‘The Worst Loss Ever’: AFC

Missed gimmes, blown coverages and bad calls—some of these NFL nightmares are so well-known they have their own nicknames and Wikipedia pages. While there’s no defined criteria to judge the worst loss ever, here are your most heartbreaking stories
Publish date:

The MMQB asked readers to send us stories of their team’s worst loss ever. We received many great (or should we say awful?) submissions. Last week, we commiserated with NFC fans.  This week, the most devastating moments from the 16 teams of the AFC. 


Super Bowl XLII
Feb. 3, 2008 | Giants 17, Patriots 14

I know many outside of New England view us Patriot fans as spoiled, obnoxious and annoying. However, I firmly believe that the Patriots losing to the Giants that night in Glendale was the most crushing loss for any team in NFL history. The Patriots had a chance to make history and it was right there, at their fingertips (more on this later). But a perfect storm of events turned a late 14-10 lead into a devastating 17-14 loss. To wit:

1. Asante Samuel's dropped interception (Eli Manning threw it right to him!).
2. Manning pulling a Houdini act and escaping a sack.
3. David Tyree's helmet catch.
4. New England deciding to blitz and leaving 5' 9” Ellis Hobbs on 6' 5” Plaxico Burress.
5. Tom Brady launching a 75-yard rocket that glanced off Randy Moss' fingertips on the second-to-last play of the game. A few more inches and Randy might have caught it in stride and galloped into the end zone.

After another Brady attempt for Moss fell incomplete, there was total silence at my friend's house. I can recall a combined sense of extreme sadness, anger, bewilderment and disbelief. It's a loss I'm pretty sure I'll never get over. And this is because of what was at stake—being the first team in NFL history to go 19-0. It would be one thing if the Giants won by three touchdowns, but to lose in that fashion was unsurpassed.

— Matthew Murray

There isn't even a question here. The worst loss for the Patriots—or for any team—is 18-1. Nothing was more gut-wrenching. To this day, I still hate highlights of that game and, for that matter, the whole freaking season. And Pats fans still have to listen to the trolls screaming about the cheating and the Shula disciples going on and on about how great his undefeated Dolphins were.

— Brian Clardy

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2004 AFC Divisional Playoff Game
Jan. 15, 2005 | Steelers 20, Jets 17 (OT)

The gut-punch game that sticks with me to this day is the 2004 AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Steelers. Doug Brien missed not one, but TWO potential game-winning field goals in the final two minutes of regulation and the Jets went on to lose in overtime.  

I watched that game at a sports bar in London, where I had just started a semester of study abroad. It was a 4:30 p.m. EST kickoff (9:30 p.m. local), so by the time Doug Brien started missing field goals, it was well after midnight and the bar was predictably rowdy on a Saturday night. I distinctly remember calling home back in New York and having to yell over the crowd into my Nokia 3310 as the Jets proceeded to line up for each field goal attempt. I wanted to share the thrill of victory with my dad and brother from 3,500 miles away, international charges be damned. The first kick went up and… DOINK!  Off the crossbar. Same old Jets, my dad says. If only he knew what was coming. Two plays later, a Big Ben interception gave Brien a second chance at a game winner. Up and… WIDE LEFT. Now those are the same old Jets. Instead of celebrating an upset of the 15-1 Steelers, we commiserated and talked about which kicker the Jets would be taking in the 2005 NFL Draft (Mike Nugent, second round).

— Kara Lemberger

The Fake Spike Game
Nov. 27, 1994 | Dolphins 28, Jets 24

The Jets were 6-5 and trailed the division-leading Dolphins by one game. I was only 11 years old at the time, but had already developed into a diehard Jets fan. My friend George and I watched the game at his house with a Jets stuffed animal mascot for good luck. The Jets led 24-6 in the third quarter and seemed well on their way to first place. It was Hanukkah 1994 and I had a pile of presents waiting to be opened back at my house. My parents, grandparents, sister, and dog would all celebrate over latkes when the game was over. But then it all fell apart. Boomer Esiason threw three fourth-quarter interceptions and let Dan Marino rally the Dolphins to within three. With thirty seconds remaining, Marino marched the Dolphins down to the Jets' goal line. He faked the spike. The Jets stood and watched. In the blink of an eye, Mark Ingram caught the game-winning touchdown over a baffled Aaron Glenn. I walked out of the room and paced manically in the hallway. George turned off the TV. I got home, changed out of my Jets sweatshirt, and blinked through a pair of teary eyes as we unwrapped gifts and sat down to dinner. I knew deep down that the Jets would not win another game that season. My innocence as a fan of this team had ended.

