How bad can any of the 47 teams to win a Super Bowl be? With a victory in the NFL’s grand finale they stood over the rest of the football world as champions of each one’s season.
Still, there are a few that no one saw coming but still managed to be holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning the Super Bowl. As unlikely as their victories were, the following five still managed to find a way to get to the game and win.
2001 NE Patriots – SB XXXVI
In 2000, their first season under head coach Bill Belichick (who was hired to replace Pete Carroll), the Patriots finished fifth in the AFC East with a 5-11 record. They reversed that record in 2001, finishing 11-5 and first in the AFC East.
New England struggled out of the gate, losing their first two games, and were only 5-5 before closing the season with a six-game win streak.
They lost starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe in Week 2 when he suffered a sheared blood vessel in his chest and had to turn the offense over to Tom Brady, their sixth round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.
Their offense finished No. 19 in total yards on offense and No. 24 in yards allowed on defense but those stats were deceiving. New England finished sixth on offense and defense in points and points allowed.
In the postseason, the Patriots were losing to the Oakland Raiders 13-3 to start the fourth quarter and were still down 13-10 when the “tuck rule” call took place, allowing New England to keep possession and finish driving for a game-tying field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
The Patriots won 16-13 in overtime and then defeated the Steelers 24-17 in the AFC Conference Championship game. They closed down the St. Louis Rams “Greatest Show on Turf” team in the Super Bowl 20-17 on a game-winning Adam Vinatieri field goal.
1980 Oakland Raiders – Super Bowl XV
The 1980 Raiders became the first Wild Card team to win a Super Bowl.
Oakland began the season with Dan Pastorini at quarterback and stumbled out of the gate with a 2-3 record. At that point Jim Plunkett took over as starter.
Plunkett was the first overall draft pick by the Patriots in 1971 but was out of the league in 1978 and had been written off as one of the biggest first-round busts in draft history. He came back with the Raiders in 1979 and in 1980, ignited a six game win streak when he took over the offense.
Even though he won games the Raiders still went into the postseason with one of the worst passing attacks in the NFL and a tenth ranked running game. They were also tenth in points allowed on defense.
In the playoffs they dominated the Houston Oilers at home 27-7 in the Wild Card game before going on the road and barely squeezing past the Browns and Chargers to get to the Super Bowl. Against the Philadelphia Eagles in that game the Raiders jumped out to a quick lead and cruised to a 27-10 win.
2012 Baltimore Ravens – Super Bowl XLVII
Trent Dilfer may be acknowledged by most football fans as the worst quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl but you wouldn’t have to travel far on that list to get to Joe Flacco.
Eleven quarterbacks had a better season passer rating in 2012. He was also No. 19 in completion percentage, No. 17 in touchdown passes, and No. 14 in passing yards.
As a team the Ravens finished with the worst won/lost record of the four AFC division winners. They ended 2012 ranked tenth in the NFL in points scored and twelfth in points allowed.
Baltimore took control of the AFC North with a 9-2 record before coming close to collapsing in December. They lost three straight games before clinching the division in Week 16 with a 33-14 win over the New York Giants. With the title won the Ravens sat their starters for nearly the entire season finale, which they lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 23-17.
Once in the playoffs, Joe Flacco went on one of the best postseason runs an NFL quarterback has ever had. Against the Colts, Broncos, Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII he threw for 1,140-yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions for a playoff passer rating of 117.2.
After the season the Ravens rewarded him with a six year, $120.6 million contract.
1967 Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl II
This was the final season that Vince Lombardi coached the Packers. Green Bay dominated the NFL as usual in 1966, finishing the year with a 12-2 record and a 35-10 victory in the first Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Prior to the 1967 season, the Packers’ offense lost Paul Hornung to the Saints in the expansion draft, he retired soon after. Jim Taylor signed with New Orleans later that summer. Elijah Pitts and Jim Grabowski were lost to injury during the season which left Donny Anderson, Travis Williams and Chuck Mercein to carry the ball for the Packers.
Bart Starr began showing signs in 1967 that his Hall of Fame career was winding down. He was tenth in the NFL in passing yards and almost threw twice as many interceptions (17) as touchdown passes (9).
Green Bay was 9-2-1 but lost their final two games of the season, 27-24 to the Los Angeles Rams and 24-17 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Once the postseason started the Packers were able to find their championship touch one more time. They defeated the 11-1 Rams then came from behind in the famous “Ice Bowl” game to beat the Cowboys 21-17. In the Super Bowl they easily defeated the Oakland Raiders 33-14 for the final championship of their 1960’s dynasty.
2011 NY Giants – Super Bowl XLVI
The 2011 Giants were the third team to win less than 10 games and make it to the Super Bowl. They became the first of those three to win when they beat the New England Patriots 21-17.
Little that took place during the regular season suggested that the Giants would finish by winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
They lost twice to the Redskins and only beat one team of the four they faced that finished over .500 for the season, ironically that win was over the New England Patriots.
They scored 394 points, ninth in the NFL, and gave up 400 on defense and remain the only Super Bowl winning team to give up more points than they scored during the regular season.
The one area where the Giants excelled on defense was in pressuring and sacking opposing quarterbacks. They were tied for third with 48 sacks, led by Jason Pierre-Paul with 16.5 by.
On offense, they were last in the league in total rushing yards but were sixth in rushing touchdowns while Eli Manning recorded the best season of his career to date with 4,933 passing yards. His 29 touchdown passes were sixth best in the league.
The Giants won their final two games of the season, 29-14 over the Jets and 31-14 over the Cowboys in a Sunday night, winner-take-all division title battle.
They came to life in the playoffs, crushing the Falcons 24-2 in the Wild Card round, then dominating the 15-1 Packers in Green Bay 37-20. They outlasted the San Francisco 49ers in overtime 20-17 in an exciting NFC Conference championship to set-up Super Bowl rematch against the Patriots.
Four seasons earlier they spoiled New England’s attempt to complete a perfect 19-0 season with a 17-14 come-from-behind win in Super Bowl XLII. The Patriots left Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with a feeling of déjà vu after the Giants came back from a 17-9 deficit to win 21-17.
Tom Pollin can be found on Twitter @tjpollin. You can also visit http://footballfromatoz.wordpress.com/ for links to all his Football Nation articles or visit and “Like” his Facebook page. Tom can also be heard on Wednesday and Friday nights from 7 to 9 Eastern Time with Football Nation’s Dave Holcomb on I-80 Sports Talk (@I80SportsTalk) on mtrmedia.com.