7 Days of Betting Suspense

January 21, 1979, will forever live in sports-betting infamy as Black Sunday, the day the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys and gamblers ambushed bookmakers. The scenario: Pittsburgh opened Super Bowl XIII as a 4½-point favorite, but as money poured in on the Cowboys, the line dropped to 4 and then 3½, when bettors started backing the Steelers. Dallas ended up scoring two touchdowns in a 2:05 span late in the fourth quarter and lost 35-31; as a result, virtually everyone who bet the game won or got their money back. And those who went for the middle—betting both the Steelers -3½ and the Cowboys +4½—got paid twice.

The lesson: Just because the Super Bowl seems like it’s over on the scoreboard doesn’t mean it’s over in Las Vegas. Here are the seven most-thrilling (from a gambling standpoint) Super Bowls, where millions of winners turned into losers—and vice versa—in the final seconds.

Super Bowl V

Matchup: Colts (-2½) vs. Cowboys
Final score : Colts 16, Cowboys 13
Game rewind: Dallas led 13-6 midway through the fourth quarter, but the then-Baltimore Colts turned two Cowboys interceptions into 10 points, with the game-winning field goal—and half-point cover—coming with five seconds to play.
Forgotten fact: The Cowboys scored the first six points of the game, settling for two short field goals after squandering a pair of first-and-goal opportunities.

Super Bowl X

Matchup: Steelers (-7) vs. Cowboys
Final score : Steelers 21, Cowboys 17
Game rewind: Pittsburgh turned a 10-7 deficit into a 21-10 lead with a safety, a field goal and a touchdown—all in the fourth quarter. However, the Cowboys drove 80 yards in five plays for a touchdown (and the backdoor cover).
Forgotten fact: On the game’s second series, Pittsburgh’s punter fumbled and Dallas took over at the Steelers’ 29-yard line. One play later, the Cowboys had a 7-0 lead.

Super Bowl XIII

Matchup: Steelers (-3½) vs. Cowboys
Final score : Steelers 35, Cowboys 31
Game rewind: After Dallas tight end Jackie Smith dropped a sure touchdown pass early in the second half—forcing his team to settle for a field goal—Pittsburgh broke the game open with two TDs in 19 seconds midway through the fourth quarter to take a 35-17 lead. But the Cowboys answered with two quick TDs of their own, first scoring with 2:27 remaining, then recovering the onside kick and finding the end zone again with 22 seconds left.
Forgotten fact: How close was Black Sunday to never happening? Dallas’ final points came three plays after Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach completed a 25-yard pass … on 4th-and-18.

Super Bowl XIV

Matchup: Steelers (-10½) vs. Rams
Final score : Steelers 31, Rams 19
Game rewind: Facing the defending champs, the then-L.A. Rams had the double-digit spread covered the entire game—in fact, they took a 19-17 lead into the fourth quarter—until Pittsburgh capped a 70-yard drive with a touchdown with 1:49 left to play.
Forgotten fact: The Rams drove inside Pittsburgh’s 40-yard line on each of their final two possessions, but one drive ended with an interception (which the Steelers converted into their final score) and the other with an incomplete pass on fourth down.

Super Bowl XXXI

Matchup: Packers (-14) vs. Patriots
Final score : Packers 35, Patriots 21
Game rewind: The teams combined for 56 points in less than three quarters, the final touchdown coming via the Packers’ 99-yard kickoff return, followed by a successful two-point conversion that put the game right on the point spread.
Forgotten fact: In addition to the kickoff return, Green Bay had a two-play drive (capped by Brett Favre’s 54-yard TD pass) and a one-play drive (Favre’s 81-yard TD pass). And although the final 18 minutes were scoreless, the Packers had a chance to cover, but kicker Chris Jacke was wide right on a 47-yard field-goal try with less than four minutes to play.

Super Bowl XXXIV

Matchup: Rams (-7) vs. Titans
Final score : Rams 23, Titans 16
Game rewind: St. Louis scored on a 73-yard touchdown pass with 2:12 remaining to snap a 16-16 tie. Tennessee took over at its own 12-yard line and drove all the way to the Rams’ 10, where with six seconds to play—and no timeouts—Steve McNair completed a pass to Kevin Dyson, who was tackled 1 yard shy of the goal line.
Forgotten fact: The second push in Super Bowl history happened despite the fact the Rams entered the final minute of the third quarter with a 16-0 lead and still led 16-6 midway through the fourth.

Super Bowl XXXIX

Matchup: Patriots (-7) vs. Eagles
Final score: Patriots 24, Eagles 21
Game rewind: With the score tied at 14, New England scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter to take a 24-14 lead, only to see Philadelphia steal the spread-cover with a touchdown with 1:48 remaining.
Forgotten fact: Midway through the fourth quarter, the Patriots had first-and-goal from the 4-yard line but didn’t gain a yard and had to settle for a 22-yard field goal. Also, New England safety Rodney Harrison intercepted Donovan McNabb at the Eagles’ 28-yard line with 17 seconds to play, but was tackled after a 6-yard return.

Suggested Next Read

Three Questions: Las Vegas and the Super Bowl

Three Questions

Three Questions: Las Vegas and the Super Bowl

By Matt Jacob

A decade ago, the NFL squashed the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s attempt to run a Super Bowl ad promoting Las Vegas. Since then, the league developed an ad policy related to destinations and sports wagering, while the authority turned to other outlets, such as ESPN and Fox Sports, to reach its audience. Here, LVCVA chief Rossi Ralenkotter analyzes the NFL-Vegas relationship and gives the odds on a rematch. How big of a boost is the Super Bowl to Las Vegas' tourism economy?