The Five Greatest Super Bowl Upsets

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03:  David Tyree #85 of the New York Giants catches a 32-yard pass from Eli Manning #10 as Rodney Harrison #37 of the New England Patriots attempts to knock it out in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Giants defeated the Patriots 17-14.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Super Bowl is a day away, and it will be the first time since 1993 that the No. 1 seeds from both conferences will be playing on the final Sunday of the season. 

Cinderella had to stay home this year, as Indianapolis and New Orleans were expected to play in Miami this weekend.

But before we settle into our easy chairs with nachos in one hand and our favorite beverage in the other, let’s take a look at the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.



5) Super Bowl IV: Kansas City Chiefs 23, Minnesota Vikings 7


In the final meeting before the merger, the heavy underdog Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings 23-7, thus giving the AFL the historic last laugh in its head-to-head matchups with the NFL.

Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson was named the game’s MVP, but their smothering defense was the real star of the game.

Led by defensive end Buck Buchanan and linebacker Willie Lanier, the Chiefs held the Vikes to one touchdown on 67 total offensive yards, forcing three fumbles and picking off three passes. The Chiefs completed their domination with Otis Taylor’s high-stepping 46-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to secure the upset win.



4) Super Bowl XXXII: Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24


It was billed as a battle between two great gunslinging quarterbacks: an aging John Elway vs. the hot shot, Brett Favre.

Instead, a running back with a migraine led the Denver Broncos to a 31-24 victory over the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.

Terrell Davis rushed for 157 yards and scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner with just under two minutes remaining in the contest.

The victory finally earned Elway his first Super Bowl ring after suffering through three crushing Super Sunday defeats. It wasn’t his finest performance, but Elway’s airborne third-down scramble late in the game has become part of Super Bowl lore.



3) Super Bowl XXXVI: New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17


Many experts believe this game put Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on the football map, as they pulled off a 20-17 miracle over the high-powered St. Louis Rams. They went on to win two more Super Bowl titles in 2003 and 2004 and became one of the most prolific dynasties in recent NFL history.

Brady was a relative unknown before taking over the starting quarterback reins from Drew Bledsoe, who went down with an injury early in the season. Many questioned whether he had poise to handle the pressure of playing in a Super Bowl, and quietly, Brady went punch-for-punch with the “Greatest Show on Turf.”

With the score tied and 90 seconds away from overtime, Brady effortlessly drove the Pats down to the Rams 30-yard line, thus allowing Adam Vinatieri to kick a 48-yard game-winning field goal as time expired and giving New England its first NFL championship.



2) Super Bowl III: New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7


The strongest image from this game has to be Jets quarterback Joe Namath wagging his finger above his head as he ran off the Orange Bowl field. Three days earlier, he boldly predicted a victory over the mighty Baltimore Colts.

It was a collective effort, as the Jets defense frustrated the Colts by forcing them into turning the ball over all day. The New York offense consisted of only one touchdown run from running back Matt Snell and three field goals from kicker Jim Turner.

The Colts did make a late push, as an aging Johnny Unitas came off the bench to lead them to their only score. But it was too little, too late, and the AFL had captured its first major victory over the NFL.



1) Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14


All sports fans remember where they were when the New York Giants spoiled the New England Patriots ride to a perfect season. Our jaws dropped as Eli Manning led the Giants downfield in that memorable final drive.

Who could forget that catch from David Tyree or the ensuing touchdown grab from Plaxico Burress, as the Giants shocked the world with a 17-14 victory? It quickly became a Super Bowl classic—and one of the biggest upsets in sports history.