Worst Moment For Each NFL Franchise

Though the National Football League is the most popular sports organization in America, there have been some difficult moments for each franchise to endure.

From blown calls, to criminal activity, careers cut short and heartbreaking losses, each franchise goes through as many downs as ups. No matter how good and successful a franchise is.

It's the nature of the sport. But some NFL teams have gone through some of the most unbelievable and craziest plays and moments that no one could have predicted to happen.

That is why we watch. It seems like for every glorious moment for a franchise, there is a difficult one.

You can ask any NFL employee, athlete, coach or fan. Every one has that one moment they wish their team could re-do or have back.

That's because some of these moments are just so difficult and unseen that it takes years to get over them. Sometimes you can't get through these moments. It will always be that way.

Until a time machine is invented to go back and re-write history, which probably won't happen for years. But probably never.

So as is, each NFL franchise has to accept that they've had some horrible and heartbreaking moments that cannot be changed. That's what history is.

But as we've seen from teams, overcoming your worst moments can lead to your best. But many NFL teams haven't had much, if any, success after going through the worst moment in their history.

Without further ado, here is the absolute worst moment that each NFL franchise has had to go through.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

32 Arizona Cardinals: Losing Super Bowl XLIII

via azcardinals.com

The 2008 Arizona Cardinals were one of the best Cinderella stories in the history of the NFL.

They finished with a 9-7 record that was good enough to capture the NFC West. With a resurgent quarterback in Kurt Warner, the Cardinals won the NFC Championship after a thrilling win against the Philadelphia Eagles.

They met the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa Bay. Though the Steelers led 20-7 after three quarters, the Cardinals struck back with 16 unanswered points.

That was before Santonio Holmes made the greatest touchdown play in Super Bowl history, giving the Steelers a 27-23 lead with 35 seconds left.

The Cardinals couldn't pull off a late miracle. Despite an impressive run to the big game, they barely lost in heart-breaking fashion to a team that few people expected them to beat.

31 Atlanta Falcons: 2012 NFC Championship Collapse

via espn.go.com

Though the Falcons had home advantage, it appeared as though the San Francisco 49ers were the team destined to reach XLVII.

Atlanta was the best team in the NFC, spotting a 13-3 record behind a stellar offense from Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.

Atlanta jumped out to a 17-0 lead. The 49ers stormed back and made it closer, but trailed 24-14 to the Falcons at half time.

The 49ers outscored Atlanta 14-0 in the second half, including a late touchdown from Frank Gore. The Falcons marched into the redzone, but were stopped in the final minutes.

They just took their foot off the gas pedal and it cost them a chance to make it to their first Super Bowl in 13 years.

Atlanta hasn't made the playoffs since.

30 Baltimore Ravens: Ray Lewis Incident

via espn.go.com

The Baltimore Ravens were a four-year old franchise when they won Super Bowl XXXV against the New York Giants.

However, the celebration was short lived for legendary linebacker Ray Lewis, who was the heart and soul of Baltimore during his tenure with the Ravens.

Lewis was involved in an incident with his friends in which two people were killed. No one knows whether or not he was actually part of the incident.

He maintained he had nothing to do with it and was only trying to defuse the situation, but no one will ever know the truth.

The fact two people lost their lives in what was supposed to be a glorious moment for the Ravens franchise is just tragic.

29 Buffalo Bills: Wide Right

via abcnews.go.com

The Buffalo Bills have endured heartbreak like no other NFL team. They lost four Super Bowls during the 1990s, but their first appearance (in 1990), was their best shot of winning.

Facing the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV, the Bills tried to win off of a last-minute drive by quarterback Jim Kelly.

Kelly played Mr. Clutch and set his team in prime position to put away the Giants and their dominant defense.

He set up kicker Scott Norwood for a 47-yard field goal, but Al Michaels' infamous call of "wide right" perfectly fit the description of his kick missing by a mile.

Had he made that one field goal, I'm sure it would have been a lot easier for the Bills Mafia to endure three more Super Bowl losses. Alas, they are still waiting for that first Lombardi Trophy.

