The Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl was supposed to be a matchup of titans. Seattle's vaunted "Legion of Boom" lining up across from the best passing offense in NFL history.
During the 2013 season, Peyton Manning passed for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards — both new NFL records. Denver became the first NFL team to score 600 points in a season, averaging 37.9 PPG and setting a new NFL record with 606 total points. The matchup with Seattle's top ranked pass defense and scoring defense was supposed to produce one of the most compelling chess matches ever seen in a championship game. Instead, the Seahawks defense checkmated Manning and the Broncos after only a couple of moves and routed them 43-8 in a game that really wasn't even that close.
It got me thinking, where did the Broncos flop rank in comparison to other great championship disappointments? There are certainly plenty of worthy candidates throughout the history of sports to examine, but a few stand the test of time as truly memorable for the wrong reasons. If you're a fan of one of these teams, you have my apologies ahead of time.
Here's The AP Party's list of the Top 10 Championship Flops in Sports…
10) 2005 US Open — Jason Gore and Retief Goosen
There are plenty of candidates from the world of golf of final rounds gone bad. While Greg Norman and Jean Van de Velde fall more in the infamous "choke" category, there are still many clutch performances that look like a Phil Mickelson flop shot. Amongst them are Rory McIlroy shooting an 80 in the 4th round of the 2011 Masters and Dustin Johnson shooting an 82 in the 2010 US Open — both from the lead. But the worst final round flop honors are shared by a former champion and a Cinderella story.
In the 2005 US Open at Pinehurst, two-time champion Retief Goosen was paired with upstart Jason Gore in the final group. Goosen had a 3-shot lead over Gore and Olin Browne after 54 holes. Almost immediately, both players in the final group went into tailspin mode. Michael Campbell had long won the tournament by the time Goosen finished with an 81 and Gore shot an 84 to fall from T2 to T49 on the leaderboard. Gore's 84 was the worst round of the day. Talk about an awkward final stroll up the 18th fairway.
9) 2001 Orange Bowl — Florida State Seminoles
FSU's performance in the 2001 BCS Championship Game made the Broncos Super Bowl output look like a well-oiled machine. With Heisman winner Chris Weinke, the 11-point favorites lost 13-2 to Oklahoma. Two points! That's it! For a team that averaged 42 PPG during the season! The safety came in the final minute of the game, flattering the Seminoles and their complete no-show.
8) 2007 NBA Finals — Cleveland Cavaliers
Now that LeBron James has ditched the tired Skip Bayless trope of "not being able to big one" for all-time, the memory of his first Finals appearance fades further into the distance. James had one of the great single-game performances in NBA history during the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, scoring the final 25 Cavs points and 48 overall in a Game 5 double OT victory against the Pistons. Looking back, it was the height of the LeBron Era in Cleveland as the NBA Finals were nothing but a giant disappointment.
The Cavs were swept in the NBA Finals by the San Antonio Spurs, averaging a paltry 80.5 PPG in a series that has long been forgotten for the brutal basketball on display. James averaged 22 PPG on 35 percent shooting in the series that took place before his narrative had to be written and re-written.
7) 2007 World Series — Colorado Rockies
The year 2007 was a big one for forgettable championship series. In the fall, the Colorado Rockies took the sports world by storm with an incredible streak of victories that should go down in baseball lore… were it not for the giant egg they laid in the World Series. The Rocks won 13 of 14 games to end the season and force a Wild Card tiebreaker with the Padres. After winning that game, they continued an unbeaten postseason run, sweeping the NLDS and then the NLCS. By the time they reached the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, they had won 21 of 22 games.
What happened in the Fall Classic? The Rockies were swept in four games and outscored 29-10. Thanks for the memories, Rocktober.
6) 2002 Mike Tyson vs Lennox Lewis
Somehow in 2002, we were still convinced that Mike Tyson was a main event attraction from a boxing standpoint. Unfortunately for Tyson, he was more competitive in the press conference fracas with Lennox Lewis than the boxing match that followed. Lewis pummeled Tyson before mercifully knocking him out in the 8th round, effectively ending his championship fighting career and sending him into ironic comedy roles.
