Hard to believe that the biggest annual event in sports used to be called “The Super Bore”. The irony behind the Joe Montana era would be the fact that few Super Bowls were rarely competitive during the 1980s and 1990s. Super Bowl XXIII, Montana’s finest moment, and Super Bowl XXV, featuring Norwood wide right, were notable exceptions.
Favorites controlled the majority of these games, usually winning big, often putting the game beyond reach before the fourth quarter. When a young, fresh-faced Tom Brady took the field as 14-point underdogs against the “Greatest Show On Turf”, nobody predicted the demise of Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner and the Rams, or the impending dominance of underdogs which would unfold during the Tom Brady era. Bodog sports book will attest to this significant trend, which kicked into high gear when Brady accomplished the improbable.
Brady started underdog era
Underdogs have enjoyed a fantastic run over the last 15 Super Bowls, covering the spread 11 times, winning 73% of those games. Eight straight up underdog wins occurred, good for a 53% rate. Since underdog payoff’s significantly higher than favorites, those who wagered on the dog over the past decade and a half reaped considerable rewards.
This trend dominated after the New England Patriots stifled one of the all-time great offenses during Super Bowl XXXVI. The world witnessed the calm, collected Brady put together what would be his first signature comeback drive of many. As 14-point dogs, New England shocked with a 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams.
Tom Brady’s first Super Bowl win established the equation for the biggest underdog victories over the last 15 years. Brady lifted the MVP award, but New England’s defense was the star of the game, giving Tom the opportunity to win the ring with a fourth-quarter drive. Holding Faulk and Warner to 17 points was a significant achievement.
New England would win two more Super Bowls before their own underdog formula was used against them.
New York Giants Feed Patriots Their Own Medicine
As Wild Card entrants into the playoffs, the 2007-08 New York Giants weren’t expected to accomplish much in the postseason. When they were surprise NFC Champions, most were pleased by the Giants outperforming expectations. The Patriots just completed a perfect regular season and waltzed into the Super Bowl as 12-point favorites.
Halftime finished with a 7-3 Patriots lead, and New York’s defense was holding up against one of the best teams of all time. Similar to Brady in 2002, Eli Manning wasn’t much of a factor during the first few quarters, before marching New York to glory in the finals minutes – including the ridiculous “Helmet Catch”.
Incredibly, Manning and the Giants would repeat an upset of the Patriots a few years later in Super Bowl XLVI. Once again, Tom Coughlin would direct New York’s defense to near-perfection, before Manning drove a stake through Patriots’ hearts.
No Super Bowl Underdog Wins Without Big Defense
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers were the most recent big favorites to fall in the Super Bowl. Von Miller and the Denver Broncos harassed the Panthers offense to inadequacy, forcing key turnovers which covered for a difficult game for Payton Manning. Instead of a QB leading the offense, defensive scoring and the run put points on the board. Von Miller would be MVP of Super Bowl 50.
Defensive scoring would also create the most lopsided upset in Super Bowl XLVIII, when the Seattle Seahawks pummeled the Denver Broncos 43-8, including a safety and a pick six which irrevocably shifted momentum in Seattle’s favor.
New England’s last couple of Super Bowls were shocking, mostly because of their defense. The Patriots infamously sealed Super Bowl XLIX with a goal line interception against the Seahawks. A sudden defensive resurgence by New England in Super Bowl LI kept Brady on field to pull off the greatest comeback in gridiron history.
Quarterbacks almost always receive the glory, but the Tom Brady era of the Super Bowl was enabled by the blood, sweat and tears of defensive football.