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Late Bloomers: NFL Teams that Woke Up Late, Won Super Bowl

When the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers met Dec. 12 in Cincinnati, Ohio, it was a meeting of two teams that have been inconsistent throughout the year.  The Bengals, who are 7-5 and 1-point underdogs according to NFL odds on BetUS, suffered two losses to the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns in Week 8 and 9 to fall to 5-4. San Francisco, which is 6-6, had lost four straight to fall to 2-4 before finding its rhythm.

But in the NFL, one losing swoon doesn’t doom teams to a poor record. Many teams over the years have found themselves late in the year and rode the momentum to a championship. According to BetUS, neither the Bengals or 49ers are front-runners to win the title, but in the NFL, a Lombardi Trophy can sometimes end up in unexpected hands.

Cowher Gets One for the Thumb

The Pittsburgh Steelers were dejected following a 38-31 loss to the Bengals on Dec. 4, 2005, that was the team’s third straight and sent the team to 7-5. Losing to the Bengals meant an AFC North crown was unlikely and Pittsburgh had no room for error to even earn a Wild Card. The AFC was an excellent conference that year with the Steelers sneaking into the playoffs as a six seed with an 11-5 record.

Pittsburgh’s momentum didn’t stop in the postseason, as the Steelers went on the road to knock out the Bengals in the first round before upsetting the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos on the way to the Super Bowl. In a Super Bowl plagued by bad officiating, the Steelers’ defense shut down Seattle in a 21-10 win. Pittsburgh sealed its fifth Super Bowl, and first under Bill Cowher, when wide receiver Antwaan Randle El threw a touchdown pass to Hines Ward in the fourth quarter.

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Giants Build Off Loss, Ruin History

The New York Giants were in a division where every team finished with a .500 or better record in 2007 and three teams made the playoffs. But it may have been a loss that helped build the Giants’ confidence the most on their run to Super Bowl XLII. New York, which ended up being the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs, lost to the undefeated New England Patriots 38-35 in the season finale.

The Giants, who finished the season 10-6, heated up once the playoffs started. New York won three straight road games to reach the Super Bowl. Earning a rematch with the Patriots ended up with a remarkable finish. Eli Manning found David Tyree late in the game for a 32-yard first down that extended New York’s drive. Manning would later throw a game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress to help the Giants score a 17-14 win to win their Super Bowl.

Packers Climb Back to the Top of the Mountain

The 2010 Green Bay Packers struggled to finish, going 3-3 over their last six games before entering the playoffs with a 10-6 record and the sixth seed. Once the postseason started, the Packers found their stride. Green Bay blasted Atlanta in the divisional round, but survived two close games with Chicago and Philadelphia en route to an appearance in Super Bowl XLV.

In the Super Bowl, Green Bay surged to a 21-3 lead against Pittsburgh thanks to two Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes. Nick Collins also returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown. While the Steelers would cut the lead to three points following a Mike Wallace touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger with 7 minutes, 34 seconds remaining. Green Bay would make a key defensive stop late in the game to win its fourth Super Bowl.

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