This past week’s episode of the Blitzed radio podcast talked about upsets happening around the NFL. This season alone we’ve seen the Bills go into Minnesota and knock off the Vikings (dammit), the Browns beat the Falcons without Hue Jackson’s interference, and a most glorious takedown of the Patriots by the Titans (MariGOATa?). It got me to thinking: what are some of the biggest upsets in NFL history? Fear not, Blitzers, MZE has you covered. I dug deep into the archives and came up with five games that stuck out in my mind.
1996 AFC Playoffs, Jacksonville v Denver (DEN -12.5)
The Jacksonville Jaguars were in their second year of existence in 1996. After starting 3-6 they rattled off wins in six of their next seven games and squeaked into the playoffs as a wild card. They took out the Bills in the wild card round then advanced to play top-seeded Denver the following week as a 12.5 point underdog. On paper, this was a mismatch almost not worthy of viewing. When the Broncos jumped out two a 12-0 lead after one quarter, folks were grabbing remotes and looking for a rerun of, “Little Giants,” to watch. The Jags yelled, “Screw the Annexation of Puerto Rico! Stay right here!” The next two quarters saw Jacksonville outscore Denver 20-0 led by quarterback, Mark Brunell, bruising running back, Natrone Means, and kicker, Mike Hollis. Denver would cut the lead to three twice in the fourth quarter but in the end, Jacksonville held on for a 30-27 win.
1987 NFC Playoffs, Minnesota v San Francisco (SF -11)
The Niners in the 80s were rock stars. Bill Walsh was at the helm and Steve Young stepped in at quarterback replacing Joe Montana without really missing a beat. The 1987 team went 13-2 in a strike-shortened season that involved games played by replacement players and faced the Vikings in the divisional round. The Vikings entered the playoffs with an 8-7 record however they were 8-4 with their regular players (oh if only Shane Falco played for them during those replacement weeks). Vegas had the Vikings as an 11-point underdog but they didn’t play like one. Wade Wilson threw two touchdown passes, Chuck Nelson hit five field goals and the Vikings stunned the 49ers at Candlestick, 36-24. The following week they came up just short in Washington, losing 17-10 to the eventual Super Bowl champions thus crushing the hopes of their fan base yet again.
Super Bowl IV, Kansas City v Minnesota (MIN -12)
Super Bowl IV would be the last one featuring an AFL-NFL match up. The Minnesota Vikings came into this one as a 12-point favorite over the Kansas City Chiefs and why shouldn’t they have? Led by “The Purple People Eaters” defense, this one was expected to be a laugher. It certainly was but not for the Vikings’ faithful. The Chiefs pounded their ground game to the tune of 151 yards. Len Dawson was efficient if not effective. Jan Stenerud connected on three field goals and the Vikings offense never got going. In the end, the Chiefs took home the Lombardi with a 23-7 win and Vikings fans were left hoping next year would be the year.
Super Bowl XLII, New York Giants v New England (NE -12.5)
The 2007 New England Patriots were a juggernaut. I mean they’ve been a dominant force since the Deflater and the Cameraman joined forces but in 2007 they were literally unbeatable, winning their first 18 games of the season to waltz to the Super Bowl. Their opponent was the New York Giants. The G-Men had a mediocre 10-6 regular season, including a 38-35 loss to the Patriots in the final game of the regular season. They entered the playoffs as a wild card team and took down the Buccaneers, Cowboys, and Packers in succession, on the road. It was expected that the regular season finale was a fluke as the Giants were 12.5 point underdogs coming into the Super Bowl. The Giants defense was stifling, holding the Patriots to 45 yards on the ground and keeping Tom Brady in check for most of the day. Despite their defensive prowess, the Giants still trailed 14-10 with 2:42 to play after a Randy Moss TD catch. Then, one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history occurred. Eli Manning spun out of a sack with a move that would make Britney Spears’ jaw drop. The heave to David Tyree and the ‘helmet catch’ set the Giants up and with 35 seconds to play, Plaxico Burress caught a 13-yard TD pass sending the Patriots to an 18 and ‘oh shit’ season. Eli Manning is one of my heroes just because of his crushing of Patriots fans’ hopes in Super Bowls.
Super Bowl III, New York Jets v Baltimore Colts (BAL -18)
The NFL dominated the first two Super Bowls over the AFL. Most felt Super Bowl III would go the same way. The Colts entered the game with only one loss on the season. They were led by Earl Morrall at quarterback and running back, Tom Matte. The Vegas line on the game had the Colts as an 18-point favorite. The Jets had a brash quarterback from Beaver Falls, PA, by the name of Joe Namath. “Broadway” Joe was a flashy dresser with a mouth that was really bigger than his talent (come at me on this, please). Namath guaranteed a Jets Super Bowl win, causing more chuckles than a Carol Burnett Show skit (Google the reference if you must). The Jets defense was relentless intercepting three of Morrall’s 17 passes before he was lifted from the game for some kid named Johnny Unitas. The change didn’t help as Matt Snell battered his way to 121 yards on the ground and the Jets only TD of the game. Jim Turner hit three field goals, including a nine yarder (that’s right, a NINE yarder) and the Jets won Super Bowl III, 16-7. Joe Namath was named the MVP. It would be the first and only time a Super Bowl MVP got the award because of his mouth as well as a bust in the Hall of Fame because Lord knows his play isn’t why he made it (again come at me on this, please).
Those are my five biggest NFL upsets in history. What do you have? Hit us up in the comments and please check out the blogs of my teammates, Blitzed Barkeep and Blitzed Scout.
Until the next time, Blitzers, pour yourself a cold one, turn on the Red Zone Channel, and count down the days until Tom Brady retires.
Mike Zimmer's Ears is a Minnesota Vikings fan from Pennsylvania and is a #TeamBlitzed All Pro. You can follow him on Twitter.