5) 1954 World Series — Cleveland Indians
It should come as no surprise that multiple professional sports franchises from Cleveland make the countdown. We go all the way back to 1954 for our next entry to honor one of the greatest MLB teams to never win a championship. The '54 Indians went 111-43 in the regular season for the 4th highest win total in Major League history. Their .721 winning percentage is still the best for an MLB team since the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates.
Unfortunately for suffering Cleveland sports fans (they hadn't quite been "long suffering in '54), the Indians were swept in the World Series by Willie Mays and the New York Giants. The Tribe mustered just nine runs in a series most remembered for Mays' iconic Game 1 catch.
4) 2007 BCS National Championship Game — Ohio State Buckeyes
The game that started the SEC's reign of terror over college football. Entering the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, it was Ohio State that entered as the big men on campus. The undefeated Buckeyes boasted Heisman winner Troy Smith and had just beaten No. 2 Michigan in the latest Game of the Century. The controversy entering this game was Florida jumping Michigan and preventing a Big Ten rematch. Sixty minutes in Arizona changed the perception of college football conferences instantly.
After Ted Ginn returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, Florida systematically destroyed Ohio State and introduced "SEC speed" to the nation in a 41-14 shellacking. Ohio State had averaged almost 400 yards per game in the regular season, but gained just 82 in the title game. Troy Smith was 4-of-14 passing and was sacked five times. The only way for Ohio State to come back from a demolition job like that was obvious: hire Urban Meyer.
3) Super Bowl XLVIII — Denver Broncos
It was one of the most shocking Super Bowls in recent memory considering the hype surrounding the game and the massive letdown from the Broncos. One of the best offenses in NFL history, in fact, probably the best offense statistically the league has ever seen, mustered just eight points and four turnovers. Even Steve Grogan and the Patriots managed 10 points against the '85 Bears! The game was over after the first Denver snap sailed into the endzone for a comical safety.
Until this year's Super Bowl, Peyton Manning hadn't been held to single digits in a full game since a January 2005 playoff loss at New England. As viewers fell asleep in the second half or switched to Downton Abbey, we were witnesses to one of the most disappointing flops in sports history.
2) 1992 US Track & Field Championships — Dan & Dave
In the lead-up to the Barcelona Olympics, Reebok undertook a massive marketing campaign promoting decathletes Dan O'Brien and Dave Johnson as the stars of the upcoming games. For anyone who grew up in the 90s, "Dan & Dave" was a cultural phenomenon. Then came the 1992 US Track & Field Championships, and Reebok's plans crashed into flames.
At the championship that doubled as the Olympic trials, things were going according to plan until O'Brien entered the pole vault. Leading the competition, he failed to clear the bar on three attempts and plummeted from 1st to 12th, failing to qualify for the Olympics. Johnson went on to win Bronze in Barcelona, but Dan & Dave never materialized. The story does have a happy ending though, as O'Brien won Gold in the decathlon four years later in Atlanta.
1) Super Bowl III — Baltimore Colts
There's another side of the coin to what has been dubbed for decades as the greatest upset in the history of the Super Bowl. While we all have seen the images countless times of Joe Namath triumphantly jogging off the field after Super Bowl III, what about the Colts' side of the equation? The NFL champions were heavily favored by 18 points. Looking back, it's easy to see why Baltimore was a mortal lock to win the game. The NFL was the superior league and the Colts had finished the season 13-1 with a 34-0 victory over the Browns in the 1968 NFL Championship Game.
The Jets should have stood no chance of winning against the Colts, but reigning NFL MVP Earl Morrall started at quarterback and threw three INTs before being benched for an ailing Johnny Unitas. The aging superstar could do little more than lead the Colts to a late consolation TD in a 16-7 loss that brought about the AFL-NFL merger and the modern era of professional football.