Moose Tracking Special Edition: Top 5 Worst Beats in Super Bowl History
Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers (98) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
The Chiefs and Packers played the first Super Bowl on Jan. 15, 1967. Since that game, bettors all over the world have tried to avoid the moose on Super Bowl Sunday. For those of you not familiar with the term “Moose,” it has been used for years within the sports betting world to reference the worst beats. It originated within the old school gambling forums more than 15 years ago, and has stuck ever since. With the big game a little over a week away, let’s look back at the five worst beats in Super Bowl history.
Super Bowl V: Cowboys (+2.5) vs. Colts
The Blunder Bowl Moose (Miami, 1971)
The Colts (of Baltimore) took on the Cowboys in the first Super Bowl played after the NFL/AFL merger and the first played on artificial turf. It turned out to be an absolute disaster, hence the nickname Blunder Bowl. The Cowboys led 13-6 at the half against a Colts team that lost quarterback Johnny Unitas to injury in the second quarter. The Colts’ only touchdown in the first half came on a lucky, deflected 75-yard touchdown pass.
The third quarter featured a comedy of errors from the Cowboys. They lost a fumble at the 1-yard line, although that play remains controversial since a Dallas player clearly came out of the pile with the ball. Additionally, when the Colts came up short on a 52-yard field goal attempt, the Cowboys didn’t try to advance the ball. It somehow landed inside the 1-yard line, which is where the Cowboys took over possession. If that sequence sounds confusing, the NFL changed that rule in 1974.
Things only got worse for Dallas in the fourth despite the fact that Baltimore turned it over on their first two possessions of the quarter. The Colts tied the game with a 3-yard touchdown drive after picking off Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton. Dallas actually had the ball in Colts territory with under two minutes left in a tie game, but they moved backwards with penalties. On second and 35, Morton threw another pick (he had three in the quarter), which set up the Colts in field goal range. The Colts kicked the game-winning field goal with five seconds left to take their first lead of the game. What makes it worse is the Cowboys still could have covered if the Colts didn’t miss the extra point on their first touchdown. That ultimately forced them to kick the field goal for the win (and cover by the hook).
The Colts played so poorly that Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley actually won MVP. To this day, it remains the only instance where a player on the losing team has won MVP. Colts defensive end Bubba Smith has also refused to wear his ring given how sloppy Baltimore played. Yet, they still managed to cover -2.5.
Some other tidbits to illustrate why this game got the nickname “Blunder Bowl”
- 11 combined turnovers (Super Bowl record).
- Colts had 7 turnovers (most by a winning team in a Super Bowl).
- Cowboys had 133 penalty yards (Super Bowl record).
Check out the highlights of the hilarity in this clip.
Super Bowl XLIII: Cardinals (+3 1H) vs. Steelers
The James Harrison Return Moose (Tampa, 2009)
Trailing 10-7, the Cardinals had first and goal at the Pittsburgh 2-yard line with 18 seconds left in the first half. Those who bet Arizona first half +3 had to assume they would at least kick a field goal. Even the biggest pessimist’s worst case scenario would involve a fumble or interception in the end zone for a push.
However, nobody saw what would come next: a James Harrison interception, which he returned 100 yards for a touchdown. However, after seeing the replay, it wasn’t clear if the ball crossed the plane before Larry Fitzgerald brought him down. They decided to review the play, which sent sportsbooks across Vegas into a frenzy. Not only did the outcome of the review impact the first half side, but also the first half total of 23.5. With no time left on the clock, the refs ultimately made the right call, letting the play stand. Touchdown. Moose.
Super Bowl XLI: Colts/Bears Over 47
The Dungy Decision Moose (Miami Gardens, 2007)
Over 47 bettors could not have started off any better, as rookie Devin Hester took the opening kickoff for a touchdown. It remains the only opening kick return for a touchdown in Super Bowl history. Things didn’t go as smoothly for over backers the rest of the way, however. Despite being the only Super Bowl to feature rain throughout, you still don’t expect an NFL team to miss an extra point (pre-rule change) and/or Adam Vinatieri to miss a short field goal. Well, both happened in the first half. The Colts botched the snap on an extra point and Vinatieri missed a 32-yarder.
