Where does Super Bowl 50 rank among the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history?Super Bowl 50 will go down as one of the bigger upsets in Super Bowl history, but it’s clearly not one of the biggest ever. Even given the recency of the game, it still falls far behind Super Bowl III (Jets/Colts), Super Bowl IV (Chiefs/Vikings), Super Bowl XXXII (Broncos/Packers), Super Bowl XXXVI (Patriots/Rams), or Super Bowl XLII (Giants/Patriots, 2007). All five of those games had double-digit point spreads, but went to the underdogs.
Super Bowl XXV (Giants/Bills) featured a 6.5-point spread and was one of the more memorable upsets. And two recent underdogs won with 4.5-point spreads — Ravens over 49ers, Saints over Colts. From a purely point spread look, Super Bowl 50 would slot in right there, at tied for #7, as the line closed at 4.5 points. From a purely subjective standpoint, I’d probably put this game in the middle of those two: the Saints game looked like a big upset, but the stats guys were on New Orleans, and the line may have only been in the Colts favor because of the team’s experience edge. I picked the 49ers to win by six points, which is what I had Carolina winning by yesterday, too. But with Denver a 12-4 team and the #1 seed, I think this game feels like less of an upset than Ravens/49ers.
But it doesn’t matter that this game isn’t one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. That’s because it has another honor to take home: being one of the best defensive Super Bowls ever. The teams combined for just 509 yards, the 6th fewest in any Super Bowl. On a per-play basis, that ranks 4th, passing the ’72 and ’73 Dolphins Super Bowls.
And after adjusting for era, it looks even better. Here’s how to read the table below. This season, teams averaged 488 combined passing yards per game and 218 combined rushing yards. In the Super Bowl, the two teams combined for just 301 passing yards and 208 rushing yards. That’s 187 fewer passing yards than average, and 10 fewer rushing yards than the average NFL game. Combined, the teams produced just 509 yards, which is 196 fewer yards than the average game during the 2015 regular season.
|Year||Tm||Opp||Lg Avg Pass||Lg Avg Rush||Pass Yd||Rush Yd||Pass Dif||Rush Dif||Tot ▾||Total Diff|
The Broncos defense was incredible, allowing just 3 net points (the defense scored one touchdown and allowed another) against a team that had scored 480 points in its first 18 games. Denver also tied a Super Bowl record with 7 sacks. But the Carolina defense was also outstanding, and held Denver to a Super Bowl low (among winning teams) 194 yards.
Given the presence of the NFL MVP in Cam Newton and the league’s highest scoring team, one could make the case that this was more impressive than the Ravens/Giants game (or Bears/Patriots game at #3) that had mediocre — or downright poor — quarterbacks by Super Bowl standards. Von Miller was a worthy Super Bowl MVP, and this game will be remembered as one of the great team defensive performances in Super Bowl history. But it should also be remembered as perhaps the greatest combined team defensive performance in Super Bowl history.