Patrick Mahomes has already etched his name in NFL lore. After just two seasons as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, Mahomes has made history by becoming the first player to win a league and Super Bowl MVP before his 25th birthday. Earlier this week, Mahomes and his teammates received the fruit of last year’s labor: a gaudy championship ring celebrating Kansas City’s first title in 50 years.

In 2020, Mahomes and his teammates can make more history by becoming the ninth team in NFL history to win back-to-back Super Bowls and the second team this century to accomplish that feat. The first team to win back-to-back in the 21st century was the 2003-04 Patriots, who went a combined 34-4 during that span while winning the franchise’s second and third Lombardi Trophies.

The 16 years since New England’s 24-21 win over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX represents the longest stretch between back-to-back champs. The early ’70s Dolphins successfully defended their title six years after the Packers capped off their dynasty. The Steelers made history by winning back-to-back twice: in 1974-75 and again in 1978-79. San Francisco followed suit a decade later, winning back-to-back to cement their legacy as the Team of the ’80s. The Cowboys and Broncos both went back-to-back during the ’90s.

While a few have come close, no defending champion since the early 2000s Patriots have successfully defended their title, a streak the Chiefs are hoping to end in 2020. Here’s a rundown of each defending champion since the ’04 Patriots, along with the main reason why they were unable to repeat as champion.

2005 Patriots

Regular season record: 10-6
Playoff results: 27-13 loss to Broncos in divisional round
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Turnovers 

While their running game did them no favors (the Patriots finished 24th in rushing and 30th in yards per carry average during the regular season), New England’s pass defense, or lack thereof, was the biggest reason why the Pats lost six games during the regular season. A year after boasting one of the league’s top defenses, the Patriots were 29th in the league in third-down defense, 31st in pass defense and 27th in red-zone defense. New England certainly the loss of Hall of Fame cornerback Ty Law, who led the NFL with 10 interceptions as a member of the Jets in 2005. 

The Patriots’ pass defense, however, was not the main culprit in the team’s loss to Denver in the playoffs. Turnovers were, as five Patriot miscues – including Champ Bailey’s 100-yard interception return – led to 17 Broncos points.

2006 Steelers

Regular season record: 8-8
Playoff results: None
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Interceptions

Pittsburgh lost six games by single digits. Ben Roethlisberger, who underwent surgery that offseason following a serious motorcycle accident, threw 14 interceptions in those games. Despite throwing a league-high 23 picks (along with being sacked 46 times), Big Ben and the Steelers still managed to salvage a .500 record by defeating the Bengals in overtime in their season finale, which would serve as Bill Cowher’s final game on the sidelines. The ’06 season was also the last in Pittsburgh for popular pass rusher Joey Porter, whose departure opened the door for James Harrison, the franchise’s all-time career sack leader. 

2007 Colts

Regular season record: 13-3
Playoff results: 28-24 loss to Chargers in divisional round
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Turnovers

Three turnovers largely contributed to the Colts’ playoff loss to the Chargers. Leading 7-0, Marvin Harrison’s fumble near the end of the first quarter set up the Chargers’ first touchdown, a 14-yard touchdown pass from Phillip Rivers to Vincent Jackson. Leading 10-7 just before halftime, Peyton Manning’s interception to Antonio Cromartie deep in Chargers territory prevented Indianapolis from extending its lead. On their first possession of the second half, the Colts reached the Chargers’ 4-yard-line before Manning was picked off by safety Eric Weddle. While Manning would respond with two second-half touchdown passes, the Colts’ offensive miscues prevented them from distancing themselves from the Chargers, who received two second-half touchdown passes from Rivers and another score from his backup, Billy Volek.

2008 Giants

Regular season record: 12-4
Playoff results: Lost 23-11 to Eagles in divisional round
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Missed scoring opportunities

The Giants’ shortcomings during their playoff upset loss at the hands of Andy Reid’s Eagles included an 0-for-3 red-zone efficiency rate, two missed field goals, three turnovers (that included two critical fourth quarter miscues), and two unsuccessful fourth and short attempts in the fourth quarter. New York’s offense also went just 3-of-13 on third down. The Giants lost despite having more than twice as many rushing yards as the Eagles.

