Getting to 13-0 in the NFL isn’t easy. As a matter of fact, it’s so hard that when the Panthers beat the Falcons on Sunday, they became just the ninth team in the 95-year history of the NFL to pull off the feat.
What’s even harder than getting to 13-0, though? Winning the Super Bowl after a 13-0 start.
Of the eight previous teams to start 13-0, six of them made it to the NFL title game, but only three of those six went on to win it all.
So who slipped up and who went on to win a Lombardi Trophy?
Let’s take a look at the eight prior teams that started 13-0.
1934 Chicago Bears (Lost in NFL title game):
The NFL regular season only consisted of 13 games in 1934, so the Bears actually finished the year undefeated. Chicago’s 13-0 record sent them to the NFL Championship Game, where they played the Giants and lost 30-13. The Giants’ win was a shocker because they went 8-5 during the regular season while losing to the Bears twice.
1972 Dolphins (Super Bowl winner):
The ’72 Dolphins were the first 13-0 team in the Super Bowl era and will likely go down as the most famous 13-0 team of all-time. The Dolphins finished the regular season 14-0 and then went on to beat the Redskins in Super Bowl VII to cap the NFL’s only perfect season.
1998 Broncos (Super Bowl winner):
Remember how the Giants ended the Bears’ 13-0 run? They did the same thing to the Broncos. After a 13-0 start, Denver lost its first game of the season in a 20-16 Week 15 thriller played at Giants Stadium. The win didn’t slow the Broncos down though; Denver would go on to finish 17-2 and win Super Bowl XXXIII over the Falcons.
2005 Colts (Lost in divisional round of playoffs):
The Panthers definitely don’t want to end up like the 2005 Colts. After starting 13-0, the Colts finished the regular season 1-2 and then went on to lose to the Steelers 21-18 in the divisional round of the playoffs. Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed a 46-yard field goal that would’ve tied the game with 17 seconds left. The Colts’ loss made them the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 6 seed since the NFL playoffs expanded in 1990.
2007 Patriots (Super Bowl loser):
Remember how the Giants ended the Bears’ and Broncos’ 13-0 runs? Well, they didn’t end the Patriots’ unbeaten run at 13-0, but they did end New England’s 18-0 season, which is actually worse. New England’s streak ended with a shocking 17-14 loss in Super Bowl XLII. The Panthers will try to join the Patriots as one of just three 13-0 teams who made it to 14-0. The ’72 Dolphins and 2009 Colts are the others.
2009 Saints (Super Bowl winner) and Colts (Super Bowl loser):
This was the only season in NFL history that featured two 13-0 teams, and those 13-0 teams met in the Super Bowl, with the Saints winning 31-17. If the Panthers clinch home-field advantage Sunday and decide to rest their starters for the rest of the season, the Saints are proof that can work. The Saints lost their final three games of the season after starting 13-0 but still went on to win their first Lombardi Trophy.
2011 Packers (Lost in divisional round of playoffs): The Packers might be the saddest 13-0 team of all-time. After finishing the regular season 15-1, they were the favorites to win Super Bowl XLVI. Unfortunately for the Packers, they didn’t even get to the Super Bowl because guess who beat them? Yup, the Giants. Green Bay lost 37-20 at Lambeau Field in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Fittingly, the Panthers play the Giants on Sunday.
Cam Newton is trying to do something only three 13-0 teams have ever done. (USATSI)