We all know “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” as is proclaimed in the iconic opening to ABC’s Wide World of Sports, a popular sports anthology, which ran on the network for more than 37 years.
It illustrates that there are always two sides to the outcome of a sporting event. This is especially true with NFL losses. It’s a league where one team’s big win is often the downward turning point for the losing squad.
The agony of the losing teams isn’t exactly worth celebrating. However, we will examine them in this look at the 10 most gut-wrenching NFL losses of the 2020 season.
10. Hail Murray
Week 10 – Arizona Cardinals 32, Buffalo Bills 30
SKINNY: Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray completed a 43-yard Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game to DeAndre Hopkins, snagging a stunning 32-30 victory over the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo had scored what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown, with 3:01 to play, on a 21-yard pass from Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs.
NET EFFECT: The lasting effect on the Bills (9-3) has been minimal as they have won two straight since and have a firm grasp on first place in the AFC East. However, the loss could make the difference in Buffalo’s drive to earn the No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC. This may go down as one of the most painful NFL losses for the Bills in some time.
9. Fall Eagles, fall!
Week 1: Washington Football Team 27, Philadelphia Eagles 17
SKINNY: The Philadelphia Eagles were expected to battle the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East title in 2020, Meanwhile, the Washington Football Team was expected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. The first half played out this way, with the Eagles charging out to a 17-0 halftime lead. Washington, however, dominated the second half and rallied for a surprising 27-17 victory. Playing a key role in the loss, a telling sign for his 2020 season, Carson Wentz had two interceptions and two fumbles.
NET EFFECT: Philadelphia was exposed and the hope that Wentz might return to his 2017 MVP-calibeform hadfaded. The season has not gotten much better for the Eagles, who fell to 3-8-1 and finally benched Wentz in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts. We can only wonder if the Eagles wouldn’t have suffered as many late NFL losses if they made a change at quarterback earlier.
8. Purple Rain(y) Sunday
Week 5: Seattle Seahawks 27, Minnesota Vikings 26
SKINNY: Coming off their first win of the season, the disappointing Minnesota Vikings went on the road to undefeated Seattle as a big underdog. The Vikings, however, jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead and led 26-21 with less than two minutes to play. Russell Wilson, however, rallied the Seahawks with a touchdown pass to DJ Metcalf, with just seconds to play, sending the Vikings to 1-4.
NET EFFECT: This loss, combined with a home defeat to Atlanta the following week, put Minnesota’s playoff hopes on life-support before the midway point of the season. However, the Vikings have won five of their last six games to get back to .500 at 6-6.
7. Onside kick hypnosis?
Week 2: Dallas Cowboys 40, Atlanta Falcons 39
SKINNY: Despite squandering leads of 20-0 and 39-30, the Atlanta Falcons were just an onside kick recovery from a Week 2 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Rule changes in recent seasons have made successful onside kicks rare in the NFL, but the Falcons, inexplicably, let a dribbler by Cowboy kicker Greg Zuerlein hypnotize them. With four Falcons surrounding the ball and free to fall on it at any time before it covered the required 10 yards, the Cowboys recovered it and quickly got into position for a game-winning field goal by Zuerlein. Just another in a long list of gut-wrenching NFL losses for Atlanta.
NET EFFECT: The loss brought back chilling memories of Atlanta’s stunning 34-28 overtime loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, a game that the Falcons led 28-3 midway through the third quarter. The devastated Falcons, considered a bona fide playoff contender entering 2020, dropped to 0-2 and spun out into a five-game losing streak to open the season.
6. Another Atlanta meltdown
Week 3: Chicago Bears 30, Atlanta Falcons 26
SKINNY: One week after their epic collapse in Dallas, the Atlanta Falcons led the Chicago Bears 26-10 after three quarters and lost, 30-26. Nick Foles replaced Mitch Trubisky at quarterback for the Bears and threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes to leave the Falcons stunned for a second consecutive week. As we said, heartbreaking NFL losses are nothing new for Atlanta.
