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The top four Super Bowl upsets

Steven O’Rourke takes a look at the biggest shocks in Super Bowl history.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning meet on he field before Super Bowl XLII. Guess what happened?
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning meet on he field before Super Bowl XLII. Guess what happened?
Image: (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

AS THEY WILL next Sunday in Super Bowl XLV, teams often enter the biggest game of them all very evenly matched.

However, there are times when, for one reason or another, sides have been strong favourites only to leave with their tails firmly between their legs.

4. Los Angeles Raiders (38) beat Washington Redskins (9)

Super Bowl XVIII – 1984

The Redskins entered this game as defending Super Bowl champions, with many commentators believing they were even better than the previous season. The Raiders, meanwhile, went into the game knowing they’d come up short against the Redskins during the regular season.

What followed was one of the most devastating blowouts in Super Bowl history. The Raiders destroyed their more illustrious opponents thanks mainly to Marcus Allen who ran for a then-record 191 yards and two touchdowns. The game is still referred to as ‘Black Sunday’ by Redskins fans.

3. New England Patriots (20) beat St. Louis Rams (17)

Super Bowl XXXVI – 2002

It seems strange to comprehend now, but Tom Brady and the Patriots went into this game very much as outsiders. In this, the end of his first season as a starting QB, Brady went toe to toe with a Rams offense – known as “the greatest show on turf” –who were 14 point favourites for the game.

The pivotal moment came when Brady got the ball with no timeouts and only 90 seconds remaining. Though many, including myself, felt he should try run down the clock and take the game to overtime, Brady had other ideas. After completing five of six passes, the Patriots found themselves at the Rams 30-yard line with seven seconds remaining. Adam Vinatieri made the field goal to secure a famous victory.

2. New York Giants (17) beat New England Patriots (14)

Super Bowl XLII – 2008

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The Patriots, undefeated and going for the first perfect season played over 16 games, entered Super Bowl XLII as 12 point favourites over the Giants who’d lost six regular season games.

They started like favourites too, holding a 7-3 lead at half time before exchanging fourth quarter touchdowns with the Giants to lead 14-10 with less than three minutes remaining.

Then came the game winning drive which included one of the greatest catches of all time, a 32-yard pass from Manning to David Tyree that saw the receiver catch the ball with his helmet. Four plays later Plaxico Burress caught the game winning touchdown for the Giants to ruin the Patriots’ hopes of a perfect season.

1. New York Jets (16) beat Baltimore Colts (7)

Super Bowl III – 1969

The third encounter between the AFL and NFL champions was the first to feature the name Super Bowl. Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers had won Super Bowl I and II so comfortably that many regarded the AFL as nothing more than a “little league”.

Belying their status as 17.5 point underdogs, the Jets took a 16 point lead before the Colts mounted any kind of comeback. Led by Johnny Unitas – up there with Danny Invincible in great sporting names – the Colts rallied briefly, scoring a touchdown before recovering the resulting kickoff with just three minutes remaining.

However, the Jets made one of the great defensive stands to hold on for an unlikely victory.

Steven O’Rourke is the offensive coordinator of Tullamore Phoenix American Football Club. When not obsessing with football he can be found at 4fortyfour.

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Steven O'Rourke

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