The Lofton Files: Unbeaten But Not Perfect

12/09/2011

The 2010 Green Bay Packers finished the regular season 10-6. The 2011 Packers sit atop the NFL landscape at 12-0. The 2010 Packers finished the postseason 4-0 with Wild Card, Divisional and Conference Championship wins en route to being crowned Super Bowl champions.

The 2011 Packers are undefeated so far this year, but not yet perfect. 16 regular season wins, two playoff wins and then add on what would be back-to-back Super Bowl titles and the Packers would match the ’72 Dolphins as the only undefeated team since the advent of the Super Bowl. That would be perfection.

You have to go way, way back in NFL history to find the early Canton Bulldogs of 1922 and 1923 who went undefeated, but with 2 ties in ’22 and 1 in ‘23, and the 1929 Green Bay Packers, who finished 12-0-1 . The ’34 Bears were 13-0 but lost to the New York Giants in the NFL Championship game.

The Baltimore Colts of the pre-merger NFL finished the regular season 13-1 only to fall to the AFL’s New York Jets and Joe Namath in Super Bowl III.  The undefeated ’72 Dolphins won Super Bowl VII and the ’73 Dolphins, although not undefeated, beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl VIII. The 1976 Oakland Raiders finished 13-1 and had their own close encounter with going undefeated, downing the Minnesota Vikings in Pasadena in Super Bowl XI.

Bill Walsh’s 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the Super Bowl Shuffling 1985 Chicago Bears only had one slip-up on their way to victory in Super Bowls XIX and XX, respectively.

The 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers posted a 15-1 regular season record only to fall to the New England Patriots (14-2 during the regular season) in the AFC Championship game. The Pats went on to win Super Bowl XXXIX that year – Tom Brady’s third Super Bowl ring.

Our nearest brush with perfection came via the 2007 New England Patriots. Their record-setting offense took them to 18-0 before screeching to a halt in a 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

The Indianapolis Colts bolted to a 14-0 start and decided it was best to rest, resulting in a letdown to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. The Saints themselves had started 13-0 that season, but a Saturday night loss to Dallas in Week 15 stopped their run at perfection. Something tells me the people of New Orleans were ok with how the season turned out though.

And that brings me back to my point. I think we have this perfection thing backwards. Visit any training camp in hot and humid August and you will hear the low murmur of Super Bowl talk (a little louder at Jets camp). I came up short in three Super Bowl appearances with the Buffalo Bills, so you can believe me when I tell you the true mark of perfection is a Super Bowl championship. The ’72 Dolphins may enjoy their champagne toast each fall as the last undefeated team is vanquished, but every Super Bowl winner has a slice of perfection. Ask any member of the six-loss 2007 Giants.

– James Lofton

James Lofton is the analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of Sunday Night Football. This weekend, James will be alongside Dave Sims in Dallas as the Cowboys host Eli Manning and the New York Giants in an NFC East showdown. Coverage begins at 7:30 PM Eastern on Westwood One Sports.

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