Over bettors still found themselves in good position to get to the window late in the game. The Colts faced a fourth and 6 at the Chicago 17 with 1:49 left, holding a 29-17 lead. A field goal would push the score over the total. However, Tony Dungy decided to run a basic dive with Joseph Addai instead of kicking the field goal for a 15-point lead. In retrospect, Dungy probably made the right call, given the time, score and playing conditions. But that doesn’t make it any less painful of a beat for those who wagered on the over.
The total ultimately stayed under by one point. Remember that missed extra point and missed field goal by Vinatieri? What makes those misses even more shocking is Vinatieri broke Terrell Davis’ record for most points (49) in a single postseason that year — a record he still holds today.
Super Bowl XIV: Rams (+11) vs Steelers
The Classic Frontdoor Moose (Pasadena, 1980)
Many consider this as one of the better Super Bowls given that the game featured a Super Bowl record seven lead changes. Anyone who bet LA +11 had to feel confident for most of the game, as the Rams actually held a lead at the end of the first, second and third quarters.
However, Pittsburgh outscored Los Angeles 14-0 in the fourth quarter. Terry Bradshaw took advantage of a blown assignment in the Rams’ secondary on third and 8, hitting John Stallworth for a 73-yard touchdown for the Steelers’ first score in the fourth quarter. That gave Pittsburgh a 24-19 lead. The Rams, still trailing 24-19, had the ball in Pittsburgh territory with just over five minutes to play. However, quarterback Vince Ferragamo threw a critical interception.
On the ensuing drive, the Steelers drove down to the Rams 1-yard line, aided by a 45-yard completion to Stallworth on third and 7 and a defensive pass interference penalty. LA bettors still had hope after the Rams stuffed the Steelers on first and second downs, but Franco Harris tumbled into the endzone on third down to give the Steelers their largest lead of the game (12). LA turned it over on downs in Steelers territory on their final drive with under a minute remaining. Pittsburgh somehow managed to pull out a 31-19 victory, covering by a single point. Oh, and did I mention the Rams missed an extra point in the third quarter?
Super Bowl LI: Falcons +3 vs. Patriots
The 28-3 Overtime Moose
Sorry, Atlanta fans. I know you don’t want to read this, especially after Georgia’s heartbreaking overtime loss in the national championship. I’m sure the Falcons’ last-second loss in Philadelphia this season in the NFL playoffs didn’t help, either. Sorry, I’ll stop. To be fair, I bet Atlanta +3 in this game, so I suffered along with the great state of Georgia and anybody who backed the underdog.
I knew no team had ever blown even a 10-point lead in the Super Bowl. Therefore, I never even considered Atlanta blowing a four-score lead with 22 minutes left. It took a horrible Matt Ryan sack, multiple two-point conversions, and a miracle catch just to complete the comeback. And not only did the Falcons blow a 25-point lead, they also managed to lose the coin toss. Then they allowed the Patriots to score a touchdown on the first and only overtime drive in Super Bowl history. New England scored on each of its final five possessions. They capped off their 31 consecutive points with this James White game-winning touchdown run. That was the final nail in the coffin of those took +3 with Atlanta. The Falcons had over a 99.5% chance of winning outright with nine minutes left.
I’m sure those who bet on the Under 57 also felt sick after this Super Bowl, as the Patriots’ 25 consecutive points sent the game into OT tied 28-28. Unfortunately for under backers, the Super Bowl can’t end in a tie. With a current spread of Eagles +5.5 in this year’s Super Bowl, I get nauseous just thinking about a potential overtime.
Top photo via Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports