From the Sidelines

The Greatest NFL Undefeated Teams of All-Time

07 Sept. 2008 A banner memorializing the New England Patriots 2007 perfect regular season is seen at Gillette Stadium during the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Patriots won by the Patriots 17-10 in Foxborough, MA.
ROBERT E KLEIN/Icon Sportswire

In the NFL record book there are two categories of streaks, Most Consecutive Games Won and Most Consecutive Games without Defeat, which acknowledges an NFL era when ties were a more common occurrence.

Completing an undefeated season is the Holy Grail for NFL teams and only one has attained it. To remind fans  of their accomplishment, that 1972 Miami Dolphins team pops open the bubbly to toast their achievement every season when the final undefeated challenger has fallen.

In 2015, five teams entered Week 7 without a loss, the Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers.

Carolina endured as the last team standing until they stumbled to a 20-13 Week 16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons which halted their season-long march at 15. That number puts the Panthers second in the NFL record book for most consecutive games won in a single season but falls short of the remarkable streaks put together by the following teams. These are the greatest NFL undefeated teams of all-time.

1933 to 1934 Chicago Bears

The 17-game regular season win streak over two seasons by this Bears team is fourth-longest in NFL history.

The Bears won their final four games of the 1933 season and followed with a 23-21 victory over the New York Giants in the first, and also one of the most exciting, NFL Championship games ever played.

Chicago opened 1934 with five consecutive road games and steamrolled through them by an average score of 28 to 4. On October 21, in their first home game at Wrigley Field, they pounded the Cincinnati Reds, 41-7.

The Bears finished 1934 first in points scored and second in points allowed for a 15.4 average points per game margin of victory. Fullback Bronko Nagurski led the way on offense, carrying the ball 123 times for 586 yards.

Nagurski was also a wrecking ball of a blocker. Halfback Beattie Feathers followed his lead to become the first player in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season (13 games), a feat that wouldn’t be matched until 1947 by Philadelphia Eagles running back Steve Van Buren.

For all their dominance the Bears failed to become the first team to cap a perfect run with a postseason win. In the NFL Championship Game against the Giants in New York, on a field resembling a sheet of ice, Chicago bullied their way to a 13-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter. That’s when New York’s equipment manager arrived with an arm-load of sneakers.

The Giants changed from their cleats to the unconventional shoes and took advantage of the additional traction to run the Bears out of the Polo Grounds for a 30-13 win.

1928 to 1930 Green Bay Packers

Green Bay tied and won their final two games in 1928 and began 1930 with an eight-game run of dominance for a total of 23 consecutive games without a defeat, tied for third-most in league history.

In 1929 the Packers won their first five games at home then hit the road for their final eight games of the season, sweeping all but one, a 0-0 tie in Week 11 against the Frankford Yellow Jackets.

The Packers suffocated opposing offenses on their way to the 1929 NFL Championship. Of their 13 opponents Green Bay shut out eight and overall allowed a miniscule 1.7 Points per Game average.

2008 and 2009 Indianapolis Colts

Over two seasons the Colts won 23 consecutive games, the NFL record for a regular season streak.

Indianapolis won eight straight to finish 2008 before getting bounced in their Wild Card game against the Chargers in San Diego, 23-17. After the season head coach Tony Dungy retired and assistant head/quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell was named as his replacement. Also leaving after that season was All-Pro wide receiver Marvin Harrison.

For 2009, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark took over as Peyton Manning’s top targets while second-year receiver Pierre Garcon and rookie Austin Collie stepped up to help fill the void left by Harrison.

The Colts didn’t dominate–their 6.8 Points per Game margin of victory was ninth in the league–but Manning never allowed them to lose. He was credited with seven game-winning drives in 2009. The most dramatic of those was when they stormed back from a 17-point deficit to defeat the New England Patriots, 35-34.

