What winning a conference title on the road means in the Super Bowl

Image result for rams nfc champs
Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

For the first time since the 2012 season, the Super Bowl will feature two teams that won their respective conference championships on the road.

Super Bowl LIII will be the second time in the 21st century the road team in each conference championship game will face off for the Lombardi Trophy.

This made me want to do a bit more digging.  In general, how successful are teams that were on the road and won their conference championship in the Super Bowl?

The answer? Very.

Road teams to win their Conference Championship (since 2000)

Image result for 2004 afc championship
Credit: Jim Davis/Boston Globe

Since 2000, there have been 38 conference champions….

13 of those conference champions (34.21%) were road teams during their championship game.

In chronological order:

2000 Baltimore Ravens (12-4, 4th seed in the AFC)

2001 New England Patriots (11-5, 2nd seed in the AFC)

2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4, 2nd seed in the NFC)

2003 Carolina Panthers (11-5, 3rd seed in the NFC)

2004 New England Patriots (14-2, 2nd seed in the AFC)

2005 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5, 6th seed in the AFC)

2007 New York Giants (10-6, 5th seed in the NFC)

2010 Green Bay Packers (10-6, 6th seed in the NFC)

2011 New York Giants (9-7, 4th seed in the NFC)

2012 San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1, 2nd seed in the NFC)

2012 Baltimore Ravens (10-6, 4th seed in the AFC)

2018 Los Angeles Rams (13-3, 2nd seed in the NFC)

2018 New England Patriots (11-5, 2nd seed in the AFC)

Super Bowl Success

The 2018 Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots are the 12th and 13th teams to join this list (and the first ones in 6 years), but lets look at how the first 11 did in their Super Bowl appearances.

Super Bowl XLVII

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers
Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America

Baltimore Ravens 34, San Francisco 49ers 31

We know 2012 was the other season to feature two road teams winning their conference championship, so one had to win, and one had to lose; a predetermined split.

Nevertheless, Ray Lewis won a Super Bowl in his final NFL game, as Baltimore beat the San Francisco 49ers for their first championship in 12 years.

Super Bowl XLVI

Giants quarterback Eli Manning reacts after watching the
Credit: Getty Images

New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17

This one hurts to write

In our first example of a road team that won their conference championship against a home team that won their conference championship, we have the New York Giants versus the New England Patriots.

Unfortunately for this Patriots fan, the Giants (road team number 9) won the Super Bowl, as Eli Manning somehow came up clutch yet again, driving down the field in the 4th quarter to take the lead, enough for a second ring in 5 seasons.

Super Bowl XLV

Image result for super bowl 45 packers
Credit: Journal Sentinel files

Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25

NathanfrombadTomBradytakes will like this one.

The 2010 Green Bay Packers (one of my favorite non-Patriot teams) beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

Unfortunately for Rodgers and Packers fans, Green Bay has not appeared in the Super Bowl since (but on the bright side, the Steelers have also not been to the Super Bowl since this game).

Super Bowl XLII

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Credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14

Just as painful to write

Road team number 7 on our list pulled off the greatest upset in NFL history, beating the New England Patriots, who were a win away from capping off a perfect 19-0 season.

I was only 9 when this game was played, so it doesn’t hurt as bad, but I’ll say what I think of the two Super Bowls against the Giants: New York won this one, the Patriots lost 46.

Doesn’t change the fact a loss is a loss, but the 5 Super Bowl wins since 2001 help me sleep at night

Super Bowl XL

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Credit: AP

Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Seattle Seahawks 10

Well I like Jerome Bettis, so this one is a bit easier to bare.

Road team number 6 on our list bounced back from a 15-1 season a year prior to rally and win a Super Bowl.  This would be the 5th Super Bowl in Steelers franchise history (their first in 26 years), and Big Ben’s first of two Super Bowls.

Super Bowl XXXIX

(FILE) Tom Brady: College To Super Bowl
Credit: Getty Images North America

New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21

HEY, I LIKE THIS ONE!

The 2004 New England Patriots went 14-2, in a season that many (including yours truly) say is the best Patriots team ever.  However, they lost to Pittsburgh during Week 8, ending an 18-game winning streak (regular season) which dated back to the 2003 season.  That game turned out to decide where the 2004 AFC Championship Game was played, as the Steelers went 15-1 that season.

Rest assured, New England won that came, as well as Super Bowl XXXIX, their third Super Bowl in 4 seasons.

Super Bowl XXXVIII

Image result for super bowl 38 panthers
Credit: 2004 Associated Press file photo

New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29

I like this one too

The Carolina Panthers are the first road team on our list that lost the Super Bowl while facing a home team that won their conference championship.

The Panthers were 1-15 just two seasons ago, but by 2003, under QB Jake Delhomme and coach John Fox, the Panthers beat the Philadelphia Eagles on the road to advance to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

It was a wild game, tied with 1:08 left in the 4th quarter, but an awful kickoff by John Kasey that landed out of bounds gave New England the ball at their 40, and from their Tom Brady put New England in field goal position, where a 41-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri won the Patriots their second Super Bowl in three seasons.

