No. 7: 1987 49ers
Record: 13-2, lost in divisional round
13 points for wins
5 points for division title
15 points for top 5 offense
5 points for No. 1 offense
15 points for top 5 defense
2 points for Joe Montana leading league in TD passes
4 points for Jerry Rice leading league in TD receptions, total TDs
5 points for Jerry Rice single-season TD record
Another team in the middle of that remarkable run that was great but couldn’t win the Super Bowl, the 1987 49ers had all the makings of a potential champion.
They led the league in yards, both most gained and fewest given up, and scored the most points while giving up the third-fewest, according to Pro Football Reference.
Quarterback Joe Montana threw the most touchdown passes with 31 (in just 11 games), and Jerry Rice was not only the league leader in both touchdown receptions and total touchdowns, but he also set a single-season receiving touchdown record that stood for two decades.
The monster defensive effort was paced by safety Ronnie Lott, cornerback Tim McKyer, defensive end Charles Haley (who led the team with 6.5 sacks) and linebacker Keena Turner, who combined to force 51 turnovers and 37 sacks.
But the most important number was the paltry 16.9 points per game they allowed against the offenses’ 30.6 per game.
But head coach Bill Walsh’s squad was unable to overcome a dominating defensive performance from the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round, a game which saw a Montana (who was just 12 of 26 for 109 yards, an interception and four sacks) benched for Steve Young in the third quarter.
Strangely, a 49ers defense that had given up just the 16.9 points and 273 yards per game stumbled in its lone playoff contest, allowing the Vikings to rack up 397 total yards and 29 points in a 36-24 loss (the Vikings scored the other touchdown on a Montana pick-six).
Unfortunately, this team will mostly go down in history as one of the best 49ers teams to neither make it to, nor win, the Super Bowl, and as the precursor to back-to-back championship teams.