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A Month of Heartache

Posted by Jason Lisk on November 13, 2008

I've had the joy of watching the team I root for, the Kansas City Chiefs, lose three games in a row in which they had a lead in the second half, and three games which they had a chance to win at the end of the game. It got me wondering what the longest streak of close losses was, and how close the Chiefs are.

As it turns out, there have been a total of 101 occasions since 1970 when a team has lost three consecutive games by 7 points or less in each game. However, there have only been 19 teams that have gone on to lose a fourth consecutive game in by 7 points or less. The Chiefs are one close loss away from joining some fairly, well, elite is not the word, let's say rare company. Here is the list of teams, sorted in alphabetical order by team:

Sun	11-Nov	L	30	24	at Chicago
Sun	18-Nov	L	24	23	PHILADELPHIA
Sun	25-Nov	L	10	7	at New Orleans
Sun	2-Dec	L	23	17	at Tampa Bay
Sun	18-Nov	L	25	22	SAN FRANSISCO
Sun	25-Nov	L	10	7	ATLANTA
Sun	2-Dec	L	27	23	at New Orleans
Sun	9-Dec	L	25	24	at Buffalo
Sun	17-Oct	L	27	24	CLEVELAND
Sun	24-Oct	L	31	27	at Oakland
Sun	31-Oct	L	10	6	at Houston
Sun	7-Nov	L	9	6	ATLANTA
Sun	30-Sep	L	10	6	at Kansas City
Sun	7-Oct	L	17	16	NEW ENGLAND
Sun	14-Oct	L	24	20	NEW YORK JETS
Sun	21-Oct	L	12	9	at Cincinnati
Sun	28-Oct	L	16	14	NEW ORLEANS
Sun	11-Nov	L	20	17	TAMPA BAY  
Sun	18-Nov	L	45	38	at Arizona
Thu	22-Nov	L	29	27	GREEN BAY
Sun	2-Dec	L	13	10	at Chicago
Sun	9-Dec	L	15	12	at Tampa Bay
Sun	30-Sep	L	30	27	at Tampa Bay
Sun	7-Oct	L	34	28	SAN DIEGO
Mon	15-Oct	L	17	14	at Denver
Sun	21-Oct	L	30	24	SEATTLE
Sun	30-Oct	L	17	14	at Los Angeles Raiders
Sun	6-Nov	L	12	9	PITTSBURGH
Sun	13-Nov	L	34	31	at Cincinnati
Mon	21-Nov	L	13	10	NEW YORK GIANTS
Sun	24-Oct	L	10	9	at Seattle
Sun	31-Oct	L	9	6	at Indianapolis
Sun	7-Nov	L	13	10	BUFFALO
Sun	21-Nov	L	17	13	at Miami
Sun	28-Nov	L	6	0	NEW YORK JETS
Sun	5-Dec	L	17	14	at Pittsburgh
Sun	19-Sep	L	28	21	at San Fransisco
Sun	3-Oct	L	14	10	at Chicago
Sun	10-Oct	L	20	17	ATLANTA
Sun	17-Oct	L	24	21	TENNESSEE
Sun	10-Nov	L	26	20	NEW YORK JETS
Sun	17-Nov	L	20	19	at Detroit
Sun	24-Nov	L	23	21	SAINT LOUIS
Sun	1-Dec	L	16	13	at Chicago
Sun	23-Oct	L	7	6	CHICAGO
Sun	30-Oct	L	22	21	BALTIMORE
Sun	6-Nov	L	27	20	DALLAS
Sun	13-Nov	L	17	14	at Chicago
Sun	2-Nov	L	13	10	at Saint Louis
Sun	9-Nov	L	17	14	NEW YORK GIANTS
Sun	16-Nov	L	13	11	DETROIT
Sun	23-Nov	L	24	20	at Seattle
Sun	8-Oct	L	16	10	at Denver
Sun	15-Oct	L	17	16	SEATTLE  
Sun	22-Oct	L	20	13	NEW YORK GIANTS
Sun	29-Oct	L	10	7	at Seattle
Sun	26-Oct	L	24	23	TAMPA BAY
Sun	2-Nov	L	17	13	at Detroit
Sun	9-Nov	L	23	16	at Green Bay
Sun	16-Nov	L	17	13	at Miami
Sun	16-Nov	L	20	17	at New Orleans
Sun	23-Nov	L	19	14	KANSAS CITY
Sun	30-Nov	L	24	17	ATLANTA
Sun	7-Dec	L	31	24	at Baltimore
Sun	9-Oct	L	27	24	at Dallas
Sun	16-Oct	L	34	27	SAINT LOUIS
Sun	23-Oct	L	24	21	NEW ORLEANS
Sun	30-Oct	L	17	12	at Pittsburgh
Sun	1-Sep	L	16	13	at New York Jets
Sun	8-Sep	L	21	20	CHICAGO
Sun	15-Sep	L	15	13	at Green Bay
Sun	22-Sep	L	17	10	BUFFALO
Sun	27-Nov	L	21	19	NEW YORK GIANTS
Sun	4-Dec	L	26	21	at Tampa Bay
Sun	11-Dec	L	17	15	at Arizona
Sun	18-Dec	L	17	14	TAMPA BAY
Sun	19-Sep	L	20	14	at New York Giants
Mon	27-Sep	L	21	18	DALLAS
Sun	3-Oct	L	17	13	at Cleveland
Sun	10-Oct	L	17	10	BALTIMORE

What sort of teams go on these long streaks of losing several close games in a row? Generally, bad ones. The combined winning percentage of these teams in other games (excluding the streaks in question) was only 36.1%. Only the 1984 Packers and 1997 Seahawks won more than six games. Nine of the teams finished the full season with three or fewer wins.

Only the 1984 Cleveland Browns and 2001 Detroit Lions (five consecutive close losses) and the 1993 New England Patriots (six close losses) lost more than four straight heartbreakers. While 1993 New England officially has the record for most consecutive losses by a touchdown or less, the 2001 Detroit Lions are in a league of their own. See, the Lions lost three straight by less than a touchdown, then lost a game by a whopping 8 points, then went on the five game losing streak that shows up here. That's right, the 2001 Lions lost nine straight games by 8 points or less.

I found it interesting that the 1980 49ers appeared on this list. Steve DeBerg began that season as the starter, but following a 59-14 drubbing at the hands of the Cowboys, a young Joe Montana started the next game. They lost in his first start to the Rams, 31-17, and then went on to lose the four close games in a row listed above. Montana started the first one against the Bucs, and maybe the second one (it's hard to tell since no SF's only TD was a kickoff return and no QB is listed in the box score) I'll let you look through these teams and the box scores in question, and feel free to share stories regarding any of these teams of your youth. While we have the box scores linked in the team pages, I cannot tell when these teams blew their leads, to see how many gave up a touchdown in the final minute, or lost on a last second field goal. For example, I can tell from this box score of the Atlanta-Tampa Bay game in 1990 that Atlanta had a fourth quarter lead and had 222 yards rushing, but I can't tell if Vinny Testaverde's 35-yard touchdown pass to Mark Carrier came in the final minute or halfway through the fourth quarter.

So, feel free to join me in my misery of watching the 2008 Chiefs by giving us some details of these other teams that could not finish the deal over, and over, and over again, in the past.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 13th, 2008 at 6:29 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.