The Biggest Chokes in Sporting History

At some point it will stop being funny but for the time being, the Atlanta Falcons losing another “unlosable game” continues to amuse and entertain.

You thought they were home when they lead the Chicago Bears 26-10 with 10 minutes remaining and the Bears benched starting quarterback Mitch/Mitchell Trubisky for Nick Foles.

There was no way they would find a way to give up three touchdowns in the space of five minutes to lose this game…

Except they weren’t home, Nick Foles looked like the January 2018 version of Nick Foles and because it’s the Falcons, they did give up three touchdowns in five minutes to lose 30-26.

We’ve seen some memorable chokes around the world so hopefully the Falcons don’t feel too bad about blowing a game… again.

Atlanta Falcons (2020 [Week 2])

It had been a whole SEVEN DAYS since the Falcons blew a big lead after going down to Dallas the week before.

Against the Bears their expected win percentage sat in the 90’s for most of the second half and peaked at 99.1% late in the third quarter.

A week ago against the Cowboys, it peaked at 99.9% with just over three minutes to play and a 39-30 lead.

But in true Falcons fashion, they found a way to end up on the wrong end of the scoreboard.

After punting the ball away they never took possession again, giving up a touchdown run to Dak Prescott, failing to recover an onside kick and then giving up the game winning field goal as time expired.

Atlanta Falcons (2017)

It’s the game that started all of the jokes, in the biggest game of the season, Atlanta had a 28-3 lead and were putting a beating on the New England Patriots.

No team had ever come back from more than 10 points down in the Super Bowl and it didn’t look likely that the Patriots would pull this off.

The Lombardi Trophy was headed to Atlanta for the first time, the owner was on the sidelines dancing up a storm, then it all went pear shaped.

We won’t go into too much detail because you’ve heard it all before, but in short, New England pulled off a historic comeback.

Gary Anderson (1998)

Believe it or not, the Falcons actually benefitted from an all time choke in a previous life.

The 1998 Minnesota Vikings were a wagon, dominant on offence, setting all sorts of records and finishing the season with a 15-1 record, hosting the NFC Championship after blasting Arizona 41-21 in the divisional round.

Vikings kicker Gary Anderson had a 39 yard field goal attempt with 2:11 to play and the Vikings leading 27-20, the kick would have almost certainly sent Minnesota to the Super Bowl.

Anderson had not missed a kick all season, making 35/35 field goals in the regular season and all 59 of his extra point attempts.

Apparently it was the perfect time to miss his first kick in over a year, as his attempt sailed wide left allowing the Falcons to tie the game up and subsequently win it in overtime.

However, because Atlanta can’t have nice things they were comfortably beaten in the Super Bowl by Denver 34-19.

Houston Oilers (1993)

When you think of all-time NFL chokes however, there’s the Falcons in Super Bowl LI and this one that sits head and shoulders above the rest.

The Houston Oilers (now known as the Tennessee Titans), held a 35-3 lead over the Buffalo Bills, who were starting their backup quarterback in Frank Reich.

Houston did not score another point as Reich played the half (& overtime) of his life, leading the Bills to a huge comeback victory that finished 38-35 to the Bills.

Golden State Warriors (2016)

After claiming their first title in 30 years, the Warriors were well and truly on their way to back to back titles, leading LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers by 3 games to 1.

They had set an NBA record during the season with a 73-9 record and defeated the Cavs both times they met in the season including a 34 point belting in January.

Next thing you knew, the Cavs were travelling to Oakland for Game 7 and a clutch basket from Kyrie Irving delivered the city of Cleveland its first title in 52 years.

Boston Bruins (2010)

In the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the Bruins were poised to eliminate the Philadelphia Flyers leading 3-0 in the series before the Flyers battled back to level it at 3-3.

Game 7 saw Boston complete their collapse in spectacular fashion on their home ice.

After 15 minutes the Bruins were up 3-0 and looking like they were ready to cruise home but the Flyers wouldn’t go away levelling the game at 3-3 late in the second period.

A power play goal to Simon Gagne midway through the third period gave the Flyers a 4-3 lead and sealed one of hockey’s more impressive collapses.

New York Yankees (2004)

The Curse of the Bambino was still hanging over Fenway Park in October 2004 and the hated New York Yankees were on the verge of heaping more pain on the Boston Red Sox leading 3-0 and coming off a 19-8 drubbing in Game 3.