2009 Steelers 

Regular season record: 9-7
Playoff results: None
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Lost fourth-quarter leads

The ’09 Steelers suffered five three-point losses before missing the playoffs for the first time under Mike Tomlin. Pittsburgh had a fourth-quarter lead in each of those games before ultimately coming up short. One blown lead that was especially painful took place at home against the Raiders in Week 13. Despite two fourth quarter scoring drives by their offense, the Steelers’ defense allowed Raiders quarterback (and Pittsburgh native) Bruce Gradkowski to throw three touchdowns during the game’s final stanza. His 11-yard touchdown pass with less than 10 seconds left lifted Oakland to a shocking 27-24 victory.

A big reason for Pittsburgh’s late-game defensive lapses was the absence of Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu, who missed 11 games due to injury. 

2010 Saints

Regular season record: 11-5
Playoff results: Lost 41-36 to Seahawks in wild card round
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Blown offensive opportunities

As good as the Saints’ offense was in ’10, they definitely left some points on the field. That fact was on display in their wild card playoff loss to the Seahawks, a club that went just 7-9 during the regular season. The Saints’ red-zone offense, ranked 20th in the NFL during the regular season, was just 4-of-7 against the Seahawks. The Saints were also on the wrong side of one of the most iconic scoring runs in NFL playoff history: Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Quake” 67-yard run that helped clinch Seattle’s upset win.

2011 Packers

Regular season record: 15-1
Playoff results: Lost 37-20 to Giants in divisional round
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Pass defense

Led by MVP Aaron Rodgers, the ’11 Packers were buoyed by an offense that averaged a league-high 35 points per game on their way to a 15-win regular season. As good as the Packers’ offense was, their toothless pass defense was exposed by Eli Manning in the playoffs. Facing the league’s 32nd-ranked pass defense, Manning threw for 330 yards and three scores that included 66- and 37-yard touchdown passes to Hakeem Nicks. The Giants went onto win the Super Bowl, while the Packers became the first team to not win a playoff game after winning 15 regular season games.

2012 Giants

Regular season record: 9-7
Playoff results: none
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Lackluster run defense

While they finished a respectable 12th in the league in points allowed, the Giants’ inconsistency against the run loomed large in their unsuccessful title defense. In six of its losses, New York’s defense allowed 143, 191, 158, 207, 129 and 224 rushing yards. The Giants allowed two 100-yard rushers (Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice) in their Week 16 loss to Baltimore, a loss that ultimately sealed New York’s playoff fate.

2013 Ravens

Regular season record: 8-8
Playoff results: None
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Offensive woes

Despite losing Hall of Famers Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, the Ravens’ defense barely missed a beat a year after winning the franchise’s second Super Bowl. Baltimore’s offense, however, suffered a steep decline while playing a major role in the team’s unsuccessful title defense. In ’13, the Ravens’ offense finished 30th in the league in rushing, 22nd in third-down efficiency and 31st in red-zone efficiency. Ray Rice averaged just 3.1 yards per carry, while Joe Flacco threw more interceptions (22) than touchdown passes (19). Those turnovers were a big reason why the Ravens lost four games by three points or less while missing the playoffs for the first time under coach John Harbaugh.

2014 Seahawks

Regular season record: 12-4
Playoff results: Lost 28-24 to Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Malcolm Butler

A year after routing the Broncos in the Super Bowl, the Seahawks were literally on the doorstep of becoming the first team since the ’04 Patriots to repeat as champion. Seattle was unable to get that last yard, however, as Malcolm Butler picked off Russell Wilson’s pass in the end zone to secure the Patriots’ first championship in a decade. Fans still question Pete Carroll’s decision to throw in that situation instead of giving the ball to Lynch, who finished the game with 133 total yards and a score on 25 touches.