28 Carolina Panthers: Losing Super Bowl XXXVIII

via reddit.com

The Carolina Panthers shocked the NFL when they won the NFC South with an 11-5 record and carried the momentum all the way to the Super Bowl.

They faced off against the New England Patriots, and though it was a game for the ages, Carolina's faithful can be upset for more than one reason.

Aside from John Kasay kicking the ball out of bounds which gave Tom Brady a short field (shortly after Jake Delhomme led his team to tie it up in the final minutes), the Panthers may have gotten cheated out of a title.

Though the Pats won a 32-29 thriller, the Spygate scandal has emerged and many former Patriots have come forward, admitting to cheating during their dynasty years.

Did Carolina really get screwed out of winning a Super Bowl? Who knows for sure, but it's not surprising if they did.

Still, it was tough to take such a hard loss when they were so close to winning.

27 Chicago Bears: Losing Super Bowl XLI

via nfl.com

The Chicago Bears really haven't endured enough hardship. They dominated the sport before the merger. However, they have only seen so much playoff action since winning it all in 1985.

The Bears played sloppy football in the rain when they faced off against the Indianapolis Colts.

Chicago turned the ball over five times and put up simply no effort. This game is best remembered as Peyton Manning simply winning his first ring. But man, what an awful showing by the Bears.

26 Cincinnati Bengals: Super Bowl XXIII

via sports.yahoo.com

The Cincinnati Bengals got a rematch with the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIII from seven years earlier where the 49ers won 26-21.

This time, the Bengals looked like they would win the big game, until Joe Montana hit John Taylor to give San Francisco a 20-16 lead with 39 seconds left.

Joe Cool earned his clutch reputation with a 92-yard drive. The Bengals are still looking to get back to the big dance, failing to do so since this tough loss.

25 Cleveland Browns: The Fumble


It seems like no other team in the NFL gains more sympathy around America than the Cleveland Browns.

Not one Super Bowl appearance to their names, they were very close to doing so in the AFC Championship in 1988 against John Elway's Denver Broncos.

Trailing 38-31 with just over a minute to go, Earnest Byner fumbled at the one-yard line. The Browns looked poised to at least tie it up and force Elway to win it all before overtime, but the worst play in franchise history happened.

Cleveland lost 38-33. No loss in the team's history has been so terrible.

24 Dallas Cowboys: Jackie Smith's Drop

via bronxbanterblog.com

Though the Dallas Cowboys already owned two Super Bowl championships in the 1970s, they were awfully close to another.

America's Team faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIII. Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach went at it all game long.

Trailing Pittsburgh 21-14 late in third quarter, Staubach found a wide open Jackie Smith in the endzone.

Smith dropped the easiest pass of his career. The Cowboys had to settle for a field goal on the next play. Smith's drop cost them four points.

The Steelers won 35-31. So yeah, that's painful. Smith, a Hall of Fame tight end, never played another game.

23 Denver Broncos: Super Bowl XLVIII

via denverpost.com

When your quarterback sets records with 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 passing yards in a single season, and your team puts up the most points in a season with 606, what do you take away from it?

A blowout in the Super Bowl like no other.

Peyton Manning's Broncos seemed destined to win the Lombardi Trophy after putting up the greatest offense of all-time.

After getting through the long-time rival Tom Brady and his New England Patriots in the playoffs, Manning seemed poised to win the Super Bowl.

They met the Seattle Seahawks. There hadn't been a hyped-up Super Bowl in years. The best offense of all time against the NFL's number one defense at the time.

Of course the Seahawks won 43-8. Everyone still wants to know how the Broncos got so badly embarrassed.

22 Detroit Lions: 2008 Season


You can say all you want about the loss to Brett Favre in the 1994 playoffs or Eddie Murray's missed field goals as a chance to end the San Francisco 49ers dynasty in 1983.

But the 2008 Lions left heartbreak like no other to their fans: They finished 0-16. They did not win a single game.

For what it's worth, they managed to play in just five games that were decided by eight points or less.

They also had six games of losing by 18 or more points. It was that kind of season for the Lions faithful.

21 Green Bay Packers: Refs Cost Packers Chance at Three Straight NFC Titles


The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl in 1997, lost a thriller to John Elway's Denver Broncos the following year and had a chance to make it back to the big dance in three straight seasons.

