The Super Bowl is the pinnacle of gridiron football. Every young player in the United States dreams of eventually stepping onto the field for the sport’s biggest game. It’s the one day in the year when half of the world pretends that they’re diehard NFL fans. It’s also where careers are made and players become legendary. However, sometimes teams and players wilt with crazy choke jobs.
Perhaps the pressure is too much for them and they can’t live up to expectations. Some teams throw away massive leads before losing the game. The worst is when an individual player misses a kick or commits a crucial error. We compiled the 25 worst choke jobs in the history of the Super Bowl. Check out the list below via Bet Firm.
25. Carolina Panthers (2016)
The Panthers came into Super Bowl 50 with the best offense of 2015. However, the old mantra goes that defense wins games. This game put that to the test because their opponents, the Broncos, had the top defense. Unfortunately, for Carolina, their second Super Bowl appearance would end in disappointment. They had a great opportunity to win but couldn’t take it (via USA Today).
Despite being five-point favorites, the Panthers put in an underwhelming performance. They lost the game 24-10 because they failed to fire. The fact that Von Miller won Super Bowl MVP award says a ton. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning stole the headlines even though he didn’t contribute a lot. He became the first quarterback to start and win with two different franchises.
Sometimes the underdogs upset the odds and that proved to be the case. The Jets played without fear against the inhibited Colts and won 16-7. Namath talked big before the game but everybody thought he was going to eat his words. In the end, the Colts replaced Earl Morrell for Johnny Unitas but it was too late. The damage was done and Gang Green won.
This wasn’t the worst of choke jobs because the 49ers played a great team. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs were favorites before this game. But San Francisco could have won it if they kept their heads. Some officiating indeed went against them but Shanahan deserves a lot of criticism. The head coach made some questionable play calls that cost his team.
Shanahan simply wasn’t brave enough in the first quarter. He played a conservative game because he had too much respect for the Chiefs. Finally, they blew a 10-point lead and Kansas City won their first title in 50 years. On at least three occasions, Shanahan called for field goals instead of pursuing the touchdown. However, this was too pragmatic to win (via SBNation).
It may seem harsh to include Brady on this list but he was culpable in the Patriots’ Super Bowl LIII loss. New England played the Eagles in the showpiece event and entered it as defending favorites. Philadelphia came into the game with Nick Foles as their starting quarterback. Nobody gave him a shot but he overshadowed Brady on a bad day for the NFL icon.
Brady suffered a crucial strip-sack that ultimately gave the Patriots too much to do. He tried desperately to find his receiver with a late Hail Mary but it didn’t work. Meanwhile, Foles scored the incredible ‘Philly Special’ as he had the game of his life. Of course, it all worked out for Brady in the end because he won another ring when they beat Atlanta (via CBS Sports).
Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl but he came the closest he ever had in his career in the 1984 season. He stayed loyal to Miami for his entire career despite a lack of a Super Bowl. The 49ers completely overwhelmed the Dolphins in this game. It was one of the great choke jobs because it was their chance at immortality. Instead, they lost 38-16, as Joe Montana overshadowed Marino.
Montana passed for a new Super Bowl record of 331 yards with three touchdowns on his way to the MVP award. Meanwhile, Marino completed just 28 of 50 passes. The Niners’ defense was also on top as they sacked him three times. Furthermore, all-pro punter Reggie Roby picked the worst time to have a meltdown. He was a liability throughout (via Washington Post).
The Vikings know more about choke-jobs than most NFL franchises because of their miserable history. They played the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV. This was the nearest they came to the Vince Lombardi Trophy. But in typical Vikings’ style, they blew it. Instead, Kansas City won their first Super Bowl at Tulane Stadium (via Bleacher Report).
A 13-point spread heavily favored the Vikings but they failed to live up to their promise. Instead, the Chiefs soared into a 16-0 lead in the second quarter. Furthermore, it was redemption for Len Dawson, who had a great game. In the end, it finished 23-7 as the Vikings went home with nothing. Sometimes the postseason throws up shocks but this was a big one.
