Empty Bowls; 5 Great Super Bowls That Never Happened
Asking NFL fans what their favorite Super Bowl is a lot like asking 007 fans what their favorite Bond movie is. You have the ones everyone loves (From Russia With Love), the ones everyone hates (Die Another Day), and the ones everyone goes either way on (Skyfall). Super Bowls are the same way. Even today, some people debate the greatness of games like the Rams-Titans tilt in Super Bowl XXXIV,
Super Bowl XX: Bears vs Dolphins
The 1985 Chicago Bears are a team I would’ve LOVED to see exist in the Twitter era. If you think the (more often than not stupid) backlash against Cam Newton is bad, just imagine how much people would hate the Bears, who recorded the famous “Super Bowl Shuffle” 3 whole months before they won Super Bowl, capping off an 18-1 season.
Ironically, that “1” in the Bears’ record represent the team whose ancestors hold the only perfect record in NFL history. 13 years prior to the Shuffle, the Miami Dolphins had achieved immortality posting the only undefeated season in NFL history. The Bears rolled into the Orange Bowl looking to match that feat, and seemed in perfect position to do so. Their famed defense had given up 10 or less points for the past 7 weeks (including a mere 3 in the previous 3 contests leading into Miami) and the offense was firing on all cylinders. However, the defending AFC Champion Dolphins, led by Dan Marino, jumped out to a 31-10 halftime lead, shocking the nation en route to a 38-24 Monday Night Football triumph. It was part of a 7 game Miami win streak that won them the AFC East title.
Chicago reverted back to their winning ways immediately after, and easily bulldozed their to the Super Bowl. The stage was set for an epic rematch, but the plucky Patriots ruined everything. Losers of 18 consecutive games in the Orange Bowl, New England forced six Miami turnovers in a 31-14 AFC title game victory. The Patriots were subsequently blown out by Chicago 46-10, and Marino never made back to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XXXI: Jaguars vs Panthers
Yes, Virginia, there was a time the Jacksonville Jaguars used to be good. The recent struggles of the franchise have caused fans to long forget the early glory days of the franchise, which went 4-12 in his debut year in 1995 before earning a playoff spot at 9-7 the very next season. Once in the postseason, the Jaguars took down Buffalo and Denver on the road, each by identical 30-27 scores.
Their fellow NFL baby, and modern day NFC Champion, the Carolina Panthers, were even better, going an astonishing (for an expansion team) in their birth year, and shocked the world further in 1996, capturing a 1st round bye and defeating the defending champion Dallas Cowboys 26-17 in the Divisional Round.
Unfortunately, the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots denied the world the "Expansion Bowl" it sought. The Panthers, despite leading most of the 1st half, fell to eventual champion Green Bay, while the young Jaguars fell to the experienced Patriots. Safe to say, though, that then-Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin picked up a lesson or two about New England in this quest for the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XXXIII: Broncos vs Vikings
Brace yourselves, Vikings fans, two of these final three are going to hurt. The first comes during the 1998 season, where the Vikings looked unstoppable. With a revitalized quarterback in Randall Cunningham throwing to Hall of Famer Cris Carter and a young rookie named Randy Moss, Minnesota had one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history, tallying a then record 556 points and winning 12 of their 16 by 10+ points. The Vikings were prematurely selected by many to represent as the opposition to the Denver Broncos in their Super Bowl title defense.
However...then came the NFC Championship Game. The Vikings watched a 20-7 lead slip through their grip against the gritty Atlanta Falcons. The heartbreak was amplified with Gary Anderson, who hadn't missed a field goal all season, shanking a 38 yard attempt that would've put the game out of reach in the 4th quarter. The game went to overtime, when Andersen became the hero...that's Morten Andersen, Atlanta's kicker, who notched a 38 yarder of his own to give the Falcons the upset.
The Bronco's, in John Elway's farewell tour, took care of business on their end, but many simply saw the Super Bowl as a mere formality, anti-climactic with out the powerful Vikings there to shake things up. One can only imagine whether Elway would've gone out on top had the Vikings stood in the way of the Super Bowl title.
Super Bowl XLIII: Giants vs Jets
There's no nuttier group of people in sports than the New York media, and in 2008, that insanity was on full display in the midst of the 2008 NFL season. In November of that right, the two New York...erm, New Jersey...teams were the talk of the circuit. The Giants, already defending Super Bowl champs, were looking unstoppable, rolling into the final portions of the season with an 10-1 record. Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward would end the season each as 1,000 yard rushers, and Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress was one of the most dangerous combos in the sports. The Giants D was also stifling opponents with great fury, leading many to believe that they would at the very least repeat as NFC champs.
Just as impressive was the team constantly referred to as their "Little Brother", the New York Jets. Going into Thanksgiving weekend, the Jets, led by a resurgent Brett Favre, were 8-3, having just toppled the previously undefeated Tennessee Titans. The media took off and ran with the potential all-NY Big Game storyline, with the phrase "Subway Series Super Bowl" on the area's lips throughout early December.
However, the Jets showed exactly how they gained the "Little Brother" moniker, at the worst possible time. The Jets went 1-4 in their final five games, with three of those losses coming against teams that did not make the playoffs. The humiliation received the sourest cherry topping possible in Week 17, when Chad Pennington, whom Jets fans ran out of town in an effort to sign Favre, waltzed into East Rutherford and captured the AFC East division title for his new comrades, the Miami Dolphins, with a 24-17 victory.
The Giants' dream season was likewise derailed, this one by Burress's infamous self-inflicted gunshot wound. Though they still earned the NFC's top seed, the Giants went 2-4 after the Burress incident, with the final loss being an embarrassing 23-11 defeat at the hands of Philadelphia in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
Super Bowl XLIV: Jets vs Vikings
Talk about a Super Bowl of suffering. However, a more appropriate title for this one would've been the Favre Bowl, but the Green Bay Packers were nowhere to be found.
After the dust settled from another offseason where Favre played "Should I Stay or Should I Go", the gunslinger had moved onto the Minnesota Vikings. In response, the Jets had used their 1st round pick on QB Mark Sanchez, trading up to select the USC QB. Favre did not begin the season as Minnesota's starter, but once he took over, he was unstoppable. Minnesota went 12-4, facing off against New Orleans in the NFC title game.
While the Jets' road wasn't as easy...some say they would've missed the playoffs entirely had not a then-undefeated Indianapolis team rested started in a December meeting...they pulled off a couple of playoff upsets over Cincinnati and San Diego to set up another meeting with the Colts in the AFC title game. Both the Vikes and Jets had leads in their respective games, but the Favre Bowl was not to be. Indianapolis didn't rest their starters this time around, leading a 30-17 Colts victory, while Favre's costly interception ended the Vikings' dreams of their first Super Bowl appearance since Super Bowl XI.
As a Cowboys fan, Geoff Magliocchetti wonders what might've been quite often. Tell him to get over it on Twitter @GeoffMags5490.
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