The Patriots and Seahawks face off Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX, with the Patriots generally being slight favorites by most sports books. But we know from history that anything can happen. The big game is notorious for upsets, with unexpected wins and loses shocking fans and players alike. The surprises make up some of the most memorable moments in NFL history.
Ahead of the 2015 game, we recapped some of the best Super Bowl upsets in recent decades. They’re in no order, because how can you really decide which is better: the Jets’ victory in Super Bowl III, or the Giants victory in Super Bowl XLII?
Super Bowl XXXII – John Elway Finally Wins A Ring As Broncos Beat Packers, 31-24
37-year-old John Elway had been to three Super Bowls, but had never won. He and his Broncos made it again in 1998 and while running back Terrell Davis carried the team with 165 all-purpose yards, Elway’s “Helicopter Run” is what will always stick out from the game. Elway scrambled for eight yards on the Green Bay 12-yard line for a first down, but was hit so hard by Packers defenders that he spun sideways through the air:
Super Bowl XXXVI – Patriots defeat St. Louis’ Greatest Show On Turf, 20-17
Tom Brady has led the Patriots to many Super Bowls, but in 2002 the team was the underdog. Brady was in his first season as a starter and St. Louis was favored by 14 points. The tough New England defense helped keep the team in the game and with only 1:21 minutes to go in the fourth quarter the score was 17-17. Brady and the Pats had the ball on their own 16 yard line with no timeouts. A couple big passes and Adam Vinatieri was set up for his 48-yard field goal.
Watch the final drive, along with some understated commentary from Pat Summerall and John Madden below, or listen to WBCN’s Gil and Gino call the game for radio for some more enthusiastic reactions.
Super Bowl XLII - Giants beat undefeated Patriots, 17-14
The 2007 Patriots were an absolute powerhouse. They hadn’t lost a game all season and they were up against a Wild Card Giants team led by young Eli Manning. The Patriots were favored by 12 points going into the game. A slow game ended with an incredible game-winning drive by the Giants that was kept alive when Manning avoided three sacks and tossed a 32-yard pass to wide receiver David Tyree, who caught it with one hand and his helmet. The play is undoubtedly one of the greatest in Super Bowl history:
Super Bowl III – Broadway Joe and the Jets Defeat Colts, 16-7
Back in the 1960s, the NFL really wasn’t the NFL we know today. There were still two main leagues, the NFL and the AFL, or American Football League. The NFL was considered a much better league and the Green Bay Packers proved their league’s superiority in Super Bowl I and II with back-to-back victories over their AFL opponents. But the Jet’s charismatic quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed a win for the Jets, even though the Packers were favored to win by 19 points. The Jets victory made football fans finally take the AFL seriously and eased the merger of the two leagues two seasons later.
Super Bowl XXV – Wide Right, Giants upset the Bills, 20-19, starting four long years for Bills fans
Game-winning field goals make for some of the greatest Super Bowl victories ever, but what about a game-losing miss? That’s what happened in Super Bowl XXV in 1991. The Buffalo Bills were favored to beat the New York Giants by 7 points and the game was expected to be close, but no one could have predicted the way that game ended. With eight seconds on the clock and trailing by one point, Bills kicker Scott Norwood lined up for a 47-yard field goal to win the game. Norwood’s kick went wide right by about a foot, cementing the phrase “wide right” in NFL history and giving the Giants the closest Super Bowl victory ever. To add insult to injury, the Bills went to the next three Super Bowls and lost every one, each by large margins. Norwood would retire after the 1991 season. Watch via NFL.com, here.