During the 1998 season, they visited the San Francisco 49ers in the wild-card round. With replay not being used for another year, the Packers lost via a terrible officiating decision.

Leading 27-23 in the final minutes, Steve Young led his team downfield. Jerry Rice had clearly fumbled and the Packers would have iced the game. Of course, the refs ruled him down by contact.

Steve Young and Terrell Owens formed The Catch II when the 49ers scored a last-second touchdown to win.

It's one of the most infamous blown calls in sports. Favre never led his team to another Super Bowl.

20 Houston Texans: 2013 Meltdown

via fansided.com

I'm just having a hard time pinpointing the worst moment in the history of the young Houston Texans franchise.

They've only had two playoff seasons. Winning back-to-back AFC South titles in 2011 and 2012, they appeared poised to take it to the next level.

Coming off a 12-4 season, the Texans started off on fire. They won their first two games and looked like they'd be a force to be reckoned with.

What happened next was amazing: 14 straight losses. Matt Schaub benched and let go in the offseason. Head coach Gary Kubiak fired. Defensive coordinator legend Wade Phillips let go.

It was just amazing to see a dominant team completely turn the tide and win the first overall pick that year.

I have never seen such a turnaround from a team in sports.

19 Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning's Pick-Six

via si.com

The Colts had dominated for so long under Peyton Manning that it's an absolute crime they only managed to win one Super Bowl.

With an easy trip to the Super Bowl (A perfect season may have been in tact if Jim Caldwell didn't bench his starters in Week 16) and two easy home playoff wins, the Colts faced Drew Brees' New Orleans Saints.

Pierre Garcon dropped an easy pass that could have been a touchdown late in the first half that could have put the game away early. The Colts failed to recover an easy onside kick to start the second half.

Matt Stover missed a field goal to put his team up by four. The Colts let Brees march his team downfield to go up by a touchdown. Peyton Manning throws a pick-six.

The Colts really beat themselves in that one. And they haven't made it to the Super Bowl since.

18 Jacksonville Jaguars: 2010 Collapse

via perryknots.photoshelter.com

With Peyton Manning's Colts being decimated by injuries, Indianapolis was struggling and found themselves at 6-6 with four games to go.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, sat at 8-5 and looked to be on cruise control for the rest of the season.

Following a loss to the Colts in Week 15, they lost their next two games and saw an AFC South title fall firmly from their grasp.

And of course, it's been a series of losing seasons and high draft picks since.

17 Kansas City Chiefs: 2013 Wild Card Collapse

via xnsports.com

The 2013 Kansas City Chiefs were a feel-good story. After winning the first overall pick that year, Alex Smith and Andy Reid came to Kansas City and led their team to an 11-5 record and playoff berth.

They visited Andrew Luck's Indianapolis Colts and led 38-10 in the second half. 38-10. In the second half. Yes.

The Colts poured on the momentum and made the game 38 all. The Chiefs led by three before Andrew Luck hit T.Y. Hilton for a late touchdown to give his team the lead.

Smith started driving, but failed to get his team into field goal rage. Game over. It was the worst collapse in ages, and Kansas City has a record of eight straight playoff losses.

16 Miami Dolphins: Dan Marino's Blown One Shot

via csnbayarea.com

Dan Marino would widely be considered to be the best quarterback ever had he actually won a Super Bowl.

He made one Super Bowl during his 16 years with Miami.  They faced the San Francisco 49ers dynasty in Super Bowl XIX.

Marino had the most touchdowns in a season that year with 48. It's fitting that they lost 38-16 to see their Super Bowl hopes come falling down.

Miami hasn't made it back there since, but it's very disappointing that the legendary Marino didn't get his chance to be a Super Bowl winner.

15 Minnesota Vikings: Gary Anderson's One Miss Costs Them

via thescore.com

The 1998 Minnesota Vikings had everything going for them. They would manage 15 wins that season while kicker Gary Anderson didn't miss one field goal or extra point all year.

