Ranking the Patriots Super Bowl Losses From “Best” to Worst
We are a week and a half into the NFL offseason. Days are long, dark, and cold, and the only thing keeping New England from descending into drunken Irish and Italian chaos is the success that the Bruins and the Celtics are having this season. Keeping with the general mood of Patriots fans, we’re going to rank the Patriots Super Bowl losses from best to worst. Now “best” is a real funny word here, because no championship loss is fun. For our purpose here, the “best” Super Bowl loss simply means which one sucked the least. If anyone has ever seen the movie Fever Pitch with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, this is going to be like the scene where Fallon and Barrymore break up and Fallon sits in the dark watching the Bill Buckner play on repeat to torture himself. Patriots fans are already feeling miserable, seems like the best time to relive the torturous moments from the team’s past.
This game has gone down in American professional sports history as one of the worst championship beat-downs ever. The Bears absolutely emasculated an upstart Patriots team that never stood a chance. However, despite the embarrassing score, this loss stings the least because it makes the most sense by far. The ’85 Bears are usually regarded as one of the best teams in the history of the league. They were coached by the legendary Mike Ditka, and had a roster filled with iconic names, including Jim McMahon, Ron Rivera, Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, and William “Fridge” Perry. The Bears also had the greatest running back to ever play the game of football in Walter Payton. The Patriots weren’t exactly a group of scrubs. They were led by John Hannah and future NFL Hall of Famer Andre Tippett. However, they were an 11-5 Wild Card team that squeaked into the playoffs. Despite three impressive road wins, there was very little chance of them getting by one of the best teams in the history of football.
Like some of the other games on this list, this loss is a mixed bag for the Patriots. The problem is that this is a game that they had the ability to win. They had a surprising amount of talent on both sides of the ball; their offense was led by former #1 overall pick Drew Bledsoe and had potent weapons like Ben Coates, Terry Glenn, and Curtis Martin; their defense was led by Pro Bowler Willie McGinist, and had fantastic secondary talent with Lawyer Milloy and Ty Law (a player who has been snubbed from the Hall of Fame over the past two seasons). The Packers were no slouches themselves. They had the league MVP in Brett Farve, a former Heisman Trophy winner in Desmond Howard, and Reggie White, one of the best defensive players in the history of football. Despite 14 first-quarter points, New England would go on to lose by two touchdowns. This game was certainly within their grasp and could have resulted in the franchise’s first Super Bowl had the defense (under both Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick) put up a better performance. However this ranks lower on the list because this Super Bowl brought the Patriots out of mediocrity for good. After years of being a second-class team, they were finally entering a position at the top of the league, a spot where they seldom chose to leave over the next two and a half decades.
There are certainly some around Boston who would disagree with this placement; many would argue that it could be one spot higher. They have a valid argument. This game has a number of issues that make it hard to swallow for Patriots fans. It was the team’s chance to become the first team to repeat Super Bowl victories since they did it back in 2003-2004. It was an opportunity for the team to win three championships in four years for the second time since 2000. It would have cemented Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s legacies beyond compare. The Patriots easily could have won the game if their defense hadn’t put on one of the most embarrassing displays in the Belichick era. Belichick chose to bench Malcolm Butler, which very likely led to the loss. However, despite all of that, this loss still stung less than some of the others. Saying they had the ability to win doesn’t really mean much; New England has been close in all of their losses outside of Super Bowl XX. Pointing out Belichick’s mistakes is fair, but that doesn’t give enough credit to a fantastic Eagles team that made plays when it counted. There is a fair argument to be made that this could be placed in the #2 spot, however, coming one year after the greatest Super Bowl comeback in the history of the NFL, and two years after one of the greatest Super Bowls in league history, there was enough good vibes holding Patriots fans over that this one just didn’t hit quite as hard.
2. Super Bowl XLVI – New York Giants vs. New England Patriots (Final Score: 21-17)
In a similar fashion to Super Bowl LII, New England had plenty of chances to win this game. After getting down 9-0, they scored 17 unanswered points to take a commanding lead. They would then see this lead slip away, along with their ability to score points, and they would go on to lose to the Giants for the second time in four years. The 13-3 AFC Champions were certainly better than the 9-7 Giants, but they were not as good as many like to recall. While they had some solid offensive weapons in a young Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch, and Wes Welker, they only had rookie running backs, and Gronk spent the entire game as a distraction after injuring his ankle in the AFC Championship. The Patriots defense was one of the worst ever put together under Bill Belichick. Their only significant players were Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Rob Ninkovich. Their secondary had a young Devin McCourty who was having a down year, and Patrick Chung who was in his dismal first stint in New England. The defense was so bad that Julian Edelman actually took snaps at cornerback in the AFC Championship game. Despite all of that, New England had more than enough talent to beat the Giants. They would have won had Wes Welker not dropped a pass on second and eleven that would have put the Patriots in field goal range and allowed them to waste the clock and force the Giants to make a 2:00 touchdown drive. This game, like the Eagles game, had plenty of opportunities for New England to win. It was also their chance to avenge the Super Bowl 42 loss against the Giants, and to prove that the Patriots dynasty wasn’t dead. They failed in that endeavor, and left many wondering if we had seen the last of the New England Patriots at the top of the league.
1. Super Bowl XLII – New York Giants vs. New England Patriots (Final Score: 17-14)
This is the worst Super Bowl loss for New England and it’s really not even close. The Patriots entered this game 18-0, and were looking to place themselves in the history books as the first team to go 19-0. A win would have allowed them to be labeled the best team of all time, bar none. This Patriots team was still one of the best of the 21st century. Their offense was ridiculous, leading the league in scoring and yardage by a mile. Tom Brady ended the season with 50 touchdowns, the most in league history until Peyton Manning threw for 55 in 2013. Randy Moss caught an NFL record 23 touchdowns. The Patriots defense, while aged, was still full of potent players, including Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Vince Wilfork, Roosevelt Colvin, Ty Warren, Adalius Thomas, Mike Vrabel, and Asante Samuel. They had dominated the league all season and, despite some close calls against the Ravens and the Eagles, had finished the regular season without a loss. They hadn’t scored less than 20 points in a single game, and were held under 30 points just three times in the regular season. The Patriots were supposed to dominate New York and take their place in history. Instead, they ran into the brick wall that was the Giants defensive line. Anchored by Michael Strahan, the New York defensive front sacked Brady five times, and hurried him all night. That, combined with solid coverage from their secondary, allowed the Giants to keep Brady and the vaunted New England offense in check. The Giants also had a fair degree of luck as well. Asante Samuel dropped a sure interception that would have sealed the win for New England. David Tyree also cemented his place in NFL history by making the greatest and most significant catch in Super Bowl history by pasting an Eli Manning pass to his helmet and coming down with a crucial first down. Tyree also joined Aaron “expletive” Boone as one of the greatest singular villains in Boston sports history. This game shocked the entire sports world, and will forever haunt the dreams of New England players and fans who were just a few plays away from the completion of the greatest season in professional sports history.
Smile, we’re only slightly over 200 days until the regular season opens again!
Until next time – B$