During the 2007 football season, the New England Patriots went undefeated and set an all-time scoring record with points scored. They looked unstoppable and looked to be a sure thing going into the Super Bowl to be the first team in NFL history to go 19-0.
Well, I didn’t think so and cited a few instances when a team winning looked like a sure thing and it didn’t happen which led me to write this article before the Super Bowl. Turned out I was right.
My article can be found at: http://www.pittsburghsportsreport.com/PSR-News/show_news.php?subaction=showfull&id=1200077353&archive=&template=PressRoom
|PSR Press Room
NFL Playoffs: Pats no Super Bowl shoe-in
|By John Baranowski
For fans and media alike who are ready to coronate the New England Patriots as undefeated Super Bowl champions and the greatest team ever, as ESPN analyst Lee Corso so aptly puts it, “Not so fast my friend.”
Granted the Patriots are the first team in NFL history to go 16-0 during the regular season. Yes, they defeated their closest rival in the AFC the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis, and the NFC’s best team Dallas in Dallas, as well as the Chargers and Steelers at home. There’s no doubt they deservedly will be the clear cut favorite to win Super Bowl XLII, but many have forgotten about other heavy favorites who have faltered on their way to the Vince Lombardi trophy.
The ’98 Minnesota Vikings, under head coach Dennis Green, had a 15-1 regular season. Their only loss that season was by three points, and 12 of their 15 wins were by 10 points or more. They had home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and the league’s all-time highest scoring offense under offensive coordinator Brian Billick. That was when Billick’s offenses weren’t offensively challenged. The Vikings scored a record 556 points led by quarterback Randall Cunningham throwing to the receiving tandem of Cris Carter and Randy Moss. Yes, Randy Moss, in his rookie season, had 17 touchdown receptions.
In addition, the Vikings had three All-Pro offensive linemen and a kicker who had not missed a kick the entire regular season. Not a miss until it mattered most – in the postseason. Gary Anderson had made all 35 of his field goal attempts in the regular season, but missed a 38-yard field goal in the NFC Championship Game against Atlanta that most likely would have put the game away and sealed a trip to the Super Bowl for the Vikings. Their dream season ended a short time later in overtime, losing 30-27 to the Falcons. Upsets happen – all the time.
One might counter that the Vikings’ head coach and quarterback had never won a Super Bowl, and Minnesota’s coach and quarterback tandem were far less than that of Bill Belichek and Tom Brady of the Patriots. When you have a coach and a quarterback who have won a Super Bowl, they know what it takes to win. Who can match Belichick and Brady in terms of game planning, playoff success and quarterback play?
So surely this year is again going to belong to Belichick, Brady and the Patriots. Well, may I remind you of the ’87 San Francisco 49ers.
The ’87 Niners were coached by Bill Walsh and quarterbacked by Joe Montana, maybe the only coach and quarterback tandem in NFL history the equal or greater than Belichick and Brady. Walsh and Montana had already won two Super Bowls. This was to be their year – again. The ’87 Niners were favored to get to and win their third Super Bowl in seven seasons.
Going into the playoffs, San Francisco had the best record in the league at 13-2 and were the NFL’s top scoring team, along with the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFC. Montana led the league in passing efficiency with a 102.1 rating and Jerry Rice had a record 22 touchdown receptions. One of every three balls he caught that season resulted in a touchdown. Great coach, great quarterback, great wide receiver, best record in football – sound familiar?
The 49ers’ playoff opponent in the divisional round that year was the 8-7 Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had the worst record of all the teams in the playoffs and only scored one more point than they gave up that season (336-335). The 49ers were a 10-½ point favorite at home. Talk about a walk in the park…
It was anything but. In front of a stunned home crowd, the Vikings shocked the 49ers, 36-24, led by Anthony Carter’s 227 yards receiving.
So despite having the best record in football, home field advantage throughout the playoffs, the league’s top scoring offense, arguably the greatest quarterback ever, a future Hall-of-Fame head coach, the greatest wide receiver in the game’s history, and playoff and Super Bowl experience… the best team in the regular season didn’t win the Super Bowl that year.
That could describe this year’s Patriots. Another seemingly unbeatable team with an unstoppable offense upset in their dream season.
So please, let’s not coronate the Patriots as Super Bowl champions and the greatest team ever until that crown is earned.
John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.
Photo credit: insidethemagic via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND
John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.