The countdown to the Super Bowl is on and as we continue with our look at some of the best NFL postseason moments by this time, taking a looking at the different runs to the Super Bowl, whether these teams actually made it to the big game or not, there are fascinating runs in the history of some of these beloved teams in their fight to get to the big game whether or not they made it there or not so, yeah, I’m gonna cheat a bit on the title because we’re not only just going to look at the teams that actually made it to the Super Bowl but also, the teams that almost made it because those are even more interesting stories than the teams that actually make it to the big game.
Let’s go ahead and take a look at the 10 best runs to the Super Bowl:
10. The 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers & The 2016 Green Bay Packers
Let’s forget how both of this season’s runs for these teams ended in the Championship games and really look at how these teams got to said Championship games. It’s important to remember that by mid November both the Steelers and Packers were not doing very well, Steelers were 4-5 and the Packers were even worse with 4-6 but then both quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers gave these motivational speeches to their teams to ‘Follow Me’ and ‘Run The Table’ and sure enough, both teams not only kept on winning but became the great teams that many expected them to be. The Steelers went on to an 11-5 winning record and the Packers went on to a 10-6 winning record both winning their divisions, hell, the Steelers rested a lot of their main starters in the final game against Cleveland knowing that they got everything they needed to win that game.
When the playoffs came around, the Steelers and Packers both continued their winning streaks against the Dolphins, Chiefs, Giants, and Cowboys and it seemed like they had a fair chance to get that rematch of Super Bowl XLV in this year’s Super Bowl….but then, the Championship games came and those winning streaks didn’t really seem to matter as both the Packers and ESPECIALLY the Steelers got the tar beaten out of them but the inevitable Super Bowl LI teams, the Falcons & the Patriots. They were disappointing ends to what had been great postseason runs.
You can tell that both of these teams are worthy of a Super Bowl and having both lost to these teams that had beaten them already once in the season, you’d think they would’ve done their best to get their revenge but no, it felt like neither team was that committed to beating the other team or even trying.
Two very disappointing ends to two incredible runs to get them to where they ended up, surely, these two will be back in the playoffs next year but if they want to get to the Super Bowl, they’ve gotta play better than they did this year.
9. The 1992 Dallas Cowboys
It’s amazing how one team can improve after so many years of disappointment, the 1992 Dallas Cowboys was the culmination of returning to the Dallas Cowboys of the 70s with Jimmy Johnson finally utilizing those draft picks he and owner Jerry Jones got in the first year of his ownership by trading away Herschel Walker in 1989.
The Cowboys of 1992 were that team that finally had gotten back to the promise land not seen by the team since 1978, everything that had been building up to that point was just coming together, and led to a big win in the postseason that stemmed all the way to the Super Bowl where they just decimated the Buffalo Bills 52 – 17 and a really good Buffalo Bills team, more on that in a bit. It began the 90s dynasty of the Dallas Cowboys and it was the first of three big wins for the team in the Super Bowl.
8. The 2008 Arizona Cardinals
At 9-7 for the year, the Arizona Cardinals were not considered to be that big of a threat in the postseason, they had been through some tough time in the season, some pretty tough losses, there was one time when the New York Jets just walloped them 56-35, how could any team have enough energy left to get to the Super Bowl?
Well, even with that 9-7 record, they won the NFC west and they not only beat some pretty good teams in the playoffs with the Falcons with rookie QB Matt Ryan, the Panthers, and the Eagles but the Cardinals beat them all to even make it to host the NFC Championship Game and eventually make it to Super Bowl XLIII…and almost winning it thanks to Larry Fitzgerald. Of course, the Steelers put together that final drive to pull out the win but to say that the Cardinals didn’t work their butts off to get to that Super Bowl is complete BS. The Cardinals since them have become a really good football team that’s more than worthy of a Super Bowl but unfortunately, there just hasn’t been that motivation to get them there. But hey, as long as Larry Fitzgerald is still on the team, there’s still a good chance they’ll get in there at some point.
7. The 1985 Chicago Bears
You want to talk about one of the most perfect combinations of any football team, the 1985 Bears are a prime example of one of the definitive football team. Led by head coach Mike Ditka at the peak of his coaching career, Buddy Ryan leading the defense to the peak of what it could be, and some of the best players to ever play the game, all of this came together so well that the Bears that year were an unstoppable force, they only lost one game that season to the Miami Dolphins in week 13, nevertheless, a 15-1 record is really impressive and they kept it going in the playoffs to the point where there was no doubt, they were going to win the Super Bowl that year…and, they did, 46-10 was the final score and the Bears win their first Super Bowl. It was a good time for that team and they never really reached that peak as much afterward. Granted, they made it to the playoffs many years after but never reached that level that this particular team did.
6. The 2001 New England Patriots
Now, don’t get me wrong….I do not like the Patriots as a lot of people don’t but it is important to remember that this team had to start its’ dynasty somewhere. In 2001, the then starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe got injured during a New York Jets game hence a second year quarterback by the name of Tom Brady stepped in to take over the team and a team that was 0-2 starting the 2001 season just became this monster team by the end of the year, ending the season at 11-5 getting a bye week in the playoffs and beating Oakland in a pretty controversial game later becoming known as The Tuck Rule game and the Steelers in the championship where they were considered the underdogs to get them to Super Bowl XXXVI.
And even in that game, they were considered underdogs over a really good St. Louis Rams team that had won the Super Bowl two years prior and in 2001 went 14-2 on the year and the fact they were able to beat them the way they did with an Adam Vinateri field goal at the last second to make it 20-17, that’s something to admire about this team. Later, they went on to win two more Super Bowls and…okay, that’s fine.
