Every playoff loss is a disappointment at some level. But some losses are so unexpected and humiliating that they are remembered for years, or even decades.
What makes a playoff loss a truly epic disappointment? The losing team must have looked unbeatable, with a gaudy record, a Super Bowl pedigree or a roster full of well-hyped superstars. It must be a one-and-done postseason experience; the 1998 Minnesota Vikings disappointed many fans by losing the NFC Championship Game in overtime after a 15-1 season, but at least they got that far. This list contains a mix of narrow defeats and spectacular beatdowns, games that can stick in fans' craws for a generation.
10. 2006 San Diego Chargers
Regular season: 14-2
Playoffs: Lost 24-21 to the Patriots in the divisional round
It's hard being Marty Schottenheimer. There are only so many ways to lose a playoff game, but like Madonna, he spent more than 20 years reinventing himself, finding new calamities to befall his overachieving teams each and every time they reached the postseason. The 2006 Chargers entered the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak, took a 21-13 lead on the Patriots, and intercepted a Tom Brady pass with 6:53 left in the fourth quarter. Game over, right? Not in the Schottenverse. Marlon McCree fumbled while returning the interception. The Patriots recovered, scored a touchdown, stopped a drive, got the ball back, kicked a field goal and won the game. If you think this is the last time you will read the name "Marty Schottenheimer" on this list, then you haven't watched much football in the past three decades.
9. 1989 New York Giants
Regular season: 12-4
Playoffs: Lost 19-13 in overtime to the Rams in the divisional round