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The Atlanta Falcons in the 2012 season became the 20th team since the start of the Super Bowl era (1966 NFL season) to start the season 8-0. Two teams, the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots, went on to finish those seasons undefeated. The Falcons eventually lost in their ninth game of the season last year, a 31-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
The other 17 teams lost one or more games in their journey to try to finish the season with a perfect record. Here’s a look at 10 stats you might not know about the teams that eventually defeated the teams that started 8-0 (or better). We’ll call these teams the “Unbeaten Busters” or UB for short.
Just for the sake of clarity, the 17 teams (in addition to the 2012 Falcons) that started the season 8-0 (or better) and then lost a game (or more) before the regular season ended were: 1969 L.A. Rams, 1973 Minnesota, 1975 Minnesota, 1977 Dallas, 1984 Miami, 1985 Chicago, 1990 N.Y. Giants, 1990 San Francisco, 1991 Washington, 1998 Denver, 2003 Kansas City, 2005 Indianapolis, 2006 Indianapolis, 2008 Tennessee, 2009 Indianapolis, 2009 New Orleans, 2011 Green Bay.
1. Divisional games: In only five of the 18 cases did the undefeated team lose to a team from within their division. The five: The 1977 Cowboys lost to division rival St. Louis Cardinals; the 1990 San Francisco 49ers lost to the L.A. Rams; the ’90 N.Y. Giants lost to the Philadelphia Eagles; the 1991 Redskins lost to the Cowboys; and, the 2012 Falcons lost to the division-rival Saints.
2. Outside their conference: In only four of the 18 cases did the undefeated team lose to a team in the other conference. Last season the NFC Green Bay Packers lost to the AFC Kansas City Chiefs. In 2006, the AFC Indianapolis Colts fell to the NFC Cowboys. In 1998, the AFC Denver Broncos lost to the NFC Giants. In 1985, the NFC’s Chicago Bears lost their only game of the season to the Miami Dolphins of the AFC.
3. Day of the game: Fourteen of the 18 games where the undefeated team finally lost were played on Sunday. Three were played on Monday Night Football, and one game was played on Saturday.
4. The next game after the loss: After being beaten for the first time that season, seven teams also lost their next game.
5. At home or on the road? Ten of the 18 teams had their undefeated season end on the road; eight lost their first game of the year at home.
6. Points scored by the UBs: Seventeen of the 18 UBs scored 20 or more points in their win over the undefeated team. The only exception was in 2011 when the Chiefs defeated the unbeaten Packers by a score of 19-14.
7. Points scored by the undefeated teams: Thirteen of the 18 undefeated teams scored under 20 points in the game they lost to break their unbeaten streak. One team, the 1975 Minnesota Vikings, scored 30 points in their first loss of the season to the Redskins.
8. Point differential: Twelve of the 18 games were decided by one score (eight points or less). The biggest blowout was in 2008 when the undefeated Tennessee Titans lost 34-13 to the New York Jets. Only one of the 18 games went into overtime; that occurred in 1984 when the Dolphins lost their first game of the season to the San Diego Chargers, 34-28.
9. The multiple UB franchises: The Dallas Cowboys franchise could be called the ultimate “Unbeaten Busters.” The Cowboys have beaten a team that started 8-0 on three occasions: 1991, defeating the Redskins; 2006, defeating the Colts; and 2009, defeating the Saints.
10. UBs with losing records: You would expect that a UB would be a team with a solid record, most likely above .500. That hasn’t always been the case. In fact, six of the UBs had a record under .500 when they defeated their unbeaten opponent. They were:
* 1984: The Chargers were 5-6 when they beat the 11-0 Dolphins.
* 1990: The Rams were 3-7 when they beat the 10-0 49ers.
* 1998: The Giants were 5-8 when they beat the 13-0 Broncos.
* 2003: The Bengals were 4-5 when they beat the 9-0 Chiefs.
* 2011: The Chiefs were 5-8 when they beat the 13-0 Packers.
* 2012: The Saints were 3-5 when they beat the 8-0 Falcons.
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