Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thhhaaaaaaaaaattttttt Close

Another year, another bottle popped for Shula, Mercury, Griese and the rest of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the last and only team to ever go undefeated. The Green Bay Packers have fallen line with other great teams that have tried and failed to beat the pressure and go undefeated.
In honor, or dishonor, depending on your opinion or affiliation, of the Packers inexplicable loss to the Kyle Orton led Kansas City Chiefs, I have compiled a list of the 5 OTHER teams that have gone to the promised land only to miss it by Thhhaaaaaaatttttttttt much. It's crazy to think of the teams that came so close. They are easily some of the best offenses and defenses in the history of the NFL. So with that, your list of those that got Thhhaaaaaaaaaattttttt Close.

1985 Bears

First Loss: Week 13
Opponent: Miami Dolphins
Score: 24-38


Marino may have been the only qb ever
to been able to defeat these Bears.
IT was a fairy tale kind of game as the Miami Dolphins, owners of history's only undefeated season, thwarted the eventual Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears attempt at a perfect season under the lights on Monday Night Football. The Bears where coming off three wins during which they outscored opponents 104-3. This defense, one of history's greatest, the vaunted Buddy Ryan 46 defense, was a hard blitzing defense that focused on forcing the quarterback to make a perfect throw against tight man coverage with at one free blitzer in his face nearly every play.

McMahon's injury hurt the
Bears chances to go undefeated.
So how could they be defeated? Two reasons. Their starting QB, the incomparable wild man Jim McMahon, was out of the game. The second? Possibly the only thing that could beat that defense in a year that  year (and the only thing that DID). Statistically, the great QB of all time, Dan Marino. The Dolphins used the Bears aggressiveness on defense to the their advantage. Because of Maraino's ability to hold the ball what seems like a lifetime longer than most quarterbacks, coupled with his ability to make that perfect throw so often, the Dolphins were able to pass to the middle of the field with ease and precision. The constant blitz left gaping holes in the defense, which allowed Marino to attack it with his tight ends and crossing patterns, and thus forced the secondary to make plays they had not been asked to make most of the year. The result? The Dolphins would hang 38 points on what would become a top 3 all time defense. That's one way to protect your franchise records.

Rest of the season:

The Bears bounced back nicely, finishing the rest of the regular season unscathed, then bulldozing through the playoffs with two shutouts, ten points allowed and a 46-10 victory in Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots. 

1998 Broncos

First Loss: Week 15
Opponent: New York Giants
Score: 16-20


This game was what we all love to call, and rightfully so a trap game. The 1998 Broncos were the 90's darling team and its greatest team.  They made 13-0 relatively easy and never met much a challenge season, with on 5 games decided by 7 points or less.
They made the trip to the Meadowlands to face the Kent Graham New York Giants, who were having another ho-hum season at a blistering 5-8. The Broncos fought to a workman like 16-13 lead behind a strong game by Terrell Davis, rushing for 147 yards on 28 carries.
However, Kent Graham, with an angel on his back and possessed by the ghost of Johnny Unitas, storm down the field and hit a strike to Amani Toomer in the corner of the end zone, who made an amazing catch falling out of the end zone. Initially, it was called an incomplete pass, but to the delight of Amani Toomer and chagrin of Bronco nation, a second official ran in to overturn the call, end the Broncos run at perfection and cementing the 98 Giants in history as the only team to beat the 98 Broncos.

Rest of the season:

The Broncos would loss their next game as well, but then win the next four, including three in the playoffs in rout to John Elway's and the Denver Broncos second consecutive Championship, sending off Elway in style, as this would be his last season as the Broncos quarterback.

2005 Colts 

First Loss: Week 15
Opponent: San Diego Chargers
Score: 17-26


The 2005 Colts were strangely similar to the other streak breakers on this list. Like the 85' Dolphins, they had one of history's top 5 qb's. Like the 98' Giants, they were losing nearly the entire game against the Chargers. And, like both streak breakers, would not see nary a minute of play during that years Super Bowl.
As luck would have the Colts ran into the Chargers who with this game, would begin an incredible December, going 21-1 from that game through the 2009 season. The 05' Drew Bress led Chargers used a quick punch score, a tough running game led by Ladanian Tomlinson and Michael Turner, and a stout defensive performance against Peyton Manning during his record breaking prime years to win the game without any true doubt to the outcome.
The Colts would try to comeback but would not get close again after Manning threw an interception into the end zone to seal their loss to the Chargers.

Rest of the Season:

The Colts would loss 2 of the next 3, including a memorable loss to eventual Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, in a game that featured a controversial Troy Polamalu interception and an anxiety-driven sequence that saw future Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis fumble at the goal-line, which was nearly returned for a game sealing touchdown by Nick Harper, who was tackled by a shoestring by the time Super Bowl Champ Ben Roethlisberger.

2007 Patriots 

First Loss: Super Bowl
Opponent: New York Giants
Score: 14-17


THIS was the team. They were destined. No one could beat them. No one could get them to call of the dogs as they beat, battered and blistered teams to a pulp every week. They won by 19.7 every week. Moss broke the receiving TD record with 23. Tom Brady broke the passing TD record with 50. Wes Welker had 112 catches. Troy Brown had 102. Randy Moss 98. Some say, that only the Patriots could beat the Patriots. Or an act of God. Or simply, Karma for the way people thought they "carried on" late in games as they ran up scores.

Well, after defeating the New York Giants (nearly eliminating them from the playoffs. They "snuck in at healthy 10-6, outlasting the 9-7 Washington Redskins)
Then, the playoffs started. And the Pats started slowing down. A pair of stout defensive lines in the Jaguars and Chargers gave a glimmer of how to take down the juggernaut Pats. You cut off the head and the beast dies. You get to Brady and the offense flat lines.
In Super Bowl XLll, the rematch of the Giants game from week 17, the Giants Trio of Micheal Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, who combined for 32 regular season sacks, got to Brady three times out of five sacks and kept him frazzled the entire game, allowing, Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress and David Tyree to orchestrate a Super Bowl classic of a game winning drive to stun the 18-0 Patriots and seize the Lombardi Trophy while avenging their week 17 loss to the Pats.

2009 Colts

First Loss: Week 16
Opponent: New York Jets
Score: 15-2

This is easily the most controversial loss of all the teams to flirt with an undefeated season, especially when one considers the end result. New Head Coach Jim Caldwell, with the support of his starters threw the game in an attempt to prepare the team for the playoffs, and guarantee that the majority of their  team was healthy entering the playoffs. The strategy worked to a degree. They made it to the Super Bowl but lost to the same quarterback who ended the Colts 2005 bid at a perfect regular season - Drew Brees - and his electric offense in the Saints. Ironically, the Colts would defeat those same Jets that they forfeited to in ending there perfect regular season bid, which gives credence to the thought that they had a great chance to get to the Super Bowl unscathed. 

So as history shows us, its incredibly tough to go undefeated, let alone make it to week 13 without a blemish in the loss column. Only 6 teams have done it, and none made it through a full season and playoff run without feeling defeat. But, in a slight mental victory for the Pack and its faithful, every NFC team and every team not named the Colts made it to and won that season's Super Bowl. But the formula has been unleashed on how to handle if not defeat the nearly unbeatable Packers. Pass rush, athletic cover corners and a  solid run game to control the clock and keep Green Bay off the field will give any team a chance to get the Packers on edge. Now that makes for an exciting finish to an already amazing season.

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