Two individual historic droughts could end this weekend in the NFL. Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson and Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez have played in a combined 549 regular-season games without a playoff victory, but both have the chance to end their droughts on Wild Card Weekend.
Both players' teams will have to win on the road in order to break their streaks, as the Lions head to the Superdome to face the New Orleans Saints Saturday night, while the Falcons play at the New York Giants at one eastern on Sunday.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Hanson (311) and Gonzalez (238) rank first and second in most regular-season games played without a playoff win in the Super Bowl era. Each has had multiple chances and letdowns in the playoffs over their careers.
Hanson has been with Detroit since 1992, the year after the Lions’ last playoff victory. Since then, he’s been to the postseason five times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1999), yet come up on the losing end in all five.
However, he has come very close to postseason success. On Jan. 8, 1994, Brett Favre threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe with 55 seconds remaining to put the Green Bay Packers ahead of the Lions for good in a Wild Card matchup.
The very next postseason, Green Bay edged out the Lions yet again, 16-12 in Lambeau Field. In that game, Hanson missed a 30-yard field goal attempt with the Lions down, 10-0, in the second quarter. Later in the game, Hanson made a 38-yard field goal, but banked it off the upright.
Gonzalez has made a postseason trip on four occasions before this season, three coming with the Chiefs (1997, 2003, 2006) and last year with the Falcons.
Gonzalez’s best chance at a playoff win arguably occurred on Jan. 4, 1998 in the Divisional round. After finishing the year at an AFC-best 13-3, the Chiefs led the Broncos in the second half until Terrell Davis scored to give Denver the lead in the fourth quarter. A late Kansas City attempt at the game-winner was deflected in the end zone with 12 seconds left.
The Broncos not only won that game, but would go on to beat the Packers in the Super Bowl, despite finishing a game behind Gonzalez's Chiefs in the AFC West.
Both players will be on the road this weekend with a chance to end records they want no part of.