Boston battled back winning Game 4 in 12 innings and sending the series back to New York with a 5-4 victory in 14 innings.

Game 6 also went the way of the Red Sox 4-2 and there was no doubt the collapse was happening when the Yankees trailed 6-0 in the second inning of Game 7.

New Zealand All Blacks (1991-2007)

The All Blacks won the first ever Rugby World Cup in 1987 and have been odds on favourites for every tournament since.

For the next five editions of the tournament, the majority of the rugby world rejoiced when the All Blacks would find new and creative ways to choke away the William Webb Ellis Cup.

In 1991 they went down to Australia in the Semi Final (nearly sparking a coup in New Zealand… we think) before losing the 1995 final to South Africa.

1999 saw the French pull off their own upset stunning the heavy favourites 43-31 in the Semi Final before four years later, an unfancied Wallabies side would knock them off at the same stage 22-10.

France would get another stunning win over New Zealand in 2007 defeating them 20-18 in the Quarter Finals.

Of course the All Blacks would get their revenge on everyone winning in 2011 and then again in 2015, knocking off France and Australia in those two finals.

But we still have their collapse against England in 2019 to enjoy…

AC Milan (2005 Champions League Final)

They were up 3-0 against Liverpool, what could possibly go wrong from here?

Well apparently, just about everything!

Socceroos (November 1997)

This one still hurts to remember, 28 years of pain at the time, Johnny Warren in tears and one idiot tearing down the net while the game was still going killing all of Australia’s momentum.

If you want to see a video of this, go find one yourself.

Brazil (1950 World Cup)

Brazil, at home in a World Cup, looking almost unbeatable, this is not the script for 2014, this happened in 1950.

Going into the final match, the entire nation of Brazil was already partying, prematurely celebrating being crowned World Champions.

Uruguay had other ideas, holding out for the entire first half before conceding to Friaca in the 47th minute.

The Uruguayan side came back, challenging the Brazilian backline levelling through Schiaffino in the 66th minute before Ghigga gave them the lead 11 minutes from time.

Between that and the 7-1 humiliation from Germany in 2014, it’s hard to decide what was a more embarrassing moment for Brazilian football.

Parramatta Eels (1998 Prelim)

The Eels have a long history of letdowns in big games but none can top their utter capitulation in the 1998 Preliminary Final.

They were up 18-2 with 11 minutes to play and were taken to extra time by the Bulldogs with the scores locked at 18-18.

It was all one way traffic as the Bulldogs could not be stopped, running out 32-20 winners and ending the career of Eels winger Paul Carriage in the process.

Melbourne Stars (BBL08 & BBL09)

When you think about it, blowing not one but two Big Bash Finals is actually pretty impressive.

Really, it takes a whole team effort to lose the unlosable game once, let alone twice.

From 0/93 to 7/112 in the space of five overs in 2019, the Stars found a creative way to lose the final.

It did give us this Eddie McGuire image which made the Schadenfreude a little bit more appropriate.

Then in 2020, they only had 12 overs to collapse and they did so with aplomb!

Collingwood (2018)

Poor Eddie McGuire, his sporting teams did not have a whole lot of luck in Grand Finals in late 2018 and early 2019.

The Magpies were cruising early, the West Coast woke up, Dom Sheed had the final say as West Coast claimed a classic.

We weren’t kidding about Eddie’s luck either.

Greg Norman (1996)

We’re normally proud of an Aussie making sporting history and etching themselves into the lexicon of their game.

The key word there is “normally” as the entire nation watched him fall apart at Augusta.

South Africa (1999 CWC Semi Final)

It wasn’t just down to that famous last ball, the South African collapse in the World Cup Semi Final began long before that.

Steve Waugh to Heschelle Gibbs: “you’ve just dropped the World Cup” (allegedly).

Australia held on for a tie and won on run rate, but South Africa can only look at this as a missed opportunity.

Jana Navotna (Wimbledon 1993)

Jana Navotna came oh so close to claiming the 1993 Ladies Singles at Wimbledon, leading 4-1 in the third set and serving to take a 5-1 lead.

There is really no other way to say it, Novotna froze, double faulted and never recovered as Steffi Graf stormed home to win the title by taking the next five games.

Thankfully, five years later she would be back on that famous Centre Court and claim

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