It's victory Monday once again everyone, I'm getting quite used to these now. I suppose we have had 13 of the them. Our mauling of the Atlanta Falcons yesterday saw this franchise hit uncharted territory, never before have we finished a season with more than 12 wins. We also joined some hallowed NFL ground too. Only 7 other teams have reached this point of an NFL season without tasting defeat. The 1998 Denver Broncos, 2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2009 New Orleans Saints, and 2011 Green Bay Packers all fell at this hurdle, though two of them (Broncos and Saints) went on to win the Super Bowl. The Panthers mantra all along now has been to avoid talk of going undefeated, even to avoid talk of reaching the big game. All they want to talk about is the next game. Our match-up with the Giants presents us the opportunity to reach 14-0, so as today is the 14th, I'll take a look at how those that have reached that mark before us fared.
2009 Indianapolis Colts
Peyton Manning led this Colts team to a perfect 14-0, throwing for 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns along the way. Having seen the Saints fall to the Cowboys the previous week they stood alone with the possibility of the perfect season. Head Coach Jim Caldwell had other ideas though. Leading 15-10 in the third quarter versus the Jets, he benched Manning and threw in Curtis Painter, who almost instantly fumbled, which the Jets kindly returned for a touchdown and went on to win 29-15. They finished the regular season 14-2, before defeating the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC divisional round. The AFC Championship game pitted them back against the New York Jets. With Manning rather than Painter under center they had their revenge and advanced to their first Super Bowl since they won in 2006. This was where they met their match however. They faced off with the Saints (who lost at 13-0) and came up second best.
2007 New England Patriots
The 2007 Pats were the first team since the NFL expanded it's regular season to 16 games to finish undefeated, thus setting a new record for single victories in a season. They eased through the divisional round beating the Jaguars 31-20, with Tom Brady completed a remarkable 92.9% of his passes, also an NFL record.Brady wasn't as accurate in the AFC Championship game, with the Chargers helping themselves to three interceptions. It wasn't enough though as their offense was held to just four field goals in a 21-12 loss. The 18-0 Patriots were still on for the historic perfect season. Ahh, who can forget the 'Helmet Catch'? The Pats were winning 14-10 when Eli Manning fired to David Tyree on a third-and-five and he somehow managed to pin the ball against his helmet securing the first down which led to Plaxico Burress being able to score the game winning touchdown for the Giants.
So far the two teams who have gone at least 14-0 have suffered heart break in the Super Bowl, which isn't what we want to be reading. Let's look at a winner.
1972 Miami Dolphins
Of course. No talk about long undefeated runs would be complete without mentioning Don Shula and his Dolphins side. The only side in NFL history to remain undefeated for an entire season, from week one to Super Bowl. They beat the Washington Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl VII to complete the miracle feat. Legend has it that each season, when the last undefeated NFL team falls, the members of the '72 Dolphins pop champagne to celebrate their record remaining intact. Coach Don Shula would have to be a pretty tough man however to actively root against his own son. Surely if anyone was to beat or match their record, he would want it to be another member of his family. A fun fact - The Dolphins perfect season featured a week 14 shut-out victory. Coincidence? Probably. Fate? I certainly hope so.