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Top Super Bowl Upsets

Last Updated: Feb 6, 2024

The Super Bowl is supposed to feature the NFL’s two best teams, but that doesn’t always happen.

Upstarts enter the fold and can wreck a dream season. Sometimes the underdog simply gets hot at the right time or matches up well against a super team.

Huge upsets have resulted in some of the most famous Super Bowls. Here’s a look at the 10 biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.

Biggest Super Bowl Upsets

10. Super Bowl XLIV: Saints defeat Colts

  • Date: Feb. 7, 2010
  • Location: Sun Life Stadium (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
  • Pregame Spread: Colts -4.5
  • Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

New Orleans got its miracle. The Saints trailed Peyton Manning and the high-flying Colts 10-6 at halftime yet flipped the game by famously recovering an onside kick out of the half.

Led by MVP Drew Brees’ 288 yards and two touchdown scores, plus Tracy Porter’s game-sealing 74-yard pick-6, the Saints outscored the Colts 25-7 in the second half and brought the Lombardi Trophy home for the first time.


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9. Super Bowl XLVII: Ravens defeat 49ers

  • Date: Feb. 3, 2013
  • Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans, La.)
  • Pregame Spread: 49ers -4.5
  • Final score: Ravens 34, 49ers 31

What Happened: Joe Flacco was elite. The Ravens were underdogs in their final three postseason games yet rode their quarterback to the second championship in franchise history.

Flacco earned MVP honors by going 22-for-33 for 287 yards and three touchdowns, and the Ravens’ defense held Colin Kaepernick and the Niners’ offense out of the end zone late. The Ravens’ win gave John Harbaugh a memorable victory over his brother Jim in the all-Harbaugh bowl.

8. Super Bowl LII: Eagles defeat Patriots

  • Date: Feb. 4, 2018
  • Location: U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minn.)
  • Pregame Spread: Patriots -4.5
  • Final score: Eagles 41, Patriots 33

What Happened: Something special happened. The Eagles’ upset win gets remembered as the highest-scoring game in Super Bowl history, and for the Philly Special, yet it really was due to Nick Foles defeating Tom Brady in the biggest game of his life.

Foles was 28-for-43 for 373 yards and three touchdowns, plus his legendary one-yard receiving score. Plus, with Philly trailing by a point in the fourth quarter and on the verge of crumbling, Foles led his team to a seven-minute, 14-play touchdown drive that gave the Eagles the lead for good and delivered the first Lombardi Trophy to the City of Brotherly Love.

7. Super Bowl 50: Broncos defeat Panthers

  • Date: Feb. 7, 2016
  • Location: Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
  • Pregame Spread: Panthers -5
  • Final score: Broncos 24, Panthers 10

What Happened: Von Miller took over. The Panthers were 17-1 and on the verge of becoming one of the greatest teams of all time. Yet, they had no answer for the all-world pass rusher.

Miller had 2.5 sacks, five solo tackles, and two forced fumbles, including a strip-sack that Malik Jackson recovered in the end zone that gave Denver a 10-0 lead. Miller’s dominant performance earned him MVP honors and sent Peyton Manning out on top.


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6. Super Bowl XXV: Giants defeat Bills

  • Date: Jan. 27, 1991
  • Location: Tampa Stadium (Tampa, Fla.)
  • Pregame Spread: Bills -6.5
  • Final score: Giants 20, Bills 19

What Happened: The Giants played a perfect game. Playing against the famous K-Gun offense, New York set a Super Bowl record by possessing the ball for 40:33, mainly with veteran running back Ottis Anderson (102 yards, 1 TD), and were 9-for-16 on third-down conversions.

Still, Buffalo had a chance to win the game late, but Scott Norwood’s 47-yard field goal sailed wide right, giving the Giants the stunning one-point win.

5. Super Bowl XXXII: Broncos defeat Packers

  • Date: Jan. 25, 1998
  • Location: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, Calif.)
  • Pregame Spread: Packers -11
  • Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

What Happened: Terrell Davis took over. This game may be memorable as the “one for John” Elway, but Davis had 157 rushing yards and set a Super Bowl record with three rushing touchdowns in Denver’s stunning victory over Brett Favre and the defending champions.

The game made Elway a first-time champ after 15 seasons and three Super Bowl losses. One year later, he went out on top after quarterbacking Denver to a second straight title over the Atlanta Falcons.

4. Super Bowl IV: Chiefs defeat Vikings

  • Date: Jan. 11, 1970
  • Location: Tulane Stadium (New Orleans, La.)
  • Pregame Spread: Vikings -12
  • Final score: Chiefs 23, Vikings 7

What Happened: Football changed forever. Fresh off the Jets-Colts stunner a year prior (more below), many expected the Vikings to reestablish the NFL’s dominance against the upstart AFL.

Yet, the Chiefs forced five turnovers and sacked Minnesota QB Joe Kapp three times in their stunning 23-7 win. A year later, the two leagues became one and have been ever since.


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3. Super Bowl XLII: Giants defeat Patriots

  • Date: Feb. 3, 2008
  • Location: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)
  • Pregame Spread: Patriots -12.5
  • Final score: Giants 17, Patriots 14

What Happened: History was smashed. The Patriots were 18-0 and had every intention of capping the first and only 19-0 season in NFL history. But the Giants had other ideas. New York’s defense pummeled Tom Brady, recording five sacks and limiting arguably the best offense in NFL history to only 274 total yards.

Then, trailing 14-10, Eli Manning and the New York offense went down the field for an 83-yard touchdown drive over 2:04 capped by Manning’s 14-yard TD to Plaxico Burress that sealed the stunning upset.

2. Super Bowl XXXVI: Patriots defeat Rams

  • Date: Feb. 3, 2002
  • Location: Louisiana Superdome (New Orleans, La.)
  • Pregame Spread: Rams -14
  • Final score: Patriots 20, Rams 17

What Happened: A dynasty was created. The Patriots started the season 0-2 before some quarterback named Tom Brady took over. New England rode a magical wave through the season and AFC playoffs to the Super Bowl where it physically dominated The Greatest Show on Turf.

Then with the game tied late in the fourth, Brady led the Pats down the field for a 53-yard drive that set up Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning, 47-yard field goal that lifted New England to its first championship.

1. Super Bowl III: Jets defeat Colts

  • Date: Jan. 12, 1969
  • Location: Orange Bowl (Miami, Fla.)
  • Pregame Spread: Colts -18
  • Final score: Jets 16, Colts 7

What Happened: A legend was born. Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers won the first two NFL-AFL championship games, and the Baltimore Colts looked ready to make it 3-for-3 for the senior league.

Yet, Joe Namath famously guaranteed a Jets win and then efficiently completed 17 of 28 passes for 208 yards. Matt Snell scored the only New York TD, and the Jets’ defense forced five Baltimore turnovers in the stunning victory.

The upset victory, along with Kansas City’s over Minnesota the next year, opened the door for the NFL-AFL merger and the modern NFL we know today.

Author

Pat Pickens

Pat Pickens is a seasoned sportswriter who has covered pro sports since 2013 for various websites, including The New York Times, NHL.com, Bleacher Report, Sportsnet.ca, USA Today, the Associated Press and many others. His debut book, titled "The Whalers" about the history of the NHL's Hartford Whalers, was released in October 2021.

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