Smith was one of the greatest tight ends ever. But he was also responsible for one of the worst Super Bowl choke jobs ever. The future Hall of Famer played for his beloved Cowboys against the Steelers. Dallas trailed in the third quarter but suddenly Smith had a chance to change the gamer. Roger Staubach launched a perfect third-down pass to Smith in the end zone (via SportsTalk Florida).
It should have been a touchdown but Smith somehow dropped the ball. He slid forward and it bounced off his chest. This was disastrous because the Cowboys were a score away from leveling the game. Instead, they scored a field goal but this wasn’t enough. The momentum shifted back in Pittsburgh’s favor. Finally, the Steelers won Super Bowl XIII 35-31.
Terrell Davis won acclaim for his performance in Super Bowl XXXII. The running back tore the Packers to shreds on the biggest stage. But this was a major setback for Green Bay. Denver came into this game as 11-point underdogs but belied their status. Instead, they left as champions for the first time in franchise history (via USA Today Sports).
John Elway outshone Brett Favre in the latter’s final Super Bowl appearance. Favre attempted a last-ditch fourth-down pass to Mark Chmura but it didn’t come off. Many analysts believe that this was one of the worst moments of his career. Favre should have won more than a single ring but suffered several postseason choke jobs. Elway enshrined his place in Broncos’ folklore.
Gannon led the league’s top-ranked offense into Super Bowl XXXVII. He silenced many of his doubters after an excellent regular season. But it proved to be a flash in the pan. This remains one of the worst choke jobs ever from any sport because it was so bad. If he was a horse, his owner would have sent him to the factory to save him from the humiliation of his existence.
The quarterback threw a Super Bowl record five interceptions in the game. But to make matters worse, Tampa Bay returned three of them for touchdowns. Gannon described his display as a ‘nightmarish performance.’ It’s not a surprise that this haunts his dreams and legacy. He picked the worst time possible to have a meltdown (via Baltimore Sun).
This wasn’t the day the Broncos dreamed of. It wasn’t a major shock that the Seahawks defeated them. However, the manner of the Broncos’ capitulation was appalling. They suffered one of the choke jobs of the decade as Seattle blew them out. The game finished 43-8 as Peyton Manning failed to deliver. It was all about the defense as linebacker Malcolm Turner won the game’s MVP award.
Manning also threw a pair of interceptions. One of these ended in a costly touchdown for the Seahawks. The Broncos expected more from the iconic NFL star. In the end, they waited another year before capturing that elusive ring. Denver didn’t even get on the scoreboard until the third quarter. But they were unable to mount a comeback (via Sky Sports).
The New York Giants were the bane of Tom Brady’s existence. On paper, the franchise had no right to beat the superior Patriots’ team. However, they pulled off the unlikely on two occasions when it counted. The second came in Super Bowl XLVI in Indiana. This wasn’t as historical as their first achievement but it was still a great win (via ESPN).
Many people love to say that Eli Manning wasn’t a great quarterback. This is probably true but he did pick important times to overperform. Nobody can claim that he didn’t deliver in Super Bowls. After the Patriots brought the game back to 17-15, the Giants consolidated. This was a missed opportunity for New England because they had a superior roster.
Mahomes is one of the most talented quarterbacks of his generation. The Kansas City Chiefs star won his first ring in 2020. It was a brilliant moment for the player and the franchise. That’s because it was their first Super Bowl wins in 50 years. They had a chance to defend their title against the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. However, this was a day of pain, as Tom Brady left Mahomes in the shade.
The Bucs won 31-9 in a surprisingly easy victory. Todd Bowles and the rest of the Tampa Bay defense were excellent. They shut Mahomes down in a way nobody ever saw before. But Mahomes deserves criticism for one of the most disappointing choke jobs of recent history. It wasn’t that he made appalling mistakes but he wasn’t able to make a difference (via Fox Sports).
This was the end of an era but the beginning of a dynasty. Everybody favored the Rams to batter the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI. This was before everybody hated New England. Yes, we know that’s unbelievable but it was the case. Fairytale isn’t often used these days when the Pats win. However, they shocked the Rams in this gripping game of football (via CNN).
