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BASN Classics: Sweeping The Champs
By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN (BASN) — After watching the Oakland Raiders fall to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night and the New York Giants defeat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, my sports history “Spidey Sense” starting tingling.
The wins by Kansas City and New York completed regular season sweeps over their respective opponents on the year. But it also got me thinking aloud, “I wonder if any Super Bowl champion has gotten swept by a divisional foe during the regular season?”
Now I’m not trying to hand the Lombardi Trophy over to either the Cowboys or the Raiders, but I was just being curious. Given the added wild card teams over the years, I figured there had to be at least a few.
After a little research, I found that there have been six teams that have pulled off the feat. In fact, two of the teams have done it as wild card entries. Here is a list of the teams and how they did it.
1969 CHIEFS (11-3)
As the first wild-card team to reach the Super Bowl, Hank Stram’s “offense of the 1970′s” was really led by HBCU defensive standouts Willie Lanier (63), Buck Buchanon, and Emmitt Thomas. During the regular season, K.C.’s defense held five opponents to fewer than 10 points. They also became the fourth defense in NFL history to lead the league in fewest rushing yards, fewest passing yards, and fewest total yards. Their biggest obstacle — the 12-1-1 Oakland Raiders. The Chiefs lost to the Silver and Black 27-24 in K.C. in Week 11 and in the regular season finale 10-6 at Oakland. However, they’d get the ultimate revenge in what was the last AFL Championship game. Just three years removed from losing Super Bowl I, the Chiefs defeated the Raiders 17-7 and then dispatched the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 to win their only Super Bowl to date.
1983 RAIDERS (12-4)
During their first season in L.A. in 1982, the Raiders finished 8-1 during the strike-shortened season. However, they were upset at home by the upstart New York Jets in the divisional round. A year later, they started out 4-0 before losing a 37-35 shootout with Washington at RFK Stadium. Despite winning another AFC West crown, the one team that stuck in their craw was the 9-7 Seattle Seahawks. Two weeks after the Washington loss, Seattle outlasted them 38-36 at the Kingdome. Two weeks later, the Seahawks would come into the Coliseum and beat the Raiders again 34-21. But in the playoffs, the Silver and Black would gain their revenge by pummelling Seattle 30-14 in the AFC Championship Game. Two weeks later, they avenged the loss to Washington with a convincing 38-9 victory.
1995 COWBOYS (12-4)
Playing their second season under the mercurial Barry Switzer (YEEEEEEAH, BAYBEEEEEE!!), this particular Dallas squad is more remembered for its dysfunctional relationship with their head coach than the eventual Super Bowl crown. While they were swept during the season by the 6-10 Washington ballclub, a pair of losses to the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles were bookmarks for the season. The infamous loss at Philly was on the heels of Switzer going for it on fourth down twice and coming up short. Eventually, the team would right the ship, win the NFC East, and gain home-field advantage in the playoffs. After defeating the Eagles and Packers, Dallas would win its fifth Super Bowl crown as Pittsburgh’s Neil O’Donnell made defensive back Larry Brown his primary receiver on the day with two killer interceptions.
2002 BUCCANEERS (12-4)
A year after losing to the Eagles in the playoffs for the second straight season, longtime head coach Tony Dungy was fired. Jon Gruden was plucked from the Oakland Raiders to become the new head coach. Nothing really changed that much during the regular season as the offense still struggled and the defense carried the team. In fact, they became the first team to lead the league in total defense, points allowed, and interceptions since the 1985 Chicago Bears. Luckily there was no Tampa Bay Shuffle, but I digress. The team that gave Chucky and his crew the most trouble that season was the 9-7 New Orleans Saints. The Bucs opened the season with a 26-20 overtime home loss to New Orleans and would fall to them again on a Sunday Night in December at the Superdome. While they didn’t get the revenge against the Saints, they exacted some on their nemesis from Philly. Tampa would take the NFC crown in the last game ever at the Vet.
2007 GIANTS (10-6)
Tom Coughlin’s crew became the 9th wild card team in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl and the 5th wild card team to win the Super Bowl. The ultimate case of getting hot at the right time, Big Blue was the third team in history to win three road playoff games en route to a Super Bowl and set a league record for most consecutive road wins in a single season. In many ways, their regular season-ending loss at home to the then undefeated New England Patriots proved to be the catalyst for their postseason run. Ironically, it was New York’s two losses to Dallas — sound familiar?? — that kept them from winning the NFC East. After defeating Tampa Bay in the wild-card round, the Giants would get their revenge on the Cowboys by defeating them 21-17 at Dallas in the divisional round. After beating Green Bay in Brett Favre’s last game in a Packer jersey, they pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history when they handed New England a 17-14 victory.
2011 GIANTS (9-7)
Four years after their improbable run, New York would somewhat recreate history. Their 9-7 mark was good enough to win the NFC East this time, but it was the Washington football club that had their way with Big Blue during the season. The Giants opened the year with a 28-14 loss to D.C. and would fall to them again in December. At the time of the second loss, New York evened its record at 7-7. They ended the regular season with wins against the Jets and Cowboys. The win against Dallas gave them the division crown. In the playoffs, they blanked the Falcons in Jersey and then took road wins at Green Bay and San Francisco en route to another showdown with the Patriots. The Giants-Pats game was the 11th time that there was a rematch in a Super Bowl. In doing so, they became the first team with fewer than 10 wins in the regular season to win a Super Bowl.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.