22. Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (2016)
The Bengals know all about pain. After all, the franchise went 31 years between postseason wins. That’s horrendous by anybody’s standards. They put this right in 2021 but they did make it to the playoffs several times over the previous decade. It’s just too bad that they couldn’t seal a victory.
In 2016, it looked like they had finally done enough. They fought back from a 15-point deficit against the Steelers to take the lead. There were just seconds left on the clock when Pittsburgh kicked a field goal to end their dream. Furthermore, this was the Bengals’ fifth straight first-round loss (via Clutchpoints).
21. Washington Football Team vs. Dallas Cowboys (2021)
Washington was trash in this harrowing regular-season defeat to the Cowboys in 2021. The franchise had a lot of problems off the field because of Dan Snyder’s antics. However, they earned goodwill the previous season on the field. Alex Smith’s return and Ron Rivera’s nous were bright lights in a sea of darkness.
But this was a soul-crushing return to normality. Dallas crushed the Football Team at the AT&T Stadium. Meanwhile, a pair of Washington linemen had a scuffle on the sidelines. This was almost symbolic of the feelings of their long-suffering fans because it was such a shambles (via CNN).
20. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers (2011)
The Steelers played the Packers at Cowboys Stadium in Super Bowl XLV. It was a massive occasion with two of the league’s best quarterbacks. There were questions about how the Steelers’ defense would handle Aaron Rodgers. Statistically, Pittsburgh had the best defense in the NFL but it didn’t help them (via Bleacher Report).
They were incapable of preventing Rodgers from working his magic. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger had a poor game and cost his team at points. This was a soul-crushing day for Steelers’ fans because the result should have been closer. The Packers had a good team but a 31-25 defeat was disappointing.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Miami Dolphins (2021)
This was a soul-destroying showing from the Dolphins that crushed their fans. The Jaguars were riding a 20-game losing streak before this game. Urban Meyer took the head coach job in 2021 and led them to new lows. But even he managed to conjure up a victory over the hapless Dolphins.
Tua Tagovailoa came back from fractured ribs and played well against the Jags. However, it wasn’t enough on the day. Matthew Wright scored the winning field goal to end the Jacksonville pain. Meanwhile, Miami became the laughing stock of the NFL (via Florida Times-Union).
Everybody loves a historic collapse when their team isn’t involved. The Packers led 16-0 at halftime in the NFC Championship against Pittsburgh. According to Forbes, they had a 94.4% chance of victory from this point. However, that wasn’t enough for Green Bay who choked miserably.
Russell Wilson had a 0.00 passer rating in the first half. But somehow the Steelers fought back. Green Bay allowed the Steelers to lead with less than five minutes left. Then, the Packers kicked themselves into overtime with a clutch field goal. In the end, it didn’t matter as Seattle won the overtime toss and the game.
The Bills came into 2022 with high expectations but they suffered an alarming drop-off late in the season. Meanwhile, the Patriots landed rookie Mac Jones as their quarterback. In typical New England fashion, they connived their way into the playoffs.
Pats fans believed they would win because they already had a regular-season victory over Buffalo. However, the Bills crushed them 47-17 as Josh Allen threw five touchdowns. This was pure humiliation for the Patriots and Bill Belichick. Buffalo had a perfect game as they annihilated their opposition (via Sporting News).
16. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns (2017)
This game was soul-destroying for Browns fans because they watched their team go 0-16. They became the first team since 2008 to have a winless season. Hue Jackson couldn’t inspire his team to a single victory as the franchise crashed and burned.
Incredibly, this wasn’t the end of his tenure in Cleveland. The front office gave him another seven games to turn things around. The Browns went 2-5 before the organization finally fired him. Cleveland pushed the Steelers close in a 28-24 defeat but it wasn’t enough to erase their names from history (via BBC).
The overall ramifications weren’t as bad as some of the games on this list but it was still terrible. New England inflicted the Chargers’ worst defeat in history in 2020 as they crushed them 45-0. It was an appalling blowout that shut the Chargers out (via SBNation).
For some reason, Anthony Lynn left rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in for the entire game. This left fans looking through their fingers because they feared a pointless injury to the star. It was a soul-destroying afternoon in the City of Angels and one that sent the franchise backward.
14. Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots (2012)
The Ravens faced the Patriots in the NFC Championship game with high hopes of victory. But they were playing the evil Patriots who are better at inflicting heartbreak than any other team. They trailed late in the game when Lee Evans dropped a Joe Flacco pass in the endzone.
This was a soul-crushing moment for the wide receiver. That’s because he was one catch away from sending his team to the Super Bowl. Then, the Ravens missed a field goal and failed to send the game to overtime. It was heartbreaking but New England had all of the luck (via NBC Sports).
Mike McCarthy had a terrible first season in charge of the Cowboys. However, they improved significantly in year two and made it to the playoffs. ‘America’s Team’ had a terrible postseason record since their glorious era in the nineties. They were the nation’s most marketable team but couldn’t live up to it on the field.
The Cowboys were the favorites against the inconsistent 49ers. But they lost the wild-card round fixture disappointingly. This was soul-crushing for their fans who reacted with fury. They threw garbage at the officials to further stain the outcome of the game (via The Athletic).
New England has had their fair share of soul-destroying moments over the past few years. On the bright side, they usually make the postseason. But it almost always ends in tears. The 2018 season NFC Championship game is a case in point because the Rams hurt them badly.
The officials also had a nightmare but the Saints also managed the clock badly. Finally, the game went to overtime and the Saints won the toss. But for the first time since 2010, the coin-flip loser took the win. The Rams intercepted a Drew Brees pass and the rest is history (via Washington Post).
