Detroit Lions – 0-16
Based on history, it is technically easier to go undefeated than it is to go winless in the NFL. The Detroit Lions went where no team has gone before in NFL history in 2008, go 0-16. If you didn’t have the luxury of watching all 16 dreadful losses like Lions fans were able to do, no play epitomizes the worst team in NFL more-so than QB Dan Orlovsky’s safety. Orlovsky unknowingly ran out of his own end zone, unaware of where he was on the field. Orlovsky along with Jon Kitna, Drew Henson, Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton joined forces during the season for a whopping 18 touchdowns while tossing 19 interceptions on 55.2 percent passing. When you have 5 more staring quarterbacks than you do wins on the year, you know you’ve hit rock bottom.
Green Bay Packers: 4th & 26
For a franchise with so much winning under their belt, you’d think a play like this would be easier to swallow. We aren’t sure that’s how it works.
Though the Packers recently were on the wrong end of the most infamous referee call in NFL history in the “Fail Mary”, that play didn’t quite have the impact that the, simply, “4th & 26” as it’s known did.
During the final minutes of the 2004 NFC Championship game between the Eagles and the Packers, Green Bay was hanging on to a 3-point lead with just 1:12 on the clock. With one play to end the game, a 4th down & 26 play at that, Donovan McNabb threw a hopeless wobbling ball to WR Freddie Mitchell across the middle, somehow picking up the first-down. The drive concluded in a game-tying field goal, eventually leading to an Eagles victory in overtime.
Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton Fumble
In Carolina’s first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, Cam Newton and the Panthers hoped to cap off one of the best regular seasons ever with a Super Bowl 50 win in what would be Peyton Manning’s final game.
With the Broncos defending a 6-point lead, the Panthers began their drive down to field in hopes of a come from behind Super Bowl win with only 4 minutes to work with. On a 3rd down & 9 early in the possession, Cam newton was strip sacked while dropping back to pass by the eventually Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. The ball dropped to the ground and rolled for what seemed like an eternity, only to be jumped on by a Denver lineman.
Patriots’s Kicker Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVIII doesn’t take the top spot because of the uncontrollable nature to that play. QB Cam Newton was seemingly reluctant to dive on top of the fumble that would have resulted in another shot at scoring on the final possession, a play that was in the hands of the Panthers this time, not the other way around. The play as expected warranted harsh criticism of the QB by fans and media following the loss.
Oakland Raiders – The ‘Tuck Rule’
The most blatant officiating blunder came at the hands of the referees working the Oakland Raiders versus New England Patriots 2001 AFC Divisional Round playoff game.
In a time before the great Tom Brady and the dynasty that was the Patriots we known today ever got to the top of the mountain, they found themselves up 13-10 vs the Raiders in Foxboro.
In the fourth quarter, Oakland’s Charles Woodson appeared to strip Tom Brady, forcing a fumble that was recovered by New England. But upon further review, referee Walt Coleman reversed the call, citing ‘The Tuck Rule.’
Kicker Adam Vinatieri would eventually kick a game-tying field goal in regulation and a game-winning field goal in overtime.
The rule has even since been rescinded, but will never make up for one of the most infamous “what could have been” moments in NFL history. As we of course know, the Patriots won their first Super Bowl that season, the start to a decade full of rings.
New Orleans Saints – The 1980 Season
Though very easily the event of and following Hurricane Katrina could have topped this list, in regard to on-the-field moments, none will sink below the 1980 season down in New Orleans, where the Saints became the ‘Aints.
In what prompted fans to show up to games with their faces covered by paper bags with only eye slits cut to watch, the dreadful saints amassed a 1-15 record, 14 of those losses having been consecutive.
The most notable of those losses came at the hands of Joe Montana, where the 49ers came back from 28 points down to beat the Saints, still one of the largest comebacks in NFL history.
St. Louis Rams: Super Bowl XXXVI
As a result of the ‘tuck rule’ call that led the Patriots to the Super Bowl, New England had their toughest task of pulling off an upset of the “Greatest Show On Turf,” the mighty St. Louis Rams.
14-point favorites and coming off a Super Bowl win in the season previous, Kurt Warner and the Rams came out flat, trailing 17-3 heading into the 4th quarter. After two fourth quarter TD passes by Warner gave the Rams the lead, we all know what happened next.
Adam Vinatieri, the most clutch kicker in NFL history booted one through the uprights from 48 yards away, crushing the momentum and hopes that was the Ram’s 4th quarter performance and season in entirety.
14 years later, the Rams have only had one winning record since that game, and have since moved from St. Louis back to Los Angeles.
Washington Redskins – Joe Theismann’s Injury
What has gone down as one of the most famous, gruesome injuries in sports history happened at the hands of Lawrence Taylor and at the literally legs of Joe Theismann. The Redskins’ Super Bowl and MVP quarterback was sacked by the great LT in a game against the Giants in 1985. Famously, Taylor quickly got up and vigorously signaled to trainers to come onto the field and attend to the QB.
Theismann, who went down in the midst of Washington’s greatest run, would never play another snap.
Houston Texans: The 2010 Jaguars Hail Mary
Though the embarrassing opening round playoff defeated in 2016 could have very well been at the top, as far as single moments, no other was more frustrating or embarrassing than the hail mary given up by Houston in 2010. Texans fans booing their own quarterback (Matt Shaub after he suffered an injury and had to be taken off the field comes in at a close second place.
During a regular season game that season, the Texans had the game surely in hand, until miraculously Jaguars QB David Garrard launched a hail mary from his own 45-yard-line that was battled like an assist by Glover Quin into the arms of WR Mike Thomas, who ran into the end zone for the score. It hard enough to lose via a hail mary, but when its the Jaguars who inflicted it…talk about deflating.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The 1994 AFC Championship Game
Three yards separated the Pittsburgh Steelers form a Super Bowl. Three.
With the Steelers having been favored by nine points in the 1994 AFC Title game against the San Diego Chargers, QB Neil O’Donnell’s threw two incomplete passes inside the 10-yard-line, a disappointing end to a momentous possession to put Pittsburgh in range for a score. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions.
Minnesota Vikings: 1999 NFC Championship Game
In 1998, kicker Gary Anderson couldn’t miss. Literally. The Vikings was a perfect 59-for-59 on the season. His team wasn’t too far from perfect either, finishing the season 15-1. Then again, when you have Randall Cunningham tossing the pigskin up to Randy Moss and Chris Carter out wide to go haul in, it’s got to be a chore to lose games.
In the NFC Championship, Minnesota led the Falcons 27-20 until an Anderson kick from 38 yards out sailed wide. The kick allowed the Falcons were able to come back and get to the Super Bowl.
The loss was so devastating, Chris Carter almost retired. Since the missed kick, the Vikings have since lost two more conference championships and nearly got to another in 2015-2016 until Blair Walsh missed a kick that would have beat the Seahawks.