January 19, 2005
With A Win Sunday, Patriots Join Exclusive Club
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
Winning two straight Vinces is what Patriot Nation aspires to in 2005.
But getting to the big show two years in a row is nothing to sneeze at either.
The Patriots are trying to do something that has never happened in franchise history this Sunday, and that is to earn the right to participate in their second straight Super Bowl. The Patriots have been in four previous Super Bowls, winning two and losing two. Making it to Jacksonville for the February 6th championship game would give the Patriots their second straight conference championship, and enhance what is becoming one of the greatest legacies in the history of the league, or at least since the merger.
Nobody claiming loyalty to the Patriots wants their favorite team to just show up to the Super Bowl. Not that that is likely to happen, as the Patriots currently are 1 ½ to 1 favorites to win Super Bowl XXXIX. The Patriots have a tall task at hand on Sunday as they face the 15-1 Pittsburgh Steelers on the road, who beat the Patriots 34-20 on Halloween. But if they manage to avenge one of their two defeats this season, the Patriots make some more league history and join a very select group of teams that have made it to two or more consecutive Super Bowls.
Fourteen times in Super Bowl history has a team embarked on consecutive Super Bowl appearance strings. Dallas has three of them, while Pittsburgh, Denver and Green Bay have two. Buffalo holds the distinction of having played in the most consecutive Super Bowls with four, and Miami is the only other team to top two straight with a three-bagger in the 1970s. The Patriots would become the first team to make it to two straight Super Bowls since Denver did it six years ago.
Green Bay was in the first two Super Bowls, the final two years of the immortal reign of the namesake of the Super Bowl trophy. Vince Lombardi intended to show everyone how inferior the upstart AFL was, and won both games going away. The Packers immediately became ordinary and forgettable once Lombardi left the team, winding up later with the Redskins before meeting his untimely death in 1970.
Dallas had the first of its two super runs under Tom Landry, making it to Super Bowls V and VI. The first of those two was a turnover-infested slopfest made famous only because, for the only time in Super Bowl history, the MVP was on the losing team (linebacker Chuck Howley), and for Jim O’Brien’s winning field goal with 5 seconds left. The following year, Dallas took apart Miami, 24-3.
This began a three-year run for the Dolphins under Don Shula. That loss to the Cowboys was followed by a win over Washington which completed their perfect season of 1972, and an easy win in Houston against Minnesota. Being able to come back and win a Super Bowl following a perfect season is a remarkable accomplishment which often gets overshadowed by that perfect season itself.
The Vikings then embarked on a two-year run, with that loss to Miami and a loss the next year to Pittsburgh at New Orleans. Minnesota, who still has yet to win a Super Bowl, had been thumped by Kansas City in Super Bowl IV and suffered the indignity of allowing the first safety in Super Bowl history in the loss to Pittsburgh (it was 2-0 Steelers at halftime). This was perhaps the second most inglorious consecutive Super streak of the fourteen.
Pittsburgh’s win in Super Bowl IX was the first championship in the 42-year history of the franchise. By 1980, everyone was calling this perennial afterthought of a team the greatest ever in the history of the NFL. The Steelers, led by their Steel Curtain defense, put together two two-game streaks in the 1970s, winning all four games. They beat Minnesota in IX and Dallas in X, then came back and beat Dallas in XIII and the Rams in XIV. Under Chuck Noll, the head coach Bill Cowher succeeded in 1992, the Steelers were simply invincible during this run. The Steelers were never great again under Noll once this era passed, but it remains one of the most impressive runs of greatness in NFL history.
In between this Steeler run, Dallas put together its second string under Landry. The Cowboys clobbered Denver in XII, then lost a barnburner to Pittsburgh in XIII. This might have been a two-win deal for the Cowboys if not for that famous dropped touchdown pass by Jackie Smith. Landry would never make it back to a Super Bowl; the Cowboys would have to wait for Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson to hit town before greatness would return to Big D.
Joe Gibbs would be the next to have his big, fat say. He led the Hogs to Super Bowls XVII and XVIII, with a win over Miami and a crushing loss to the Raiders. Gibbs would win three Vinces total, and has since returned to his old team for a second tour of duty that has thus far been nothing but disappointing.
Denver would step up three years later and stink out the joint with the worst two-straight Super Bowl run of them all. First, the Broncos had no answer for Phil Simms (22 of 25 passing) and fell to the Giants in XXI, 39-20. Then, Redskin quarterback Doug Williams led a five-touchdown second quarter explosion in XXII with four touchdown passes, and the Broncos were bucked, 42-10. Denver had now lost all three Super Bowls they had been in, and the worst was yet to come.
The 49ers had won two Super Bowls in the 1980s already, so when they took the field in XXIII against their XVI foe, Cincinnati, this was a confident team poised and ready to take the Bengals again. Take them again they did, but it was a death struggle that was not decided until Joe Montana hit John Taylor with 34 seconds left. The following year was hardly a death struggle, as San Francisco annihilated Denver 55-10. The 55 points are still the record for the most points ever in a Super Bowl.
The following year, Buffalo embarked on a record four straight Super Bowl appearances. The problem is that the Bills lost all four of them, though it is hard to look at Marv Levy and his charges with disdain for not being able to win even one of them. A missed field goal by Scott Norwood was the difference in a 20-19 loss to the Giants in XXV. The following three were all blowouts, with Washington and Dallas (twice) winning easily. Those Cowboy wins were the apex of the Jones era in Dallas, as Johnson would soon be shown the door and Barry Switzer would win one before watching the Cowboys plummet in a downward spiral.
Green Bay returned to prominence in the 1990s, thanks mainly to quarterback Brett Favre and head coach Mike Holmgren. The Packers made it to two straight Super Bowls, beating the Patriots in XXXI and losing to Denver in XXXII. That Denver win was their first win in five attempts in the Super Bowl, and they added one more the following year against Atlanta for two straight wins, a fitting two-year valedictory for John Elway. This remains the last time any team made it to more than one Super Bowl in a row.
What company the Patriots would really like to join is that of winning two in a row, not just making it to two straight. Half of these fourteen strings featured a pair of wins: Green Bay (I-II), Miami (VII-VIII), Pittsburgh twice (IX-X, XIII-XIV), San Francisco (XXIII-XXIV), Dallas (XXVII-XXVIII) and Denver (XXXII-XXXIII). No has ever won more than two in a row. Only Dallas can claim three wins in four years, winning XXX over Pittsburgh two years after their second conquest of the Bills. That Pittsburgh loss was the aforementioned lone win for Switzer, and the only Super Bowl appearance for Cowher.
Bill Belichick won’t be thinking about this on Sunday, and that’s fine. Leave this stuff for sentimentalists and historians. Still, it is something to think about as the Patriots approach this coming Sunday’s AFC title game. Win the game, go to the Super Bowl, that will do the Nation just fine. It’s just that there’s a little history attached to it, history which makes your favorite team just a bit glossier.
The Red Sox just broke an 86-year streak. The Sox haven’t been in two straight World Series in 89 years (1915-16, won both). Here’s hoping the Patriots don’t have to wait that long.
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