By making it back to the AFC Championship Game, the Bengals have already fared better than most previous Super Bowl runner-ups. But should they win their next two games, the Bengals would make rare history while also claiming the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy. 

Should they win the Super Bowl, the Bengals would join the 1971 Cowboys, 1972 Dolphins and 2018 Patriots as the only teams to win the Super Bowl a year after losing in the big game. The ’72 Dolphins capped off the NFL‘s only perfect season by defeating Washington in Super Bowl VII. The 2018 Patriots won the franchise’s third Super Bowl in five years — and the final one during the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era — after posting a 13-3 win over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII. 

The seeds of the Dolphins’ perfect season were planted on Jan. 16, 1972. That was the date of Super Bowl VI, a game that was never really a contest. The Cowboys, who were upset by the Colts in the previous year’s Super Bowl, routed the Dolphins en route to their first Super Bowl win. In defeat, Miami became the first team to not score a touchdown in the Super Bowl (the Rams joined them 46 years later). The Dolphins’ frustrating day can be summed up by Bob Lilly’s 29-yard sack of Bob Griese on the final play of the first quarter. 

The loss served a motivation for Don Shula’s team. Miami boasted the NFL’s top-ranked offense and defense that season while posting a perfect regular-season record. Led by their “No Name” defense and 1,000-yard rushers Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris, the Dolphins then won three playoff games to cap off their 17-0 season. 

The 1974 Vikings and 1991-93 Bills also made it back to the big game a year after coming up short. But neither team was able to avenge their previous defeat. The 2018 Patriots did, however, a year after losing a 41-33 decision to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. In the lowest-scoring Super Bowl era, the difference-maker was Patriots wideout Juilan Edelman, who took home MVP honors after catching 10 passes for 140 yards. 

Joe Burrow, who recently became just the third quarterback in history to win five playoff games in his first three seasons, explained why the Bengals are in position to join the Cowboys, Dolphins and Patriots in the history books while possibly bucking the trend of Super Bowl losers. 

“I think we’re a more complete team,” Burrow said when comparing the 2021 Bengals to the 2022 Bengals (via NFL.com). “I think we’re a better team, and we just seem to make plays when it counts. That’s all there is to say. I think our O-line is better, I think our run game is better, I think our defense is better, I just think our special teams is better. We’re just overall a much better team than we were last year.”

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