Not every team has had the ultimate joy of raising up the Lombardi Trophy after winning the game of all games, the Super Bowl. But though every team hasn’t reached the mountain of NFL nirvana, every team has slipped and fell on their climb to the top.
Here is all 32 teams’ worst ever football moment in their franchise’s existence.
New England Patriots – David Tyree’s Catch In Super Bowl XLII
Possibly the most infamous catch in NFL history, David Tyree single handedly (quite literally), ended the hopes of New England achieving something only the 1972 Miami Dolphins had done before.
19-0 and on their way to a Super Bowl win to cap off their greatest season by the greatest team in NFL history, the Patriots had to hold Giants’ Eli Manning on a 3rd down & 5 with just one minute left in Super Bowl XLII, and nobody could have predicted what happened next.
Slipping out of seemingly sure sacks by the Patriots pass rush, Eli Manning escaped a collapsing pocket and launched a literally hail mary downfield into a crowd of bodies, a pass that was somehow hauled in by Giants WR David Tyree. Tyree pinned the ball against his helmet with one hand as he fell to the ground, somehow maintaining possession.
The play led to a new set of downs and an eventually TD pass to Plaxico Burress to shock the Patriots and the football world, stealing the Lombardi Trophy and undefeated season way from Brady, Belichick and the Pats.
Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carroll Deciding To Throw It On The 1
The most recent worst play in a franchises’s history came courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks just two short years ago, where the world witnessed what will go down as the worst play call ever ran in a football game. It didn’t help that game was merely Super Bow 49.
With a miraculous drive led by Russell Wilson back down the field in response to a Patriot score, the Seahawks had sent themselves up to punch the ball in and win their second super bowl in as many years. In seemingly a tactic to deceive the New England defense, head coach Pete Carroll called a slant route on a 2nd & Goal with 24 seconds left in the game. Ironically enough, electing not to handing it off to number 24, one of the best short yardage backs in recent history, Marshawn Lynch.
The slant pass by Wilson was intercepted by Malcom Butler, securing a New England Super Bowl victory in Glendale, Arizona.
Buffalo Bills – Scott Norwood’s “Wide Right”
With eight seconds left in Super Bowl XXV, the Buffalo Bills trailed the New York Giants by a single point in their first visit to the Super Bowl. Choosing to attempt a 47-yard field goal to win the game and the Lombardi Trophy, the Bills brought Scott Norwood onto the field. The kick, though having sufficient distance, passed about a foot to the right of the right-hand goalpost.
The Giants took possession with four seconds left and ran out the clock for a 20–19 victory, making Super Bowl XXV the closest ever final score. he closest ever.
The loss was the first of four consecutive Super Bowl loses for Buffalo, and the kick has gone down as arguably the most infamous kick in NFL history.
When the “Music City Miracle” goes against your team and it’s still not the top spit, you know you’re cursed with some bad luck.
Cleveland Browns – “The Fumble”
The Cavaliers won a title for Cleveland after a 53-year drought of sports misery, the most miserable of it being “the fumble.” You know what a fumble needs no context to go with the name it will forever live in infamy. “The fumble” was fumbled in the 1987 AFC Championship game against the Broncos at Mile High Stadium. With 1:12 left in the game, Browns running back Earnest Byner coughed it up on the Broncos 1-yard line while trying to score a touchdown to pull within one point. The Broncos went on to win 38–33 after taking an intentional safety, advancing to the Super Bowl.
If there’s any team that have to savor getting to the Super Bowl, it’s the Browns.
Denver Broncos – Super Bowl XLVIII, The First Play Fumble
The matchup that nobody could have seemed to predict was decided just 15 seconds after it started.
The Broncos took the field to run the first play of Super Bowl 48 against the Seahawks in the frigid Meadowlands of NJ until it all went anything but planned. The first snap was hiked past QB Peyton Manning into the end zone for a safety, the quickest such score in Super Bowl history.
