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:
1990 ATLANTA FALCONS 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 2001 CAROLINA PANTHERS 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 1971 CINCINNATI BENGALS 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 1984 CLEVELAND BROWNS 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 2001 DETROIT LIONS 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 1984 GREEN BAY PACKERS 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 1994 HOUSTON OILERS 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 1993 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 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 1999 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 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 1974 NEW YORK GIANTS 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 1983 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 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 1986 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 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 1989 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 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 1980 SAN FRANSISCO 49ERS 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 1997 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 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 1983 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 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 1991 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 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 1994 WASHINGTON REDSKINS 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 2004 WASHINGTON REDSKINS 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.