Tom Brady is busy doing anything but taking time to reflect on his incredible run as an NFL quarterback. After all, Brady always says that his favorite Super Bowl ring is “the next one,” as he and the Buccaneers will look to defend their title in 2021.
If you’re suffering from Brady fatigue, don’t worry — the majority of this article is not about him. While he is largely responsible for two all-time franchise wins, there are 30 other victories mentioned in our rundown of the greatest win for all 32 teams. In fact, Brady is actually on the losing end of several games included in this all-time list.
Some of the choices will be somewhat expected, especially for franchises that have won zero championships. Conversely, there will be some wins that will surprise readers, especially when it comes to naming the greatest win for teams that have won multiple championships. Some of the wins have occurred over the last several years, while others took place when single-bar helmets were still common.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at each franchise’s greatest win. We also mention each team’s “runner-up,” a win that deserves mention but was ultimately not selected.
Runner-up: 2008 NFC Championship Game: Cardinals 32, Eagles 25
Ironically, the Cardinals’ two greatest victories came against the same opponent. In the ’47 title game, the Cardinals’ Elmer Angsman, who was born the year the Cardinals won their first title (in 1925), ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cardinals to their second title. While their offense ran the ball at will, the Cardinals’ defense held Eagles Hall of Fame halfback Steve Van Buren to just 26 yards rushing on 18 carries. Van Buren would then lead Philadelphia to back-to-back championships, while the Cardinals continue to wait for their next NFL title.
Runner-up: 2016 NFC Championship Game: Falcons 44, Packers 21
In one of the most surprising upsets in NFL postseason history, Atlanta’s “Dirty Birds” overcame a 13-point deficit to stun the Vikings, who went 15-1 during the regular season. Trailing 27-20, the Falcons caught a break when Vikings kicker Gary Anderson, who did not miss a field goal during the regular season, missed a 38-yard attempt with 2:07 left. Atlanta capitalized on Anderson’s miss, as Chris Chandler hit Terance Mathis for the game-tying touchdown with 57 seconds left in regulation. The teams exchanged punts in overtime before two Chandler completions to tight end O.J. Santiago and two runs by Jamal Anderson set up Morton Andersen’s game-winning, 38-yard kick.
Greatest win: 1992 AFC wild-card: Bills 41, Oilers 38 (OT)
Runner-up: 1964 AFL Championship: Bills 20, Chargers 7
Three of Buffalo’s four consecutive AFC title wins from 1990-93 included victories over Hall of Fame quarterbacks John Elway, Dan Marino and Joe Montana. But it was the Bills’ improbable wild-card comeback win over the Oilers that stands as the Bills’ greatest win. Trailing 35-3 at the start of the second half, four touchdown passes from backup quarterback Frank Reich gave the Bills a fourth-quarter lead. After the Oilers forced overtime, an interception by Nate Odomes set up Steve Christie’s game-winning, 32-yard field goal. The win helped the Bills advance to their third of four consecutive Super Bowls.
Runner-up: Super Bowl XLVII: Ravens 34, 49ers 31
Super Bowl XXXV was vindication for the 2000 Ravens’ defense, who solidified their place as an all-time great unit after holding the Giants to just 152 total yards. New York’s offense, two weeks after scoring 41 points against the Vikings, did not score a touchdown against the Ravens and game MVP Ray Lewis. Conversely, the Ravens scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams. Duane Starks’ 49-yard pick gave Baltimore a 17-0 lead. Jermaine Lewis’ kickoff return for a touchdown moments later sealed the win.
Greatest win: 2015 NFC Championship Game: Panthers 49, Cardinals 15
Runner-up: 2003 NFC Championship Game: Panthers 14, Eagles 3
After a 15-1 regular season, the Panthers dethroned the defending NFC champion Seahawks in the divisional round, 31-24. In the NFC title game, the Panthers dominated a talented Cardinals team, led by league MVP Cam Newton’s four touchdowns and 382 all-purpose yards. Linebacker Luke Kuechly returned one of the Panthers’ four interceptions of Carson Palmer for a score, as the ’15 Panthers punched the franchise’s second ticket to the Super Bowl.