Denver never recovered after being shell shocked in the opening moments, in what was an eventual route of the Broncos, 43-8.
New York Jets – The “Buttfumble”
There are moments in NFL history where fans will remember where they were and what they were doing when they saw a unforgettable play happen live. The dubbed “buffumble” is one of those plays for all the wrong reasons.
During a primetime matchup versus the Patriots in 2012, Jets QB Mark Sanchez took a snap of what appeared to be a broken play. Sanchez, with no running backs to hand the ball off to, tuned and attempted to scramble, only to somehow run straight into the butt of one of his own lineman. The QB was knocked to his back, fumbling the football that was taken back for a Patriot touchdown.
The play, which still is beyond explanation sums up Mark Sanchez’s disappointing NFL career and the Jets short comings during the Rex Ryan era.
San Diego Chargers – Drafting Ryan Leaf #1 Overall
Widely considered as a prototype NFL superstar QB, the San Diego Chargers selected Ryan Leaf with the second overall pick 1998 NFL draft. That was quickly followed by poor play, bad behavior, and injuries that have led to Leaf being widely regarded as the biggest bust in NFL history.
The Chargers ended up taking Leaf over names like Randy Moss, Charles Woodson, Fred Taylor and Takeo Spikes.
Leaf’s career TD to INT ratio stands at a dreadful 13 to 33.
To make matters even worse, the Colts, who were the only team to have a pick ahead of the Chargers took Peyton Manning, who needless to say, turned out pretty well.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Starting Franchise Existence 0-26
The Tampa Buccaneers start to their franchise is equivalent to say a highly anticipated restaurant opening and not being able to get an order right until the 27th table.
The team began their franchise losing 26 consecutive games, with the streak finally coming to an end on December 11, 1977 to Archie Manning’s Saints. Manning infamously noted pregame that “losing to the Bucs would be a disgrace.”
The NFL has never seen as bad of a streak in over 50 years since.
San Francisco 49ers – The Lights Going Out During Super Bowl XLVII
A generation from now when the roman numerical titles and teams having played in the which Super Bowl are long forgotten, nobody will have forgotten the power-outage at Super Bowl 47. The matchup between the 49ers and Ravens was interrupted while in the 3rd quarter at the Mercedes Benz Super Dome, when the lights suddenly went out, haulting play for what seemed like an eternity. Officials from Entergy, the utility company supplying power to the stadium, said the outage occurred when sensing equipment detected an “abnormality” in the system.
The Colin Kaepernick led Niners came out of halftime rolling, scoring 17 points in the span of 4 minutes, 10 seconds in the third quarter, until it happened.
The halt of play completely brought the 49ers’ steam-rolling momentum back down to earth, allowing the Ravens to come back and win the game and the Super Bowl 34-31. Without the power outage, its not far off to say the 49ers could have easily won the Super Bowl.
Chicago Bears – Losing Gale Sayers To Injury
Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers will go down as one of the most talented running backs to ever play in the NFL. In his first five seasons, he ran for 4,866 yards (at 5.1 yards per carry) and gained 1,313 more receiving. In total, he scored 50 touchdowns in that span as a runner and elite returner.
His career was cut short though due to devastating knee injuries, heightened by them occurring in a time where medicine was in the dark ages and knowledge of how to come back from such injuries was limited, unlike today’s game. Sayers led the league in rushing in 1968 until he tore numerous ligaments in his right knee, only to go one and suffer another devastating injury to his other knee.
Sayer still remains the youngest Hall of Fame inductee in NFL history.
Indianpolis Colts – Cutting Peyton Manning
Though it may have been the sound move when it’s all said and down, cutting Peyton Manning will leave a sour taste in the mouth’s of Colts fans and management for two reasons.
The Colts may not be the Colts if not for Manning. The signal caller propelled the franchise into continuous greatness year after year for 13 straight years after he was drafted by the team in 1998.
