The 7 Biggest Super Bowl Busts of All Time

RealClear Staff


Cam Newton and the rest of his “Dabbin’” dancing, selfie-with-the-clock-still-running 15-1 Carolina Panthers became the latest heavily-favored team to blow it on the big stage. But hey, Cam, take heart: Johnny Unitas, Jim Kelly and Tom Brady know how you feel.

1. 1968 Baltimore Colts

Coach Don Shula would coach the Miami Dolphins to perfection four years later, but he had his first great team in Baltimore with league MVP Earl Morrall and legend Johnny Unitas at quarterback. The Dolphins steamrolled through a 13-1 regular season and were the heavy favorites to win Super Bowl III at the Orange Bowl on January 12, 1969. In their way: Joe Namath and the upstart New York Jets. Namath famously  guaranteed victory, then delivered the goods with a gritty performance that led to a 16-7 Jets win.

2. 1990 Buffalo Bills

The Bills and their Hall of Fame-laden roster put it all together in 1990. Quarterback Jim Kelly -- part of that great QB class of 1983 that included John Elway and Dan Marino -- led Buffalo’s “K-Gun” offense that included Thurman Thomas, James Lofton and Andre Reed -- they led the league in scoring in going 13-3. The Bills beat the Raiders 51-3 in the AFC Championship Game and advanced to Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991 to face the New York Giants.  Buffalo was on the verge of its first Super Bowl title, but on the final play, Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal wide right and the Bills were 20-19 losers, the first of four straight Super Bowl losses.


3. 2001 St. Louis Rams

The Rams had won their first Super Bowl title two years earlier, and were again led by quarterback Kurt Warner and the "Greatest Show on Turf" -- a high-powered offense that was the basis for their 14-2 regular season. They met the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI on February 3, 2002. St. Louis was the heavy favorite -- New England had never won a Super Bowl, and their star quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, was lost for the season to injury. In his place was his backup, unheralded sixth-round draft pick Tom Brady. Young Brady was remarkably composed, and the Patriots won 20-17 on kicker Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal -- the first time in Super Bowl history a game was won by a score on the final play.

4. 2007 New England Patriots

It took the greatest play in Super Bowl history to spoil the 2007 New England Patriots' quest for the first perfect season since the Miami Dolphins in 1972. The Pats went 16-0 in the regular season and steamrolled through two playoff games to reach Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008. Near the end of the game, with the Patriots leading 14-10, Giants quarterback Eli Manning escaped from the grasp of three New England Patriots defensive players and wildly threw a pass downfield. Receiver David Tyree made a leaping catch by pressing the ball against his helmet! The 32-yard play set up Plaxico Buress' 13-yard touchdown reception which beat Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots 17-14.

5. 2009 Indianapolis Colts

Future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning was on his way to the league MVP award with one of his best seasons, and the Colts, who had won the Super Bowl three seasons earlier, were primed to add No. 2. They began the season 14-0 and powered through the playoffs to meet the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010. The Colts scored the first 10 points of the game and led 17-13 when the Saints scored 18 straight points, capped by a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown by Tracy Porter. New Orleans was partially fueled by a community that rallied around the team has a symbol of hope less than 5 years after Hurricane Katrina.

6. 2011 New England Patriots

The New England Patriots and Tom Brady had won three Super Bowls, went 13-3 in the 2011 regular season and were gunning for a fourth. The New York Giants got lucky beating them in the 2008 Super Bowl, but that wouldn't happen again, right? Not with this Giants team being the weakest to ever make the Super Bowl -- they went 9-7 in the regular season and barely squeaked into the playoffs as a wild-card. But lightning struck twice: With Giants down 17-15, pinned back at their own 12-yard line and down to their final drive, Manning flung a deep pass along the left sideline to Mario Manningham for a 38-yard gain to midfield. That set up Ahmad Bradshaw's game-winning touchdown run, which beat the Patriots 21-17. 

7. 2015 Carolina Panthers

They got off to the best start for an NFC team -- 14-0 -- since the NFL-AFL merger 45 years before. They had the league MVP in explosive quarterback Cam Newton, and the highest-scoring offense in the NFL. They had the No. 2 defense. Their Super Bowl 50 opponent, the Denver Broncos, had an aging, injury-plagued quarterback (Peyton Manning), who would turn 40 a month later, and a struggling offense. The Panthers were favored by a touchdown by nearly every Las Vegas sports book. But Denver's No. 1 defense harassed Newton into two fumbles that became Broncos touchdowns, and the Panthers lost 24-10.



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