Minny looked ready to make it to the Super Bowl for the first time in 22 years. Randy Moss became a rookie sensation with Randall Cunningham as quarterback. Cris Carter was also dangerous. The defense was something else.

You know the rest. With just minutes left, Gary Anderson missed a routine 38-yarder that would have sealed their trip to the Super Bowl. The Atlanta Falcons get a late touchdown to tie it and win on a field goal in overtime.

I don't think we need to discuss anymore how brutal of a lost this season was.

14 New England Patriots: Aaron Hernandez Scandal

via myfoxboston.com

You may be tempted to discuss Spygate, Deflategate or even their blown shot at being the first 19-0 season in NFL history.

There's a difference between cheating in sports, losing to the team that wanted it more and human life.

Aaron Hernandez, a superstar tight end for the Patriots, is in jail for life for the murder of Odin Lloyd and is on trial for a double-homicide in Boston.

It's not the Patriots' organization fault what happened to Hernandez. He made decisions that shattered so many lives and left a bad taste in the mouths of a team and league that trusted him and taught him how to be a good and civil person.

And he threw it all away.

13 New Orleans Saints: Bountygate

via bleacherreport.com

Before the Bountygate struggle came out in 2012, the Saints were one of the most lovable franchises in the NFL.

Coming back from Hurricane Katrina to win the Super Bowl in 2009, everyone had a soft spot for them and they did nothing wrong.

That was until it was discovered that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was paying his players to deliver cheapshots and very dirty hits on opposing teams players.

Sean Payton was suspended a full season. GM Mickey Loomis was suspended for half the season. The Saints had two second-round picks taken away.

And the Saints really ruined the lovable reputation they had.

12 New York Giants: Miracle at the Meadowlands

via gcobb.com

The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles faced off in a critical winner-take-all NFC East showdown in Week 16 of the 2010 season.

The G-Men had a commanding 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter and looked firmly in control.

Philadelphia rallied to tie it up at 31 all. In the dying seconds, the Giants punted to DeSean Jackson to hopefully force overtime.

Jackson took it to the house and won on the final seconds. It became the first time ever where a player won the game in regulation off a punt return.

An epic collapse for the Giants. At least they won the Super Bowl the following season.

11 New York Jets: Losing Bill Belichick

via nydailynews.com

The New York Jets hired Bill Belichick to become their head coach. In one of the craziest storylines ever, he was coach for a day before resigning.

Belichick went on to become the New England Patriots head coach. Everyone knows the rest. The Patriots run away with the AFC East every year. Four Super Bowl championships, two runner-ups in the big game, and a perennial dangerous team.

The Jets have six playoff wins since the hiring, but no Super Bowl appearances.

10 Oakland Raiders: Tuck Rule

via bostonherald.com

The worst rule in the history of the NFL no longer exists. That's how dumb it was considered.

But of course it had to be in effect when the Raiders were screwed over by the rule. In the 2001 Divisional round against the Patriots, Oakland forced a Tom Brady fumble and they recovered it which would have ended the game.

Nope. The referees reviewed it and changed the call. The Patriots built a dynasty out of it and the Raiders have one playoff appearance since.

9 Philadelphia Eagles: Losing the 2003 NFC Championship

via bleacherreport.com

The Eagles appeared ready to reach the Super Bowl. With home advantage in the NFC playoffs, they faced the surprising Carolina Panthers in the 2003 NFC title game.

With a 12-4 record, the Eagles had an electrifying offense with Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb leading the way.

Those men didn't show up. The Panthers came into Philly and shut them down with a 14-3 victory.

The Eagles would win the NFC the next year. But who knows what could have been different had they gotten to face the Patriots the year before?

8 Pittsburgh Steelers: Losing to Tim Tebow

via hollywoodreporter.com

It's hard to find one moment in Steelers history that stands out from the others. Their six Super Bowls are the most in league history.

Struggling in the 1980s and much of the 1990s didn't leave many heartbreaking moments. The 2012 AFC wild card round did, though.

Pittsburgh faced the fluky Denver Broncos, led by Tim Tebow. Despite being a wild-card team, Pittsburgh was a favorite in the AFC with Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace along with a bruising defense.