In Week 16, with the AFC’s No. 1 seed locked up the Colts pulled their starters after heading into halftime with a 9-3 lead over the Jets. They lost that game 29-15 then did the same thing Week 17 in a 30-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

That rest didn’t hurt Indianapolis in the playoffs. They rolled over the Ravens and Jets to set up a Super Bowl XLIV match-up against the New Orleans Saints.

2009 New Orleans Saints

The Saints rode a high-octane offense, led by quarterback Drew Brees, to a 13-game winning streak to open 2009 to make this the only season where two teams went undefeated through Week 14.

Drew Brees ignited an offense that led the NFL with 510 total points, an average of 31.9 points per game. Brees also led the league with 34 touchdown passes and a 109.6 passer rating and earned credit for six game-winning drives in the Saints’ 13 wins.

That New Orleans team gave up an average of 21.3 points per game, 20th in the league, but their secondary kept opposing air attacks grounded. They were third in the NFL in interceptions, fifth in touchdown passes allowed and third in defensive passer rating.

03 January 2016: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) drops back to pass in first half action of the New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire)

03 January 2016: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) drops back to pass in first half action of the New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire)

Heading into Week 15, New Orleans had wrapped a first-round postseason bye, which was fortunate because they dropped their final three games of the season to finish 13-3.

In the playoffs they picked up their winning habits again with a 45-14 Divisional Round win over the Arizona Cardinals and a 31-28 overtime heart-stopper against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game.

The Saints and the previously mentioned Colts squared off in Super Bowl XLIV. New Orleans went into halftime down 10-6 but a surprise onside kick and recovery to start the third quarter swung game momentum their way. The Saints rode a 25 point second half to a 31-17 victory and their first NFL Championship in franchise history.

2003 & 2004 New England Patriots

This Patriots squad won 18 consecutive regular season games, the third-longest streak in NFL history.

In 2002 New England finished with a 9-7 record. They opened their 2003 season 2-2 but a Week 4 loss to Washington would be their last until Week 8 of 2004.

In Week 5 the Patriots trailed the Tennessee Titans 27-24 in the fourth quarter but came back to win, 38-30. They surrendered over 30 points only once more that season.

Romeo Crennel’s defense allowed 238 points, an average of 14.9 per game, first in the league. They topped the NFL in interceptions with 29 and their 41 sacks were sixth. Against the run they were also sixth, surrendering 3.6 yards per carry.

The Patriots rode that dominating defense to become the AFC’s top seed in the postseason. They edged the Titans 17-14 in the Divisional Round, then dropped the Colts in the AFC Championship Game, 24-14. A tight 32-29 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII stretched their overall streak that season to 15 games.

New England opened 2004 by reeling off another six victories before losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-20. That team only lost one more game to finish 14-2. They followed up by sweeping through that postseason to a second straight Super Bowl victory, 24-21 over the Philadelphia Eagles.

1941 to 1943 Chicago Bears

Over the course of three seasons the Bears went undefeated in 24 straight regular season games, second-best total in league history. They also took two NFL Championships during this span but failed in their second chance to become the first team to complete an unblemished one-season run.

Chicago opened the 1941 season 5-1 then from Week 10 through the NFL Championship Game tore through their opponents by an average score of 35-15. Sid Luckman led all quarterbacks with a then stratospheric 95.3 passer rating while averaging 9.9 yards per pass attempt.

In 1942, the Bears steamrolled through league competition to finish the season 11-0. Their defense tossed four shutouts and held opponents to only seven points in four other games. On offense they rolled-up 376 points to outscore their competition by an average of 26.5 points per game.

As overpowering as their offense was though, that’s how anemic it was in the NFL Championship Game. The Washington Redskins’ defense shut them down 14-6 to end the Bears streak of perfection.

In 1943 Chicago opened the season with a 21-21 tie against the Green Bay Packers and then reeled off seven straight wins before falling again to Washington, 21-7. That Bears team got their revenge though. In the NFL Championship Game against the Redskins at Wrigley Field, Sid Luckman threw for 286 yards and five touchdowns. Bronko Nagurski also dented the end zone for the final touchdown of his Hall of Fame career in a 41-27 stomping.

