Joe Burrow didn't hide his disappointment after coming up short in his first Super Bowl. Leading for most of the second half, the Bengals allowed a late touchdown that they were unable to answer in the final moments of their 23-20 loss to the Rams in Super Bowl LVI.
"It hurts," said Burrow, whose first ever playoff loss came on football's biggest stage. "We put a lot of work into going out there and executing and performing well, and it didn't turn out the way we wanted it to. It's disappointing."
Burrow also looked towards the future of himself and his team. He offered a similar variation of a quote previous runner-ups have uttered moments after losing the big one.
"We're a young team. You'd like to think that we'll be back in this situation multiple times over the course of the next few years," he said. "We take this and let it fuel you for the rest of our careers."
History suggests that the Bengals' road back to the Super Bowl could be a daunting one. Only eight teams in NFL history -- the 1971 Cowboys, the '72 Dolphins, the '73 Vikings, the '87 Broncos, the 1991-93 Bills and the 2018 Patriots -- have returned to the Super Bowl the year after losing the Big Game. And out of those teams, only the '71 Cowboys, '72 Dolphins and '18 Patriots were able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy a year after being on the short end of the Super Bowl scoreboard.
While getting back to the Super Bowl has proven to be a daunting task for the Super Bowl runner-up, simply making it back to the playoffs is also not a guarantee. Several recent runner-ups have failed to qualify for the postseason the year after reaching he Super Bowl.
Here's a look at how Super Bowl runner-up since 2010 has fared the season after losing in the big game.
Despite going 12-4, the Steelers, who fell to the Packers 31-25 in Super Bow XLV, had to play in the wild-card round after finishing behind the Ravens in the AFC North division standings. Facing the 8-8 Broncos in the first round of the playoffs, the Steelers were famously defeated in overtime on Tim Tebow's 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. The Steelers, who had appeared in three of the previous six Super Bowls, would miss the playoffs in 2012-13 before returning to the postseason in 2014.
While the Steelers boasted the league's top-ranked defense during the 2011 season, Pittsburgh's offense was just 21st in scoring. A late-season injury to Ben Roethlisberger also hurt Pittsburgh's championship hopes, as Big Ben was clearly not anywhere close to 100% health during the Steelers' wild-card loss to Denver. The hits on Roethlisberger -- as well as the offense's dip in production -- led Pittsburgh's brass to not renew offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' contract that offseason replace him with Todd Haley. While Roethlisberger went onto enjoy some of his best statistical seasons with Haley, the Steelers have appeared in just one AFC Championship Game since their last trip to the Super Bowl.
Unlike the Steelers, the Patriots would make another deep playoff run a year after falling short in the Super Bowl. Led by quarterback Tom Brady and third-year tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots would win 12 games during the regular season on the strength of their top-ranked scoring offense.
After putting 41 points up on the Texans in the divisional round, the Patriots would host the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game for a second straight year. But after taking a 13-7 lead into intermission, the Patriots would get shut out during the second half, as three Joe Flacco touchdown passes led the Ravens to a 28-13 victory. While credit should be given to the Ravens, the Patriots were clearly impacted by the loss of Gronkowski, who was inactive after breaking his forearm the previous week against the Texans.
While the Ravens would go on to defeat the 49ers in the Super Bowl, the Patriots would lose in the AFC title game again in 2013 before making it back to the Super Bowl in 2014.
A year after falling just short in Super Bowl XLVII, the 49ers showed virtually no drop off in 2013, winning 12 regular season games while boasting the league's third-ranked scoring defense. After scoring 23 points in each of their playoff wins over the Packers and Panthers, the 49ers' offense scored just 17 points in their six-point loss to Seattle in the NFC Championship Game. While 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick gashed the Seahawks' defense on the ground (rushing for 130 yards on 11 carries), his two interceptions, including his infamous end zone interception with 30 seconds left, loomed large in the 49ers' 23-17 loss.
While their defense was still one of the league's best in 2014, the 49ers regressed dramatically on the offensive side of the ball, ranking just 25th in scoring and 28th in red zone efficiency. San Francisco slipped to 8-8 in 2014, missing the playoffs in what was John Harbaugh's final season with the team. The 49ers won just seven games over the next two seasons before the franchise brought in Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch in 2017.
After an embarrassing blowout loss to the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, Peyton Manning and the Broncos showed their resolve by winning 12 regular season games in 2014. Manning enjoyed another prolific season, while Denver's defense improved from 22nd to 16th in points allowed.
But despite their defensive improvement, the Broncos' defense was still not good enough to stop Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who led the Colts to an upset win over Denver in the divisional round. The Broncos' loss was a team effort, however, as Manning completed just 56.5% of his throws in Denver's 24-13 loss.
