When it comes to the world of competitive sports, there are winners and there are losers. And while losing never feels good, losing a championship game you’re supposed to win is an especially jagged pill to swallow. So, for all the insults added to injury, here are the three most heartbreaking losses in Super Bowl history.
Rise of the AFC
The Game: Super Bowl III
The Date: Jan. 12, 1969
The Final: New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7
The Story: Once upon a time there were two major football leagues in the United States. The National Football League, and the American Football League. The belief was that the NFL’s Baltimore Colts, despite losing starting quarterback Johnny Unitas during the preseason, would trounce the AFL’s New York Jets and their cocky quarterback, “Broadway” Joe Willie Namath. Especially after the fourth-year quarterback guaranteed a win just three days before the game. What happened next shocked everyone, especially the Colts. Joe, true to his word, went out and not only beat the Colts but also earned a Super Bowl MVP. The Jets’ win was the first Super Bowl victory for the AFL, forcing the Colts, the NFL, and the nation to acknowledge the league’s validity. In 1970, the AFL and NFL officially merged, and the AFL became the American Football Conference we know today.
The Show Stopper
The Game: Super Bowl XXXVI
The Date: Feb. 3, 2002
The Final: New England Patriots 20, St Louis Rams 17
The Story: The St. Louis Rams, aka the Greatest Show on Turf, were one of the most high-powered offenses of all time. Facing a team full of Hall of Famers that averaged over 30 points a game, the New England Patriots had their hands full. Few gave the failed former head coach of the Cleveland Browns (Bill Belichik) and the sixth-round quarterback (Tom Brady) a chance. But what happened next would begin the greatest dynasty in NFL history. Tied at 17 with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter and no timeouts, at best, the Rams were looking to hold the Patriots to a quick three-and-out to give the Kurt Warner-led St. Louis offense a chance at a score. At worst, they hoped to settle for a trip to overtime. Turns out, there was a third outcome. Brady led a methodic march down the field that ended with a game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri. Ouch.
The Game: Super Bowl XLII
The Date: Feb. 3, 2008
Final: New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14
The Story: The ever-elusive perfect season. Only the 1972 Miami Dolphins have achieved the goal in over 100-plus years of NFL history. This is what the three-time Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots were chasing when they faced off against the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42. With a perfect 18-0 record going into the game, the Pats were looking at the fourth title in seven years as well as a perfect season. Unfortunately for the Patriots, Eli Manning and the New York Giants had other plans.
After a hard-fought battle that only saw 24 total points for 99% of the game, Eli and the Giants managed to pull ahead with a 13-yard touchdown to Plaxico Burress. With less than a minute on the clock, Tom Brady was unable to pull off another miracle, and the Giants would earn their third Super Bowl title.
For more fun articles on a variety of subjects, be sure to check out our other Olympus Almeda blog posts.