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Top 10 Super Bowl upsets

About the Author

Bob McGinn
Contributing writer

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By Bob McGinn

In the last in a series of 10 Super Bowl top-10 lists excerpted from "The Ultimate Super Bowl Book," author Bob McGinn identifies the top 10 Super Bowl upsets of all time.

1. Jets over Colts, III: The Packers twice had held serve easily against the AFC, and Don Shula's supposed Colts juggernaut had just demolished Cleveland, 34-0, for the NFL crown. But the Jets had Joe Namath, multiple weapons on offense, and an established, resolute defense. Pro football was never the same after the Colts went down in flames.

2. Giants over Patriots, XLII: With 18 victories in hand, the Patriots needed one more for a perfect season and claim to the title of greatest team ever. Together with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Tom Brady had rewritten the NFL record books — but the Giants weren't awestruck. Starting fast and finishing strong, the Giants handed Bill Belichick his most disappointing defeat.

3. Patriots over Rams, XXXVI: The Rams appeared to have it all: Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, "The Greatest Show on Turf," and a rugged defense. But Belichick found ways to disrupt their passing game, and the youthful Brady didn't make mistakes at the end. These aging, modestly talented Patriots epitomized the meaning of team.

4. Chiefs over Vikings, IV: The Chiefs waited three years for a chance to avenge their loss in Super Bowl I. Not only was the emotional edge leaning Kansas City's way, but so was the edge in talent. Steeped in the static concepts of the hide-bound NFL, the Vikings never had a chance.

5. Broncos over Packers, XXXII: Coach Mike Shanahan and his Broncos set the trap for the overconfident Packers, and they fell right in. Denver's blitzing defense consistently beat Brett Favre, and the Packers' defense became too exhausted to stop Terrell Davis or John Elway.

6. Giants over Bills, XXV: Two words: "wide right." Phil Simms was injured and the Giants had struggled mightily late in the season. The Bills had a galaxy of young stars and were coming off a 51-3 demolition of the Raiders. It came down to a 47-yard field goal, and Scott Norwood's kick sailed right.

7. Raiders over Redskins, XVIII: League MVP Joe Theismann and the Redskins had amassed 541 points during the season, a league record that would stand for 15 years. The Raiders, however, could rush and cover with anyone in their era. It was no contest.

8. Colts over Cowboys, V: Five times a division winner, the Cowboys made the Super Bowl for the first time with a dynamite roster in 1970. Duane Thomas' fumble at the goal line opened the door for the aging Colts, and then Jim O'Brien kicked it down.

9. Buccaneers over Raiders, XXXVII: Raiders C Barret Robbins going off on a bender 48 hours before kickoff didn't help. Neither did the horrendous performance of QB Rich Gannon. Still, Tampa Bay's defense was awfully good, and the offense clicked at just the right time.

10. 49ers over Bengals, XVI: The 49ers eventually went on to establish themselves as the "team of the 1980s," but in 1981 their 26-year-old quarterback was in just his first full year as a starter. The 49ers and Joe Montana did just enough in the first half to stave off the talented but mistake-prone Bengals. San Francisco's goal-line stand in the third quarter loomed large.


Bob McGinn, the author of "The Ultimate Super Bowl Book," has covered the Green Bay Packers and the NFL for 30 years, including the last 19 for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He has been Pro Football Weekly's correspondent in Green Bay since the early 1980s. McGinn spent 4½ years interviewing more than 150 head coaches, assistant coaches, players, general managers, scouts and owners, as well as studying tapes of every game, in preparation for writing his book. His objective was to break down why each game was won. "The Ultimate Super Bowl Book," published by MVP Books, is available at, and book stores across the country. It contains more than 25 top-10 lists, a comprehensive statistical summary of each game and a list of Super Bowl records.

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