Carroll’s defense also needs to shoulder blame, as Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary allowed two Tom Brady touchdown passes in the game’s final eight minutes.

2015 Patriots

Regular season record: 12-4
Playoff results: Lost 20-18 to Broncos in AFC Championship
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Von Miller/Peyton Manning

The Patriots’ Week 12 overtime loss to Denver prevented New England from claiming the AFC’s top seed heading into the playoffs. Seven weeks later, the Patriots had to travel to Denver for the AFC title game instead of hosting the Broncos. Playing in front of a raucous Mile High Stadium crowd, the Patriots permitted a pair of early touchdown passes from Peyton Manning to tight end Owen Daniels. Von Miller’s interception of Brady set up Manning’s second touchdown pass.

Trailing 20-12, the Patriots gave themselves a chance after Brady hit Rob Gronkowski in the end zone with 17 seconds left. Brady’s two-point attempt, however, was deflected and intercepted by Bradley Roby, thus ending the Patriots’ title defense.

New England’s rushing attack, which had been a point of concern following LeGarrette Blount’s season-ending injury sustained in Week 14, was a non-factor against the Broncos, as the Patriots gained just 44 yards on 17 carries.

2016 Broncos

Regular season record: 9-7
Playoff results: None
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Quarterback position

Denver’s defense, led by Miller, continued to be one of the league’s best a year after winning Super Bowl 50. The offense, however, fizzled out the year following Manning’s retirement. That season, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch completed less than 60% of their passes. Without a formidable quarterback, defenses keyed in on stopping Denver’s running game, which finished 27th in the league in yards gained.

After a 7-3 start, Denver was unable to hide their offense down the stretch, as the Broncos lost four of their final six games to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

2017 Patriots

Regular season record: 13-3
Playoff results: Lost 41-33 to Eagles in Super Bowl LII
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Malcolm Butler

Three years after being a Super Bowl hero, Butler, for undisclosed reasons, was benched for the entirety of Super Bowl LII. With Butler sidelined, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles relentlessly attacked New England’s 30th-ranked pass defense, throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns. And while Brady threw for a Super Bowl record 505 yards, it wasn’t enough, as Philadelphia prevailed 41-33 to win their first Lombardi Trophy.

2018 Eagles

Regular season record: 9-7
Playoff results: Lost 20-14 to Saints in divisional round
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Lack of receivers

After a 5-6 start, the Eagles, led late in the year by Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles and a defense that finished first in the league in red-zone defense, were able to advance to the divisional round after edging the Bears in Chicago in the wild card round. But Philadelphia’s lack of playmakers ultimately caught up to them in New Orleans, where they converted on just two of their seven third-down attempts. Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery, the team’s top two receivers, caught a combined six passes for 69 yards against the Saints. Trailing by six points with just under two minutes left, Jeffrey’s drop led to a Saints interception that ended the Eagles’ hopes of a repeat.

2019 Patriots

Regular season record: 11-5
Playoff results: Lost 20-13 to Titans in wild card round
Biggest reason for failed repeat: Lack of playmakers

New England looked downright unstoppable midway through the ’19 season, winning all eight of their games by a combined score of 250-61. But as the season progressed, the Patriots started losing their playmakers, starting with Antonio Brown following New England’s Week 2 win over Miami. The Patriots then released Josh Gordon just before their first loss of the season, a blowout loss to the Ravens. Rookie receiver N’Keal Harry, the team’s first-round pick, struggled with his health throughout the season. And while he caught 100 passes for 1,117 yards, Julian Edelman was playing through a nagging injury heading into the playoffs. Mohamed Sanu, who was acquired midway through the season in a trade with the Falcons, caught just over half of his 47 targets during the regular season.

With their receiving corps depleted, Brady failed to throw a touchdown pass in what would be his final game as a Patriot. His final pass in New England was a pick-six that unceremoniously ended one of the greatest runs in NFL history. 


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