The problem with why the Patriots became the most hated team in the NFL is solely because they kept winning and more and more, there was more indication that they may have cheated their way back to the promise land, from Spygate to Deflategate, this team has gone from being those underdogs from Super Bowl XXXVI to those ‘please-for-the-love-of-god-stop-winning-every-single-game team’ heading into Super Bowl LI. Amazing how 16 amazing years can change a team.
5. The 2006 Indianapolis Colts
Since quarterback Peyton Manning joined the team in 1998, the Colts were often considered a team worthy of a Super Bowl run but their biggest downfall was that they would always have to face the New England Patriots in the playoffs and would easily beat them. By 2006, the Colts took a smart approach to their playoff run, after getting everything they could’ve gotten in the playoff race, the last couple of games for the Colts were played with mostly the backups and saved the starters for the postseason, a decision the Steelers would later use ten years later against the Browns in the final week of the regular season, and by the playoffs, the Colts were one of the top teams not to mess with.
In the AFC Championship Game that year, the Patriots seemed like they were going to end that streak for the Colts by having a halftime lead of 21-6 and then in the second half, the Colts just came roaring back in a big way to beat them 38-34 and get to the Super Bowl, which they eventually won over the Chicago Bears, 29-17.
4. The 1992 Buffalo Bills
When you look back at the Buffalo Bills of the early 90s, you can easily see that the Bills loved playing the game back then because the numerous ways they would get touchdowns was just so impressive to watch, just watch this video and see what I mean:
I mean, when you watch that, look at how fun it was to play football for this team.
1992 was a time when the Bills were back in the playoffs…but, they had to play another week of football because they had the Wild Card game this time around after two years of just going to the Divisional Championship game to start the playoffs. But, wow, that wild card game was such a great start to that playoff run, that was, of course, the Oilers-Bills game where they were down 35 points but came back to win that game. And then you saw the Bills playing a rejuvenated Steelers team under then new head coach Bill Cowher and beating them and finally, beating a good Dolphins team in the AFC Championship Game. Unfortunately, the Cowboys got the best of them in the Super Bowl but the Bills in 92 in that postseason run was them at their best.
3. The 2009 New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints are often considered a snakebit franchise so when they finally were on the cusp of getting there in 2009 with a 13-3 record, they had to go against some pretty good teams in the playoffs, a Cardinals team that had just gone to the Super Bowl the previous year and a now led by Brett Favre Minnesota Vikings team, of course we all know how that ended, and beat them well enough to get to the Super Bowl that year against another really good Indianapolis Colts team who were seen as the favorite to win again. The Colts led it 10-6 in the half but then, a surprise onside kick at the start of the third quarter turned the tide for the Saints and they eventually won that game 31-17 to win their first Super Bowl.
At a time when the city of New Orleans was still trying to get things back on track after Hurricane Katrina hit, the Saints winning the Super Bowl helped to put the city back on track and it worked.
2. The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers
After Ben Roethlisberger became the starting QB for the Steelers in 2004 and taking them to a 15-1 record and all the way to the AFC Championship only to lose again to the Patriots, Roethlisberger promised then running back Jerome Bettis, who was considering retirement after that, he would get him to the Super Bowl.
Much of the 2005 season was a mixed bag, by early December, they were 7-5 and on the cusp of not getting to the playoffs, but then they went on this amazing win streak that started with an epic win over the Bears and continued into the postseason.
Now, the thing to remember is that they were the #6 seed in the AFC and by that point, no team who was the #6 seed ever made it to the Super Bowl and also won it so the Steelers were seen as the biggest underdogs going into the playoffs. They easily beat the Bengals hands down but faced a bit of a bump in the road against the Colts when in the final minute, Bettis fumbled the football and the Colts took it halfway down the field before Roethlisberger was able to bring down the Colts player with the ball. And in probably the greatest nailbiter you could ask for in a game like this, the Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed a pretty simple field goal to seal the Steelers the win and get them to Denver only for them to beat them there.
Super Bowl XL is often seen as a mixed bag because the officiating was pretty bad but the Steelers still ended up winning the game against the Seattle Seahawks to finally give head coach Bill Cowher and Jerome Bettis a long deserved Super Bowl ring. Even Roethlisberger himself admitted that he wasn’t playing his best football then and he would later showcase his full potential in Super Bowl XLIII and while that was a far better game, the run to the Super Bowl then was pretty standard.
This run for a #6 seed to go all the way to the Super Bowl and win it was a rare feat to pull off.
and the #1 run to the Super Bowl is…
The 2007 New York Giants
So, why exactly is this New York Giants team in particular the best run to the Super Bowl? Well, not only did you have Eli Manning at the peak of his quarterback run but you also had these great elements coming together to make for something special.
The biggest reason why the ’07 Giants run to the Super Bowl was so great simply comes down to one key thing…nobody thought they were going to make it. Yeah, if you look back at the 2007 postseason, absolutely nobody was giving the Giants a fair show to win it, especially Fox:
Yeah, nobody gave them a chance but they just kept packing on the wins against these really good NFC teams, the Buccaneers, the Cowboys, and especially the Packers to get to Super Bowl XLII where they would face their greatest test, the New England Patriots who were pitch perfect in that year, 18-0 including the postseason, they were just unstoppable and were seen as the heavy favorites to win the Super Bowl but the Giants just came in and made it a much closer game than anybody would’ve expected and then those final 2 minutes when Manning threw that ball to David Tyree and then to Plaxico Burress for the win, it just was so exciting to see a really good football game in the biggest game of the year where the underdog came out on top, 17 – 14.
The Giants, seen as the team that year that wouldn’t win the Super Bowl, ended up doing so and having the greatest run up to the Super Bowl ever.
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