One of the great things about sport is that there’s always a chance that the underdog, no matter how big an outsider, can cause an upset – doing the unthinkable and toppling the favorite, and breaking the hearts of anyone who placed a bet on the favorite.
The Super Bowl has seen its fair share of David vs. Goliath games over the years in which the underdog (sometimes a BIG underdog) has prevailed to win the biggest prize in American Football – the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history:
Super Bowl XXV
- New York Giants vs. Buffalo Bills
- January 27, 1991
- Tampa Stadium (Tampa, Florida)
- Final Score: New York Giants 20 Buffalo Bills 19
The Bills went into this game with a 13-3 record and with the league’s best offense, having recorded 428 points during the regular season. They had also just beaten the Los Angeles Raiders 51-3 in the AFC Championship Game.
The Giants also posted a 13–3 regular-season record. They also came into the game with the league’s best defense, but with Phil Simms’ season having been ended by a broken foot, they were reliant on their backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler.
The game eventually came down to a last-second missed 47-yard field goal attempt from the Bills’ placekicker Scott Norwood that secured a famous win for the Giants.
Super Bowl XXXVI
- New England Patriots vs. St. Louis Rams
- February 3, 2002
- Louisiana Superdome (New Orleans, Louisiana)
- Final Score: New England Patriots 20 St. Louis Rams 17
An Adam Vinatieri 48-yard field goal as time expired was enough to give the Pats their first championship in franchise history and pull off a major upset in doing so.
St. Louis’ went into the game as hot favorites, with New England +14 on the Spread. However, a young Tom Brady had other ideas and claimed the first of his four Super Bowl MVPs and first of six titles.
Super Bowl XXXII
- Denver Broncos vs. Green Bay Packers
- January 25, 1998
- Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)
- Final Score: Denver Broncos 31 Green Bay Packers 24
Brett Favre’s Packers came into the game as the defending Super Bowl champions and with a 13-3 regular season record, but they were no match for MVP Terrell Davis who ran for 157 yards and a Super Bowl record of three rushing touchdowns.
Green Bay went into the game as an 11-point favorite on the Spread, but they had no answer to the Denver ground game.
John Elway added a rushing score for the Broncos, but only needed to complete 12 passes.
Super Bowl XLII
- New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
- February 3, 2008
- University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)
- Final Score: New York Giants 17 New England Patriots 14
New England came into the game seeking to make Super Bowl history as the first champion to record a 19-0 season.
After a 16-0 regular season, the Pats won its first two playoff games to make it to 18-0 and the Giants went to Arizona as 12-point underdogs on the Spread.
New York reached the playoffs as a 10-6 Wild Card team, then secured three consecutive road playoff wins to reach the Super Bowl.
They upset the odds in the Fourth Quarter thanks to MVP Eli Manning’s game-winning drive, featuring David Tyree’s “Helmet Catch” and a Plaxico Burress touchdown in the corner of the end zone.
Super Bowl III
- New York Jets vs. Baltimore Colts
- January 12, 1969
- Orange Bowl (Miami, Florida)
- Final Score: New York Jets 16 Baltimore Colts 7
Johnny Unitas and the Colts came into the game as 18-point favorites on the Spread, but Jets’ quarterback “Broadway” Joe Namath guaranteed his team victory several days earlier.
Namath, who completed 17 out of 28 passes for 206 yards, lived up to his promise with an MVP performance as he led the Jets to their only Super Bowl victory in franchise history.
This was the first Super Bowl victory for the AFL, with the NFL clubs being widely regarded as being the more talented at the time.
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