Top 5 Super Bowl Upsets

Top 5 Super Bowl Upsets of All-Time

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper,

1. Super Bowl III: New York Jets Beat the Mighty Colts, 16-7: Over 40 years later, this still stands out as the grandaddy of all Super Bowl upsets. The Jets not only had a gigantic point-spread of 18 points going against them, but history, as well. The new AFL was still considered the lesser conference and this win established its legitimacy in many ways. Still, no one took Jets’ QB Joe Namath very seriously when a few days before the game–he boldly predicted victory against the heavily-favored Colts.

The Colts were on a run of ten straight wins and were led by one of the greatest coaches and quarterbacks of all-time in Don Shula and Johnny Unitas. They were 13-1 that season and avenged their only loss by shellacking the Browns 34-0 to get to the Bowl. They were second in scoring and tied an all-time record for fewest points allowed. So it was more than shocking when the Jets made a mockery of the point-spread, cruising to a 16-0 fourth-quarter lead, before Baltimore got on the board late. All other Super Bowl upsets pale in comparison and it is doubtful that the historical and point-spread ramifications from this game will ever be touched.

2. Super Bowl XXXVI: The Patriots Beat the Rams, 20-17: The Pats became the only other team to buck a two-touchdown spread in the Super Bowl by beating the “greatest show on turf”–the St. Louis Rams. The Super Bowl champs from 2 years ago were again in high-flight–QB Kurt Warner was the league MVP, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce were both well over 1000 yards, and RB Marshall Faulk ran for 1382 yards and caught 82 balls. They finished the season with a sterling 14-2 record.

The Patriots began the season 0-2. QB Drew Bledsoe went down–paving the way for the rise of Tom Brady, who led his team to an 11-5 record. And then there was the element of the 9-11 attacks, which had occurred during the season. It was an exciting finish. Behind 17-10, Warner went bang-bang-bang, moving his team to the end zone in 21 seconds to tie the game. Then Brady worked his magic, getting to the Rams’ 30-yard line. As time ran out, Adam Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard field goal to seal the deal.


3. Super Bowl XLII: The Giants Beat the Patriots, 17-14: Now it was time for the Patriots to be on the other side of the upset equation, losing to the Giants as 13.5-point favorites. And for good reason. This was the unbeaten Patriots team, the one that carried a 18-0 record into the game. New England was the only team to ever win all games since the league expanded the schedule to 16 games.

The Giants, meanwhile, were a good team, but nothing special–finishing 10-6. The Giants began the year at 0-2. They had to go the wild card route and win 3 games on the road to get to the big game. The game will be remembered for the Giants final drive. Down 14-10 late in the 4th quarter, the Giants marched 83 yards to score the decisive touchdown, set up by David Tyree’s improbable 32-yard catch and then Plaxico Burress’ 13-yard touchdown catch to put the Giants ahead with 35 seconds left.

4. Super Bowl IV: The Chiefs Beat the Vikings, 23-7: For many, the Super Bowl from the previous year was a fluke, as the Jets beat the Colts. Maybe that feeling contributed to the Chiefs being 12-point underdogs to the Vikings. The game was wet and the Chiefs were able to force 5 turnovers and hold the Vikings offense in check. The game was never in doubt, as the heavy underdog Chiefs sailed to an easy win. If the Jets legitimized the AFL in the previous Super Bowl, the Chiefs’s victory confirmed that the balance of power had shifted in professional football.

5. Super Bowl XXXII: The Broncos Beat the Packers, 34-21: Big performances from Terrell Davis and John Elway helped the Broncos overcome the 11-point favorite Packers, who were defending Super Bowl champions. The Broncos had lost 4 previous Super Bowls and also had the fact that no AFC team had won the Bowl in 13 straight years going against them.

Elway had long been dogged by his inability to win the big one, but his 4th quarter first down run, known as “the helicopter” was a defining moment, as two defenders hit Elway as he dove, causing him to spin in mid-air. It was a game that legitimized Elway, the Broncos, and got the AFC back in the mix. And on top of that–it was a really good game. The Broncos would also go on to win the following year.