The Broncos' defense saw a rapid improvement in 2015, as Broncos GM John Elway replaced former defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio with Wade Phillips. While Manning battled age and injury in 2015, Von Miller and the rest of the Broncos' fourth-ranked defense led the Broncos to a victory over the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Statistically, the Seahawks, who won the Super Bowl in '13 before losing a classic to the Patriots the following season, were even better in 2015. While their defense, led by Richard Sherman, was ranked first in the league for a third straight year, their offense, led by Russell Wilson, finished fourth in the NFL in scoring after being 10th and eighth in that department the previous two years.
But after edging the Vikings on the road in the wild-card round, Seattle was blasted by the Panthers, who went 15-1 during the regular season, in the divisional round. After allowing a 59-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, the Seahawks found themselves trailing 31-0 at halftime. While Wilson's three second-half touchdown passes helped close the gap, the Seahawks ultimately fell to the eventual NFC champs, 31-24.
While Wilson continued to develop into a top-tier quarterback, Seattle would fall again to the eventual NFC champion in the '16 playoffs before missing the playoffs altogether in 2017. While the Seahawks rebounded with three consecutive playoff appearances, they haven't advanced past the divisional round since 2014. They suffered their first-ever losing season with Wilson after going 7-10 in 2021.
The 2016 Panthers were unable to shake off their dismal Super Bowl showing the previous season. A year after winning league MVP honors, quarterback Cam Newton suffered a down year (that was partly due to an injury he sustained in Week 14), completing less than 53% of his pass attempts. Carolina's defense -- after losing All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman in free agency -- also took a major step back, as the Panthers' secondary went from 11th to 29th in passing yards allow. The regressions of Newton and the defense contributed largely to the Panthers' 6-10 record in 2016. Carolina enjoyed a brief resurgence in 2017 before missing the playoffs again in 2018 and in 2019. Ron Rivera, who led Carolina to three straight division titles earlier in the decade, was relieved of his duties late in the 2019 season. He has since resurfaced in Washington, leading the Football Team to a division title in 2020.
Like the Panthers, the Falcons, who famously squandered a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI, endured a Super Bowl hangover, winning just half of their first eight games of the 2017 campaign. But after a slow start, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the rest of the Falcons rebounded by going 6-2 down the stretch to clinch a wild-card berth. But after defeating the up and coming Rams in Los Angeles in the wild-card round, the Falcons' red zone issues that season (they were 23rd in the NFL in red zone efficiency) reared its ugly head in the divisional round, as the Falcons scored just 10 points in their road loss to the eventual champion -- the Philadelphia Eagles. Atlanta has yet to return to the postseason.
After rallying from behind to defeat the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, the Patriots surrendered 41 points in their loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. And despite a (for them) modest 11-5 record, the Patriots regained their swagger in the playoffs, dismantling the Chargers in the divisional round before needing overtime to defeat the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC title game.
In Super Bowl LIII, the Patriots' defense held the Rams to just three points, tied for the fewest total allowed by a team in Super Bowl history. Offensively, New England was led by game MVP Julian Edelman, whose 10-catch, 141-yard effort keyed the Patriots' 13-3 victory and sixth Super Bowl win during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.
Unlike the '18 Patriots, the Rams were unable to rebound the year after losing the Big Game. Injuries at the skill positions, a slip in production on the defensive side of the ball, and playing in the NFL's toughest division took its toll on the Rams, who missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record. The Rams did make it back to the playoffs last season before coming up short against the Packers in the divisional round. Los Angeles made noise last offseason when they traded Jared Goff, two future first-round picks and a 2021 third-round pick to the Lions in exchange for Matt Stafford. The trade has quickly paid off, as Stafford led the Rams to the franchise's first Super Bowl since returning to Los Angeles.
Injuries derailed the 49ers' defense of their NFC title and chance of redeeming the Super Bowl LIV loss. Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman, Dee Ford, Deebo Samuel, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, Brandon Aiyuk, Ben Garland, Solomon Thomas, Ronald Blair, Kwon Alexander, Ezekiel Ansah and Jaquiski Tartt missed a combined 149 games in 2020. Despite those (and other) injuries, the 49ers were 5-6 after beating the playoff-bound Rams in Week 12. And while their final record was an underwhelming 6-10, five of the 49ers' losses were decided by eight or fewer points. If not for the mountain of injuries, San Francisco likely would have claimed one of the NFC's seven playoff spots. They did make it back to the playoffs in 2021 before losing to the eventual champions in the NFC title game.
Kansas City went to great lengths to strengthen their offensive line following Super Bow LV. Turnovers, not protection, was the Chiefs' main issue during the first half of the 2021 season. After a 4-4 start, the Chiefs dramatically turned things around during the second half of the year, finishing with a 12-5 record. Patrick Mahomes cut down on his turnovers, while the Chiefs' defense played significantly better after acquiring Melvin Ingram via a trade with the Steelers.
Kansas City defeated Pittsburgh and Buffalo in the playoffs to reach its fourth consecutive AFC Championship Game. They built a 21-3 lead over the Bengals before Cincinnati scored 21 unanswered points. The Chiefs were able to force overtime, but Mahomes' interception on the third play of the extra period set up Evan McPherson's game-winning field goal.