Ever since the Miami Dolphins completed the perfect 17-0 season back in 1972, teams have been trying to match that feat. With the NFL in an era filled with parity, it is harder than ever for a team to dominate the landscape of the NFL, making it all the more remarkable with regards to what the Patriots have done. Speaking of them, they came the closest of matching or even surpassing what the Dolphins did when they went 18-0 all the way to Super Bowl XLII before their loss to the Giants. Others had quite an undefeated streak going throughout their season, but finally dropped a game en route to a Super Bowl. Others felt that resting their starters before a playoff run was more important than a shot at history.
Many teams have flirted with perfection, but since those Dolphins, nobody has been able to finish the job. Many people would probably love to see someone shut up the '72 Dolphins, but the fact is until somebody matches the feat, they can boast all they want.
This season, a record five teams were undefeated after Week 7, as the Bengals, Broncos, Patriots, Packers and Panthers were all perfect heading to the halfway point of the season. The Packers would fall in Week 8 to the Broncos, only for Denver to fall to Indy in Week 9, while the Bengals suffered their first loss in Week 10. The Patriots suffered their first loss in Week 12, an overtime thriller in Denver, leaving Carolina as the lone undefeated team.
For this list, we'll be looking at teams in the Super Bowl era that came the closest to going perfect. The list will include teams that suffered just one loss en route to a Lombardi Trophy or teams that got off to a great start, only for a team to finally break through their armor. Here are the teams that were almost perfect.
15 Pittsburgh Steelers - 2004
While the Steelers were 15-1, which is actually a better regular season record than many teams on this list, their lone loss came in Week 2, so there was never any perfect season hype surrounding them. Fielding a rookie by the name of Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers tore through opponents following their loss to Baltimore, knocking off the undefeated Eagles and snapping New England's 21-game winning streak.
With the road to the Super Bowl going through Steel Town, it seemed Jerome Bettis was riding into retirement on a runaway train. However the Steelers would come up flat in the AFC Championship, with the Pats solving their defense en route to a 41-27 victory. Pittsburgh would finish the job for Bettis the following year.
14 New York Giants - 1990
The 1990 Giants got as far as 10-0 before suffering their first loss of the season to the Eagles. They would also lose against the 49ers and the Bills, but they would have their revenge in the playoffs. These Giants had the top defense in football, allowing only 211 points and they were also a very disciplined team, only committing 14 turnovers all season. They would go on to dethrone the defending champion 49ers and stalled the Bills offense in the Super Bowl, all while doing it without starting quarterback Phil Simms, who broke his foot in Week 15.
13 Baltimore Colts - 1967
The 1967 Colts are a special case here, as the team tied two games in their 1967 season. Technically if those were their only blemishes, it would still be an undefeated season, just not a perfect game. They headed into their final regular season game without any losses, but would get blown out by the Rams 34-10 in the season finale.
Astonishingly that one loss would cost them a playoff spot, as they finished with an identical record to Los Angeles, but lost the tiebreaker on point differential in head-to-head games. The reason the Colts are on this list and not the Rams is because the Rams lost their lone regular season game early, back in Week 4.
12 Minnesota Vikings - 1998
Almost would be the perfect word to describe the Minnesota Vikings' 1998 season. They were almost perfect, as was their kicker Gary Anderson. The Vikings had one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history with Randall Cunningham enjoying a career resurgence and an amazing tandem of Cris Carter and Randy Moss. Minnesota's lone regular season loss was a 27-24 defeat in Tampa Bay back in Week 9. Their next loss would come in the NFC Championship game, after Gary Anderson missed his only field goal of the year late in the game, which would have sealed a spot in the Super Bowl for the Vikes.
11 Miami Dolphins - 1984
Dan Marino's historic 1984 season allowed the Dolphins to start their season on a tear, beginning at 11-0, before Week 12 and 14 losses to the Chargers and Raiders ruined their chance to match the franchise's 1972 team. Marino would set league records with 5,084 passing yards and 48 touchdowns and led Miami through the AFC playoffs in just his second year, getting past the Seahawks and Marino's hometown Steelers. They would be defeated by our next entry.
10 San Francisco 49ers - 1984
The 49ers' undefeated streak in 1984 was ended in Week 7, but it was a narrow 20-17 loss to the Steelers that proved to be the only blemish on their season. The Niners would coast through the season from there and continued to build on their 80s dynasty. They rolled past the Giants and Bears en route to the Super Bowl, where they would shut down Marino and the Dolphins, blowing them out for a 38-16 victory. It was their second of four 80s Super Bowls.
9 Los Angeles Rams - 1969
The L.A. Rams flirted with success many times but had trouble finding consistency as a franchise. They began the 1969 season with the franchise's longest winning streak, starting 11-0 in a 14-game regular season. After losing their first game of the year to the Vikings, the Rams elected to rest their starters going into the playoffs, resulting in the Rams losing their final three games. The Vikings would defeat the Rams again in the playoffs. The Rams lost four straight to close out their season, but found themselves approaching history.
