Sometimes, the best team does not win the Super Bowl. That has been the case in several NFL seasons. Below is glance at the most talented NFL teams that surprisingly fell short of Super Bowl glory:
2007 New England Patriots (16-0)
The Patriots became the second NFL team to complete a regular with an undefeated season. They won all 16 regular season outings in 2007. They shattered the record books, as they scored an unprecedented 589 points that season, practically obliterating the competition on a weekly basis. Quarterback Tom Brady moved ahead of Peyton Manning with most touchdowns thrown in a single season with 50. Wide receiver Randy Moss became the record-holder with touchdown catches with 23 total. However, they began to show some vulnerability towards the end of the season nearly losing to non-playoff contenders such as the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens. Nevertheless, they advanced to Super Bowl XLI. Expecting to win convincingly, the Wild Card New York Giants (10-6) knocked the Patriots off their lofty pedestal with a 17-14 triumph in the big game.
1998 Minnesota Vikings (15-1)
The 1998 Vikings finished the regular season with a record of 15 wins and 1 loss. They scored 556 points, which at the time was a regular season record. The team was perhaps one of the most explosive in NFL history. They had an assortment of weapons, led by veteran receivers Cris Carter and Jake Reed, with a virtually unstoppable rookie in Randy Moss. The running game, led by Robert Smith, was the perfect complement to the passing attack. Quarterback Randall Cunningham was in the midst of a career revival. Unfortunately, a missed field goal by Gary Anderson, who was perfect during the regular season, allowed the Atlanta Falcons to end the Vikings dream season in the NFC title bout.
1968 Baltimore Colts (13-1)
The Colts of the 1960’s were led by Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas. In 1968, they won 13 of 14 regular season outings. They cruised past the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns in the playoffs, and every expert in the United States, every bookie in Las Vegas expected them to ease past the AFL’s New York Jets led by Joe Namath. Namath would guarantee a Jets victory, but few took him seriously. Even without Unitas, the Colts were overwhelming favorites to defeat the Jets. However, as Chris Berman so eloquently states, “That is why they play the game!” The Jets shocked the Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III.
1990 San Francisco 49ers (14-2)
The 49ers of the 1980’s and early 1990’s were phenomenal. With megastars such as Joe Montanta, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, John Taylor, and Ronnie Lott, just to name a few, most NFL experts anticipated a three-peat, as the 49ers owned the previous two Super Bowl trophies with victories against the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos. However, the 49ers ran into a rough and tough New York Giants squad in the 1990 NFC title game. The Giants scored a late field goal, their fifth of the game, to edge out the 49ers 15-13 in the NFC title showdown. The Giants would proceed to win Super Bowl XXV.
2001 St. Louis Rams (14-2)
No team possessed the swagger to match the St. Louis Rams from 1999 to 2001. When healthy, this team appeared to be unstoppable on offense, hence the nickname ‘The Greatest Show on Turf”. In 2001, the Rams seemed to be in their prime, notching 503 total points. Quarterback Kurt Warner was the ultimate gunslinger, with veteran Isaac Bruce and young hotshot Torry Holt as his receivers. Running back Marshall Faulk, who was the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year, was in a league of his own. The Rams, 14-2 in 2001, were overpowering favorites to roll over the Cinderella New England Patriots, 11-5. Led by a second-year quarterback Tom Brady, filling in for injured Drew Bledsoe, the Patriots stunned the Rams 20-17, as well as American, in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Honorable mention includes Miami Dolphins (1984); San Diego Chargers (2006); Pittsburgh Steelers (2004); Los Angeles Rams (1967); Buffalo Bills (1990); Washington Redskins (1983); San Francisco 49ers (1992); Indianapolis Colts (2004); Los Angeles Rams (1972); Jacksonville Jaguars (1999); Green Bay Packers (1997); Dallas Cowboys (1981); Denver Broncos (1996); San Francisco 49ers (1987); Oakland Raiders (1974); Oakland Raiders (1967); Minnesota Vikings (1969); Indianapolis Colts (2009); New England Patriots (2010); Dallas Cowboys (2007)