NET EFFECT: The seats of Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff went from warm to red hot as the Falcons slipped to 0-3. Two weeks later, the Falcons fell to 0-5 and both Quinn and Dimitroff were fired. By the way, how many times can one team rack up this many gut-wrenching NFL losses? (Hint: at least one more)
5. Cardiac cats: A Carolina heartbreaker
Week 9: Kansas City Chiefs 33, Carolina Panthers 31
SKINNY: The Carolina Panthers entered their Week 9 match-up at the World Champion Kansas City Chiefs as a 10-1/2 point underdog, but the Panthers made a gallant run at an upset only to have their hearts broken in the end. After building a 14-3 lead in the first quarter and a three-point advantage at halftime,, the Panthers scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull within two points of the Chiefs. Carolina moved the ball 47 yards on the game’s final drive, getting kicker Joey Slye in position for what would have been an NFL record 67-yard field goal attempt. The kick, however, fell short, leaving the Panthers short of what would have been a major upset.
NET EFFECT: Carolina fell to 3-6 with the loss, so there was no major impact on the Panthers’ playoff hopes, but head coach Matt Rhule was denied of what would have been a major building block win in his first year with the team.
4. Falcons clipped as time expires
Week 7: Detroit Lions 23, Atlanta Falcons 22
SKINNY: Fresh off their first win of the season, in the debut of interim head coach Raheem Morris, the Atlanta Falcons got a vivid reminder of their early-season woes. The Falcons appeared poised for a second straight win when Todd Gurley scored on a 10-yard run, with 2:12 to play, and quarterback Matt Ryan added a 2-point conversion pass to Chris Ridley to push Atlanta in front, 22-16. However, Matt Stafford rallied the Lions with an 11-yard TD pass to TJ Hockenson, with just 1:04 remaining, and the Lions walked away with a 23-22 win.
NET EFFECT: With the season already at a loss, at 1-5, this was just another painful blow for fans in Atlanta. Since, however, the Falcons have gone 3-2.
3. King Henry crushes Ravens’ spirits evermore
Week 11: Tennessee Titans 30, Baltimore Ravens 24 (OT)
SKINNY: After starting 5-1, the Baltimore Ravens found themselves losers in two of their last three heading into their most anticipated game of the season, a rematch with the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee shocked the top-seeded Ravens in the Divisional Round of the 2019 playoffs. Baltimore took a 21-10 lead in the third quarter and held the Titans’ Derek Henry to just 44 yards rushing through three quarters. However, Henry exploded from there, finishing with 133 yards, including a 29-yard TD run in overtime to propel Tennessee to victory.
NET EFFECT: Following this game, Baltimore endured the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the NFL thus far, putting more than 20 players on the COVID reserve list. A 19-14 loss to Pittsburgh followed, dropping the Ravens to 6-5 and on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. An unexpected turn for a team expected to compete for a Super Bowl. Since this matchup, both teams have struggled with NFL losses hurting their playoff hopes.
2. BREAKING: A bolt of bad news
Week 8: Denver Broncos 31, Los Angeles Chargers 30
SKINNY: Every time you believe the Los Angeles Chargers will establish themselves as a winning football team, they find a way to prove you wrong. In Week 8, the Chargers rolled out to a 24-3 lead on the Denver Broncos, midway through the third quarter. LA was dominating on both sides of the ball and well on its way to a victory. The Broncos came to life, as second-year quarterback Drew Lock threw three touchdown passes down the stretch. He saved his best for the final play, connecting for a game-winning, one-yard touchdown toss to KJ Hamler with one second remaining.
NET EFFECT: The Chargers squandered a chance to move to 3-4 and build some momentum. Instead, LA initiated its second three-game losing streak of the season. Los Angeles sits at 3-9, heading into their Week 14 game with the Atlanta Falcons. Facing a slew of questions about a season of failed expectations and inexcusable NFL losses, Anthony Lynn is squarely on the hot seat.
1. Gregg Williams gets himself fired, accidentally saves New York Jets
Week 13: New York Jets 28, Las Vegas Raiders 31
SKINNY: There appeared to be ray of light in what has been a disastrous season of the New York Jets. Gang Green found themselves just 13 seconds from their first win of 2020, after rallying from a 24-13 halftime deficit to take a 28-24 lead late in the fourth quarter. New York punted the ball back to Vegas with just 35 seconds to play. Four plays later, Vegas quarterback Derek Carr completed a 46-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Henry Ruggs III to send the Jets to 0-12.
NET EFFECT: New York head coach Adam Gase has been on the hot seat all year, but in Sunday’s aftermath the Jets fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who called an all-out blitz on the decisive play. Carr recognized the defense and knew he’d have Ruggs running free. One of the most brutal NFL losses we’ll see all year, no doubt.