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Longest Unbeaten Runs In NFL History


The History Of The NFL

The National Football League (NFL) was established in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (APFA) before being renamed as the NFL in 1922. It is the highest professional level of American Football in the world, consisting of 32 teams divided equally into two conferences, the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC). The winner of each conference plays each other in the Super Bowl, one of the most watched sporting events of the year.

Champions were initially determined by end-of-season standings, but a playoff system was implemented in 1933 which saw winners crowned in the NFL Championship game before the Super Bowl was established in 1967.

With 13 titles, the Green Bay Packers are the most successful franchise in history, with nine NFL Championships before the Super Bowl era, and four Super Bowls afterwards. The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have won the most of any franchise, with six each, since the introduction of the Super Bowl.

Tom Brady has won seven Super Bowls, giving him more titles than every NFL franchise, winning six with the Patriots and one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As well as being the most popular sports league in the US, the NFL is also the wealthiest sports league in the world by revenue and has the most valuable teams. The Super Bowl is the second most watched annual club sporting event, only behind the UEFA Champions League final.

1. Indianapolis Colts – 23 games - 2008-09

The record for the longest winning streak is held by the Indianapolis Colts, who won 23 consecutive games across the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Led by hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts achieved a feat that may never be matched.

Having started the 2008 season 3-4 through seven games, a victory against the New England Patriots sparked an unbeaten regular season run that would last just over a year. It was by no means easy for the Colts, as 14 of their 23 wins were one possession games.

Unfortunately for head coach Tony Dungy and his team, they could not carry their winning form into the 2008 postseason, losing to the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Divisional Round.

However, they would pick up their regular season form where they left off at the beginning of the 2009 season, winning 14 straight games under new coach Jim Caldwell. The unbeaten run was finally snapped by the New York Jets as the starters were pulled in the third quarter of a one-score game with a playoff berth already wrapped up. They would also go on to lose the final game of the season as well, but were well prepared for the playoffs. Beating the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round and New York Jets in the AFC Championship, they secured the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl appearance. Though they could not finish the job as they fell to the New Orleans Saints 31-17.

Their biggest win of the streak was 42-6 which came against the St Louis Rams in week seven of the 2009 season.

2. New England Patriots – 21 games – 2006-08

The greatest quarterback of all-time in Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to a 21-game winning streak, which stretched across three seasons. It began in December 2006, with a huge 40-7 victory over the Houston Texans, as they won the final three games of that season. They could not go all the way in the postseason, though, as they lost to the Colts in the Championship game.

A historic season followed, as they went the entirety of the 2007 regular season unbeaten, winning all 16 games. Brady won his first MVP award, whilst throwing 50 passing touchdowns, which was a record at the time. The Patriots became the eighth team in history to record an undefeated season, and the first to do so since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. This means they are also the first team to do it since the NFL expanded their schedule to 16 games.

They would go a step further in the playoffs, making the Super Bowl, but lost a narrow 17-14 game to the New York Giants.Brady and the Patriots’ 2008 season began with the worst possible start, as the star suffered an ACL injury in the season opener which ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Backup Matt Cassel was able to guide the team to a pair of wins to push the streak to 21 in Brady’s absence, however, it was snapped in week three with a 38-13 home defeat to the Miami Dolphins. They’d go on to lose four of their next nine but still finished with 11 wins. Incredibly this was not enough for a playoff place as they agonisingly missed out on due to a fourth divisional tiebreaker. This was the first time they had not made the postseason since 2002.

3. New England Patriots – 18 games – 2003-04

The Patriots make this list a second time, winning 18 straight across 2003 and 2004. In Brady’s third season as starter, he led his side to twelve consecutive victories after starting the season 2-2. Having lost to the Washington Redskins in week four, they bounced back with a 38-30 win at home to the Tennessee Titans, a result which started their perfect remainder to the season. Finishing the season with a 31-0 shutout of the Buffalo Bills in game 16, they secured a 14-2 record and another playoff berth.