— Barry Goldberg

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Wide Right, Super Bowl XXV
Jan. 27, 1991 | Giants 20, Bills 19

Bills kicker Scott Norwood walks dejectedly off the field after missing would have been the game-winning field goal.

Bills kicker Scott Norwood walks dejectedly off the field after missing would have been the game-winning field goal.

Please child, Wide Right.

I do not have to mention anything else. Date, situation, background. All are not needed. Everyone knows. But what might not be known is the history of sports in my fair town Buffalo. Simply and succinctly, no major sports championships. Ever. To fail on the biggest stage at the final moment was a devastating blow to the psyche of a region that is an easy joke for the uninformed.

— David Munschauer

How can anyone have a worse loss than we did in Super Bowl XXV? I don’t care if you’re a Redskins fan who saved up all his newspaper money and hitchhiked across the country to see that 73-0 NFL Championship loss. I don’t care if you’re a Patriots fan on his deathbed who lived through Boston’s championship wilderness all those years only to see someone from New York catch a ball on his helmet. We only half-jokingly note that the networks should give us trigger warnings before they put Tampa Stadium on TV and show the ball sailing wide right. This isn’t even a contest.

— Gregory Wahl

“Picking one worst loss is an impossible task. I'm a Bills fan. There isn't enough capacity on the internet to accomplish such a Herculean feat.”

It was more than just a Super Bowl loss. It was a gut punch to a rust-belt city and a region already reeling under the weight of a faltering economy. It was a finish that would haunt Scott Norwood, the team, and Bills fans for decades. It was a loss that echoed through three more Super Bowls as the mighty Bills could never overcome the pressure to finally win The Big One. We, the long suffering fans of Buffalo, were forever denied the joy of watching this great team win an NFL championship.

— Michael Young

Hahaha, picking one worst loss is an impossible task. I'm a Bills fan. There isn't enough capacity on the internet to accomplish such a Herculean feat.

— Mac

I'm a 53-year-old lifelong Buffalo Bills fan. Trying to narrow it down to just one loss is like trying to come up with my most painful root canal.

— JB

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1999 AFC Divisional Playoff
Jan. 15, 2000 | Jaguars 62, Dolphins 7

Dan Marino walks off the field for the last time.

Dan Marino walks off the field for the last time.

The Sea of Hands. The Monday Night Miracle. These are labels that conjure up memories of franchise devastation for the Dolphins and their fans. The edge of these images stays as sharp as the day they were forged, and the sting of defeat never quite dulls. The greatest of these losses came on January 15, 2000, when the Dolphins played the Jaguars in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The new millennium was all about renewed hope. No Y2K disasters came to pass, the robots didn’t take over, and it seemed that a fresh play clock was started for all of us. The Dolphins had just beaten the Seahawks in the wild-card round (another late comeback engineered by Dan Marino on the road), and Fin fans around the world were filled with guarded optimism. However, it took less than five minutes for that hope to be dashed, starting with a seemingly innocent eight-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith from Mark Brunell. That play was the first of many for the young and hungry Jaguars, and by the time it was over, the Dolphins had lost 62-7 in the greatest playoff defeat in the modern era of the NFL. In reality, it was much more than a lost game. It was the last game of Dan Marino’s Hall of Fame career. It was the last game coached by Jimmy Johnson, the hero of Dallas who was supposed to pick up where Don Shula left off in Miami. The continuity of success that the Dolphins had enjoyed for three decades was broken. All that was left was a flailing team, limping off the field, trying to figure out what the next step was. What truly was lost that day was the identity of the entire franchise, once storied and historic, and that loss continues to haunt this team to this day.

— Mike Clarke

To see Dan Marino lose so badly in the last game of his career was sad. NFL players always say you remember the games you lose more than the games you win— and for such a premier quarterback with no Super Bowl rings to end his career so badly, it had to be as devastating to Marino as it was to all of his fans combined. He is the reason I chose the Dolphins as my team as a kid and the reason I will always support the team, no matter how bad their season gets.

— Jill Allen

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2005 AFC Wild-Card Playoff
Jan. 8, 2006 | Steelers 31, Bengals 17

As a lonely Bengals fan who grew up in the ‘90s in a family of Steeler fans, this is easy. The worst loss ever was the 2005 wild-card game against Pittsburgh. For over a decade, the Bengals most closely resembled a dumpster fire. It's how you earn the nickname “Bungles.” Then Marvin Lewis and the Golden Arm, Carson Palmer, showed up on the scene and went on the run in 2005. Palmer for that season was truly on the Peyton Manning level of dominance. It was his second year and we all thought that this was the start of something special. The Bengals earned their way back to the playoffs, beating Pittsburgh late in the regular season with the division title essentially on the line.  

Fate had it that the Bengals hosted Pittsburgh in the wild-card game. This was the chance for the young guns in Cincinnati to exorcise a lot of demons against their tormentors from Pittsburgh. I can never remember being so excited, to finally be able to enjoy a playoff game with what I still believe was the better team. As I watched the Bengals first possession on TV, Palmer launched a 60-plus-yard bomb to Chris Henry and hit him in stride. The stadium is going nuts, I'm going nuts, the only thought in my head is, They can't stop us, Palmer is too special. Just about that moment the camera panned back to Palmer writhing on the ground. The replay showed his knee clearly getting shredded. It was the most devastated I have ever felt watching a sporting event.  

Pittsburgh went on to win the game, and they taunted the Bengals in the locker room after with the cameras rolling. To this day, when I see that clip of Bill Cowher leading those “Who Dey” chants, I get a little sick to my stomach and root harder against that team.

— Jeff Boccuzzi

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1994 AFC Championship Game
Jan. 15, 1995 | Chargers 17, Steelers 13

The 1994 AFC Championship was my first NFL game. This was back when fans had to camp out to buy playoff tickets. I was 17 years old and convinced two friends to wait in line on New Year's Day for 18 hours in freezing temperatures. We were about fifth in line at 3 p.m. and by sundown you couldn't see the end of the line. Several newspaper and TV outlets came out to interview the fans near the front. Steelers players and coaches watching from home bought pizzas and had them delivered to us. We stayed warm by burning wooden pallets in Three Rivers Stadium trash cans. It was one of the best and most memorable nights of my life. The Steelers went on to lose 17-13 on a fourth-down play at the goal line in a game they statistically dominated. I will never forget the sound of a stadium going from a raucous cheering to the silence of a tomb in a matter of seconds.

— Michael Rodriguez

Dennis Gibson and Alfred Pupunu. I was 14 years old, and those guys broke my heart. I was born right at the end of the 1970s Super Steelers dynasty, and for most of the next decade, the Steelers were not a good football team. Save for a Bubby Brister-led playoff run in 1989, the Steelers of my upbringing had not had much postseason success. But after Bill Cowher came in, the tables turned. And in 1994, the Steelers had home-field advantage in the AFC, destroyed the rival Browns (back when that was a rivalry) and hosted the Chargers for the right to go to the Super Bowl. The Steelers had a 13-3 lead in the third quarter when Stan Humphries (!?!) tossed to Pupunu, a lumbering tight end, for a 43-yard score. And if that wasn't bad enough, Humphries had another long bomb to give the Chargers a 17-13 lead in the fourth quarter. I still remember Tim McKyer being burnt badly on the play.

But the Steelers still had a chance. Neil O'Donnell had moved the offense up and down the field all day, but settling for field goals had killed the Black and Gold throughout the afternoon. The scene was set: fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line. O'Donnell tried to fit a ball into a tight window for Barry Foster, but who was there to knock the ball away? Dennis. Bleeping. Gibson. The Steelers almost doubled San Diego in yardage, but on the scoreboard, all that mattered was San Diego 17, Pittsburgh 13. And the quest for a fifth Super Bowl victory was derailed yet again.

— Mario Machi

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The Lee Evans Game, 2011 AFC Championship
Jan. 23, 2012 | Patriots 23, Ravens 20

Ravens receiver Lee Evans couldn't hold onto a pass in the end zone.

Ravens receiver Lee Evans couldn't hold onto a pass in the end zone.

The worst has to be the Lee Evans game. Teams lose playoff games on drops and on shanked field goals. We lost on BOTH. It's like an optimistic fairy buzzing over your head telling you it's all going to be oa, only to watch her get whacked with a fly swatter. This loss went above and beyond because of what it would have meant. Joe Flacco would have been off the schneid a year earlier, which may have put him in the untouchable quarterback category (elite is overrated; I want the guy that when a defender breathes on him, they throw a flag). It would have given us the ultra-rare two championships in a row.

Obviously, the wounds were remedied a scant twelve months later, but we're not exactly a long suffering franchise. Our dark ages were lingering in limbo, the 12 years without American football and the pain of seeing the horseshoe in another town, watching as the league told us a team in Jacksonville made more sense. We have a years-long waiting list; how many hot dogs are the tarped-off Jags seats buying?

— Mike Rosolio

As a Ravens fan, this one is easy: the 2011 AFC Championship Game vs. New England. Just shattering. Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff's names are still mud in Baltimore. Sting was taken away a bit by winning the Super Bowl the next year, but they were literally one dropped pass away from potential back-to-back titles.

In what was a back and forth game, the Ravens got the ball last and easily moved it down the field. I could feel it. We were going to the Super Bowl. Joe Flacco had led a similar drive against the Steelers that season and I just knew it was going to happen. On second down, Flacco dropped back and threw a back-shoulder pass to Lee Evans, a guy who had been acquired from Buffalo that offseason and who had been injured and underused. For about a half second he held the Super Bowl in his hands. To watch it today is torture. There it is. He has it. And then Sterling Moore slaps it out of Evans' hands. When I watch it today, I cringe. I yell, “Just fall down!” I still can't believe Evans didn't haul that ball in.

And then, just when it couldn't get worse, Billy Cundiff came on and shanked a 38-yard field goal. All I could say is, “Oh my God.” My wife was quite worried about me because I was just dead quiet. I went upstairs, took off my jersey and tried to put on a good face. That loss actually physically hurt. It hurt for two days, and watching the Patriots play in the Super Bowl that year, all I could say was, “That should have been us!”

— Ryan Mavity

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The Drive, 1986 AFC Championship Game
Jan. 11, 1987 | Broncos 23, Browns 20

I can't imagine how many submissions you'll get about this game, but that just underscores how much this loss still lingers with us. I was 14 years old, and we watched the game in our family room. The Browns had just scored the go-ahead touchdown, Denver muffed the ensuing kickoff and it was going to happen. Cleveland was going to win the game and head to the Super Bowl! We could all feel it. We didn't just think it was going to happen, we KNEW it was going to happen! But it didn't happen... Denver converted a third-and-18 on The Drive and panic set in. We all changed seats in the room because we would do anything to hold on to that win—but we couldn't do much (or anything, truth be told). Carl Hairston's hand went up too late, Mike Johnson's arm was too short and the tying touchdown pass was completed. Then we realized Denver was going to win the game, and our dreams were going to be dashed. (Although you will never convince me that Rich Karlis' game-winning field goal was good. It was wide right).

— Bob West

I sat down to send in my two cents on the Browns’ most devastating loss. I have been a Browns fan for over 40 years and the same for all Cleveland teams. What this means is I have never seen a championship of any type in my lifetime. When I started to list my choices for the most devastating loss as a Browns fan, I came to realize there are too many to pick a winner, or should that be loser? Sorry I could not see through my tears to narrow my choices down to just one.

— Rusty Hewit

The Monday night crushing loss to the Ravens this season wasn’t heartbreaking, it was expected. Although it was heartbreaking that a new way to disappoint fans was created in the kick-six when I thought all possible ways of losing were already covered by the Browns.

