Ranking some great underdog stories.
With the Super Bowl upon us, what better time than to look back at the big game’s history and take a look at some of the most unlikely winners.
Everyone loves a good underdog story, and these ten games are just that. Now granted, this upcoming Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams doesn’t really have an underdog. The Patriots are only one point favorites, while the Rams went 13-3 this season, giving themselves one of the best records of the 2018 season.
Regardless, it would be surprising to see a young quarterback like Jared Goff beat a legend like Tom Brady, so maybe this list will inspire that magic.
So without further ado, here is our list of the 10 best Super Bowl upsets of all time.
10. Super Bowl XVII: Washington Redskins 27 - Miami Dolphins 17
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The Miami Dolphins were favored by only three points in the 17th edition of the Super Bowl, but due to a lack of experience and a roster comprised of free agents who hadn’t been drafted and lacked playoff experience, the Washington Redskins were written off.
Despite all the naysayers, Joe Theismann and company were able to beat the Dolphins thanks to 17-unanswered points in the second half. Theismann wasn’t exactly phenomenal. He had two touchdowns and two interceptions. In reality, it was running back John Riggins’ play that propelled the team to a championship. He picked up a touchdown and 166 rushing yards which earned him Super Bowl MVP honors.
This was the first time the Washington Redskins had won the Super Bowl. They went on to win two more.
9. Super Bowl IV: Kansas City Chiefs 23 - Minnesota Vikings 7
This upset came just a year after an upset that will be featured a little bit further down this list. What made it so significant, is that it marked two years in a row that a team many thought couldn’t win, ended up winning. It was also the last Super Bowl before the AFL and NFL merger.
The Minnesota Vikings dominated the NFL that season and were 13-point favorites over the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL. Despite that, the Chiefs defense was just too much to handle, picking up three interceptions and some fumble recoveries. They finished the first half with a 16-0 lead and never looked back en route to the 23-7 win.
The loss was the Vikings first of four losses in the big game. They are tied with the Buffalo Bills for having the worst Super Bowl record in the history of the NFL.
As for the Chiefs, they haven’t been back to the Championship match since.
8. Super Bowl XV: Oakland Raiders 27 - Philadelphia Eagles 10
Heading into this game, everyone knew the Raiders had a good defense, but quarterback Jim Plunkett’s questionable play made some believe the Raiders just wouldn’t have a good enough offense to pull off the win. It was because of this that the Eagles were deemed three-point favorites.
Well, Plunkett proved everyone wrong, throwing for 261 yards and three touchdowns, picking up Super Bowl MVP honors. Meanwhile, Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski threw three interceptions and a touchdown.
Plunkett didn’t have a very memorable NFL career afterward and is considered one of the weaker quarterbacks to ever win a Super Bowl.
This was Oakland’s second of three Super Bowls in eight seasons.
7. Super Bowl XXII: Washington Redskins 42 - Denver Broncos 10
The Denver Broncos were only three-point favorites against the Washington Redskins in the 1988 Super Bowl, but the quarterback matchup had many thinking it was a lock for the Broncos. Of course, the Broncos had John Elway, while the Redskins had Doug Williams, who eventually became the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
Nobody really knew at that point how bad Elway would be in Super Bowls until he won two at the tail end of his career. The year before, the Broncos 39-20 to the New York Giants. Regardless, Elway was the favorite.
Well, it didn’t work so well for the Broncos legend. He threw one touchdown and three interceptions, while Williams notched four touchdowns and one interception. Williams was crowned Super Bowl MVP that year.
The Broncos even had a 10-0 lead at one point, but the Redskins dismantled the Broncos with 42-unanswered points.
6. Super Bowl XLVII: Baltimore Ravens 34 - San Francisco 49ers 31
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While this one may come as a bit of a surprise to some people, the Baltimore Ravens were underdogs when they went up against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 47. The game was a battle of the Harbaugh brothers, with Jim Harbaugh coaching the 49ers and John Harbaugh manning the Ravens.
Led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers were thought to have one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL, while the Ravens had an aging defense led by Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. Not to mention, Joe Flacco was not seen as an elite quarterback and many thought he would crumble under the pressure. All of this made the 49ers four-point favorites.
The Ravens ended up with a 21-6 lead at halftime and never looked back, although the 49ers did make it close. The game itself wasn’t great but perhaps the best part was when the power went out causing a lengthy delay the likes of the Super Bowl had never seen before.
Since then, Kaepernick has been essentially blacklisted from the league, while Flacco has been mediocre at best.
5. Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants 20 - Buffalo Bills 19
Oh, the poor Buffalo Bills of the 1990s. Probably one of the most unlucky franchises in sports history, the Bills made it to four straight Super Bowls between 1990 and 1993 and didn’t win a single one. The second of those appearances was against the New York Giants in Super Bowl 25, with the Bills being considered as seven-point favorites.
The Giants were depleted going into the game. Quarterback Phil Simms was out with an injury, which meant Jeff Hostetler had to play for a bit of the season, including the playoffs. Buffalo’s Jim Kelly was considered to be miles and away the better quarterback, with not many giving the Giants a chance to pull off the win.
In the end, the Giants came out victorious with a solid performance from Hostetler who threw one touchdown and 222 yards. Meanwhile, Giants running back Ottis Anderson won MVP honors with a touchdown run and over 100 yards.
This was the first and only Super Bowl to end with a one-point differential between the two teams. It was also the Giants second Super Bowl in five years.
4. Super Bowl XXXII: Denver Broncos 31 - Green Bay Packers 24
It’s hard to believe John Elway was ever considered an underdog in his career, but that’s exactly what he was in 1998 when the Denver Broncos took on the Green Bay Packers in the 32nd edition of the big game.
The Broncos were 11-point underdogs as the Packers, led by Brett Favre, had just won the Super Bowl the year before and had one of the best offenses in the league. Meanwhile, Elway was an aging quarterback who some felt would retire without a Super Bowl victory under his name.
Elway ended up proving all of the doubters wrong, making one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history, diving for a first down on the game-winning drive. With just 1:45 left in the game, running back Terrell Davis scored a 1-yard touchdown run to secure the 31-24 victory.
Elway would go on to play another year and notch his second straight Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons.
3. Super Bowl XXXVI: New England Patriots 20 - St-Louis Rams 17
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While it may not seem like much of an upset now considering the dynasty they eventually became, the New England Patriots weren’t given that much of a chance against Kurt Warner and the St-Louis Rams. In fact, the Patriots were 14 point underdogs heading into the game.
At that point, the Patriots were seen as Super Bowl frauds because of the infamous tuck rule situation. Meanwhile, Warner and the Rams had won a Super Bowl just a few years prior. Not to mention, Brady was still an unproven youngster who was taking the reigns for an injured Drew Bledsoe.
Despite everything going against the Patriots, the game was tied 17-17 with just a little bit of time left on the clock. Brady led the charge down the field and Adam Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to secure the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
Brady was crowned Super Bowl MVP and a dynasty was born.
2. Super Bowl III: New York Jets 16 - Baltimore Colts 7
Joe Namath and the New York Jets were considered 18 point underdogs against Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts. The Colts were a dominant team at the time, with Unitas being considered one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Meanwhile, Namath was seen as a cocky young quarterback, who would be eaten alive by the Colts defense.
In a famous video, Namath was seen in Miami just three days before the Super Bowl, where he guaranteed a win. At the time, he was laughed at and ridiculed for thinking he even had a little bit of a chance at winning the big game.
Well, Broadway Joe proved everyone wrong as the Jets went on to win 16-7 and Namath took home Super Bowl MVP honors. He never threw a touchdown, but picked up 206 yards and completed 17 of 28 passes. Meanwhile, Unitas ended the game with an interception.
Namath’s declaration of victory, along with just how big of an underdog the Jets were, makes this game on of the biggest upsets in not just football, but sports history.
1. Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants 17 - New England Patriots 14
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While some may argue that Namath’s big win over the Colts is the biggest upset, nothing will be more iconic than when the New York Giants, led by Eli Manning, defeated the undefeated New England Patriots, 17-14 in the Super Bowl 42.
This game was supposed to cement the legacy of the 2007 Patriots as the greatest football team of all time. They went 16-0 in the regular season and won both playoff games en route to the big game. Quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Randy Moss were dominating on offense and seemingly couldn’t be stopped. No one was giving the Giants a shot to win this game.
That all changed though when the Giants, who only went 10-6 that year, squeaked into a wild-card spot and got hot just at the right time. In the Super Bowl itself, the Giants played some incredible defense and were helped out by the greatest Super Bowl catch of all time, courtesy of David Tyree, on the team’s final drive.
A Plaxico Burress touchdown made it 17-14, with the Giants thwarting Brady’s final drive.
It was the Patriots only loss that season, with Manning cementing himself as an elite quarterback. Just a few years later the Giants would go on to beat the Patriots again in the Super Bowl.
Do you agree with this list? What are your biggest Super Bowl upsets of all time?