New EnglandPatriots

ESPN says Patriots responsible for most heartbreaking losses for six NFL teams


Call them Tom Brady and the Heartbreakers.

In honor of the New England Patriots' matchup against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football and all of the 28-3 references it will entail, ESPN released a list of all 32 NFL franchise's most heartbreaking losses in their history.

Unsurprisingly, Atlanta's infamous collapse after taking a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI against New England was named the most heartbreaking for the Falcons. But it was far from the only loss on the list with the fingerprints of Brady and Bill Belichick all over them.

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In all, the most heartbreaking loss for six franchises was at the hands of the Patriots, all since Brady's first season as starter in 2001. 

In addition to the Falcons, the Los Angeles (St. Louis) Rams, Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars have all suffered their most heartbreaking losses at the hands of the Patriots, according to ESPN.

For the Rams, their loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI -- as 14-point favorites, the largest in the Super Bowl  since the AFL-NFL merger -- sent the franchise into a tailspin from which it took more than a decade and a half to show signs of recovery. St. Louis lost the game, 20-17, after Brady engineered a drive which led to Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal as time expired, after which the Rams would go on to post just one more winning season in Missouri before returning to Los Angeles in 2016. 

By the time the Rams were back in the Super Bowl, in 2018...Brady and the Patriots were still there, denying them yet again in Super Bowl LIII.

The Patriots sent some other franchises into prolonged tailspins with heartbreaking losses, too. Malcolm Butler's interception to seal Super Bowl XLIX over the Seahawks, 28-24, denied Seattle a second straight championship, and while the Seahawks have missed the postseason just once since Pete Carroll's controversial play call, they've yet to get beyond the NFC divisional round.

New England's 24-20 win over Jacksonville in the 2017 AFC Championship Game saw the Jaguars blow a 10-point fourth quarter lead, a pair of Brady touchdown passes to Danny Amendola in the fourth quarter -- as well as a picturesque pass breakup by Stephon Gilmore -- sending Jacksonville to its demise. The Jaguars have gone 14-43 since that game.

Carolina's most heartbreaking loss came at the hands of New England, ESPN said, in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Panthers tied up the Patriots late in the fourth quarter, but after John Kasay's ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, Brady had a short field to work with to set Vinatieri up for another game-winner and a 32-29 victory. Carolina didn't get back to the Super Bowl for 12 seasons, when it lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

According to ESPN, Baltimore's most heartbreaking loss was also against New England, in the 2011 AFC Championship Game. The Ravens failed to take advantage of one of Brady's worst postseason games ever, losing 23-20 when kicker Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal in the final minute. To Baltimore's credit, it came right back to Foxboro for the AFC Championship Game the following season and won, en route to a Super Bowl XLVII title.

As for the most heartbreaking loss for the Patriots themselves? Surprisingly, it wasn't the game which cost them perfection in Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants, nor the rematch four seasons later. Rather, it was the 24-21 loss to the Oakland Raiders in the 1976 AFC Divisional playoffs, in which New England held a late lead before a controversial roughing-the-passer call prolonged what wound up being a game-winning drive for Oakland.

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