Reliving the Falcons-Broncos Super Bowl 33 Bad Beat on its 20th Anniversary

Reliving the Falcons-Broncos Super Bowl 33 Bad Beat on its 20th Anniversary article feature image

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: John Elway

  • On its 20th anniversary, I take a look back at a horrible bad beat for over/under bettors in Super Bowl 33 in 1999.
  • The Broncos entered as 7.5-point favorites over the Falcons, but it was the total that had bettors sweating in the fourth quarter.

Let’s take a trip back in time to 1999 and relive what happened for over/under bettors in Super Bowl 33.

No, the Patriots did not play in this Super Bowl. The Pats’ dynasty was still a few years away from its first Super Bowl appearance. In fact, Tom Brady had just finished his junior season at Michigan in January 1999, where he led the Wolverines to a win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.

But back to Super Bowl 33, which featured the Denver Broncos (their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance) and the Atlanta Falcons making their first appearance in franchise history. Despite both teams finishing the regular season with identical 14-2 records, the Dirty Birds, led by running back Jamal Anderson, arrived in Miami as clear underdogs (+7.5) against quarterback John Elway and the loaded Broncos.

(Don’t forget about Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey on a stacked offense to go along with a stingy defense led by Bill Romanowski and Steve Atwater.)

Super Bowl 53 had a fairly high total of 52.5. For comparison, if this year’s total closes at 57.5 (where it is now) or higher, it would be the highest Super Bowl over/under ever. But only five others have closed above 50 since 2000.

Denver showed why it was the clear favorite in the first half, taking a 17-3 lead on an 80-yard bomb from Elway to Smith. The Broncos took a 17-6 lead into halftime, which they still held after  a scoreless third quarter.

Just 23 points at the start of the fourth quarter meant under backers had their feet kicked up and might have even dozed off on the couch after a few adult beverages and what looked like a sure-fire winner.

But that nap wouldn’t last too long, as the fourth quarter would turn into an absolute nightmare for anybody holding an under 52.5 ticket. Let’s take a look at how it played out:

  • Broncos extend their lead to 24-6 in the first minute of the quarter on a TD run.
  • Falcons drove down the field and threw an interception in the end zone, but the Broncos return it 50 yards into Atlanta territory.
  • After a big play by Terrell Davis, an Elway TD run gives Denver a 31-6 lead.

Two touchdowns in four minutes wasn’t great for the under, but it wasn’t the end of the world with two touchdowns still to spare in a blowout.

  • Uh oh. Tim Dwight then returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-13.
  • It then only gets worse, as Atlanta then tried an onside kick but fails. Denver turns the favorable field position into a field goal to extend its lead to 34-13 with approximately seven minutes to go.
  • Led by quarterback Chris Chandler, Atlanta goes on a five minute scoring drive (helped by a fourth-and-4 conversion) that ended in a touchdown with two minutes remaining to cut the Denver lead to 34-19. The under was now inexplicably cooked by the hook.

Under bettors simply needed to avoid 30 points in the fourth quarter to cash in a game that had 23 combined in the first three quarters — and the teams combined to score exactly 30!

Of course, Atlanta didn’t succeed on the final two point conversion just to make it sting a little more for under backers. The Dwight kick return for a touchdown was the ultimate dagger.

Denver held on for the 34-19 win in the last game ever for Elway, who became the NFL’s oldest Super Bowl MVP winner — a record that stood until Tom Brady broke it in 2017 against none other than the Atlanta Falcons. And the ageless Brady is currently listed as the favorite to break his own record and take home the MVP trophy in Super Bowl 53.


Regardless of who you are rooting for or betting on next weekend between the Rams and Patriots, we can all agree that no bettor deserves to have their football season end like it did for those under bettors back in Super Bowl 33. August is a long way away.

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