— Bill Poduska

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Super Bowl XLIV
Feb. 7, 2010 | Saints 31, Colts 17

As a diehard Colts fan for more than 20 years, I have witnessed many heartbreaking losses. All of the one-and-done playoff appearances during the Peyton Manning era were very bitter pills to swallow. Of all the losses in my time as a fan, I would have to say the worst was our Super Bowl loss to the Saints following the 2009 season. To dominate that year the way we did with a 14-0 start, to reach the pinnacle of the NFL season, to be favored going into the game and then to watch our championship hopes vanish so quickly was especially devastating. My two most painful memories from the game are the onside kick and recovery by the Saints to start the second half (a brilliant and gutsy call by Sean Payton), as well as the 74-yard interception return for a touchdown in the closing minutes to seal the win for New Orleans. The Saints certainly deserved to win, but that didn’t make the loss any easier for us Colts fans.

Losing that Super Bowl prevented us from bringing a second Lombardi trophy home to Indianapolis, and it kept Peyton Manning from adding to his legacy with a second Super Bowl ring. The Manning era in Indianapolis is seen as a disappointment by many people because we were so successful for so long, but only came away with one championship. Winning this game would’ve changed that. To this day, that game is still a sore subject among many of us Colts fans. To go so far only to suffer a crushing defeat on the game’s biggest stage, and the stinging reality that we let a prime opportunity slip away, is why I consider Super Bowl XLIV the Colts’ worst loss.

— Joshua Sandefur

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The Rosencopter Game
Oct. 5, 2008 | Colts 31, Texans 27

Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels launches helicopter-style over Dwight Freeney.

Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels launches helicopter-style over Dwight Freeney.

Playing a Week 5 home-opener against the division rival Indianapolis Colts under the opened-roof at Reliant Stadium—a roof damaged by Hurricane Ike prior to the scheduled Week 2 home-opener against the Ravens—the Texans looked to get back on track after what can only be described as a disorienting and disappointing start to a season that many hoped would build on the first two years of the burgeoning Gary Kubiak era. Despite being without starting quarterback Matt Schaub due to illness, the Texans looked poised for their first victory of the season, with Sage Rosenfels at the helm.

With a shade over four minutes to go in the fourth quarter and a 10 point lead, the Texans took possession at the Indianapolis 41-yard line after recovering an onside kick. On third-and-8, looking to ice the game, Rosenfels ran a play-action bootleg and scrambled to the left side of the field. As Gary Brackett and Dwight Freeney converged on him, Rosenfels inexplicably elevated into the air, spinning in whirlybird fashion as he was hit, and fumbled the football. Brackett picked up the ball and ran it back 68 yards for a touchdown, putting the Colts within three points of the Texans.

With over three minutes left and a three point lead, Rosenfels had the opportunity to atone for his poor decision. Instead, he committed two more turnovers, ensuring the Texans' unlikely collapse. The first, a strip-sack by Robert Mathis at the Texans' 21-yard line, afforded Peyton Manning a short field which he made quick work of, connecting with Reggie Wayne in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. The second, a hopeless interception into no-man’s-land with fifty seconds left, sealed the game that will forever be known in Houston football lore as the “Rosencopter Game.”

The Texans ultimately allowed 21 points over the course of 2:10 to blow the game, and, to this day, only have four wins against the Colts in 27 tries. For a young franchise with its disproportionate share of gut-wrenching losses and embarrassing blowouts, the Rosencopter Game takes the cake.

— Davis Stewart

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1999 AFC Championship
Jan. 23, 2000 | Titans 33, Jaguars 14

In the past several years, the Jaguars franchise has been the laughingstock of the NFL, but that wasn’t always the case. In 1999, under head coach Tom Coughlin, Jacksonville held the best record in league at 14-2, earning the top seed in the playoffs. The Jags breezed past Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins in the divisional round, winning 62-7. The win set up a match with the Titans for a chance to advance to the Super Bowl. The Titans were the only team that had beaten them all season. The Jaguars fell, 33-14, in what was the most devastating loss in the team’s history. The final score did not tell the story of how that game went.

Jacksonville dominated the first half, leading 14-10 (but it could have easily been larger). Then disaster struck. The Titans took their first lead of the game off a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Steve McNair. Then, later in the quarter, the Jaguars held possession inside its own 5-yard line after forcing a fumble by Frank Wycheck. Two plays later, Mark Brunell was sacked for a safety, and Derrick Mason took the ensuing punt 80 yards for the score. That play, and game, will haunt Jaguar fans.

