Power Ranking Every Super Bowl MVP Performance Following Super Bowl XLVIII
As some may or may not know, I’m a little partial to these historic NFL pieces.
This time around, we’re taking a look at all 48 performances that earned Most Valuable Player honors in a Super Bowl.
Remember, this is a power ranking based on what these individuals did in the game opposed to rating the players themselves. After all, in some instances, you could make a case that there may have been a More Valuable Player than the Most Valuable Player, at least according to this observer.
Looking for criteria in terms of the rankings? Each performance was terrific in its own way and some played bigger roles than others when it came to making the difference between victory and defeat.
So congrats to Seattle Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith, as well as the others who have garnered this rare honor.
More importantly, enjoy reminiscing about the game we all continue to enjoy.
48. S Dexter Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Super Bowl XXXVII)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48, Oakland Raiders 21
We have seen a lot of blowouts the last decade or so in the Super Bowl. All told, 10 of the last 17 of these games have been decided by seven points or less.
This would not be one of those contests.
In the very first Super Bowl featuring the top-ranked offense versus the top-ranked defensive unit in terms of yards allowed, defense won as it did in Super Bowl XLVIII.
In this rout of the explosive Oakland attack, the Buccaneers totaled a Super Bowl record five interceptions of Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2002. Tampa Bay free safety Dexter Jackson had two of those thefts, both in the first half, and he helped set the tone for the afternoon. He finished the game with one tackle and two passes defensed.
Of course, cornerback Dwight Smith, a starter at outside linebacker for head coach Jon Gruden in this game, also had two interceptions and returned two for scores. Smith also totaled four tackles and knocked down a pair of passes.
47. RB Ottis Anderson, New York Giants (Super Bowl XXV)
New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19
Veteran running back Ottis Anderson was the main sledgehammer that pummeled the Buffalo Bills defense for more than 40 minutes in Super Bowl XXV.
The 12-year veteran racked up 102 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries in Big Blue’s one-point victory.
But was Anderson truly the question that Marv Levy’s team couldn’t answer that day in Tampa? New York ran for a total of 172 yards on 39 attempts, with players such as Dave Meggett rushing for 48 yards on nine carries.
Tackles John Elliott and Doug Riesenberg, guards William Roberts and Eric Moore and center Bart Oates might have made for some good MVP choices as well.
46. CB Larry Brown, Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl XXX)
Dallas Cowboys 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 17
The right place at the right time.
You could make the case that Cowboys cornerback Larry Brown is the most-criticized MVP in Super Bowl history.
The detractors say that Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell threw the ball right to him on two occasions, the final interception setting up an insurance touchdown in Dallas’ 27-17 victory.
While Brown’s on-the-field performance is what it is, there a deeper story (documented by Vito Stellino of the Baltimore Sun 18 years ago) that may make you think twice when you refer to those interceptions being just a matter of luck.
Perhaps it was simply meant to be.
45. QB Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs (Super Bowl IV)
Kansas City 23, Minnesota Vikings 7
You almost forget that Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson was even a part of Super Bowl IV.
That’s because for those who remember the game, it was all about the Kansas City Chiefs defense and how it pummeled Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp.
Meanwhile, Dawson threw for a very-modest 142 yards, completing 12 of 17 passes. He threw for one score and was also picked off once.
Meanwhile, that Chiefs’ defense limited Minnesota to 239 total yards while Hank Stram’s team forced five turnovers.
Dawson did his part but it was far from a stellar performance.
44. WR Fred Biletnikoff, Oakland Raiders (Super Bowl XI)
Oakland Raiders 32, Minnesota Vikings 14
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff may have originally been the person who coined the phrase “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
If the story was the football, that was certainly the case in more ways than one.
Biletnikoff, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, didn’t drop many passes for a variety of reason. The most significant of those factors was that he was pretty damn good.
In the team’s convincing win over the Vikings at the Rose Bowl, you could point to several Raiders that stood out that day.
Although Biletnikoff caught just four passes for 79 yards and didn’t’ score a touchdown, he proved to be the table-setter for quarterback Ken Stabler and an imposing Oakland offense that day at the Rose Bowl.
43. DE Richard Dent, Chicago Bears (Super Bowl XX)
Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10
In some ways it was almost hard to tell who to give the Most Valuable Player trophy to in the Bears’ 46-10 demolition of the overwhelmed Patriots.
