There was a time when blowouts were the rule more than the exception in the Super Bowl.
Of the 12 games that took place on the much-anticipated Super Sundays from 1984-95, nine were decided by 17 points or more – including five of the six biggest one-sided affairs in NFL history.
Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case more recently as 17 of the 19 Super Bowls between 2004-22 were decided by 14 points or fewer. And thanks to Tom Brady leading the New England Patriots back from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, we might have to think twice about turning the channel if a game seemingly gets out of hand.
We’re hoping there isn’t an addition to this list any time soon, but nevertheless, here are the biggest blowouts in Super Bowl history:
1. 45 Points: San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10 in Super Bowl XXIV (Jan. 28, 1990)
There was a time in the NFL when AFC teams just couldn’t keep up and lost 13 straight Super Bowls. This was the era of peak NFC championship dominance. The 49ers, who had beaten the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl the previous year, entered this one as 12-point favorites. And they delivered. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice connected seven times for 148 yards and a Super Bowl-record three touchdowns. Montana threw for 297 yards and a then-record five touchdown passes, compiling a passer rating of 147.3 – the second-highest passer rating in Super Bowl history. And this was all against the best defense in the league, as Denver allowed the fewest yards and points per game in 1989. Even Broncos legend John Elway couldn’t save his team. His 19.4 passer rating is the third lowest in Super Bowl history. But hey, Elway would eventually end the AFC’s drought in 1997 with a Super Bowl win over the Green Bay Packers.
2. 36 Points: Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10 in Super Bowl XX (Jan. 26, 1986)
The Patriots had stunned Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins, the only team to beat the Bears that season, in the AFC championship game. And they led with an early field goal after a Walter Payton fumble, but that’s where the fun would end at the Superdome in New Orleans. Chicago’s legendary “46” defense dominated New England, tying a Super Bowl record with seven sacks and allowing just seven rushing yards – the fewest given up in the game’s history. Just for good measure, defensive lineman William “The Refrigerator” Perry took a handoff and plowed in for a touchdown to give the Bears a 44-3 lead and the record for most points scored in the third quarter of a Super Bowl with 21.
T-3. 35 Points: Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8 in Super Bowl XLVIII (Feb. 2, 2014)
This was supposed to be a battle between the best offense (Peyton Manning and the Broncos) and the best defense (the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom) in the NFL during the 2013 regular season. Instead, only the greatness of Seattle’s defense was celebrated as the Seahawks became the first team to score more than 40 points while holding its opponent under 10 in the Super Bowl. It seemed to be a bad omen for Denver on its first play from scrimmage when center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball while quarterback Peyton Manning was calling an audible, resulting in the ball going into the end zone for a safety. The Seahawks also intercepted Manning twice in the first half and took a 22-0 lead at halftime. Malcolm Smith finished with 10 tackles, recovered a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown to become one of only seven (at the time) defensive players to win Super Bowl MVP honors. Manning would get his second title (one with the Indianapolis Colts) just two years later.
T-3. 35 Points: Dallas Cowboys 52, Buffalo Bills 17 in Super Bowl XXVII (Jan. 31, 1993)
One of the main storylines heading into this one was whether the Bills could finally break through with a victory after losing the previous two Super Bowls to the New York Giants and Washington by a combined 14 points. And the Bills actually jumped ahead 7-0 on a Thurman Thomas 2-yard run early in the first quarter, but the Cowboys would outscore Buffalo 28-3 over the rest of the first half behind two Michael Irvin TD receptions from Troy Aikman. It certainly didn’t help that Bills QB Jim Kelly was forced out of the game in the second quarter due to a knee injury and ended up with a Super Bowl-record nine turnovers. The Bills would lose their fourth straight Super Bowl the following year, 30-13 to the Cowboys.
5. 32 Points: Washington 42, Denver Broncos 10 in Super Bowl XXII (Jan. 31, 1988)
The Broncos broke out to a 10-0 lead before Washington piled on 35 in the second quarter to set a playoff record for the most points in a quarter. Doug Williams received much of the pregame attention as he became the first Black quarterback to reach the Super Bowl. And once the game started, he put on a show with a then-record 340 passing yards and a then-record-tying four touchdowns to earn MVP honors. Ricky Sanders ended with a then-record 193 yards on nine catches, while rookie running back Timmy Smith set the Super Bowl rushing record with 204 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
6. 29 Points: Oakland Raiders 38, Washington 9 in Super Bowl XVIII (Jan. 22, 1984)
The Raiders denied Washington’s bid to become only the fifth repeat champion in convincing fashion in front of 72,790 at Tampa Stadium. Marcus Allen proved unstoppable, running for a then-Super Bowl record 191 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns against the league’s top-rated run defense. This included a Super Bowl record 74-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter that increased the lead to 35-9. “The last TD by Marcus Allen took the air out,” Washington running back Joe Washington told the Washington Post. It was a bit of a shocking result considering that Washington had won 31 of its previous 34 games – including 11 in a row. The Raiders held running back John Riggins, the previous year’s Super Bowl MVP, to 64 yards, ending his record streak of six straight postseason games with at least 100 yards rushing.