The Top 10 Upsets in Super Bowl History

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It’s why we watch sports in the first place, the unpredictability of it.

Over the last 55 years we’ve seen some of the biggest upsets in sport which have helped make the game the major event it is.

Last year we saw an underdog win the Super Bowl as the Buccaneers overcame the odds to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs with a three point line at kickoff.

We’ve taken a trip down memory lane and picked out the 10 biggest upsets in history of the big game.

For the most part, we’ve made our picks based on the pregame betting lines but for a couple of them we’ve also taken into account just how shocking they were at the time.

10 – Super Bowl XXXVII – Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Oakland Raiders

LINE: Buccaneers +4

It was offence against defence in San Diego at the conclusion of the 2002 NFL season.

Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden was traded to Tampa barely 12 months prior to this game and he faced his former team with a title on the line.

His familiarity with MVP quarterback Rich Gannon and the Raiders offence paid off in a big way as the Buccaneers vaunted defence forced five interceptions, returning three for touchdowns to pay off the heavy price Tampa paid for their coach.

9 – Super Bowl LII – Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots

LINE: Patriots +4.5

When you’re a team like New England, any Super Bowl loss is going to be an upset but this was still shocking.

The Eagles, guided by backup quarterback Nick Foles, who was having a postseason for the ages, went up and down the field on the Patriots defence with no resistance.

It was vintage Tom Brady on the other side, throwing for a record 505 yards even without his best wide receiver from the second quarter as we were treated to a shootout to remember.

Foles would be the one getting the last laugh though as his defence made their one big stop of the day, stripping the ball from Brady as he was preparing to engineer another comeback in the big game, allowing them to take the clock right down and seal the team’s first title.

8 – Super Bowl XLIV – New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts

LINE: Saints +5

As they say in New Orleans “laissez le bon temps rouler” or “let the good times roll” and that was the case as the Saints secured their first Super Bowl title.

Three years earlier in the same stadium, Peyton Manning picked up his first title and the Colts were favoured to double his tally here.

A combination of a near flawless game from Drew Brees and some old-fashioned ballsiness from coach Sean Payton to call an onside kick to start the second half helped give the Saints a 24-17 lead late in the fourth quarter.

Of course, when Peyton Manning is driving in the fourth quarter down by a score you have to be on edge, but Tracey Porter read the receiver’s route, intercepted the pass and ran it back for the sealing touchdown.

That play somewhat justified his confidence to shave the Super Bowl logo and trophy onto opposite sides of his head.

7 – Super Bowl 50 – Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers

LINE: Broncos +5.5

If you want any further proof that the NFL is a quarterback driven league, look at the pregame notes on this one.

The Panthers were flying on the back of Cam Newton’s career year, but Denver’s defence was putting together a historically good postseason, carrying what was left of Peyton Manning.

It was the Broncos defence harassing and haranguing Newton all game and they gave a few punters a fill up by scoring the first touchdown on a strip sack recovered for a touchdown before proceeding to lay some vicious hits on him and keep him off his game.

6 – Super Bowl XXV – New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills

LINE: Giants +7

Like a few other entries on this list, defence is the theme to this upset.

Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick told his team that the best way to stop the Bills offence (fresh off scoring 51 in the AFC Championship) was to let running back Thurman Thomas do whatever he wanted on the ground.

You couldn’t blame the Giants players for looking confused, but Belichick’s scheme was executed to perfection, as they put their resources into slowing down Jim Kelly.

With the Giants offence committing to running the ball and keeping the clock moving, they set a Super Bowl record holding the ball for over 40 of the game’s 60 minutes.

It all could have been for nought though, the Bills were down 20-19 and drove into position for a game winning field goal, but kicker Scott Norwood hooked it wide right giving the Giants a stunning victory, although it wouldn’t be the only time they did that in their history.

5 – Super Bowl XXXII – Denver Broncos beat the Green Bay Packers

LINE: Packers +11.5

As Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said after the game, “this one’s for John!” with the aging gunslinger finally getting a title in his fourth attempt.

It took a monumental effort from the entire Broncos team to defy the odds and upset the defending champion Green Bay Packers, led by league MVP Brett Favre.

On the back of a spectacular rushing performance from Terrell Davis, combined with Elway making a couple of key plays, the Broncos held on for a win that few would have expected.

4 – Super Bowl IV – Kansas City Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings

LINE: Chiefs +12

Just before the NFL-AFL merger, the final title game between the two league champions took place in Tulane Stadium in New Orleans with the Vikings expected to cruise past the upstart Chiefs.

A brutal, physical performance from the much bigger Chiefs defence kept the Vikings in check for the entire game, holding them to just seven points.

Minnesota is still waiting for their first Super Bowl while the Chiefs are back in the big game after breaking their 50-year drought last season.

3 – Super Bowl XLII – New York Giants beat the New England Patriots

LINE: Giants +10

Ok we’re pushing the Giants up a couple of spots for this one, but we have to because of the monumental nature of this upset.

Some may even feel that this should be the biggest upset in history given New England looked pretty much unstoppable all season but this is where it is going to land.

The Giants gave the Patriots a scare in Week 17, pushing them all the way but nobody saw such a dominant defensive display coming.

With 2:30 remaining in the game New England took the lead back from the Giants and then Eli Manning pulled off a play for the ages to help propel his team to this stunning upset.

2 – Super Bowl XXXVI – New England Patriots beat the St Louis Rams

LINE: Patriots +14

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, there was a time when New England was the likeable underdog and Tom Brady was the goofy backup turned starter.

Most expected them to serve as roadkill for the Greatest Show on Turf but a masterful gameplan from Bill Belichick put his players in position to upset the Rams.

With 1:21 to go, scores tied, Brady drove down the field to set up Adam Vinatieri and he delivered with a kick right down the middle as time expired.

While some may place the Giants win in Super Bowl 42 ahead of this one, it can’t be forgotten just how many people wrote off Belichick’s team before this one.

1 – Super Bowl III – New York Jets beat the Baltimore Colts

LINE: Jets +17

Recency bias probably makes you want to put something else at number one but there was no bigger Super Bowl upset, by betting lines or in terms of scale than what we saw in January 1969.

The old AFL was seen as the second tier competition to the rampant NFL just before the two leagues merged.

Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed victory against the dynastic Baltimore Colts and did he and his teammates deliver in a big way.

It gave legitimacy to the AFL teams and showed they would be no pushovers going forward, they crushed the Colts in every facet, won the game and gave us one of the iconic images of that time with Namath coming off the field, finger in the air reminding everyone who was number one.