In professional sports, there is no better way to watch your team’s hopes wither away through the art of the choke. In the history of sports, fans have seen some pretty incredible chokes that have caused broken TV screens and buckets of tears. From the infamous New York Yankees choking a 3-0 lead in the 2004 ALCS to send their archrival, the Boston Red Sox to the World Series, to the Red Sox themselves going on to lose the 1986 World Series to the New York Mets after a Bill Buckner error, there’s been some incredible ways to lose a game or a series. However, looking in more recent years, which has been the most infamous choke job since 2010 from a professional sports team? With plenty of answers to choose from, our team of writers will look to give their takes in this week’s edition of The Daily Campus Sports roundtable.
2016 NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors choke 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers
This was a series that not only changed multiple players’ careers, but it also captivated the entire nation at the time. For Game 7 especially, you remember where you were in that exact moment. I still remember the utter shock on my face watching Lebron James turn into Superman to fly up and block Andre Iguodala. To watch Kyrie Irving hit the jumper to seal the deal for Cleveland on a step back three point shot was fantastic as well. Watching players like James, Irving and Kevin Love not give up and win the entire series despite being down three to one to a team that just broke the NBA regular season record was not only one of the best moments that year, but it was also one of the best moments in sports history, period.
2015 NFC Championship: Seattle Seahawks: 28, Green Bay Packers: 22
Leading 19-7 with 5:22 remaining, the Green Bay Packers picked off Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for the fourth time in the game, and were minutes away from representing the NFC in Super Bowl XLIX. After a quick three-and-out by Green Bay, Seattle marched down the field and finished the scoring drive with a Wilson rushing touchdown to make the score 19-14 with 2:09 remaining. With Seattle down to their final timeout, they were forced to attempt an onside kick in order to keep their season alive. Kicker Stephen Hauschka kicked a soft dribbler that went in and out of the hands of Packers tight end Brandon Bostick and into the arms of Seattle’s Chris Matthews to give possession right back to the Seahawks. 43 seconds later the game turned upside down following a 24-yard rushing touchdown from Marshawn Lynch and a wild 2-point coversion to make the score 22-19 in favor of the Hawks. League MVP Aaron Rodgers quickly led the Packers down the field to set up a game-tying FG by Mason Crosby, but Wilson found Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard game-winning touchdown on the first drive of overtime to advance the Seahawks into the Super Bowl. Green Bay, who had the league MVP and the number-one scoring offense in football, was going home after having a 12-point lead and possession with 5:22 remaining in the NFC Championship.
2023 NFC Divisional round: Dallas Cowboys choke yet again to the San Francisco 49ers
With the Cowboys many epic end of season collapses it was hard to pinpoint their “biggest choke,” however, last year’s showing against the 49ers takes the cake. San Francisco came into this matchup at home at a significant disadvantage. Brock Purdy, an unproven quarterback against Dak Prescott, a quarterback with much playoff experience. The lights were too bright for Mike McCarthy and Co., as Prescott threw two interceptions, and Ezekiel Elliot never cracked 30 yards on the ground. This game was within reach for Dallas, as it took the high powered 49ers offense four quarters to find the endzone. If you picked one play to summarize this Cowboys day, without a doubt it would be the final play where Elliott, a running back, lined up as as the sole offensive lineman and got bulldozed, forcing Prescott to throw a bad pass to KaVontae Turpin who immediately got tackled. For a team that historically does so well in the regular season, it was yet another playoff choke, this one magnified more so. Tony Romo never brought playoff success to Dallas, and many fans believed this new-era would be different. However, this latest choke says otherwise.
2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs: 62 regular-season wins; 0 playoff victories
The Tampa Bay Lightning set numerous milestones during the 2018-19 season, notably tying the single-season wins record with the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings at 62 and collecting most of the individual awards. Clear favorites to capture the Stanley Cup trophy, the series seemed over after the Lightning grabbed a 3-0 first-period lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1. But from the first intermission onward, things went south for Tampa Bay. Not only did they blow a three-goal lead and lose in regulation, but they scored five goals across the final 11 periods of their season. Worse, the Blue Jackets had made the playoffs four previous times and never won a series up until that four-game sweep. In the somewhat long run, that upset barely fazed the Bolts as they won the next two Stanley Cups. Even if the 2022-23 Bruins one-upped Tampa Bay by winning 65 regular-season games and blowing a 3-1 first-round lead against the Florida Panthers, nothing tops the Lightning laying a goose egg given their talents and high playoff expectations.
Super Bowl LI: Atlanta Falcons blow 28-3 lead against Tom Brady and New England Patriots
Some may argue that this was more of a comeback by the Patriots, rather than a choke by the Falcons. The Falcons controlled the first half against the Patriots, with Devonta Freeman and Austin Hooper touchdowns in the second quarter, along with a Robert Alford pick-six. However, the Patriots did not go into the locker room scoreless, with a 41-yard field goal made by Stephen Gostkowski. Tevin Coleman caught a 6-yard touchdown to give Atlanta a 28-3 lead. After that, the Falcons’ drives went: punt, fumble, punt, punt. It was all New England beginning with just over two minutes left in the third quarter, as James White caught a touchdown, making the score 28-9. Gostkowski made another field goal to cut the deficit to 16. Danny Amendola’s touchdown and White’s two-point conversion made it a one-possession game. White punched in another touchdown and Amendola tied the game with a two-point conversion. In overtime, Tom Brady and the Patriots marched down the field, where White ran in the game-winning touchdown.
2011 Collapse: Boston’s awful September costs them playoff position
Coming into September, the Red Sox sat on top of the AL East at 83-52, leading the Yankees by 1.5 games and the Rays by nine. Boston went on to win just seven out of their last 27 games, giving Tampa a chance to make it back into the postseason picture in their final game of the season. With both teams tied for the last wild card spot, Boston needed just one win to prevent the collapse but choked. Leading the Orioles 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Baltimore rallied with three straight hits to steal the victory from the Red Sox. The Rays then overcame a seven run deficit to send their game to extras where, in the bottom of the 12th, third baseman Evan Longoria walked it off, eliminating Boston from the postseason. Tampa Bay has memorialized game 162 at Tropicana Field with a statue of Longoria’s home run while the “chicken and beer” allegations continue to haunt Red Sox nation’s nightmares.