Over at Sports Illustrated, Chris Burke has taken a stab at identifying the most brutal, gut-punching losses by each team in the NFC. As a Rams’ fan, that could make for a lengthy trip down memory lane. But I think Burke got it right...
St. Louis Rams: Feb. 3, 2002, Super Bowl XXXVI—Patriots 20, Rams 17
What is it with the NFC West and brutal Super Bowl losses? The Rams endured their own version of heartbreak on the game's biggest stage, at the same time helping to launch the legend of Tom Brady.
Two years removed from the franchise's first Super Bowl triumph, the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" hit such great heights again during the 2001 season that they entered the matchup with New England as whopping 14-point favorites. The anticipated blowout never materialized. The Rams' potent attack mustered just three points in the first three quarters, before rallying with two touchdowns in the fourth (a 2-yard Kurt Warner run and 26-yard Warner-to-Ricky Proehl pass).
Brady didn't blink. He completed 5-of-8 passes for 53 yards on New England's final drive, setting up Adam Vinatieri's dramatic 48-yard field goal as time expired. The Patriots have been to five more Super Bowls (and won three) since this classic showdown; the Rams are just 1–2 in the playoffs since their devastating defeat.
The only other Super Bowl loss the Rams have suffered dates back to 1980, when the Terry Bradshaw lead Steelers bested the Rams 31-19. Despite heading into the 4th quarter with a two point lead, the Rams coughed up 14 unanswered.
That stings...but more than a game-winning field goal as time expires? Nah.
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