— Ryan Hagerty

A season that started as a dream ended up featuring the Titans as a team destined to be their nightmare. The 1999 Jaguars combined the NFL's top-ranked defense and an offense that featured Tony Boselli, Jimmy Smith, Fred Taylor, and Keenan McCardell; four players with borderline Hall of Fame credentials. Had the Jaguars been able to get the Titan-sized monkey off their backs in the playoffs, or if the Titans hadn't been able to pull of a Music City Miracle in the wild-card round, perhaps the Jaguars would have been able to stop the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf in the Super Bowl. Instead, the Jaguars fell victim to injuries and the still new NFL salary cap, losing many of the players that made them great in the 1999 season, along with head coach Tom Coughlin. In the decade and a half since the '99 AFC Championship Game, the Jaguars have yet to reach the heights of that game, and are still searching for league-wide relevance.

— Michael Backherms

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Week 6, 2009 at New England
Oct. 18, 2009 | Patriots 59, Titans 0

When asked what loss is worst amongst the Titans' many painful losses, most fans would immediately point to Super Bowl XXXIV. The heart-wrenching scene of Kevin Dyson stretching out and infamously coming up one yard short is shown countless times each February, illustrating perfectly just how important each yard is in this game. But reflecting back now some 15 years later, I could not honestly say it was their worst loss. Those were the Titans’ best days as a franchise thus far. The beloved Steve McNair handing off to a seemingly unstoppable Eddie George; a duo that the Titans have never replaced. They came up a yard short, yes, but they played the game their way and left everything on the field.

For me, the worst Titans loss came on October 18, 2009. On this day the Titans lost 59-0 to the New England Patriots. It was the first time I had ever witnessed a network cut away from a live game before it ended to join another feed. To call it embarrassing would be an understatement. But here’s why it was really the worst loss: In the second half Kerry Collins would give way to Vince Young and kick off an era in Tennessee that we are only now beginning to recover from. The Vince Young era was inevitable, and there were some exciting wins sprinkled in, but as a whole it set the franchise back significantly. This thrashing by the Pats kicked off an era that would make for some difficult Sunday afternoons.

— Steve Worth

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1996 AFC Divisional Playoff
Jan. 4, 1997 | Jaguars 30, Broncos 27

The worst Broncos loss was January 4, 1997 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, of all teams. That was the year I learned the truth of something I first heard Bill Walsh say: “The best team doesn’t win the game; the team that plays the best football wins.” After enduring four Super Bowl losses, the 1996 Broncos looked very much like the best team in football: They went 13-3 and honestly, that Terrell Davis/John Elway offense looked all season like they scored at will, eschewing quick touchdowns in favor of grinding out longer drives simply to make sure the defense (a good group, with five Pro Bowlers) would be well rested. Finally, our hopes would be fulfilled! How could this team not win and ease our suffering? They were the top seed in the AFC and finally, there was no need to fear being second best. And then Mark Brunell played out of his head, looking like Steve Young in his prime (even wearing the same number) while Natrone Means couldn’t be stopped. This was a second-year, expansion team?! What was happening? What a nightmare of a game!

For those whose teams have never won a championship, this story has a silver lining: When my Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII, it was all the sweeter for the disaster of that sunny January day. I hope some day, you all get to feel that—but not just yet, my team needs a few more championships.

— Gavin Carney

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The Lin Elliott Game, 1995 AFC Divisional Playoff
Jan. 7, 1996 | Colts 10, Chiefs 7

