Best Of The Rest: The Greatest Super Bowl Performances From Losing Players

Darren - February 15, 2023

Best Of The Rest: The Greatest Super Bowl Performances From Losing Players

Darren - February 15, 2023

Boston Globe

Kony Ealy

Ealy didn’t have the best time in Carolina but he chose the right moment to have his best game. The defensive lineman tied a Super Bowl record as he gave Peyton Manning a major headache. He sacked Manning three times as he equaled a Super Bowl record. In the end, the Broncos had too much for the Panthers and they won the game.


But Ealy was like a brick wall as he refused to allow Manning to fire. He also forced a fumble and made an interception in a standout display. Losing players rarely emerge with a lot of credit but this was elite. Ealy only had one more season with the Panthers before he joined New England (via

Sports Illustrated

Steve McNair

McNair was one of the most heroic losing players in Super Bowl history. The Titans quarterback almost led his team to a brilliant comeback in 1999. Tenessee scored 16 unanswered points as they drew level with the Rams. But this game wasn’t over and the Rams took the lead again. McNair stayed calm and led his team down the field.

Sporting News

Somehow the Rams tackled Kevin Dyson on the one-yard line and ended McNair’s Super Bowl dream. Arguably he still had a good claim to win the game’s MVP award because he was brilliant. This was one of the most inspirational and charismatic displays we’ve ever seen (via CBS Sports).

Matt Ryan

Ryan remains one of the best quarterbacks in history without a Super Bowl ring. The former NFL MVP played in 2017 against the Patriots in one of the most infamous games ever. Atlanta suffered a massive meltdown as they dropped a record lead. But Ryan was one of the losing players who emerged with credit.

NBC Sports

The quarterback didn’t throw a single interception in the legacy-defining defeat. He completed 17 of 23 passes for 284 yards and a pair of touchdown passes as he drove his team forward. Lots went wrong for Atlanta that day but Ryan did his best and deserved more from his teammates (via Sports Illustrated).


Larry Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald was one of the best players who never won a Super Bowl. The 11-time Pro Bowler played in the showpiece event in 2009 against the Steelers. Fitzgerald and his quarterback, Kurt Warner, had excellent games. They were two of the top losing players in the event’s history but it’s easy to forget this (via AZCentral).

Arizona Cardinals

The wideout had 127 receiving yards with seven catches and two touchdowns. Arizona fell cruelly short of a momentous victory. Fitzgerald or Warner would likely have won the game’s MVP award but they ran out of time. Fitzgerald joined the likes of Fran Tarkenton and Dan Marino as legends who retired without rings.


Thurman Thomas

The Bills lost four straight Super Bowls as they turned it into an art form. But Thomas gave everything in 1991 against the Giants. He managed to achieve lethal productivity even though the Bills underutilized him. Thomas set the standard for losing players with this heroic display (via Bleacher Report).

Buffalo News

Thurman rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Everything he did was brilliant but the Bills failed to get over the line. This was agonizing for Thurman because he deserved more. It remains shocking that Thomas didn’t get a ring but he won the league’s MVP award. The running back was one of the best players of his generation.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Terrell Owens

Owens is on this list because he had no right to even play in Super Bowl XXXIX. The Eagles star broke his leg in December and also tore a ligament. Everybody wrote him off and assumed there would be a long road to recovery. But Owens belied expectations and started for the Eagles against the Patriots.

NBC Sports

He caught nine passes for 122 yards as he showed no ill effects. Indeed, it’s not the greatest stat line ever but the context improves this story. We often forget losing players’ stories but Owens went through so much. He didn’t win a ring but he won the respect of every NFL fan in the country (via SBNation).

Fox News

Jalen Hurts

Hurts had the game of his life for Philadelphia in Super Bowl LVII. He made history with Patrick Mahomes because it was the first time a pair of African-American quarterbacks started for both teams in the showpiece event. Hurts exploded for three touchdowns as the Eagles pulled off multiple QB sneaks. This was also a Super Bowl record (via CBS Sports).

Men’s Health

The Philly star threw for 300 yards but had one costly fumble that handed Kansas City a touchdown. This was cruel because the Chiefs won by three points. But many people thought that Hurts deserved MVP recognition. Losing players don’t win this award and Mahomes overshadowed him. Nonetheless, Hurts had an exceptional performance for his franchise.