In terms of upsets, the Super Bowl isn’t quite at the same level as the NCAA Tournament where anything can happen. But we’ve seen more than our fair share of surprises in Super Bowls. It’s not like the two teams participating have gotten there by accident, so even sizable betting underdogs are a threat to win. That got us thinking about the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history. Here are five upsets that stood out the most.
Broncos 31, Packers 24 – Super Bowl XXXII
How could we ever have doubted the Broncos? They had a dominant running game and a Hall of Fame quarterback. However, the reigning champion Packers were 11-point favorites with most expecting them to go back-to-back.
But the Broncos played their game, getting 157 yards and three touchdowns from Terrell Davis while one helicopter dive from John Elway helped deliver Denver’s first Super Bowl title. In fact, it was the Broncos who ended up going back-to-back the following year.
Giants 17, Patriots 14 – Super Bowl XLII
New England was a 12-point favorite and just one win away from an undefeated season and immortality. The 2007 Patriots were incredible, scoring at least 34 points in 11 of their 16 games during the regular season. Between the regular season and playoffs, they had just five games decided by less than 10 points.
But the G-Men brought it defensively after giving up 38 points to New England in Week 17. In the fourth quarter, it was Eli Manning, not Tom Brady, who orchestrated two long touchdown drives that were finished off in the end zone. That includes the inch-perfect pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left to ruin New England’s perfect season.
Chiefs 23, Vikings 7 – Super Bowl IV
The Vikings and their “Purple People Eaters” defensive line were favored by 13 points after a 12-2 regular season and a 20-point win over the Browns in the NFL Championship Game. However, it was Kansas City’s defense that dominated the game.
The Chiefs forced five turnovers and completely shut down the Minnesota running game. Offensively, the Chiefs were far from spectacular, but a 46-yard touchdown pass from Len Dawson to Otis Taylor in the third quarter helped seal Kansas City’s first Super Bowl win.
Patriots 20, Rams 17 – Super Bowl XXXV
It’s hard to remember that the Patriots were once overlooked underdogs in a Super Bowl. Of course, the 2001 Rams were still considered the “Greatest Show on Turf,” which is why they were 14-point favorites over the upstart Patriots. Meanwhile, Brady began the season as a sixth-round backup who needed to take over for an injured Drew Bledsoe early in the season.
Despite being the game’s MVP, Brady finished with just 145 passing yards. Instead, the New England defense was the real star, forcing three turnovers and keeping the Rams out of the end zone until the fourth quarter. But after the Rams tied the game with 90 seconds left, Brady helped set up a 48-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal at the buzzer.
Jets 16, Colts 7 – Super Bowl III
As the story goes, Broadway Joe Namath guaranteed a win despite the Jets being 18-point underdogs. With a lot of help from the New York defense, which forced five turnovers, Namath made good on his promise.
Matt Snell ran for 121 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries while Namath threw for 206 yards, giving the Jets the most improbable win in Super Bowl history.