FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons’ claim to fame is the crushing way they lost a Super Bowl.
They’re hardly alone in these playoffs.
Seven of the 12 teams still alive have never celebrated in the big game, matching the largest group of playoff-bound squads with not-so-Super pedigrees since the 1999 season.
Will that lack of championship-winning experience prove costly?
If you’re on a team that hasn’t won a ring, it’s only natural to just shrug it off as a meaningless anomaly.
“It’s right here, right now,” Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn said Thursday. “What’s in the past doesn’t matter.”
But there’s no denying that six-time champion Pittsburgh and five-time winner New England — the defending champ, as well — are the only true blue bloods in this field.
The Falcons have lost both of their Super Bowl appearances, including last season’s 34-28 overtime defeat in which Tom Brady and the Patriots stunningly rallied from a 25-point deficit in the second half . The NFC’s top seed, the Philadelphia Eagles, is also 0-2 in the Super Bowl, as are the Carolina Panthers.
Buffalo and Minnesota are the only franchises to lose four times in the big game without a title, and the Bills, of course, are the lone team to suffer that fate in four straight years. The Tennessee Titans (who began their existence as the Houston Oilers) came up short in their lone Super Bowl try. Jacksonville has never been to the title game at all .
Jaguars owner Shad Khan said it’s good to have a bunch of teams chasing their first crown.
He noted the huge demand for tickets in attendance-challenged Jacksonville, where the Jags are hosting the Bills in a matchup of teams that broke long playoff droughts this season.
“Could you imagine the hottest ticket in football is right here, selling for five, six times face value?” Khan said. “Our cheapest ticket is 300 bucks, standing room. Could you believe that happening in freaking Jacksonville?”
Kansas City, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams have only one title apiece, though the latter’s came during their two-decade-long stint in St. Louis. The Chiefs reached two of the first four Super Bowls, winning it all in 1970, but they haven’t been back since. The Saints won their lone Super Bowl appearance during the 2009 season.
“Once you get in, it’s wide open for anybody,” insisted Tennessee linebacker Brian Orakpo, a nine-year veteran who will play his first playoff game Saturday against the Chiefs. “Yeah, the Patriots and Steelers have a lot of pedigree, a lot of tradition, and you’ve got some young up-and-comers like ourselves that are hungry.”
Since the NFL went to a 12-team postseason format in 1990, the largest group of playoff teams without a Super Bowl title on their resume came 18 seasons ago. Kurt Warner and the high-flying Rams were among eight squads that had never won the championship until they held off Tennessee in the title game, memorably stopping the Titans’ final play at the 1-yard line.
The only other times that the current playoff structure included as many as seven non-Super Bowl-winning teams were 2008 and 1996.
When it comes to postseason neophytes, the Bills are drawing much of the attention after reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1999 , snapping the longest dry spell in any of the four major professional sports. But Buffalo it still known for that unprecedented four-year run of futility in the Super Bowl, which began in 1991 with Scott Norwood missing a potential game-winning field goal in the final seconds and was followed by three straight double-digit blowouts.
“It’s time to create some other memories of the Bills,” Thurman Thomas, the Hall of Fame running back on those Super Bowl-losing teams, told The Associated Press. “It’s not the squad that went to the four straight Super Bowls. It’s somebody else.”
The Vikings were the first franchise to lose four Super Bowls, accomplishing that ignominious feat in an eight-year span that ended in 1976. They haven’t gotten that far again, losing five times in the NFC championship game, most recently during the 2000 season.
Coach Mike Zimmer said it’s important to take advantage of a season such as this, when the Vikings defied expectations by claiming a first-round bye behind a dominant defense journeyman quarterback Case Keenum .
“A lot of young guys come in and they expect it’s going to happen every single year,” Zimmer said. “Really, you never know. The last time I won the Super Bowl was 1995 (as a Dallas assistant coach), so it’s been awhile.”
Receiver Adam Thielen isn’t fretting over all those Super Bowls the Vikings lost so many years ago.
He’s only concerned with the next one, which will be held at Minnesota’s home stadium.
“We’re not really focusing on what’s happened in the past,” Thielen said. “Every year is a totally different situation: different team, different types of players. Honestly, for us, we just know that we have a lot of confidence in the way that we’re playing football.”
AP Sports Writers Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, Mark Long in Jacksonville, Florida, John Wawrow in Buffalo, New York, and Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this report.