8 Washington Redskins - 1991
The 1991 Washington Redskins were about as well-rounded a team you could ask for. They led the league in points with 485 and they allowed the second fewest points at 224. They began the season at 11-0, looking unstoppable before an emerging Cowboys team beat them in their own building, 24-21. Washington's other loss would come as a result of resting starters in Week 17 with the no.1 seed locked up.
Washington would proceed to blow everybody out in the playoffs, with Atlanta, Detroit and Buffalo not looking like they belonged in the same league as Washington.
7 Green Bay Packers - 2011
Aaron Rodgers seemed to be on a mission in the 2011 season, putting up the greatest passer rating in a season in NFL history with 122.5. The Packers offense set records including nine games in which they scored at least 35 points. Their defense would finish dead last, but always seemed to make the big play when they had to. The team would start 13-0 before a shocking upset to the 4-8 Chiefs would end their bid for perfection. Their defense would prove to be their undoing, as they were one and out in the playoffs, losing to the eventual champion New York Giants.
6 Indianapolis Colts - 2005
Starting strong was never a problem for the Peyton Manning's Colts. It was their finishes that left many disappointed. The Colts got off to their best start in franchise history (to that point) in 2005, when they started 13-0. They would fall to a team that often had their number in the San Diego Chargers, who snapped their perfection with a 26-17 win in Week 15, a win sealed by an 83-yard touchdown run by Michael Turner. The Colts would lose again in Week 16, mainly due to resting their starters.
The Colts would then go one and done in the playoffs, as the wild card Steelers knocked them off 21-18 after Mike Vanderjagt missed his first home field goal in a playoff game.
5 Denver Broncos - 1998
The 1998 Broncos had a very identical season to the 2005 Colts, but they finished with a Super Bowl, so putting them ahead was an easy call. As the defending Super Bowl champions and Elway being in what was obviously his last season and the Broncos were even better than the previous year's Super Bowl team. Their 13-0 start had many talking of a perfect 19-0 season, but a nailbiting 20-16 loss to the Giants ended that talk. They would lose to the Dolphins in Week 16, resulting in a 14-2 finish. No matter to the Broncos, as they would blow out the Fins in the divisional round, followed by victories over the Jets and Falcons to seal a second straight Super Bowl.
4 Indianapolis Colts - 2009
People thought that the Colts would suffer following the retirement of Tony Dungy, but Jim Caldwell took over and the Colts helped give their rookie head coach one of the best starts to a coaching career ever. Manning would deliver perhaps his finest season in a Colts uniform, winning the MVP award and leading the Colts to a 14-0 start. A controversial decision was made by the Colts to rest their starters in Week 16, opening the door to a Jets victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts would rest their starters again in Week 17, leading to their second loss.
The move to rest their starters has long been debated as to whether they made the right choice or should have gone for history. They would lose in the Super Bowl to our next entry.
3 New Orleans Saints - 2009
There was talk in the 2009 season of the possibility that two undefeated teams could meet in the Super Bowl. The Saints got as far as 13-0, one short of the Colts, before suffering a Thursday night loss to the Cowboys in the Superdome.
The Saints had a prolific offense, much like the Colts, led by Drew Brees, Marques Colston and a good RB tandem of Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush and an opportunistic defense. The Saints would lose their final three regular season games, but recovered in the playoffs, blowing out the Cardinals, before winning a classic NFC Championship against the Vikings. They would cap their season with a win over the Colts in the Super Bowl.
2 Chicago Bears - 1985
While our previous two entries got off to their long undefeated starts on the backs of their offense, the 1985 Bears finished at 18-1 due to their dominant defense. The Bears couldn't be stopped all year, with no one being able to solve the Monsters of the Midway. Dan Marino finally did solve them, as he lit up the Bears en route to a 38-21 victory on Monday Night Football, ending the Bears' run at 12-0. The defense would recover and won their remaining games, as well as earning two shutouts in the NFC playoffs, before demolishing the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
1 New England Patriots - 2007
No other team could have taken the no.1 spot. They're the number one "almost" in any sport's history. The Patriots became the first team since the inception of the 16-game schedule to complete a perfect regular season. Tom Brady and Randy Moss tore the league apart, along with Wes Welker enjoying a breakout season. The defense wasn't too shabby either, led by Rodney Harrison, Junior Seau, Tedy Bruschi, Vince Wilfork and Asante Samuel. The Patriots made it all the way to a 14-10 lead in the dying moments of the Super Bowl before David Tyree's miracle helmet catch, followed by a Plaxico Burress touchdown putting an end to the perfect Patriots.
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