No matter what New England did this day at the Superdome it wasn’t going to work. They certainly made every attempt to block Chicago defensive end Richard Dent without much success. The eventual Hall of Famer finished with three tackles, 1.5 sacks and forced a pair of fumbles in the 36-point blowout.
And while the powerful defender certainly deserved those MVP honors, you could have made a case for the entire Bears’ defensive unit that day in New Orleans.
42. QB Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl VI)
Dallas Cowboys 24, Miami Dolphins 3
If you are looking for star power in the Super Bowl, you came to the right place. However, was Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Roger Staubach the brightest of the bunch that stifled the Dolphins at Tulane Stadium?
Staubach completed 12 of 19 passes for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 21-point victory. His scoring throws went to NFL royalty in wideout Lance Alworth and tight end Mike Ditka, known better in other uniforms but Hall of Fame performers nonetheless.
However, let us not forget that running back Duane Thomas had 95 of his team’s 252 yards rushing in the victory. The silent Thomas also scored on a three-yard run in the third quarter as the Cowboys won their first NFL title.
41. QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots (Super Bowl XXXVI)
New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17
A little secret when it came to the New England Patriots’ first NFL championship season.
It wasn’t all about quarterback Tom Brady.
That’s not a criticism but simply a fact. It was fitting that Bill Belichick’s squad was introduced as a team at the beginning of the game because their title run was aided by all.
During that postseason, the Patriots’ offensive unit managed only three touchdowns in three games. However in this outing, it was what Brady did in the final 1:30 that perhaps secured the award. He led the team on a nine-play, 53-yard drive.
And when kicker Adam Vinatieri booted the game-winning 48-yard field goal on the final play of the game, Brady (who threw for 145 yards and one score on the day) and Co. were en route to a dynasty.
40. QB Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl XIV)
Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Los Angeles Rams 19
When it was all said and done, head coach Chuck Noll and the Pittsburgh Steelers captured their fourth Super Bowl title in six years thanks to a back-and-forth win over the determined Rams.
And somehow it was fitting that Terry Bradshaw, who would throw for 309 yards and two touchdowns in the game, would also be picked off three times.
During the regular season, the 12-4 Steelers turned over the football a mind-boggling 52 times. They remain the only team to lead the league in turnovers and win the Super Bowl the same season.
Of course, you could have also made an MVP case for linebacker Jack Lambert that day. He totaled 14 tackles and made the key interception in the game as Chuck Noll’s club was Super one more time.
39. QB Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts (Super Bowl XLI)
Indianapolis Colts 29, Chicago Bears 17
In the rain in South Florida, the Colts overcame three of their own turnovers by watching the Bears commit five of their own miscues in this sloppy affair.
Peyton Manning wasn’t bad this day against Lovie Smith’s club but he wasn’t overly sharp. The nine-year veteran at the time completed 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown. But he also committed a pair of turnovers and was sacked once.
On the other hand, Colts running back Dominic Rhodes ran for 113 yards and a score and backfield mate Joseph Addai totaled 143 yards from scrimmage on 29 touches against Chicago’s formidable defense. The duo combined for 264 of Indianapolis’ 430 total yards in the game.
38. DE Harvey Martin and DT Randy White, Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl XII)
Dallas Cowboys 27, Denver Broncos 10
It was embarrassing, to say the least.
The Denver Broncos offensive line could not block the Dallas Cowboys “Doomsday” Defense the entire afternoon at the Superdome.
When it was all said and done, Tom Landry’s team held Denver to 156 total yards, forced eight turnovers and totaled four sacks. And both defensive end Harvey Martin and Hall of Fame defensive tackle Randy White were at the center of the rout.
All told, Broncos’ quarterbacks Craig Morton and Norris Weese combined to complete only eight of 25 pass attempts for 61 yards and four interceptions, all by Morton.
Frankly, it was far too easy in the Big Easy for Martin, White and the Cowboys this day.
37. QB Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl XVI)
San Francisco 49ers 26, Cincinnati Bengals 21
Although 49ers quarterback Joe Montana captured Most Valuable Player honors in the win over the Bengals, the San Francisco offense was far from impressive this day at the Pontiac Silverdome.
