started to make a name for himself by torching the Titans secondary, throwing for 414 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

    Eddie George rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Steve McNair passed for 214 yards.

    There were no turnovers in the game.

    The Titans hung with the Rams and were only trailing by one touchdown, 23-16, in the final minute of the game.

    The Titans were driving deep into the Rams territory as the clock was ticking down.

    The Titans attempted one last pass but the receiver, Kevin Dyson, was tackled one yard short of the tying touchdown as the clock ticked off the final seconds of the game.

Washington Redskins: Lost Super Bowl VII to Miami

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    The most devastating loss in the history of the Washington Redskins was their Super Bowl VII loss to the Miami Dolphins.

    The year was 1972 and the Redskins owned the best record in the NFC at 11-3.

    That meant that the Redskins would enjoy home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs, which they were able to capitalize on.

    They beat the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, 16-3, and then defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 26-3, to advance to the Super Bowl.

    The only problem for the Redskins was their Super Bowl opponent.

    They were due to play the Miami Dolphins who went a perfect 14-0 in the regular season and had beaten the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers to advance to the Super Bowl.

    Could the Redskins somehow find a way to prevent the Dolphins from having a perfect season?

    The Redskins did have the NFL MVP on their team in Larry Brown, but he wasn't able to make that big of a difference against the tough Dolphins defense.

    The Miami defense shut out the Redskins for the first three quarters of the game while they built up a 14-0 lead.

    The Redskins managed to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter to cut the margin to 14-7, but that is how the game ended.

    The Dolphins had their perfect season. 

    The Redskins turned the ball over three times, which probably sealed their fate.