After a neck surgery in 2011 left Manning with the inability to complete his throwing motion, the Colts went 2-14 without the QB on the field for the entire season. With such uncertainty for the future, the #1 overall pick in the upcoming draft and Andrew Luck, one of the highest touted QB prospects ever, sitting in their laps, Jim Irsay and the front office made the gut-wrenching decision to let Manning walk.
After being in by John Elway and the Broncos, Manning got back on the field and had arguably the best seas0n by any quarterback ever in just his second season after leaving the Colts, getting to the Super Bowl. Though the following season was plagued with injuries and time spent on the sideline, Manning came back and winning the MVP and Super Bowl title in Super Bowl 50 to finish out his career.
Though Andrew Luck’s future looks bright in Indy, the Colts must be somewhat bitter after knowing what could have been.
Cincinnati Bengals – Super Bowl XXIII
Super Bowl XXIII was battled out between the Bengals and the 49ers in 1989. And Cincinnati lost 20-16, and they lost the hard way.
Leading 16-13 with less than four minutes to go, the Bengals allowed an inexplicable drive from the great Joe Montana and the 49ers. Montana took his team 92 yards which ended in a 10 yard TD pass with just 34 seconds remaining on the clock.
The Bengals have struggled to recover, and even with an accumulation of talent in recent years, still have struggled to win a single playoff game.
Arizona Cardinals – Super Bowl XLIII
Not many teams can say they were presumptively a few blades of grass away from winning a Super Bowl. The Arizona Cardinals know that feels like.
Up 3 points in Super Bowl XLIII, with just 37 seconds ticks left on the clock, the Cardinals watched one of the greatest catches in NFL history happen in front of their eyes. With Ben Roethisberger seemingly having been contained, the Steelers QB stepped up and delivered a pass to the back pylon of the end zone which was hauled in with a tippy-toe catch by WR Santonio Holmes. The catch which appears anything but one from the television camera’s angle was reviewed and confirmed for 6 points. The score gave the Steelers the lead and the win less than a minute after.
The loss kept the Cardinals’ Super Bowl drought of 67 years alive, which still stands today.
New York Giants – “Miracle At The Meadowlands”
The most memorable play in Philadelphia Eagle’s history doubles and the most gun-wrenching for the NY Giants.
During a matchup against the division rivals in 1978, the Giants had a sure victory in hand, with possession, ball in hand. Until that changed.
All offensive coordinator Bob Gibson and his offense has to do was snap the ball and hit the ground. Instead, Gibsob called for QB Joe Pisarcik to hand it off to RB Larry Csonka instead. As the football gods wrote it, the play was botched, with Herman Edwards of the Eagles scooping up the fumble, taking it back down the field for the score and miracle of a win.
Tennessee Titans – Coming Up One Yard Short
The most crushing defeat in any team’s history comes at the sacrifice of the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee fans may have been watching the Seahawks intercepted at the 1-yard-line and been like, “Been there, done that.”
The Rams and Titans entered Super Bowl XXXIV both with records of 13-3. The Titans cut a 16-6 lead created by the Rams via the great Eddie George. As the 4th quarter neared end, the Rams left just under two minutes on the clock with the Titans trailing by 7 and one possession to go.
With the drive starting at their own 12, Steve McNair and the Titans blitzed down the field, completing five passes, covered 87 yards. The final pass was completed as well, this time to Kevin Dyson who as Rams’ Mike Jones corralled him, stretched towards to the goal line in desperate fashion, only to come up one single yard short.
McNair or Fisher would return to the Super Bowl.
Philadelphia Eagles – Booing Santa
Though the Eagles 2003 NFC Championship game loss where the Eagles were heavily favored to win and get to the Super Bowl, no moment better epitomizes the fans in Philadelphia and the grumpiness that the Eagles instill in their fanbase than this.
The city of Brotherly loves most despicable moment, ranking above booing their own teams off the fueled and egging opposing team’s buses lie booing Santa Claus.
In a 1968 game, Eagles fans began actually booing and pelting Santa with snowballs, who was Frank Olivo dressed as Saint Nick.
