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Not only was Denver's performance in Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seahawks not the worst defeat in Super Bowl history, it wasn't even the worst Broncos defeat in Super Bowl history.
With the February 2, 2014 thrashing of the Denver Broncos, the history of the Super Bowl now includes five losses by 30 or more points. Unfortunately for Denver, the Broncos own three of them. Peyton Manning may feel embarrassed over his team's 35-point defeat at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. However, he can console himself that not only was his team's performance not the worst defeat in Super Bowl history, it wasn't even the worst Broncos defeat in Super Bowl history. That dubious distinction belongs to his Hall of Fame boss, the legendary John Elway, who led his team to a 45-point shellacking by Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in 1990.
And so, to help Peyton keep things in perspective, let's take a brief tour of the five most lopsided wins in Super Bowl history. Again, Peyton is only responsible for one of them—although it has to sting that not only did he lose another Super Bowl, he had to lose it on his younger brother Eli's home field. You know, the younger brother who has two rings to his one. Just like Elway, but Elway also has twice as many blowout losses on this list.
5. Super Bowl XXII (1990)
Washington Redskins 42, Denver Broncos 10
Denver returned to the championship game after a strike-shortened season looking to atone for the previous year's Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants. They faced a Washington Redskins team led by Doug Williams. Denver struck first, racking up a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. And then the Redskins dismantled the Broncos, scoring the next 42 points—35 of which came in the second quarter alone. In the meantime, league MVP John Elway completed only 14 of 38 pass attempts with three interceptions. Incidentally, the 10 points Washington spotted Denver remains the largest deficit ever overcome by a Super Bowl winner.
4. Super Bowl XLVIII (2014)
Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8
This could have been Peyton Manning's crowning achievement in a season that saw him set new season records in touchdown completions (55) and passing yards (5,477) as part of the NFL's top-rated offense. Their opponent: the Seattle Seahawks and the top-rated defense in the league. The game began badly for Denver literally from the first snap, which sailed over Manning's head for a safety 12 seconds into the game. It was the quickest Super Bowl score ever, and Seattle piled on 34 more points before the Broncos could manage their only touchdown at the very end of the third quarter. All things considered, Peyton can take some solace in knowing that he has one more championship ring than Jim Kelly. Speaking of which....
3. Super Bowl XXVII (1993)
Dallas Cowboys 52, Buffalo Bills 17
With this game, the Bills earned a special place in NFL history as the only team to lose three consecutive Super Bowls. They would trump this record the following season by not only losing four consecutive Super Bowls, but also becoming the only team to lose consecutive Super Bowls to the same opponent. But this was the actual nadir for the Bills, who were a missed field goal away from the championship in 1991. Dallas forced the Bills into a record nine turnovers—four interceptions and five fumbles—and knocked Bills QB Jim Kelly out of the game in the second quarter. It could have been even worse if Dallas lineman Leon Lett hadn't decided to showboat at the end of a fumble return; it gave Bills receiver Don Beebe enough time to chase him down and knock the ball out of his arms at the goal line for a touchback.
2. Super Bowl XX (1986)
Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10
This game was the culimination of Chicago's season of destiny (a team whose only blemish was a Week 13 loss in Miami to the Dolphins). It started off with a rare Walter Payton fumble on the second play of the game, leading to a Patriot field goal for the first points of the game. And then the Bears reeled off 44 straight points while strangling the New England offense. Patriots QB Tony Eason failed to complete a pass (0-6) before being replaced by veteran Steve Grogan, and Jim McMahon of the Bears became the first Super Bowl quarterback to score two rushing touchdowns. In fact, the game is more noted for who didn't score—NFL career rushing leader Walter Payton. Even so, this would be the most dominant win in Super Bowl history. That is, until....
1. Super Bowl XXIV (1990)
San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10
The Denver Broncos were playing in their third Super Bowl in four years. The San Francisco 49ers were the top team in the league at 14-2 and defending champions, playing in their second consecutive Super Bowl as 13-point favorites (spoiler alert: they covered the spread). It started with a three-and-out by Denver; Joe Montana then marched the 49ers down the field for the first of a Super Bowl record eight touchdowns. San Francisco dominated in offense, racking up 461 total yards. The 49ers also dominated in defense, sacking John Elway four times, forcing him into two interceptions and a fumble, and limiting Denver to 12 first downs and 167 total yards. It was such a rout that neither Elway nor MVP Montana were in the game for the last 11 minutes of the fourth quarter. With the loss, the Broncos joined the Vikings and Bills as the only franchises to lose four Super Bowls.
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