Four Teams in NFL History Have Won Three Road Playoff Games to Reach the Super Bowl

Will Ragatz

As a No. 6 seed in the upcoming playoffs, the Vikings are facing long odds at a run to their first Super Bowl appearance in 43 years.

To get there, they'd need to win three straight road games. Never mind the additional details – that all three of those games could come against teams with 13-3 records, and that the Vikings were 0-3 on the road against playoff teams this season – winning three straight road playoff games is an extremely rare feat.

Since the wild-card round was added in 1978, only four teams have reached the Super Bowl without a home playoff game. Here's a look at the improbable runs made by those four teams.

1985 New England Patriots

The 1985 Patriots went 11-5 but still finished third in the five-team AFC East. As a result, they entered the playoffs as the fifth seed out of five in the AFC (the NFL's current 12-team playoff format didn't begin until 1990). They had to travel to the Meadowlands in the wild-card round, as the 11-5 Jets had won a tiebreaker over the Patriots. Forcing four turnovers, the Patriots pulled out a 26-14 victory to advance to the divisional round. There, they forced six more turnovers and beat the Raiders 27-20 in Los Angeles.

In the AFC Championship Game against the Dolphins, the Patriots' incredible run continued. They forced six turnovers for the second straight game, ran for over 250 yards, and won by a score of 31-14. The victory snapped an 18-game losing streak in Miami for the Patriots. They went on to be annihilated 46-10 by the dominant Bears in Super Bowl XX, but they still made their mark on history as the first team to ever win three road playoff games.

2005 Pittsburgh Steelers

20 years after the Patriots did it, the Steelers became just the second team ever to reach the Super Bowl by winning three road playoff games. An 11-5 record saw the Steelers lose a tiebreaker to the Bengals and finish second in the AFC North and enter the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. They traveled to Cincinnati in the opening round and beat the Bengals 31-17.

Then came a matchup with the No. 1 seed, the 14-2 Colts. The Steelers got out to a 21-3 lead and held on for a 21-18 victory, largely thanks to a defense that held Peyton Manning – who had thrown a then-NFL record 49 touchdown passes in the regular season – to a single TD in the win. In the AFC Championship Game, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers went to Denver and convincingly beat the Broncos 34-17. Unlike the Patriots, the Steelers then finished the job, beating the Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL.

2007 New York Giants

Just two seasons later, the Giants became the first NFC team ever to pull off the feat. They went 10-6 in the regular season and entered the playoffs as the No. 5 seed, then beat the Buccaneers 24-14 on wild-card weekend. In the divisional round, they went to Dallas to play a 13-3 Cowboys team that had already beaten them twice that year. Despite only gaining 230 total yards of offense, the Giants beat the Cowboys 21-17.

A week later, they went to Green Bay to face Brett Favre and the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. The Giants won 23-20 on a Lawrence Tynes field goal in overtime. And as you're probably aware, next up was a Super Bowl XLII matchup with the 18-0 New England Patriots, a historically dominant team in search of perfection. Behind the David Tyree helmet catch and a game-winning touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress, the Giants put up 14 fourth-quarter points in a 17-14 win.

2010 Green Bay Packers

The most recent team to win three road playoff games in a season was the 2010 Packers. After a 10-6 regular season, they came in second in the NFC North and were the No. 6 seed in the playoffs. Sounds a lot like the 2019 Vikings, if you ask me. In the first round, they beat the Eagles behind three Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes and a big day from running back James Starks. A week later, Rodgers absolutely shredded the 13-3 Falcons in a 48-21 blowout.

Then came just the second Packers-Bears meeting in playoff history – and the first since 1941 – for the NFC title in front of a hostile crowd in Chicago. The Packers pulled out a 21-14 victory to advance to Super Bowl XLV, in which they beat the Steelers 31-25.

Nine years later, the Vikings will attempt to become the fifth team to ever win three road playoff games, and the fourth to do so and then win the Super Bowl.

"It's been done before," Mike Zimmer said. "Why not us?"

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