Longest NFL playoff win drought: Lions’ victory over Rams passes active streak record to Dolphins

The Lions and their fans have been waiting for this moment for a long time.

Detroit won the NFC North and entered the playoffs with plenty of excitement, having won a division crown for the first time since 1993. But the Lions have been to the postseason seven times since winning that division title. None of those years have featured a playoff victory.

That run of empty playoff trips ended on Sunday. The Lions survived a back-and-forth tilt with the Rams to win 24-23, topping former quarterback Matthew Stafford. The victory, which came at home in front of the Detroit faithful, combined with a win by the division-rival Packers over the Cowboys ensured that the Lions will have another home game in the divisional round of the playoffs.

It has been a long time since Detroit football fans have seen a playoff victory. It has been so long that a parent in their early 30s could be watching a game with their child waiting for both generations’ first Lions’ playoff victory.

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Now, that playoff win drought belongs to another team, one that will have to wait until next year to have another shot at snapping the run.

Longest NFL playoff win drought

Before Sunday, the Lions last won a playoff game in the 1991 season, when Detroit beat the Cowboys 38-6 in the divisional round of the playoffs on Jan. 5, 1992. Now, the longest playoff win drought belongs to the Dolphins.

Miami has now gone 23 seasons without a playoff victory. The Dolphins lost to the Chiefs on Saturday, ending their season and ensuring they will need to wait at least another year to end their own drought.

Unlike the Lions, whose 31-season void was far and away the longest in the league, the Dolphins have some close competition. The Raiders have gone 21 seasons without a playoff victory and the Commanders have gone 18 seasons without one. 

The only team in the top 10 that will have a chance to exit will be the Steelers, who face the Bills on Monday. Pittsburgh has gone six seasons without a playoff victory, the ninth-longest streak. 

Team Drought (Seasons) Last Playoff Win
Dolphins 23 Dec. 30, 2000
Raiders 21 Jan. 19, 2003
Commanders 18 Jan. 7, 2006
Jets 13 Jan. 16, 2011
Bears 13 Jan. 16, 2011
Cardinals 8 Jan. 16, 2016
Panthers 8 Jan. 24, 2016
Broncos 8 Feb. 7, 2016
Steelers 6 Jan. 15, 2017
Falcons 5 Jan. 13, 2018

When did the Lions last win a playoff game?

The Lions last won a playoff game on Jan. 5, 1992, when they beat the Cowboys. Detroit had won the NFC Central with a 12-4 record, and hosted the Cowboys, who, at 11-5, finished second in the NFC East behind Washington.

Dallas beat the Bears 17-13 in the wild-card round, setting up a divisional round clash against the Lions. Detroit quarterback Erik Kramer put together an outstanding outing, completing 29 of 38 passes for 341 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, while his counterpart, Steve Beuerlein, went only 7 of 13 for 91 yards with an interception. At halftime, Troy Aikman came into the game, but he, too, struggled. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 114 yards with no touchdowns and a pick.

The Lions went on to fall to eventual Super Bowl champion Washington 41-10 in the conference championship. 

Between then and the 2023 season, the Lions reached the playoffs eight times. Each time, they lost in the wild-card round.

When did the Dolphins last win a playoff game?

The Dolphins’ postseason losing streak does not backdate into the 1990s, but it still has been a while. In 2000, the Dolphins won the AFC East at 11-5, setting up a wild-card round matchup against the Colts, who were second in the East behind Miami at 10-6.

The Colts got off to a fast start in the game, leading 14-0 after the first half. However, Indianapolis scored just three points the rest of the game, coming on a 50-yard field goal from Mike Vanderjagt with 4:55 left in the game. The Dolphins, on the other hand, scored a touchdown in the third quarter and notched a game-tying TD with 34 seconds left on a Jay Fiedler pass to Jed Weaver to even the score at 17 each.

Miami started with the ball in overtime, but wound up having to punt. Peyton Manning brought the Colts to the Dolphins’ 31, but Vanderjagt missed a potential game-winning, 49-yard field goal. The Dolphins, with the ball back, drove down the field and ultimately running back Lamar Smith scored a touchdown from 17 yards out to walk off as winners 23-17.

The Dolphins lost the divisional round to the Raiders, getting shut out 27-0. It marked the third straight year Miami lost in the divisional round. From 1997 to 2001, the Dolphins reached the playoffs every season, but lost in the wild-card round in 1997 and 2001 and in the divisional round all the seasons in between.

Since the 2001 wild-card loss, Miami has reached the playoffs four times, including as wild cards in back-to-back seasons. It has yet to advance past the wild-card round.

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