The Super Bowl is one of the biggest sporting events in America. This is especially true considering the massive handle for online Super Bowl betting. There are parties and nachos and tailgating. So, it’s no wonder that some of the most memorable moments involve Super Bowl losses. Fans pour their time and attention into watching and there have certainly been some major upsets in the sport. See below for our list of the 10 biggest Super Bowl losses ever, or check out the greatest Super Bowl winners.
10. Super Bowl XXII: Washington Redskins (42) vs. Denver Broncos (10)
Held on January 31, 1988, at the Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, this loss was a pretty huge one for the Broncos who were favored to win by three points. Considering only the points, this would definitely be the worst Super Bowl loss on this list.
The 1987-1988 season was shortened by a players’ strike. Though each team only missed one game due to the labor dispute, three games during the season had to be played with replacement players making for a rather interesting sporting season.
Though the Broncos had John Elway, the Redskins had Doug Williams. Williams led Washington to two playoff victories and became the first African American to start in a Super Bowl.
For the first quarter, the Redskins were losing by 10 and then turned the game around with a record-breaking 35 points in the second quarter and 42 in total. Williams was named Super Bowl MVP for his phenomenal four touchdowns in one of the most surprising Super Bowl losses.
9. Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints (31) vs. Indianapolis Colts (17)
Super Bowl XLIV was held at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on February 7, 2010. It is still the latest calendar date for a Super Bowl.
This was the first Super Bowl for the Saints and the Colts were favored to win by five points. It was all but assumed the Saints would join the halls of big Super Bowl losses. Shocking the nation and leading to this huge Super Bowl loss, the Saints, who were down 10-6 at halftime managed to recover during kickoff with an onside kick that led to a 16-yard touchdown by running back Pierre Thomas.
However, this nail-biter didn’t end there. The Colts regained the lead with a 4-yard touchdown by running back Joseph Addai.
The Saints came marching back in response with another 18 points and the big win. Quarterback Drew Brees was named MVP for completing 32 of 39 passes as well as two touchdowns.
8. Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants (20) vs. Buffalo Bills (19)
Sometimes, the most crushing Super Bowl losses are those lost only by one point. That’s the case for Super Bowl XXV, which saw the Bills lose despite their predicted seven-point favor.
Held on January 27, 1991, at Tampa Stadium in Florida, this Super Bowl defeat started with a performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Whitney Houston. Though they were the favorite to win, Super Bowl XXV was the first Super Bowl for the Bills.
This was the first and only single-point loss amongst Super Bowl losses. Additionally, the Giants set a record for holding possession of the ball for over 40 minutes. They also set a record for the 75-yard touchdown that consumed over 9 minutes on the clock.
Giants running back Ottis Anderson was named Super Bowl MVP and he was the first person to receive the Pete Rozelle Trophy. Thanks to him, the Bills lost the Super Bowl instead of the Giants.
7. Super Bowl XV: Oakland Raiders (27) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (10)
This is one of those Super Bowl losses that is the stuff of movies. Played in the Louisiana Superdome on January 25, 1981, this game took place only five days after the Iran hostage crisis ended. The patriotic pregame ceremonies paid special attention to honoring the end of the crisis.
This was the first Super Bowl appearance for the Eagles, but they were still favored to win by three points making this a pretty extreme loss. Not only did the Raiders take this win, but they also became the first wild-card playoff team to ever win a Super Bowl.
Dan Pastorini started the season as the Raiders’ quarterback, but five games in broke his leg and was replaced by then, 33-year old backup Jim Plunkett. Plunkett not only led the Raiders to this unexpected victory, he was also named MVP because of it.
Notably, Plunkett is also the only NFL quarterback to win multiple Super Bowls in different cities with the same team. He won in 1981 when the team was in Oakland and then again in 1984 when they moved back to Los Angeles.
6. Super Bowl XLVII: Baltimore Ravens (34) vs. San Francisco 49ers (31)
Held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on February 3, 2013, Super Bowl XLVII marked the first-ever Super Bowl loss for the 49ers. Up until this Super Bowl loss, the 49ers had won five other championship games in 1982, 1985, 1989, 1990 & 1995. They were favored to win by four points and ended up losing by three.
Before a partial power outage for 34 minutes gave it the nickname “Blackout Bowl”, the Ravens had already built up a 28-6 lead. It seemed likely the 49ers would go home with another addition to the list of Super Bowl losses.
When the game resumed, the 49ers scored 17 points in the third quarter, making the score 28-23. They kept pressing and the two teams went back and forth until the last minutes of the game with The Ravens taking an intentional safety to preserve their win.
Notably, this was the first Super Bowl played in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. It also was the first time in Super Bowl history that two brothers coached against each other.
