Was Sunday a kill shot for the Steelers?
Sure, Sunday’s loss was tough. But just how tough? Obviously Sunday was just one game out of 16, so to suggest that there season is over is asinine, and a task best left to the Skip Bayless’s and Stephen A. Smith’s of the world. That being said, if the Steelers still hope to get to the Promised Land, and potentially pull in their seven Super Bowl title, is there any precedent for suffering such a one-sided loss during the regular season?
I went back over the past 20 Super Bowl winners, looking for the best comparisons to Sunday’s showing. Five games stood out:
Future SB XLIX winners New England Patriots 14 Kansas City Chiefs 41
This bad boy happened less than two years ago, as the eventual champion Patriots got smoked in a Monday night showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs got up 17–0 on the Patriots at the half, and led 41–7 before a late Jimmy Garoppolo touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski made the final margin 27 points. Garoppolo came in for Brady not due to injury, but because the game got out of hand so fast.
Relatability: 6/10. The Pats were favored before the game, but the Chiefs were a decent, up-and-coming team of sorts, and were returning Jamaal Charles to the lineup.
What the Patriots did the next week: The Pats collected a 43–17 victory over a previously undefeated Cincinnati Bengals team. That’s how the Bilicek-era Pats have handled losses year-in and year-out.
Future SB XLVII winners Baltimore Ravens 13 Houston Texans 43
This was a Week 7 battle between a pair of 5–1 teams, with the Texans making a statement, falling behind 3–0, before rattling off 29 unanswered points, and finishing with a 30-point victory. The game was seen as a changing of the guard, as the Texans looked like the new prohibitive favorites in the AFC, and the Ravens were dropped significantly in the all-important power rankings. (Sarcasm added.)
Relatability: 7/10. The Ravens were also missing a key star, albeit a defensive stalwart (Ray Lewis), but the changing of the guard narrative feels similar to the Big Ben to Wentzlevania storyline being written about.
What the Ravens did the next week: The Ravens had a bye to overthink their poor play, but came off the bye with four consecutive wins to right the ship.
Future SB XLII winners New York Giants 17 Minnesota Vikings 41
This may have had “only” a 24-point final deficit for the Giants, but that was because of a late Giants touchdown. Before that, the margin was 31, the same number as the Steelers on Sunday. Despite that similar margin, these two games weren’t actually all that similar. The VIkings got 21 points on interception returns alone (Eli Manning, ladies and gentleman), and the game took place much later in the season, so much more was known about these two teams. The Vikings were also playing for the last vestiges of a playoff push, needing a win to stay in the mix.
Relatability: 3/10. For all the reasons laid out above.
What the Giants did the next week: The Giants beat a thoroughly mediocre Bears team 21–16, and lost twice more before their magical playoff run. The 2007 Giants were weird, man.
Future SB XLI winners Indianapolis Colts 17 Jacksonville Jaguars 44
Yes, there was a time when the Jags scored 44 points! The Jags went to the ground game early and often, pounding the Colts for 375 yards rushing, with three different running backs scoring touchdowns. Like the Giants game above, this was a later-season game, taking place in Week 14, with both teams established at that point. The Colts fell to 10–3 with the loss, their second straight, while the Jags improved to 8–5. This game was a bit the opposite of the Giants game, though, in that the Jags scored a late touchdown, and the Colts were “as close” as 20 points early in the fourth quarter, which may seem like a full-blown blowout, but with Peyton Manning as their quarterback, Colts fans were almost certainly at least half-heartedly still hoping for a win in the fourth quarter.
Relatability: 4/10. It was a bit later in the season, but the game did have the same vibe of a potent offense being slowed down, and a potentially less-stable defense being exposed a bit.
What the Colts did the next week: The Colts took it to the Bengals, beating the previously 8–5 team 34–16, and sending the Bengals into an end-of-season spiral.
Future SB XXXVIII New England Patriots 0 Buffalo Bills 31
This was a Week 1 matchup that I still remember when thinking back on ESPN highlights of old. The Patriots were fully in the Tom Brady era at this point, and had won a Super Bowl just 18 months before this Week 1 spanking. The game had pundits asking just how legitimate this win made the Buffalo Bills (sound familiar?), while wondering if the Patriots had slipped a bit from the perch atop the league (sound familiar, again?). Tom Brady threw four interceptions, and the blistering Patriot offense went completely missing, tallying just 239 total yards of offense. (The Steelers tallied 251 on Sunday). The game was an all-around zero for the Pats.
Relatability: 9/10. Winner, winner, chicken dinner. This was an early-season matchup, so it naturally lent itself to some overreacting on both sides. The Pats completely disappeared on both sides of the ball, with their big-name quarterback having one of the worst games of his career.
So, what did the Patriots do the next week: Here’s where it gets really funny. The Pats put a 31–10 beatdown on, who else, but the Philadelphia Eagles. The Pats proceeded to win 17 of their next 18 games, and claim their second Super Bowl ring of the Tom Brady era.
So there you have it. There are most certainly examples of teams taking one on the chin and bouncing back to achieve the goal every team starts the season with. The 2003 Patriots offer the best model to follow, but one thing is obvious. None of these teams lost their very next game. Even if a few stumbled later in the season, each one had the wherewithal to step up the next week and get a W. Sunday night’s game with the Chiefs was already going to be a big one, but looking over these teams, it seems like an even bigger game now.