5 Most Unlikely Super Bowl Teams of All-Time
The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens will duel in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, Feb. 3. While neither team was considered a lock to make the Super Bowl, both squads are division winners with a Super Bowl history. That’s not always the case; some franchises have shocked the football world by making it to the big game. Here’s our list of the five most unlikely Super Bowl teams of all-time:
1979 Los Angeles Rams
The worst record ever for a Super Bowl team? The 1979 Los Angeles Rams, who were just 9-7 in the regular season. An NFC West juggernaut for nearly a decade, the Rams had appeared in — and lost — four out of the five previous NFC title games. The Rams only scored 14 points more on the season than their collective opponents.
Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo, who took over for the injured Pat Haden in Week 12, finished with five touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the season. Though they shocked the Cowboys and outlasted the Buccaneers in the NFC playoffs, Los Angeles lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV.
1994 San Diego Chargers
After the Buffalo Bills made four consecutive Super Bowl appearances — all losses — it was a shock to see another AFC team take the beating normally reserved for Jim Kelly and company. The 1994 San Diego Chargers, champions of a weak AFC West, advanced to the Super Bowl with narrow victories over the Dolphins, 22-21, and Steelers, 17-13 in the AFC playoffs.
The Chargers premiere offensive players were quarterback Stan Humphries, running back Natrone Means and wide receiver Tony Martin, hardly a star-studded group. San Diego was eviscerated in the Super Bowl, 49-26, by a Steve Young-led 49ers team.
2003 Carolina Panthers
When then starting quarterback’s resume includes playing in NFL Europe, a team is not a likely Super Bowl contender. Playing in just their ninth season in franchise history, the 2003 Carolina Panthers were hardly expected to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Carolina dominated a mediocre NFC South with an 11-5 record, winning seven games by three points or less — that’s how close they were to being 4-12.
Quarterbacked by Jake Delhomme, whose biggest prior accomplishment was winning the World Bowl ’99 with the Frankfurt Galaxy, the Panthers managed to beat more talented Cowboys, Rams and Eagles teams before falling to the Patriots, 32-29, in the Super Bowl. In the nine years since their Super Bowl appearance, Carolina has had just two winning seasons.
2008 Arizona Cardinals
How did the 2008 Arizona Cardinals demonstrate they were ready to make a Super Bowl run? By losing four of their last six regular season games, including getting drilled by scores of 48-20, 35-14 and 47-7. The first 9-7 team to reach the Super Bowl since the 1979 Rams, the Cardinals were able to beat the Falcons, Panthers and Eagles in the NFC Playoffs.
An aging Kurt Warner quarterbacked the team, which scored one whole point more than it allowed in the regular season. Despite an overall lack of marquee players, the Cardinals had a fourth-quarter lead in Super Bowl XLII against the Steelers. Pittsburgh eventually prevailed, 27-13.
1999 St. Louis Rams
When a team hasn’t made a playoff appearance in 10 years and the starting quarterback is lost for the season after suffering an injury in a preseason game, the Super Bowl does not seem imminent. Enter the 1999 St. Louis Rams, whose “Greatest Show on Turf” offense led the franchise to its first NFC West title since 1985, when it was still in Los Angeles.
A former Arena Football League player, quarterback Kurt Warner took over for the injured Trent Green in the preseason. Warner used running back Marshall Faulk and a gaggle of fleet receivers to lead the team to a 13-3 regular season record and playoff victories over the Vikings and Buccaneers. Winner of both the league and Super Bowl MVP awards, Warner steered the Rams to their first Super Bowl title by beating the Tennessee Titans, 23-16.