1921 & 1923 Canton Bulldogs

In 1921 the Bulldogs finished fourth. For 1922, Canton brought in left end Guy Chamberlin from the Chicago Staleys as player-coach and began a two-year tear through the early NFL. Their 22-0-3 run still stands as the league record for most consecutive games without a loss.

The winning began with the final game of the 1921 season, a 28-14 defeat of the Washington Senators. In 1922 Canton won the NFL championship with a 10-0-2 record, one win better than the second place Chicago Bears. Those Bulldogs were particularly dominant on defense, surrendering at total of 15 points the entire season, an average of 1.2 points per game.

In 1923 they rolled to victories in their first six games, the first four by shutouts. The only blemish on their record came on November 11 in a 3-3 tie against the Buffalo All-Americans. Canton outscored their competition by an average of 18.9 points per game as they rolled to an 11-0-1 record and their second straight NFL title.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs success had a cost. Payroll had risen to over $13,000 a year and revenues were unable to keep up. After the 1923 season the team was sold to the owner of the NFL’s Cleveland franchise and merged into one squad as the Cleveland Bulldogs. That team, also coached by Chamberlin, went 7-1-1 to win the 1924 NFL Championship.

2007 & 2008 New England Patriots

New England owns the NFL record for most consecutive games won in a single season and will continue to hold that record, at least for one more year after Carolina became the final team to go down to defeat in 2015. The 2006 to 2008 Patriots are second in the record book for regular season consecutive wins with 21.

The previous summer New England had reinforced their receiver corps by trading their second- and seventh-round picks in the 2007 NFL Draft to Miami for Wes Welker, then on draft day they picked up Randy Moss from Oakland.

The Patriots crushed the Jets in Week 1, then news broke that the team was caught videotaping New York’s sideline defensive signals. As a result of “Spygate,” Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 and the team was penalized $250,000 plus were stripped of their first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

New England followed by going on a rampage against their opponents. Until their 24-20 Week 9 victory over the Colts no team finished a game with one score of the Patriots.

After their bye week New England continued to win but the margins of victory were tightening. Week 17 against the New York Giants turned into a heated, back and forth contest but the Patriots endured 38-35 to run their record to 16-0.

For the season New England smashed the NFL record for points scored with 589. Tom Brady set a record with 50 touchdown passes. Randy Moss pulled in 23 of those to break Jerry Rice’s single-season record.

The Patriots finished off the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers in the playoffs but fell in their attempt to match the Miami Dolphins in completing an undefeated season. In Super Bowl XLII the Giants held New England close before taking the lead for good with 39 seconds remaining on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress.

1972 Miami Dolphins

Miami’s historic run may not approach other streaks that fill the NFL’s record book but their wire-to-wire season of perfection is still without equal in NFL history.

The Dolphins had been flattened by the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI the previous season and the team entered 1972 with something to prove. They opened with a 20-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs and only played three games all season that were decided by less than one score.

Miami dominated on offense with their punishing running attack. Larry Csonka finished the season with 1,117 rushing yards (5.2 yards per carry) and Mercury Morris added exactly 1,000 yards rushing of his own (5.3 yards per carry).

The Dolphins’ defense was equally soul-crushing, finishing first in points allowed, tied for second in interceptions and only allowing eight rushing touchdowns all season. Overall Miami stomped their competition by an average of 15.3 points per game.

In the playoffs the Dolphins faced a close call in the AFC Championship Game, a 21-17 battle against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In Super Bowl VII, Miami’s defense smothered Washington’s offense. Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer threw 28 times, completing 14 for 104 yards. Three of his passes were picked off, two by Jake Scott. The only offense Washington could put together was when Mike Bass scooped up a Garo Yepremian fumble and returned it 49 yards for the Redskins’ only touchdown.

The Dolphins opened 1973 by defeating the San Francisco 49ers 21-13 before losing a Week 2 battle against the Oakland Raiders, 12-7. That loss stopped their overall winning streak at 18 and their regular season streak at 16, tied with four other teams for fifth-longest regular season in league history.


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