≡ Menu

This week at the New York Times, a look at the most heartbreaking losses in Super Bowl history.

The Seattle Seahawks were a yard from history. Trailing by 4 points in the final minute of Sunday’s Super Bowl, Seattle had the ball, on second down, at the Patriots’ 1-yard line. According to the website Advanced Football Analytics, that gave the Seahawks an 88 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.

With a win, Seattle would have become just the ninth team in the Super Bowl era to repeat as champion, and the first since the 2003-4 Patriots. The defense, which had allowed the fewest points in the N.F.L. in each of the last three seasons, would have strengthened its argument to be considered the greatest in football history.

But it was not to be. Brandon Browner jammed Jermaine Kearse at the line, and Malcolm Butler shot in front of Ricardo Lockette to make a game-changing interception. For Patriots fans, it was a play to remember forever. For Seahawks fans, it was one they wish they could forget.

But where does Super Bowl XLIX rank among the most painful Super Bowl losses in history?

You can read the full article here.

  • jay

    Links broken when I click on it , it didn’t take me to the article just took me right back here

    • Chase Stuart

      Thanks — link is fixed!

  • Tom

    Can’t argue too much with the list…you’ve definitely hit the big ones. I might switch the Seahawks loss to #1 over the Bills’ Wide Right. The Seahawks loss seems more painful to me is because the possibility of winning seemed more likely – 3 chances to punch the ball in from the 1-yard line with Marshawn Lynch, seems more likely than Norwood hitting that 47-yarder. I’m thinking Seahawks fans were thinking “OK, we’ve got this now!” whereas Bills fans might have been thinking “Hope he makes this!”. I haven’t looked at the numbers, perhaps Norwood as a better shot at hitting that than the Hawks have of punching the ball in with three tries, but it just seems that way. In any event, great post!

    • Chase Stuart

      Thanks, Tom. And no doubt! But I put some weight on what happened last year. If the Seahawks hadn’t just won a Super Bowl I think it would take the top spot.

  • Richie

    Everytime I read these articles and say “N.F.L.” in my head, it disrupts my thought process for a second. Does any other newspaper/website put periods in their abbreviations like that?

    • Chase Stuart

      Yeah, it’s not my cup of tea, either.

  • Matt

    No loss was more painful than 18-1. No loss in any sport, ever.

  • Jose Villelabeitia

    Scott Norwoods kick was riskier than throwing a coin in the air and hope heads is your election. Norwood was 1-5 in FG longer than 40 yards on natural grass. He had not transform no FG from 40 yards or more since 1990, so The chance to get The FG was very Slim

    • Chase Stuart

      From 1989 to 1991, field goal kickers hit on 53.2% of all attempts from 45-to-49 yards (regular season only). I frankly don’t recall how much better or worse Norwood was relative to league average in general, but I will note that he was 6/12 in those situations. The idea that his chance of converting was very slim is absurd. I suspect if Vegas was offering a line right at the time of the kick, it would have been very close to even money.

      • Yeah, I think “very slim” is over-stated, but there is still a very good point to be made there which is that the Norwood kick was no “gimme.”

  • Tim Truemper

    Can’t be too picky on the summaries of each game, but did feel like the one regarding the 1971 game did not get the essence of what happened. Game was tied and Dallas had the ball near midfield. Holding penalty and QB sack. The Morton throws a high pass to Dan Reeves, goes off his hands into Mike Curtis’. Curtis make a short gain on the return and has the Colts in FG range. They run down the clock and O’Brien wins it. Major what if for me on that one. If Dallas doesn’t move the ball and they force the Colts to drive the field to try to win. Do the Colts pull it out after a heroic drive or does the game go to overtime? Just some counterfactual history.

    • Chase Stuart

      Good stuff, Tim. Yes, the word limit is a bit tight on those articles — I went over as it was!

  • sacramento gold miners

    Good list, and would agree with the decision to leave SB 30 out of the top ten. Dallas was a strong favorite entering that game, and that Steelers club only had one hall of fame player on offense. The painful aspect came with roughly four minutes left, and a three point margin when Neil O’Donnell throws that costly pick. Emmitt Smith was shut down, but Dallas had a 20-7 lead in the second half.

    Good point about the Norwood kick, it was far from a sure thing, which has been implied in the years since that game.

    • I know, I always wondered about that. I.e. why people were so down on dude when it was a fairly sizable distance.

  • Kibbles

    I think Arizona/Pittsburgh probably has to be the most painful loss in history. Arizona had won one playoff game in the previous 60 years. ONE! In SIXTY YEARS! They snuck into the playoffs as the mediocre winner of a crap division, (9-7 record, +1 point differential for the season), went on a magical postseason run, (including what I imagine has to be the only time in history that the team with the worst record in a conference’s playoff field actually hosted the conference championship game), faced a 13-point deficit with half a quarter to go before they ripped off 16-straight, looking like they’d set a record for greatest SB comeback in history… and then they gave up the game-winning drive to Roethlisberger, watched Pittsburgh celebrate their millionth SB championship, and watched Fitzgerald lose his SBMVP (which would have been the capper on one of the greatest postseason in history). For those Game of Thrones fans, it was basically the football equivalent to the duel between The Viper and The Mountain.

    • Kibbles

      Also, if we’re sticking with Game of Thrones references, Denver/Washington was the Red Wedding.

    • Man, this is well-put. I would say it was that Seattle game, but yeah, I mean they had won the year before. Nicely stated, you’ve convinced me.