The 1995 AFC divisional game, aka The Lin Elliott game, is the all-time most painful. The Chiefs had a magical season, their best since 1971, going 13-3 and securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The city was positive, including yours truly, that this was THE year we were going back to the Super Bowl. The defense was great, lead by Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith. The offense, while not great, was good enough with Marcus Allen running the ball and Steve Bono becoming one of the first “game managers” of the modern era. And then came the Colts… and the cold. It was 0 degrees, with a minus-15 wind chill. As the game progressed, two missed Lin Elliott field goals were looming larger and larger. The Chiefs also uncharacteristically turned the ball over four times, including three Bono interceptions. You could feel the entire stadium, if not the entire city, tightening up as the fourth quarter wore on. The Chiefs, down only three points at 10-7, turned to Rich Gannon to try and produce a game-tying or winning drive. Gannon got the Chiefs to the Colts’ 27-yard line to set up Lin Elliott’s third attempt. As Elliott ran on to the field, the crowd began to cheer as though we could magically boost his confidence if he heard an ovation as opposed to the boos that rained down on him after his previous misfires. The ball hit the cold Kansas City air and hung a hard, knuckling left as it headed for the uprights. It never had a chance. Some twenty years later, we Chiefs fans are still looking for our first playoff victory since Joe Montana was our starting quarterback.

— Dave Singleton

“Lin Elliott. Excuse me while I go cry in a corner somewhere.”

The Lin Elliott game. Lin Elliott. THE Lin Elliott, who missed three field goals in a 10-7 loss. At home. After being the best team in the NFL that year, with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. And after growing up through terrible Chiefs football in the late ’70s and the ’80s, this was it. Everything was lined up perfectly for the Chiefs to finally go to the Super Bowl. Lin Elliott. Excuse me while I go cry in a corner somewhere.

— Joe Brennan

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The Tuck Rule Game, 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff
Jan. 19, 2002 | Patriots 16, Raiders 13

Snow Job (n): A strong effort to make someone believe something by saying things that are not true or sincere — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

On that snowy day in New England, the Raiders seemed to be dominating the game, building a 13-3 lead in the fourth quarter. However, Tom Brady rushed for a touchdown with 7:57 left to cut the lead to 13-10. With the game winding down, the Patriots drove the ball down the field, having taken over at their own 46-yard line with 2:06 to play. Brady dropped back to pass and, while pumping the football, was hit on his right side by Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson, causing a fumble that was eventually recovered by Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert. If ruled a fumble, it would have almost certainly sealed the game for us. The referees did rule it a fumble but reviewed the play. Upon review, the officials eventually determined that even though Brady had seemingly halted his passing motion and was attempting to 'tuck' the ball back into his body, it was an incomplete pass and not a fumble under the then-effective NFL rules. Snow Job!

After the original call was overturned, the Patriots' kicked a 45-yard field goal to tie the game at 13, which sent the game into overtime. In overtime, Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri hit a 23-yard field goal to win the game. New England went on to win Super Bowl XXXVI. Ironically, Jon Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay before the 2002 season, and won the Super Bowl over Oakland. We believe we would have won the 2001 Super Bowl and the 2002 Super Bowl had the fumble recovery rightfully been awarded to Oakland in the infamous “Tuck Rule” game—our worst loss in history.

— Leslie Dickey

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The Marlon McCree Game, 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff
Jan. 14, 2007 | Patriots 24, Chargers 21

Marlon McCree.

Say those two words to any Chargers fan and the eyebrows sharpen, the sigh comes out and the memories are reborn.

It was January 14, 2007 and the Chargers were the No. 1 seed after going 14-2 in the regular season. They were damn near unstoppable. LaDainian Tomlinson was the MVP and broke the record for most touchdowns in a season. Rivers, while not the elite passer he has grown into today, was a perfect complement to Tomlinson and never turned the ball over. The defense was led by multiple veterans and stud linebacker Shawne Merriman. This Chargers team was arguably the greatest sports team the city of San Diego has ever seen in terms of dominance.

But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The Patriots were in town and were trying to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. On a fourth down play, Tom Brady threw an interception to Marlon McCree. It was fourth down, McCree should have just batted it down. Instead, McCree tries to return it, only God knows why. Troy Brown strips McCree and Golden Boy Brady gets the ball back with a new set of downs en route to tying and eventually winning the game.

It’s been a downward spiral since, with the careers of Rivers and Tomlinson being wasted away into the annals of NFL history.

I also took my girlfriend to the game (her first one), and after the game I had tears. TEARS. She questioned me, asking why I was crying now if I never even cry for her over issues we have had.

I broke up with her one week later.

— Will S.

• Do you have your own fan story? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com