11. San Francisco 49ers vs. Baltimore Ravens (2012)
The 49ers had an undefeated Super Bowl record before 2012. However, the Ravens brought this to an end in soul-destroying style. Baltimore took a 28-6 lead before a power surge gave the Niners’ a brief hiatus. Then San Francisco came firing back and dragged themselves back into the game.
Joe Flacco had the game of his life but it appeared as though San Francisco had the momentum. However, outstanding Ravens’ in-game coaching kept them alive and they won. It was a tough break for the 49ers but they gave themselves too much work to do (via New York Times).
These days the Jets would kill for a result like this. That’s because it would mean that they’re a functioning franchise and capable of making the postseason. However, this was a soul-destroying result at the time. It was extra-cruel because the Jets came back from a 24-0 deficit.
They showed an incredible amount of heart. In the end, it wasn’t enough as Pittsburgh held strong for their third Super Bowl appearance in six years. To rub salt into their wounds, the Gang Green were the better team. But it’s the result that counts and the Steelers scraped through (via Bleacher Report).
9. New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts (2011)
Another regular-season defeat, this one makes the list because it was a massive blowout. The Colts were accustomed to success with Peyton Manning as their quarterback. However, the world was very different without him. This was a devastating rout as Drew Brees threw five touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Curtis Painter was appalling as the Colts went 0-7. This was a soul-crushing day for their fans considering the prestige of the franchise. Manning sat above and watched the agonizing victory unfold. The Saints set a record for points and victory margin as they won 62-7 (via Fox Sports).
8. New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings (2017)
The Minneapolis Miracle was a double-edged sword. Firstly, it was an amazing moment for the Vikings and Stefon Diggs. The wideout scored a 61-yard touchdown to seal the win in style. But it was also soul-crushing for Marcus Williams after he missed his tackle.
All he could do was watch in horror as Diggs ran away. The receiver scored the touchdown as regulation time expired and made history. It was a devastating blow for the Saints because they had rotten luck in the playoffs. However, teams ruthlessly expose individual errors in these games (via Sky Sports).
The Panthers were outstanding in 2015 as Cam Newton had the season of his career. The young quarterback fired his team into the Super Bowl with a 15-1 record. They were heavy favorites against the Broncos but form goes out the window in knockout football.
Carolina discovered this the hard way because the Broncos didn’t lie down. Linebacker Von Miller won the game’s MVP award with a standout defensive performance. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning became the first quarterback to win rings with two franchises. But it was a missed opportunity for the Panthers (via USA Today).
6. Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers (2022)
This was a horrible defeat for the Packers because they were big favorites. Aaron Rodgers played the heel for most of the season but made up for it with his brilliance. However, he had a well-earned reputation for choking in the postseason. Once again, he lived up to this (via CBS Sports).
San Francisco’s special teams led the way in a tight 13-10 victory. Meanwhile, they sacked Rodgers five times and scored a field goal to win the game. It was soul-crushing for Green Bay fans because they had a massive chance to win a Super Bowl. It may even prove to be Rodgers’ final game for the franchise.
This game earned the moniker the ‘Miracle in Motown’ after Aaron Rodgers threw an amazing Hail Mary. But it was soul-crushing for the Lions. That’s because they felt that they had done enough to seal the victory. Unfortunately, anything can happen in the NFL.
Detroit led 20-0 before they collapsed and the Packers came back. But they were still ahead with seconds left. Then, in the final play of the game, Rodgers threw a 61-yard pass to break Lions’ hearts (via CBS Sports). It was devastating because it ended Detroit’s slim postseason hopes too.
4. Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots (2017)
The Falcons threw away a Super Bowl win in 2017. It appeared as though Dan Quinn’s men were on course for a famous victory. They were blowing the Patriots away with a 28-3 lead before they had a meltdown. Maybe they didn’t like the Lady Gaga Halftime show, because something went seriously wrong.
Atlanta allowed the Patriots to maintain momentum as they sent the game to overtime. It also didn’t help that Quinn and his staff made some questionable calls. Then, New England won the game in overtime after they won the coin toss. It was a brutal way for the Falcons to lose but it was their fault (via Sporting News).
3. Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots (2020)
The Chiefs came off on the wrong side of a coin toss in 2020. This overtime defeat kickstarted the debate over whether the current system is fair. After all, Patrick Mahomes, the most talented young quarterback in the NFL, didn’t get to step onto the field.
It’s to Tom Brady’s credit that he remained ice-cold. He helped his team score a walk-off touchdown on their first possession. But this was soul-crushing for the long-suffering Chiefs and their fans. Next, Kansas City proposed a rule change to the NFL after this loss but they didn’t happen (via Business Insider).
This was one of the greatest games in NFL postseason history. Both quarterbacks were sublime as Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes waged a duel for the ages. It looked like the Bills had done enough to seal a win. But then the Chiefs kicked their way into overtime in the dying moments.
Then, the Chiefs won the coin toss. Mahomes was clinical as he sealed victory in 13 seconds. He found Travis Kelce for the game-winning touchdown. This was soul-destroying for the Bills because they poured their souls into this performance. It also reignited a debate about the fairness of the overtime coin toss (via Sportsnet).
1. Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots (2015)
This soul-crushing defeat haunts Pete Carroll’s dreams. Seattle played the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX and was inches away from victory. They were a yard away from the Pats’ goalline when Russell Wilson opted to throw a pass. The other option was to offload Marshawn Lynch, the five-time Pro Bowl running back.
New England rookie Malcolm Butler infamously intercepted Wilson’s pass. It was a harrowing moment because many fans instantly criticized Carroll’s call. However, statistically, he made the right choice (via Sports Illustrated). But it was soul-crushing because they were so close to another elusive ring.