Due to winning their division, they got a bye into the divisional round where they faced the Titans and won 17-14. They secured the AFC Championship a week later, defeating the Colts to book their place in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Brady threw for 354 yards and one touchdown on his way to winning Super Bowl MVP. The Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers to win their second Super Bowl in three years.

They achieved back-to-back Super Bowl victories the following season, after another excellent regular season display. Going 14-2 again, they won the first six games of the season to make it an 18-game winning streak. A 20-34 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers in week eight ended the run, however they would only lose once more in the season to the Jets, on their way to Super Bowl XXXIX. Playoff victories against the Colts and Steelers preceded a 24-21 defeat of the Eagles in the big game.

4. Carolina Panthers - 18 games - 2014-15

Tied with 18 wins is the Carolina Panthers who, led by QB Cam Newton, had an unbeaten streak which lasted between week 14 in 2014 and week 15 of 2015. Whilst the history books will show a losing record of 7-8-1, the final four games of the 2014 campaign kick-started what would be a calendar year of winning football. Victories against the Saints, Browns, Bucs and Falcons allowed them to close out the regular season on a high.

Despite the underwhelming record, they were able to win their division, becoming the second team in history to win a division title with a sub-.500 record. They did not have much postseason success however, as they lost 17-31 at the Seahawks in the Divisional Round.

In the 2015 season, the Panthers had their best single-season turnaround in franchise history, finishing with a 15-1 record. Newton was named the NFL MVP after leading his side to one of the best regular season finishes in history. Their biggest win of the season came in week 14, with a 38-0 demolition of the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons would then get their revenge two weeks later, giving Carolina their first defeat of the season and first for over a year.

Ultimately, they could not convert their regular season success into any silverware, as they fell at the final hurdle in Super Bowl 50, losing to the Denver Broncos.

5. Denver Broncos - 17 games - 2012-13

Peyton Manning makes another appearance, this time for the Denver Broncos, as he led the franchise to 17 consecutive wins between 2012 and 2013. It was a tough start to 2012, as they lost three of their first five games, but a win at the Chargers made sure they got back to 3-3 before the bye week. After they returned from the bye week, they showed no signs of slowing down, taking down ten in a row. Going unbeaten in their division, the Broncos secured the AFC West and a first round bye. With home advantage in the Divisional Round, they welcomed the Baltimore Ravens in what ended up being an agonising 3-point defeat in double overtime.

In 2013, the Broncos entered the season as Super Bowl favourites. Manning was named NFL MVP as he guided an historic offense which posted 606 total points, averaging 37.9 points per game. This led them to another 13-3 record.

They started the campaign 6-0 but were finally stopped at 17 consecutive wins by the Colts in week seven, losing 39-33. Three wins in a row saw them bounce back before a winning field goal in overtime saw them lose another in New England.

Looking to rectify the failures of the last season, Denver got past the Chargers, their divisional rivals, to compete in the AFC Championship game. They booked their place in Super Bowl XLVIII with a 26-16 win over the Patriots. Unfortunately, the offense that looked so good throughout the season had disappeared, as they were held scoreless in three of the four quarters in what ended up being a hefty 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Could Anyone Break Into This List?

The current longest winning streak in the NFL belongs to the San Francisco 49ers, who just won their 14th consecutive game, beating the Arizona Cardinals 35-16. This run dates back to the middle of last season when they won against the Los Angeles Rams in week eight, following a heavy 44-23 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs a week prior. Despite numerous injury issues, and having to rely on rookie Brock Purdy after Jimmy Garoppolo went down, the 49ers did not miss a beat, not losing a game until the NFC Championship game to the Philadelphia Eagles

.Purdy has now established himself as the 49ers starter, and has gotten off to an excellent start in 2023, winning the first four games. A further three victories will propel them into the top five longest winning streaks, and they will have the opportunity to do so against the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings. It will be a tough task to reach or surpass the Colts’ 23 wins, however they have the talent on both offense and defense to at least threaten the record.