Jim and John Harbaugh earned Super Bowl XLVII the nickname of “Har-bowl”. John and Jim’s son, Jay, both have Super Bowl rings from this win.
5. Super Bowl IV: Kansas City Chiefs (23) vs. Minnesota Vikings (7)
Played at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans on January 11th, 1970, Super Bowl IV was the final AFL/NFL championship game before the two leagues merged. Even though in Super Bowl III, the AFL’s New York Jets won, people continued to think that the AFL was inferior to the NFL. It wasn’t until a second AFL win in Super Bowl IV that people began to believe it wasn’t a fluke.
The Vikings came into Super Bowl IV as 12-13 point favorites. Despite the edge and favor, the Chiefs defeated the Vikings in this not even close Super Bowl loss. It was really the Chiefs’ defense that won the game by forcing three interceptions in addition to limiting the Vikings’ offense to a measly 67 rushing yards. Kansas City’s quarterback, Len Dawson, won Super Bowl MVP as had become standard for the winning team.
Also notable, Super Bowl IV marked the first time a coach had worn a microphone during the game. Hank Stram, the Kansas City coach agreed to wear a microphone for the upcoming NFL Films Super Bowl IV film. Stram’s wisecracking has made the Super Bowl IV film one of the most memorable not just amongst Super Bowl losses but in the history of the game.
4. Super Bowl XXXII: Denver Broncos (31) vs. Green Bay Packers (24)
Held in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on January 25th, 1998, Super Bowl XXXII proved an incredible show. Coming into the game as underdogs, the Denver Broncos, led by quarterback John Elway, gave the world one of the most memorable moments in sports history.
Defending their 1997 win, the Broncos had a 17-7 lead in the second quarter. Then, the Packers pushed forward with 17-14 at halftime. With a little over 13 minutes remaining, the teams were tied. It was Terrell Davis, the Broncos’ running back, who scored the final touchdown. It was a magic moment, with less than two minutes left in the game. He was subsequently named MVP for quite literally running the show.
3. Super Bowl XXXVI: New England Patriots (20) vs. St. Louis Rams (17)
This 2002 game was New England’s first Super Bowl championship. It marked the start of a long and celebrated career from second-year quarterback, Tom Brady. Played in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on February 3rd, Super Bowl XXXVI was the first championship game in February. This postponement was due to a week of rescheduled games after September 11th.
As the first Super Bowl held after the attacks, there was special attention paid to the victims. Tributes in both the pregame ceremonies and the halftime show, performed by U2, were given. Also, it was the first Super Bowl designated a National Special Security Event. This status was given by the new Office of Homeland Security. Since then, it has remained an NSSE by the Department of Homeland Security.
Super Bowl XXXVI also marked the last time the Rams were in a Super Bowl while they were still in St. Louis (the franchise moved back to Los Angeles in 2016). But the big upset came from how unexpected this Super Bowl loss was for the Rams.
They were favored to win by a full 14 points. Led by Kurt Warner, the Rams quarterback and their offensive players who at the time were known as “The Greatest Show on Turf”.
In his first championship win and only his second season in professional football, Tom Brady became Super Bowl MVP. And just like that, a star was born. For Brady, Super Bowl losses are a virtual unknown.
2. Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants (17) vs. New England Patriots (14)
Though the Patriots were favored to win by 12 points in the 2008 Super Bowl, the Giants pulled out an impressive and unprecedented win. Having had an undefeated season led by arguably one of the best offenses in NFL history, the Patriots were widely expected to have a perfect season.
In the game’s most memorable moment, Giant’s wide receiver David Tyree caught the ball in what became known as the “Helmet Catch”. This famous catch led to a last-minute touchdown and a game-changing outcome.
Destroying the Patriots’ impeccable season in the luckiest catch in sports history, Tyree dedicated his winning moment to his mother, Thelma, who had died earlier that year.
1. Super Bowl III: New York Jets (16) vs. Baltimore Colts (7)
Though it was the third Championship Game in AFL/NFL history, Super Bowl III was the first to bear the official Super Bowl name. Super Bowl III marked the last year of the AFL – the American Football League – which operated from 1960 until 1969 when it merged with the longer running, more reputable NFL. Until their merge, the AFL and NFL competed with each other, though NFL teams were considered to be better.
Held on January 12th, 1969 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, this game is considered a huge upset in sports history for several reasons. Though the score was not close, the results of this game veered so far from what was predicted that it stunned the nation.
The Colts were favored to beat the Jets by a large margin of 18 points. The 1969 team was thought to be the best team in the NFL and they are also considered one of the best teams in American history.
In contrast, the Jets were only the third-best team in the AFL, which was widely regarded as the weaker league. In fact, they had barely even made the Super Bowl at all that year.