Greatest win: 1981 AFC Championship Game: Bengals 27, Chargers 7
Runner-up: 1988 AFC Championship Game: Bengals 21, Bills 10
In a game that was tabbed as “The Freezer Bowl,” Bengals quarterback (and 1981 league MVP) Ken Anderson threw two touchdowns while leading the Bengals to a win in one of the coldest games in NFL history. Anderson’s passer rating was more than twice the amount of his counterpart, Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts. Anderson received stellar protection all day from Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz, who helped the Bengals reach their first Super Bowl.
“Kenny’s advantage was that he threw tight spirals,” said Fouts, who noted that throwing that day was like “throwing a shoebox in the wind. … I didn’t always throw spirals. In my mind, that was the biggest part of us losing the game.”
Greatest win: 1964 NFL Championship: Browns 27, Colts 0
Runner-up: 1950 NFL Championship: Browns 30, Rams 28
The Browns ended their eight-year championship drought with a dominant win over Johnny Unitas and the Colts. While Jim Brown was his usual dominant self (gaining 114 yards on 27 carries), the Browns’ offense received a monster effort from Gary Collins, who caught five passes for 130 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, Cleveland picked off Unitas twice while holding him to under 100 yards passing. The championship was the first for then-rookie receiver Paul Warfield, who later won two Super Bowls as a member of the Dolphins.
Greatest win: Super Bowl XX: Bears 46, Patriots 10
Runner-up: 1940 NFL Championship: Bears 73, Washington 0
This was one easy; no game in Bears history (not even the biggest blowout in championship game history) compares to Chicago’s first — and last — Super Bowl win. One of the most celebrated teams in NFL history, the ’85 Bears capped off their 18-1 season (including playoffs) with the largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history at that time. The Bears’ “46” defense, led by game MVP Richard Dent, suffocated the Patriots’ offense, forcing six turnovers and holding New England to 123 total yards. The Bears’ defense also scored twice while making an emphatic case as the greatest defense in NFL history. Walter Payton, who became the NFL’s career rushing champion one year earlier, was finally crowned as a world champion after an 11-year wait.
Greatest win: Super Bowl VI: Cowboys 24, Dolphins 3
Runner-up: 1992 NFC Championship Game: Cowboys 30, 49ers 20
While they’ve been known as “America’s Team” since 1979, the Cowboys were previously labeled as “next year’s champions” after coming up short in several championship games that included a three-point loss in Super Bowl V. The 1971 Cowboys finally broke through; they went 10-0 with Roger Staubach starting under center, capped off with a dominant Super Bowl win over Don Shula’s Dolphins. Staubach won Super Bowl MVP honors, while his rushing attack — led by Duane Thomas and Walt Garrison — ran for over three times as many yards as the Dolphins’ backs Jim Kiick and Larry Csonka. Dallas’ “Doomsday” defense, led by linebacker Chuck Howley, defensive tackle Bob Lilly and defensive backs Mel Renfro, Herb Adderley and Cliff Harris, became the first unit to not allow a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
Greatest win: Super Bowl XXXII: Broncos 31, Packers 24
Runner-up: Super Bowl 50: Broncos 24, Panthers 10
Denver’s first Super Bowl win was historic. The Broncos’ dethroning of the Packers was at the time the second-greatest upset in Super Bowl history. It also ended the NFC’s 13-game winning streak over the AFC in Super Bowl competition. John Elway, after three prior Super Bowl losses, was hoisted on his teammates’ shoulders after winning his first ring. The MVP award went to Terrell Davis, who rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries despite missing most of the second quarter with a migraine headache. Denver’s defense forced two turnovers off of league MVP Brett Favre. They sealed the win on a fourth-down stop with 32 seconds left.
Greatest win: 1957 NFL Championship: Lions 59, Browns 14
Runner-up: 1991 NFC divisional round: Lions 38, Cowboys 6
The experienced Browns were no match for the Lions, who never took their foot off of the gas pedal in a 45-point win. Detroit received an epic performance from quarterback Tobin Rote, who threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns. Rote had two 100-yard receivers in Steve Junker and Jim Doran, who caught a combined eight passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Detroit’s cagey defense recorded five interceptions while holding Jim Brown to 69 yards rushing.
Green Bay Packers