When it comes to championship games, fans look forward to — and expect — explosive performances, daredevil athleticism, and unforeseen plot twists and turns. After all, the teams competing have bested the rest of the competition and are, therefore, supposed to be the top two teams in their respective leagues.
While many championship games deliver on the promise of a fight to the finish, some leave the masses clucking their tongues and shaking their heads, and the Super Bowl, like it or not, has been one of the most egregious offenders of the everyday fan's hope for a great championship game. Here is a closer look at seven of the worst Super Bowl performances in history.
1. The 1971 Miami Dolphins
In Super Bowl VI, the Miami Dolphins managed to humiliate themselves in front of millions of television viewers by losing to the Dallas Cowboys 24 to 3. That single field goal ensured the Dolphins made it onto the board, but their meager point output remains the lowest score achieved by any team in a Super Bowl game to this day. The Cowboys, on the other hand, racked up records in the opposite direction by achieving the most first downs and the most rushing yards in Super Bowl history. Their utter dominance that day helped them avenge their loss in Super Bowl V the year before and started them on their way to being one of the most popular NFL teams — with the NFL jersey sales to match — in the country.
2. 2002 Oakland Raiders
Tampa Bay defeated Oakland 48 to 21 in what turned out to be Tampa Bay Head Coach Jon Gruden's ultimate revenge after being let go by the Raiders the year before. The Raider's top-ranked offense was no match for the league's best defense, as the Buccaneers forced Oakland's quarterback to throw five interceptions — a Super Bowl record. To add insult to injury, three of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns.
3. The 1989 Denver Broncos
The worst drubbing in Super Bowl history happened to John Elway and the Denver Broncos thanks to an incredible San Francisco 49ers team led by Joe Montana, who threw five touchdown passes — three of them to Hall of Famer, Jerry Rice. The final score was 55 to 10.
4. 1983 Washington Redskins
Washington was so clearly outmatched by Oakland during Super Bowl XVIII that the day earned the nickname "Black Sunday" as fans and commentators sought a way to describe just how thoroughly punishing the Raiders were in every aspect of the game. To illustrate: Washington gave up touchdowns to Oakland's offense, defense, and special teams — in the first half alone. The final score was 38 to 9.
5. 1986 and 1987 Denver Broncos
As a bit of foreshadowing to that fateful day in 1989 when the Broncos would lose by the largest margin in history, 1986 and 1987 were bad Super Bowl years for the Broncos as well. Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway led both ill-fated teams, and while he did finally win the Super Bowl in 1998, in 1986 and 1987, he had nothing but trouble.
In 1986, the Broncos led at halftime 10 to 9 before Phil Simms' and the New York Giants eventually routed the Broncos 39 to 20. The 1987 fiasco was worse, as a tough Washington team, led by quarterback and game MVP, Doug Williams, scored 35 unanswered points in the second quarter after trailing 10 to 0. The game closed at 42 to 10.
6. 1992 Buffalo Bills
Dallas walloped the Buffalo Bills 52 to 17 in one of the most lopsided Super Bowl scores ever. While the Bills looked terrible for most of the game, they were able to capitalize on a cocky Cowboys player to bring about one of the most memorable Super Bowl plays of all time. Leon Lett lost out on an easy touchdown when his showboating allowed Bills' wide receiver, Don Beebe, to catch up to him from behind and force a fumble.
7. 1985 New England Patriots
Patriots Quarterback, Tony Eason, was sacked a record seven times by one of the most formidable teams in NFL history — the 1980s Chicago Bears. The final score of 46 to 10 doesn't even come close to reflecting the near-total dominance the Bears showcased that day on the field.
Super Bowls come and Super Bowls go, and the vast majority of them mark a satisfying afternoon and evening of food, revelry, and competition. That being said, sometimes even the two best teams in the league won't have what looks like a fair fight, as is evidenced by these seven terrible Super Bowl performances.