Super Bowl XXXVII

Image result for super bowl 37 gruden
Credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC

I wonder if this is when Gruden and Mike Tirico decided to work together

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48, Oakland Raiders 21

Ah yes, the Jon Gruden bowl.

Just a season prior, Jon Gruden was the coach of the Oakland Raiders, who lost a heartbreaking game to the New England Patriots at Foxboro Stadium.

That offseason, Gruden was traded (yes, traded) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had just fired Tony Dungy (who went on to be hired by the Indianapolis Colts).

The next year, Gruden led the Buccaneers to a 12-4 record, while Bill Callahan (Gruden’s replacement) led the Raiders to an 11-5 record.

Oakland beat the Tennessee Titans at home during the 2002 AFC Championship, advancing to their first Super Bowl since 1983, while Gruden’s Bucs beat the Philadelphia Eagles on the road in the 2002 NFC Championship Game to advance to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Lots of fun stories about this game, but it was never really close, as Tampa ran away with it, giving Gruden and the Buccaneers a championship (and sending the Oakland Raiders into years of misery, which by 2018, led to them hiring… Jon Gruden).

Super Bowl XXXVI

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Credit Jim Davis/Boston Globe

New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17

Interesting that five of these involve the Patriots

The original greatest upset in NFL history, the 11-5 New England Patriots, behind first-year starter Tom Brady, beat the Greatest Show on Turf, the 14-2 St. Louis Rams.

The Rams were appearing in their second Super Bowl in three seasons, having beat Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV.  Between 1999 and 2001, the Rams were 37-13, boasting an NFL MVP each season (Kurt Warner in 1999 and 2001, Marshall Faulk in 2000).

The 2001 Rams scored 503 points (31.4 per game) in the regular season, and were 14-point favorites.

Tom Brady came in during Week 2 to replace injured QB Drew Bledsoe, who had just signed a 10-year extension during the offseason.  New England lost to the Jets, which put them at 0-2. They fell to 1-3 before finishing their season 10-2 (winning their final 6 games) to clinch the second seed in the AFC.

New England beat the Oakland Raiders in a controversial game during the divisional round, advancing to the AFC Championship for the first time since 1996.

During the game against the 13-3 Steelers, Tom Brady was injured, and Bledsoe came in and led the team to a win.

New England went with Brady in the Super Bowl, and the rest is history.  New England went on to win 4 more Super Bowls, while the Rams never reached the Super Bowl again in St. Louis, moving to Los Angeles following the 2015 season; but they’ll be back in the game on February 3 (against New England).

Super Bowl XXXV

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Credit: AP Photo

Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7

The final road team on our list (Ravens) capped off one of the greatest seasons for a defense in NFL history when they beat the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.

During the season, Baltimore allowed 165 points (10.3 per game), including four shutouts, but their lackluster offense (20.8 points per game during the regular season) scored less than 7 points four times during the season, with each game resulting in a loss (Baltimore never let up more than 19 points in these games).

Based on the old division set up, Baltimore got the 4 seed, hosting a Wild Card game where they beat Denver 21-3, while going on the road to beat number 1 seed Tennessee Titans 24-10 the next round, and then in the AFC Championship Game, they beat the 12-4 Oakland Raiders 16-3.

The 2000 Giants were the one seed in the NFC, winning their two playoff games prior to the Super Bowl.

During the Super Bowl, the Giants were held to 7 points, and a season low 152 yards of offense.  The Ravens forced 5 turnovers, including a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown by Duane Starks; domination.

Final Results

Credit: Nancy Kerrigan/Getty Images

For those keeping track at home, of the 11 teams since 2000 (excluding this season) that won their conference championship on the road, nine went on to win the Super Bowl.

The only two teams to win a conference championship on the road but lose in the Super Bowl since 2000?

2003 Carolina Panthers

2012 San Francisco 49ers*

*San Francisco faced the Ravens, who won their conference championship on the road

If you look at the results by conference, a victor emerges

AFC: 5-0 (1.000)

NFC: 4-2 (0.667)

The last time an AFC team lost the Super Bowl after winning their conference championship on the road was 1999, when the Tennessee Titans beat the Jaguars in Jacksonville, but lost to the St. Louis Rams by 7 points in Super Bowl XXXIV (you’ve all seen the photo of how close they were).

Dating back to when the first conference championships were played (the 1970 season), teams that won the AFC Championship Game on the road are 9-5 (0.643) in the Super Bowl, while teams that won the NFC Championship Game on the road are 7-8 (0.467) in the Super Bowl.

Since 1970, conference championships have been won by the road team 31 out of a possible 96 times (32.29%); of the first 29 (i.e. excluding Sunday), 16 went on to win the Super Bowl. No matter the result of Super Bowl LIII, that will become 17 out of 31.

There have been three Super Bowls where each team won their conference championship on the road:

Super Bowl XLVII (Ravens v 49ers)

Super Bowl XXXII (Broncos v Packers)

Super Bowl XXVII (Bills v Cowboys)

The AFC has a 2-1 edge in these games (2012 Ravens, 1997 Broncos).

Super Bowl LIII will be the fourth addition to this group.


Follow Nick on Twitter (@Nick_Collins14)

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