St. Louis were 14-point favorites before the game. However, they were unable to turn their dominance into points. Instead, the Patriots soared into a lead before the Rams came back. Finally, with the game tied at 17-17, Tom Brady took control. The young quarterback showed his talent as he brought Adam Vinatieri close enough for the winning field goal. St. Louis looks back on this as one of their big choke jobs.
The New Orleans Saints hold Super Bowl XLIV in their hearts because it was their first NFL title win. Indy carried the favorites tag into the game but had one of the biggest choke jobs instead. Peyton Manning threw a key fourth-quarter interception that cost his team dearly. Meanwhile, Drew Brees won the Super Bowl MVP award for his excellent display (via N.Y. Times).
In the end, the Colts endured a heavy 31-7 defeat. Their offense failed to fire and made costly mistakes. Brees completed a record-equalling 32 passes as his legend rose to a new level. It was disappointing for Manning’s fans because they wanted their hero to win another ring. Finally, he got his second ring, but not until after he moved to Denver.
O’Donnell is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in NFL folklore. That’s because of a pair of costly interceptions in Super Bowl XXX. The Steelers had a great chance to beat the Cowboys. However, this was one of the most painful quarterback choke jobs in living memory. Larry Brown stole O’Donnell’s thunder because he picked the QB off twice.
The interceptions were bizarre because they were so aimless. One of them went directly to Brown despite no receivers being in the zone of play. Many analysts criticized O’Donnell after the game. If this happened in the regular season, nobody would remember it. Unfortunately, the Super Bowl is a different story. Perhaps the pressure overcame him or he was just unlucky (via Irish Times).
John Mackey scored a controversial and possibly illegal touchdown in this game. It came from a Johnny Unitas pass and also gave the Cowboys something to complain about. However, for all of their excuses, Dallas was sloppy and ineffective. Jim O’Brien kicked the winning field goal with five seconds left to play. In truth, the Colts earned the win.
Dallas held a 13-6 lead at halftime but had one of the worst choke jobs in their history. A pair of interceptions proved crucial as both set up Baltimore scores. Tom Landry admitted that the Cowboys were their own worst enemy. This went down as one of the least-entertaining Super Bowl games ever because both teams were sloppy (via N.Y. Times).
Football is a cruel sport as the Bengals discovered in this game. It may seem harsh to call this one of the biggest choke jobs in history. That’s a fair point because the 49ers had Joe Montana as their starting quarterback. However, given the context of the Bengals’ next 30 years, they wasted the chance to become iconic. Instead, they missed their only shot at the title.
It was an intriguing match-up because Boomer Esiason was in the best form of his life. This was a tight game and the Bengals led 16-13 with three minutes ticking away. However, they were unable to hold on as Joe Montana led his team downfield. The result was inevitable. Within a couple of years, Cincinnati was in severe decline. Finally, in 2022, they appeared in a Super Bowl again (via Mercury News).
The Patriots have lost a couple Super Bowls under Bill Belichick. However, this one hurts the most because they came so close to completing a perfect season. Including the playoffs, they entered the game with an undefeated 18-0 record. There was a chance to go completely unbeaten against the New York Giants. Most people hated the Pats but believed the result was inevitable.
However, Eli Manning and his teammate had something to say about that. If any result haunts Tom Brady and Belichick it’s this one because it shouldn’t have happened. Plaxico Burress scored a late touchdown before a Brady sack sealed the deal. The Patriots won so many accolades throughout that season but it felt like they meant nothing after this (via Boston Globe).
Pete Carroll says that statistically, Seattle made the right call in XLIX. However, this doesn’t change one fact. Marshawn Lynch was just four yards from the endzone. Instead, Russell Wilson attempted to find Ricardo Lockette. But the Patriots blocked him and rookie Malcolm Turner intercepted the ball. Wilson’s dream of a second Super Bowl ring instantly died (via Sports Illustrated).
