With only 11 postseason games left in the last season of the 2010s, let’s use our win probability model to look at which teams overcame the longest odds to win games over the last decade.
While Super Bowl LI provided the most memorable comeback of the last decade, with the New England Patriots erasing a 28-3 halftime deficit to upend the Atlanta Falcons, our model identified four other games where teams overcame longer odds to win.
Here are the top 10 least likely comebacks of the decade. Details of each comeback are provided below.
1. Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants, Week 15 2010. Comeback odds: 1 in 252.
With 8:17 remaining in the game, the Eagles trailed 31-10. A 65-yard touchdown pass, successful onside kick, and a Michael Vick touchdown run cut the deficit to seven with just over four minutes remaining. After a Giants drive stalled, the Eagles drove the length of the field to tie the game with 1:16 remaining. After another New York drive stalled, DeSean Jackson returned the ensuing punt 65 yards for the game-winning touchdown as time expired. The game became known as the “Miracle at the New Meadowlands,” and it’s our most surprising comeback of the 2010s.
Here’s the win probability plot showing each team’s chances throughout the game.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers, Week 11 2012. Comeback odds: 1 in 165
With 1:02 left in the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers trailed 21-13 and had the ball at their own 20-yard line with no timeouts. Josh Freeman led an 80-yard touchdown drive — including a two-point conversion — to force overtime. Tampa won the game 27-21 with a touchdown on the opening drive of overtime.
3. New Orleans Saints vs. Washington Redskins, Week 11 2017. Comeback odds: 1 in 159
With 4:14 in the fourth quarter, Washington led New Orleans, 31-16. The Saints converted a big third down and eventually scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 31-23. A Redskins three-and-out was followed by another New Orleans touchdown and two-point conversion that tied the game. The Saints won in overtime, 34-31.
4. Detroit Lions vs. Dallas Cowboys, Week 4 2011. Comeback odds: 1 in 153
With 10:30 left in the third quarter, Dallas had the ball and a 27-3 lead. On the next play, Tony Romo threw a pick-six to make it 27-10. Another Romo pick, followed by a rejuvenated Lions offense scoring a touchdown, touchdown, field goal, and a touchdown on its second-half drives, led to a 34-30 Detroit win. This game is the only one on our list where the lowest odds of winning came in the third quarter.
5. New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons, Super Bowl LI 2016. Comeback odds: 1 in 142
This game is known as the 28-3 comeback, but New England’s lowest odds of winning actually came with 8:31 left in the game. The Falcons had the ball and a 28-12 lead when Dont’a Hightower forced a fumble and a sack, which led to a New England touchdown and two-point conversion. Another sack and holding penalty ended another Falcons drive. The Patriots tied the game with another touchdown and two-point conversion and scored a touchdown on the first overtime possession to win 34-28.
6. Oakland Raiders vs. Cleveland Browns, Week 4 2018. Comeback odds: 1 in 141
With 1:41 remaining, the Raiders trailed the Browns by eight when they turned the ball over on downs. Oakland forced a three-and-out and got the ball back with 1:28 left. The Raiders drove downfield for a touchdown and two-point conversion to force overtime, where they won on a 29-yard field goal.
7. Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers, NFC Championship 2014. Comeback odds: 1 in 136
At the 4:57 mark of the fourth quarter, the Packers had the ball and a 19-7 lead. After Seattle forced a three-and-out, a Russell Wilson touchdown cut the lead to 19-14 with 2:09 left. The Seahawks recovered an onside kick and drove down the field for a touchdown and a 22-19 lead with 1:19 remaining. The Packers kicked a field goal to force overtime, but Wilson connected with Jermaine Kearse on a 35-yard game-winning touchdown pass, which sent Seattle to Super Bowl XLIX.
8. Indianapolis Colts vs. Detroit Lions, Week 13 2012. Comeback odds: 1 in 99
With 4:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Colts trailed the Lions by 12 points. A Detroit drive stalled at midfield and Indianapolis forced a punt. An Andrew Luck touchdown pass made it 33-28 Lions with 2:39 left. Indy’s defense held and they got the ball back at their own 25 with 1:07 left and no timeouts. Luck led a game-winning drive that culminated with a touchdown pass to Donnie Avery as time expired.
9. Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Diego Chargers, Week 1 2016. Comeback odds: 1 in 89
With 12:53 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Chiefs trailing 27-10, Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith threw an interception. A missed Chargers field goal, and three straight scoring drives from Kansas City mixed with two failed San Diego drives led to the Chiefs tying the game with a minute left. Kansas City won the game in overtime.
10. Denver Broncos vs. Miami Dolphins, Week 7 2011. Comeback odds: 1 in 80
With 5:50 left in the fourth quarter and the Broncos trailing the Dolphins 15-0, Denver punted the ball to Miami. After forcing a three-and-out, Tim Tebow led the Broncos on an eight-play touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 15-7. Denver recovered the onside kick and Tebow orchestrated a game-winning drive, culminating with a Broncos touchdown with 17 seconds remaining. Denver won in overtime.