Seven of the past 24 Super Bowl winners lost their first game of the season. The Seahawks, who lost 17-9 in Green Bay on Sunday, will try to add to that list.
Finding yourself a little down after the Seahawks’ 17-9 season-opening loss at Green Bay on Sunday? Feeling that maybe all the talk of another Super Bowl run already seems like so much wasted breath?
So, too, probably, did fans of the 1986 New York Giants, who in a year when they were widely being called a Super Bowl contender allowed a late touchdown drive to lose their opener at rival Dallas, after which coach Bill Parcells ripped his team’s concentration and stamina, saying, “We did all the things you do to get beat.’’
So, too, probably, did fans of the 2002 Tampa Bay Bucs after a 26-20 opening defeat at New Orleans in what was also the much-ballyhooed debut for coach Jon Gruden, the losing TD coming in overtime on a botched punt after an offensive performance so bad an ESPN.com headline that day wondered “Should Bucs fans panic about the familiar offensive struggles in Gruden’s debut?’’
And so, too, surely, did fans of the 2003 New England Patriots after their team opened with a 31-0 loss at Buffalo a few days after the release of popular veteran safety Lawyer Milloy, who was now with the Bills, a move some speculated might cause player unrest from which New England would never recover.
San Francisco @ Seahawks, 1:25 p.m., Ch. 13
“There was nothing good that came out of that game,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after a day in which he threw four interceptions and passed for 123 yards, a performance The Boston Globe judged as “clearly his worst’’ in his career.
All three teams, of course, would hoist the Lombardi Trophy a few months later, recovering from their season-opening faceplants to go on to be who their fans hoped they were.
In fact, while no one would argue it’s better to lose an opener than to win one, slow starts have become more common for Super Bowl champs than they used to be, something that should give downtrodden 12s some hope.
Since 2001, six teams that lost their season opener went on to win the Super Bowl.
That list includes three versions of the Patriots, who also lost in 2001 to the Cincinnati Bengals (a week before Drew Bledsoe would suffer one of the more famous injuries in football history, allowing the then-little-known Brady to take over as starter) and in 2014 to Miami, 33-20.
The 2014 loss began a string of stories about whether Brady was done and the Patriots’ dynasty was over and elicited this memorable quote from veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork: “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. But we started (expletive deleted), I’ll tell you that.’’
(Seahawks fans, of course, sorta wish the Patriots had been done.)
That list also includes both versions of the Eli Manning-quarterbacked New York Giants champion teams.
The 2007 Giants actually started 0-2 (as did the ’01 Pats), outscored a combined 80-52 including an opening 45-35 loss to Dallas that led linebacker Antonio Pierce to tell the New York Daily News “it was obviously embarrassing for all of us.’’
The 2011 Giants didn’t start much better, losing their opener at Washington 28-14 in a game in which Manning was sacked four times by a Washington defense that CSNY.com reminded readers ranked 31st the year before. The site wrote afterward of Giants coach Tom Coughlin throwing his hands up and saying, “Offensively, we didn’t do a thing.’’
The 2007 Giants and 2001 Patriots were matched in Super Bowl-champion season-opening futility by the 1993 Cowboys, who also started 0-2 including a home loss to a Buffalo team it had just routed in the previous Super Bowl — and would beat relatively easily in another Super Bowl a few months later.
Interestingly, just two teams since 2001 lost their season opener and then went to the Super Bowl, only to then lose the big game.
But that list includes the 2005 Seahawks, who were soundly beaten by Jacksonville 26-14 as part of a 2-2 start before an 11-game winning streak keyed the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history (the other is last year’s Atlanta Falcons, who lost 31-24 to Tampa Bay, which led to a headline in a local newspaper a few days later that the season was already in danger of “going off the rails’’).
None of the first 15 teams to win the Super Bowl lost its opener (the 1967 Green Bay Packers, though, tied theirs against Detroit, with Vince Lombardi’s famous power sweep managing a mere 43 rushing yards).
The first Super Bowl champion to lose its opener was the 1981 49ers, who were defeated by Detroit 24-17 in a game The San Francisco Chronicle called “disheartening’’ and exhibiting familiar patterns of past failings, a defeat aided by a controversial penalty (sound familiar?) that dropped the career record of coach Bill Walsh — who would later admit he had considered resigning after the previous season — to 8-25.
Overall, nine of the 51 Super Bowl champs lost their opener, seven since 1993, meaning almost 30 percent of the last 24 teams to win it all started out at least 0-1.
By the numbers
Nine out of 51 Super Bowl winners lost their first game of the season.
Seven out of the past 24 Super Bowl winners lost their first game of the season.
Probably not so coincidentally, free agency — which has made it more difficult for teams to keep veteran-laden rosters together — came to the NFL in earnest in that same season of 1993.
Maybe also not a coincidence is that four of the teams to lose their opener in that span and then win the Super Bowl had recently won a Super Bowl (or maybe more telling, had a QB who had recently won a Super Bowl, a position that’s still the biggest determiner of success).
None of this is to suggest to not worry about some of what was seen Sunday in Green Bay.
The Seahawks’ offensive line is, at best, a work in progress, and the defeat was the fourth in the last nine games (including playoffs) by eight points or more after Seattle had lost just two games by more than seven points during the 2012-15 seasons combined.
But history also shows us that what you see week one isn’t necessarily what you get the rest of the season.