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It’s hard to win a Super Bowl if you’ve never won a Super Bowl before

But the Eagles pulled it off against the Patriots.

NFL: NFC Championship-Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles were one of the unlucky 13 teams that have never had the joy of winning a Super Bowl. That changed this weekend when they knocked off the Patriots, but it was a big challenge — and not just because they were going up against the NFL’s greatest dynasty.

In back-to-back years, teams seeking their first Lombardi Trophy — the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 and the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI — have come away empty-handed.

Philadelphia will make its third Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. The last one came 13 years ago in Super Bowl XXXIX, where they lost to... the Patriots. The Eagles also fell 27-10 to the Raiders in Super Bowl XV in 1981.

But maybe things will go the Eagles’ way this time around. Let’s look at how other teams without a Super Bowl win have fared in the past 15 years.


Super Bowl XXXVII

Jan. 26, 2003
Buccaneers 48, Raiders 21

This was the Buccaneers’ first, and only, Super Bowl bid. But it’s memorable for another reason: Jon Gruden led the team to a dominant win over the Raiders less than a year after Oakland traded Gruden to the Buccaneers for four draft selections.

The Raiders came into this matchup favored to win, but quarterback Rich Gannon set a Super Bowl record by throwing five picks. He also took five sacks. It was too much for Oakland to dig its way out from under his mistakes, and the Bucs took home a Lombardi Trophy with a crushing victory.

Super Bowl XLIV

Feb. 7, 2010
Saints 31, Colts 17

The Saints went into the half trailing 10-6, but Sean Payton decided to go for an onside kick to start the third quarter. It worked, and the Saints turned it into a Pierre Thomas touchdown.

The Colts responded with a touchdown of their own, but 18 unanswered points from the Saints — including a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown by Tracy Porter — got the Saints their only ring. The Colts franchise, which has a Super Bowl in both Baltimore and Indianapolis to its name, remained at two titles.

Super Bowl XLVIII

Feb. 2, 2014
Seahawks 43, Broncos 8

The Seahawks didn’t just beat the Broncos for their first Super Bowl win. They demolished them.

The Seahawks finished the season 13-3 and were the top seed in the NFC, but the Broncos were still favored. The Broncos came into the game averaging 37.9 points per game with the NFL’s top offense, but they were no match for Seattle’s top-ranked defense. The Seahawks held them to just eight points, the largest margin of victory for an underdog in Super Bowl history.

Super Bowl LII

Feb. 4, 2018
Eagles 41, Patriots 33

It wasn’t easy, and for a while, it looked like Tom Brady was going to lead the Patriots to yet another all-time classic comeback when the Patriots took a lead with over nine minutes left to play. But the Eagles wouldn’t let up. Foles did more than enough to get the Eagles the first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history, taking a lead back from the Patriots with just over two minutes left. A Tom Brady fumble recovered by the Eagles turned into three more points to put the game away for Philadelphia.


Super Bowl XXXVIII

Feb. 1, 2004
Patriots 32, Panthers 29

Carolina is one of the NFL’s youngest franchises, but the Panthers have been to the Super Bowl twice. The first was a razor-close 32-29 loss to the Patriots.

After falling behind 21-10 in the fourth quarter, Carolina rallied with back-to-back touchdowns. The Panthers then responded to another Patriots score with a game-tying touchdown with 68 seconds left in regulation. But Adam Vinatieri — as Adam Vinatieri does — kicked the game-winner for another New England victory.

Super Bowl XXXIX

Feb. 6, 2005
Patriots 24, Eagles 21

Hmm... this matchup seems familiar.

Thirteen years ago, the Eagles were trying to stop Tom Brady and Co. from winning the Super Bowl for the third time in four years. So, so familiar.

The Patriots turned away Philadelphia in its second appearance by pulling away with two fourth-quarter scores to deal the Eagles a 24-21 loss.

Super Bowl XL

Feb. 5, 2006
Steelers 21, Seahawks 10

The Seahawks are 1-2 all-time in Super Bowl appearances and all of those have come in the past 13 seasons. Their first, against the Steelers, resulted in a butt-kicking. Seattle finished the season 13-3 and was the top seed in the NFC. The Steelers became the first No. 6 seed to ever win a Super Bowl with the 21-10 victory.

The play that clinched the game was a 43-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Antwaan Randle El to wide receiver Hines Ward in the fourth quarter. It was the first time in Super Bowl history that any wide receiver threw a touchdown pass, and it sealed Pittsburgh’s fifth championship win.

Super Bowl XLIII

Feb. 1, 2009
Steelers 27, Cardinals 23

The Cardinals have had exactly one Super Bowl appearance, and it didn’t go their way. Arizona finished the season 9-7, but then rolled over the Falcons, Panthers, and Eagles to make it to the Super Bowl.

They took a 23-16 lead over the Steelers with 2:37 left to play, thanks to Larry Fitzgerald’s heroics. But Santonio Holmes pulled off a nearly impossible catch in the end zone with 32 seconds remaining to give the Steelers their sixth Super Bowl win.

Super Bowl 50

Feb. 7, 2016
Broncos 24, Panthers 10

The Panthers got their second shot at a Super Bowl ring just 11 years after their first try failed. They had a lot of momentum heading into the showdown after a 15-1 regular season helped Cam Newton take home NFL MVP honors.

Unfortunately for them, they had to go up against a relentless Broncos defense that slowed Newton down with six sacks and 13 quarterback hits. The Panthers remain ringless after the 24-10 loss.

Super Bowl LI

Feb. 5, 2017
Patriots 34, Falcons 28

You’ve heard about this one ad nauseam, so we’ll skip the gritty details. The Falcons blew a 28-3 lead to lose to the Patriots 34-28 in the first overtime in Super Bowl history.

Atlanta has been to two Super Bowls and has lost both. Their first loss came to the Denver Broncos 34-19 in Super Bowl XXXIII after the 1998 season. The Falcons stunned the Vikings in the NFC Championship to get there, and then star safety Eugene Robinson got busted the night before the game for trying to solicit a prostitute who was actually an undercover officer. The Broncos just embarrassed Atlanta. Super Bowl LI was just a continuation of their humiliating Super Bowl history.

In the last 15 years, teams that went into a championship without a previous Super Bowl win ended up going 3-6. That didn’t inspire confidence in the Eagles this Sunday. But people have been counting out these underdogs ever since Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL. They managed to buck the trend against the Patriots and get a win.

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