Some say that Lynch had a poor record from similar positions throughout the regular season. However, a lot of critics maintain that the offensive coaches delivered one of the worst choke jobs ever. They say that this was a time to be brave and go for the kill. In the end, the Patriots gleefully ruined Seattle’s dream. They haven’t returned to a Super Bowl since.
For several minutes, Kasay was a Carolina hero. The Panthers made their first Super Bowl appearance against the Patriots. This went down as one of the most dramatic games ever. However, it’s a painful memory for Kasay. After an intense and even contest, Kasay kicked the teams level with a minute left. But he didn’t have much time to enjoy the adulation (via 247 Sports).
Next, Kasay had kickoff duties to attend to. But then the nightmare struck. He sent the ball out of bounds. This incurred an illegal procedure penalty. The scheming Patriots were able to bring the ball back downfield. Finally, Adam Vinatieri scored the winning field goal. It was a horrible moment for Kasay’s legacy because his mistake killed their dreams.
The Chicago Bears ran through the Patriots like a knife through butter in Super Bowl 20. It was a nightmarish result for New England but potentially avoidable. Firstly, Raymond Berry made the controversial decision to start Tony Eason. This left veteran Steve Grogan as his backup. However, this was a terrible choice because Eason went 0-for-6 before Berry pulled him.
Meanwhile, the Bears ran rampant. Grogan suffered four sacks after entering the field of play. The Patriots also turned the ball over six times as they delivered one of the worst choke jobs ever. Finally, the game mercifully ended and Chicago won 46-10. This was all the more surprising because the Pats were excellent before this. They won all of their previous playoff games on the road (via SBNation).
Robinson was one of the Falcons’ most important players. They knew that they required him to be at his best if they hoped to win the Super Bowl. At the time, he was the NFL’s active career interception leader. However, things became murky when the Miami police intercepted him. Robinson solicited an undercover police officer because he believed she was a prostitute.
Unfortunately for Robinson and his team, this wasn’t the case. He enjoyed the precinct’s hospitality until 4 am before they finally released him. The Falcons made the fatal decision to start him the next day. However, Robinson wasn’t at his best after an exhausting night. He was also culpable for an 80-yard Terrell Robinson touchdown (via AP News).
The Eagles played the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. Their offense included quarterback Donavon McNabb as well as the mercurial Terrell Owens. There was no doubting the latter’s talent but he had a volatile relationship with QBs. This was a bad day for head coach Andy Reid because two of his most important players let him down. The Eagles played hard but didn’t have enough to win.
McNabb threw some key interceptions but later blamed Terrell for being out of position. Meanwhile, Terrell claimed that McNabb vomited on the field because he was hungover. It was a mess but at least Reid received redemption when he won a ring with the Chiefs almost two decades later. Unfortunately, McNabb never lived this down but it wasn’t entirely his fault (via Bleacher Report).
Norwood’s miss continues to haunt his dreams. The Bills placekicker displayed outstanding consistency throughout the regular season. He had the opportunity to become an instant Buffalo icon. 47-yards stood between him and a Super Bowl ring. Instead, he sealed immortality but not for the reason he wanted. He kicked the ball ‘wide-right’ and the Bills lost the game (via Yahoo).
Some believe it’s unfair to call this one of the biggest choke-jobs ever. But Norwood had one job. His only task was to kick the ball between the posts. This wasn’t even the most challenging distance. However, this was the Super Bowl and the pressure was too much. Instead, the Giants won the ultimate prize.
In 2017, the Falcons performed one of the worst choke-jobs ever. They led the Patriots in Super Bowl LI by a score of 28-3. This 25-point lead haunts the dreams of Dan Quinn because they should have won. Furthermore, the aforementioned Kyle Shanahan was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator. He took a lot of heat because they went into meltdown (via FOX Sports).
Many casual Super Bowl followers stopped watching because it appeared to be over at halftime. The Patriots were about to suffer a blowout before they came storming back. They sent the game to overtime and an ice-cold Tom Brady sealed victory for his team. It sealed his status as the greatest ever but it was also a major humiliation. After this loss, Atlanta went into a freefall and have not gotten out since.