The upset. An age-old sports tale of the superior team being defeated by a lesser opponent. As entertaining as a blowout can be to watch, there’s nothing better than witnessing a team that was expected to lose achieve a hard-fought victory – especially on a grand stage. So, for all you underdog lovers, here are the three biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.
Calling His Shot
The Game: Super Bowl III
The Date: Jan. 12, 1969
The Final: New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7
The Story: “Broadway” Joe Willie Namath and the New York Jets were heavy underdogs going into the third battle between the then American Football League and National Football League. The common belief was that the Baltimore Colts of the NFL would make easy work of the young, cocky quarterback and his subpar AFL team. However, after guaranteeing a win three days before the game, Joe went out and not only led the Jets to victory, but he also earned a Super Bowl MVP and helped legitimize the AFL. An AFL that a year later officially merged with the NFL and became the American Football Conference we know today.
The Game: Super Bowl XXXVI
The Date: Feb. 3, 2002
The Final: New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17
The Story: Aptly referred to as the Greatest Show on Turf, the then-St. Louis Rams came into Super Bowl 36 the out-and-out favorites against the New England Patriots. And why shouldn't they be? The Rams had the offensive juggernaut of Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and Marshall Faulk. All New England had was a no-name head coach named Bill Belichick and some sixth-round backup quarterback named Tom Brady. What happened next would begin the greatest dynasty in NFL history. With less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 17, the Pats decided to go for the win instead of taking their chances in OT. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis told Brady to take care of the ball. Former starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe shuffled over to Brady, looked him in the eye, and told him to sling it. And sling it he did. With a methodical march down the field, Brady and the Patriots would win their first Super Bowl title with a last-second field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
The Game: Super Bowl XLII
The Date: Feb. 3, 2008
Final: New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14
The Story: When the New England Patriots took on the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42, the Pats were no longer the underdogs. To put it bluntly, David had become Goliath. The Pats went into this matchup with a perfect 18-0 record and Super Bowl victories in three of the previous six seasons. And if that wasn’t enough, their final win of the regular season was over the Giants. All the evidence pointed to the Patriots hanging another championship banner. Eli Manning and the New York Giants had other ideas.
The game was hard-fought, with only 10 total points scored through three quarters. Brady and Manning traded touchdown passes in the fourth before Eli pulled ahead with a 13-yard touchdown to Plaxico Burress. With less than a minute on the clock, Brady magic wouldn’t be enough this time. The Giants would earn their third Super Bowl title with a victory formation kneel-down.
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