Most Crushing?

Cold Hard Football Facts recently ranked the most crushing playoff turnovers of all time.  They put Manning’s pick in the Super at #2.  That seems crazy high to me.  Let’s look at some of the turnovers that were much more devastating than that one.  In fairness, CHFF only used conference championship games and Super Bowls, so I’ll limit myself to those games.  To create this list, I’m using data from Advanced NFL Stats.  They have a lovely charting system that shows teams’ win probabilities before and after each play.  Unfortunately, the game charts only go back to 2000, but it will still give us a decade worth of data.

Please note:  this isn’t opinion based.  I’m just using the Cold Hard Facts.

1. Warner’s pick in 2008 Super Bowl:  WP before 61%  WP after 16%.  Difference 46%

#1 on CHFF’s list was unquestionably the biggest turnover of the decade, and possibly ever.

2.  Favre pick in 09 verses the Saints (NFC Championship):  Before: 83%  After: 42%  Difference: 39%

This was an infinitely worse mistake than Manning’s.  The two shouldn’t be compared. Favre’s occurred with his team looking to win the game, and instantly they had less than a coin flip’s chance of winning.  This was one of the biggest turnovers ever.

3.  Favre pick in 07 against the Giants (NFC Championship):  Before: 55%  After: 20%  Difference:  35%

Another total back-breaker from Favre.  It really seemed like the Pack had that game on a plate, but the pick destroyed all that.  Again, the Pack was favored to win at the time the pick occurred.

4. (tie) McNabb’s pick in 2001 verses the Rams (NFC Championship):  Before: 33%  After:  5%  Difference: 28%

Hasselback’s pick in the 2005 Super Bowl  Before:  43%  After:  15%  Difference: 28%

Flacco verses the Steelers 08 (AFC Championship)  Before: 31% After: 3%  Difference:  28%

For some reason, these plays have been overlooked.  All three were more damaging to their teams because both teams had more realistic chances of winning the game before the turnover than the Colts did.  Neither of the first two ended the game, so perhaps that’s why they aren’t recalled.  Flacco’s pick six late in the fourth quarter last year was a crushing blow.

7.  Warner’s pick in 2001 Super Bowl  Before: 67%  After: 42%  Difference: 25%

Another crushing pick six from Warner.  The Rams had a good chance to win before, but were hurting afterwards.  To me, turnovers that take a team from likely to win to likely to lose are the real back breakers

8. (tie)  Rex Grossman’s interception in the 2006 Super Bowl  Before: 32%  After: 9% Difference: 21%

Peyton Manning’s pick six in 2009 Super Bowl Before: 22%  After: 1%

I will say this about Manning’s pick.  It came at a point when his team had the second lowest odds of actually winning of any turnover on this list.  However, it also completely destroyed his team’s chances of winning, taking them down to 1%.  To call it the 2nd most crushing turnover in playoff history is just plain wrong.  It’s barely in the top 10 for the decade.  It certainly was not “more horrendous” than Favre’s pick against the Saints.  I don’t think people realize how slim the Colts’ chances were at that point.  With only 3 minutes to play (and three timeouts), the Saints were going to have the ball last.  They had scored on 5 of 6 possessions (the other ended on fourth down at the goal line).  A score by the Colts only would have postponed the inevitable.  Advanced NFL Stats has a great article about where the Super Bowl was REALLY lost.

10. Brady’s pick 2006 AFC Championship  Before: 17% After 0%  Difference: 17%

A game ender, but certainly not worthy of inclusion on any list of worst turnovers. The Pats had very little chance to actually win the game.  The pick was just cosmetic, much like Manning’s.


Tom Brady holds the distinction of having two of the worst turnovers of the decade in games his team WON. Because the criteria CHFF established was ‘crushing’, I won’t include them on the list.  They do merit mentioning, however.

Brady’s pick verses Panthers 2003 Super Bowl: Before: 92% After: 56%  Difference: 36%

Brady’s pick verses the 2007 Chargers (AFC Championship):  Before:  75% After:  58% Difference: 17%

Brady’s pick in the 2003 Super Bowl was so bad that it should have gone down as the third worst playoff turnover this decade.  Instead it is utterly forgotten, and he inexplicably was given an MVP award for the game.  It sure is nice to be Tom Brady.