Tebow hit 300 yards in the game. Pittsburgh had no answer for him. The defense failed miserably and they let Demaryius Thomas walk them off in overtime.

Pittsburgh has played in one playoff game since. After losing in the Super Bowl the year before, they really missed out on a chance to get back.

7 St. Louis Rams: Losing to Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI

via skysports.com

The Rams had just captured their first Super Bowl ever two years prior. Now with "The Greatest Show on Turf" they seemed ready to put a crowning moment on their dominant reign.

They were heavy favorites against the New England Patriots. However, Tom Brady led his team on a last-second field goal to win the game. The Rams lost a heartbreaker and have not been the same franchise since.

Like the Panthers, there are plenty of Spygate allegations out there and Marshall Faulk has said he feels he may have been cheated out of a ring.

To be upset by the underdog is bad enough. But if they truly were cheated out, that's just not fair.

6 San Diego Chargers: 2006 Loss to Patriots

via centriotimes.com

The San Diego Chargers in 2006 may have been the greatest regular season team to not win a playoff game.

Philip Rivers emerged as an elite starter. Antonio Gates was dangerous. LaDainian Tomlinson had 28 rushing touchdowns, a league record. He ran away with the MVP. He was lights out.

The Chargers had a home playoff game against Tom Brady's New England Patriots. Brady had thrown three picks, but it didn't matter.

Leading 21-13, Brady threw a late game interception. Marlon McCree fumbled. Pats take over. They tie it up at 21 all. They win on a late field goal.

Nate Kaeding misses a game-tying kick.  Marty Schottenheimer gets fired and the Chargers have three playoff wins since missing out on a golden opportunity.

5 San Francisco 49ers: Losing 2013 NFC Championship Game

via latimes.com

Before you mention their loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl the year before, hold it for a minute.

The 49ers were supposed to be a contender for years to come. They weren't going to beat Ray Lewis on his last ride.

San Francisco is a mess now. It's not because of their Super Bowl loss. Things went downhill after their 23-17 NFC Championship loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Colin Kaepernick kept the game close for the 49ers on the road. He threw a late interception in the redzone to Malcolm Smith. He was literally an inch away from delivering a touchdown into Michael Crabtree's hands that would have ended it.

The 49ers have gone a combined 11-14 since. Almost every key player from that 2013 run is gone. Jim Harbaugh is gone. How different would things have been if Crabtree caught that?

Based on the Denver Broncos Super Bowl performance, the 49ers would have hammered them the way Seattle did. Therefore, I doubt the 49ers would have let so many key parts get away if they had won that game in Seattle.

4 Seattle Seahawks: Run the Ball!

via si.com

Not much needs to be said here. Everyone knows what happened.

You have the league's best running back. The league's hardest running back to tackle. All you need is for him to run one yard. He has three tries to do it.

No one will ever understand why Pete Carroll had Russell Wilson throw a Super Bowl-defining play to Ricardo Lockette instead of feeding Marshawn Lynch.

3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Winless in '76

via buccaneers.com

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976 may have been the worst team in NFL history. Even worse than the 0-16 Lions in 2008.

Former head coach John McKay made it well-known how embarrassed he was with his team. The Bucs were just a mess from top to bottom.

They finished last in touchdowns and points scored. It was just a year everyone with that franchise at the time would love to forget.

2 Tennessee Titans: One Yard Short

via nydailynews.com

The Titans faced the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV. It had the most unimaginable finish you could think of.

With the Rams leading the Titans 23-16, Steve McNair led his team on a dramatic drive and charge as they tried to force overtime.

Kevin Dyson caught a short pass and was tackled one yard short of the endzone by linebacker Mike Jones.

One. Yard. Short. Just imagine how hard it's been for Titans fans to live that down.

1 Washington Redskins: Passing of Sean Taylor

via csnmidatlantic.com

Two time Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor was murdered at the young age of 24 after being shot by robbers outside his home.

For a young and innocent person to have his life taken away is just incredibly tragic. Taylor was a heart and soul player on the Redskins.

There's no other way else around it. A young athlete with everything ahead of him is murdered.

Just a horrible event that the NFL had to go through.

More in NFL