There’s a reason why the Eagles have their own jail and court system in their stadium.
Kansas City Chiefs – Drafting Tom Blackledge
Though Blackledge is no Ryan Leaf, the QB is the biggest draft bust in the team’s history.
The Chiefs took him with their seventh overall pick in the ’83 NFL Draft, only to see him last five years with the team and throw more interceptions than touchdowns in his KC tenure.
What makes this pick even worse is the fact that future Hall-of-Famers Bruce Matthews and Jim Kelly were both selected after Blackledge was taken by the Chiefs.
Today, some consider him the No. 1 bust in franchise history.
Dallas Cowboys – Jackie Smith’s Drop
Nearing zeros on the clock during Super Bowl XIII, the Cowboys were one score down to the Pittsburgh Steelers. What soon followed would be considered the worst drop in Super Bowl history.
Cowboys QB Roger Staubach through Cowboys tight end Jackie Smith the would-be game-tying touchdown pass, only to have it slip through his hands and bounce of his chest, securing the victory for the Steelers.
The drop led to the infamous call by broadcaster Verne Lundquist, stating, “Bless his heart. He’s got to be the sickest man in America.”
Legendary Cowboys coach Tom Landry, nor Staubach, would ever return to the Super Bowl and as for Smith, he would never catch another pass again, making his drop the punctuation mark on a haunting career.
Atlanta Falcons: Trading Brett Favre
Even though Favre has put on the Green Bay Packers rival Vikings jersey on, it still seems ever odder to see photos of Favre in a Flacons jersey.
Maybe the ultimate “What if?” in football history is Favre as a career Falcon. Brett was selected in the second round of the 1991 NLF Draft by Atlanta (33rd overall), only to be traded to the Packers on February 10, 1992 in exchange for the 19th pick in the next draft. That pick ended up taking Tony Smith, a name a little less synonymous than NFL greatest like ‘Favre.’
Favre went on to break the NFL records for pass completions (6,300), pass attempts (10,169), pass interceptions (336), starts by a player (298), and most wins as starting quarterback (186), and will go down as one of the greatest to ever play his position. The Falcons have since been rotated 19 different quarterbacks, all without winning a Super Bowl.
Miami Dolphins: Losing Super Bowl XIX
The Miami Dolphins took on Joe Montana for Super Bowl XIX in Palo Alto, California in 1984. Miami, who had 74 rushing attempts in the previous two weeks, ran the ball only eight times during the game. Marino finished with 29 completions out of 50 attempts for 318 yards, throwing one touchdown pass and two interceptions. The Dolphins lost 38–16 in what was Marino’s only Super Bowl appearance.
The loss epitomizes the only mark against Marino in his career, the best NFL QB to never win a Super Bowl. Marino is regarded as one of the greats, yet a Super Bowl win by Marino and the Dolphins could have vaulted the QB into the conversation from the ‘all-time greats’ to the ‘greatest evers’.
Baltimore Ravens: Billy Cundiff’s Missed Kick
Billy Cundiff will forever go down in infamy as one of the most hated people in the long history of Baltimore, MD.
Trailing the Patriots 23-20 in the 2012 AFC Championship Game with just 15 seconds left, the Ravens kicker lined set for a 32-yard field goal in attempt to tie the game. Shockingly, Cundiff shanked the kick wide left, vaporizing the Super Bowl hopes of the Ravens that were just seconds way from fruition.
“It’s a kick I’ve kicked probably a thousand times out there, I think the disappointment is letting my teammates down.” Cundiff told the media postgame.” That 2012 ravens team was notably full of near retirement players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed looking for one more Super Bowl title before hanging up the cleats.
Thought the Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl next season, one kick off the foot of Cundiff could have meant back-to-back rings for Baltimore.
Jacksonville Jaguars – The 1999 AFC Championship Game
The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t a name usually mentions in the same sentence as Super Bowl unless one’s mentioning how they’ve never been to one. Many may not remember how close they were in 1999 to reaching the big game.