The Niners opened up a 20-0 halftime lead over the Bengals and Montana did his share, running for one score and throwing for another. Joe was extremely cool and finished the game with 157 yards through the air and 18 more on the ground.
However, Bill Walsh’s offense was nowhere to be found after intermission. The team settled for a pair of field goals in the 26-21 victory. And some would make a case of Niners kicker Ray Wersching for MVP considering he booted four field goals and his squib kickoffs played a big role in the San Francisco’s win and Cincinnati’s demise.
36. WR Deion Branch, New England Patriots (Super Bowl XXXIX)
New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21
New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch played a big role in the team’s third NFL championship in four seasons. And on Super Sunday against the Eagles, he simply picked up where he left off two weeks earlier.
Against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC title game, Branch caught a 60-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady and also ran for a score.
In this three-point win over the Birds, Branch didn’t score a touchdown but did haul in 11 passes for 133 yards. Until this past Sunday night, the 11 receptions had tied a Super Bowl record. In any case, Branch’s grabs and yards accounted for nearly half of quarterback Tom Brady’s output that day. The Patriots’ signal-caller threw for 236 yards and completed 23 of 33 passes.
35. QB John Elway, Denver Broncos (Super Bowl XXXIII)
Denver Broncos 34, Atlanta Falcons 19
One year earlier, the Broncos outlasted the Green Bay Packers in San Diego, 31-24, for the team’s first Super Bowl title. Owner Pat Bowlen proudly exclaimed after the game “this one’s for John.”
In what proved to be his final game on the field, John Elway went out in style and this one was for the Broncos. Despite an interception, he threw for 336 yards, including an 80-yard score to wide receiver Rod Smith.
Elway also ran three yards for a touchdown as the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowl titles thanks to 457 total yards against the Atlanta Falcons defense.
34. FS Jake Scott, Miami Dolphins (Super Bowl VII)
Miami Dolphins 14, Washington Redskins 7
Who says 13 is an unlucky number?
Of course, the bigger numbers that day at the Los Angeles Coliseum were 14 and 17. The former reflected all the points Don Shula’s team needed in a win over the Washington Redskins. The 17 was the number of victories that the Dolphins had managed without a loss in 1972.
The Miami defense kept the Washington offense out of the end zone all afternoon. Free safety Jake Scott was a big part of that, totaling two tackles and a pair of interceptions in the win. It’s worth noting that teammate and defensive tackle Manny Fernandez racked up 10 tackles and a sack in the victory.
Meanwhile, you can never see one of the greatest moments in Super Bowl history enough, courtesy of Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian.
33. QB Eli Manning, New York Giants (Super Bowl XLII)
New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14
Tom Coughlin’s New York Giants needed just 17 points to knock off a team that entered Super Bowl XLII with 18 wins and no losses.
The stirring upset of the previously-unbeaten Patriots is one of the great moments in the 48-game history of this championship series. Giants quarterback Eli Manning did his part when it counted most, orchestrating a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives thanks mainly to rookies such as tight end Kevin Boss, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Steve Smith.
And of course, there was veteran wide receiver David Tyree. His ball-to-helmet catch in the fourth quarter, aided by an amazing scrambling job by Manning, is forever etched in football fans’ memories.
32. LB Malcolm Smith (Super Bowl XLVIII)
Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8
This Mr. Smith came from Washington…as in the state.
With all of the Pro Bowl names in the Seattle Seahawks secondary, a bigger boom came from one of Pete Carroll’s younger players
Third-year linebacker Malcolm Smith totaled nine tackles, a fumble recovery and a 69-yard interception return for a score in Seattle’s convincing 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos. Smith, a seventh-round selection in 2011, made a habit in these playoffs of coming up with big plays. His interception off a Richard Sherman deflection in the end zone that helped seal the team’s 23-17 win in the NFC title game two weeks earlier.
Smith, just the third linebacker to be named Super Bowl MVP, has done a great job just being “Malcolm on the Outside.”
31. QB Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers (Super Bowl II)
Green Bay Packers 33, Oakland Raiders 14
The contest proved to be the last for Vince Lombardi as head coach of the Green Bay Packers.
For the second straight year, Starr was voted the game’s Most Valuable Players. He finished that day at Miami’s Orange Bowl with 202 yards and a score through the air as the Pack won its third straight NFL championship.
Green Bay’s offense was nearly perfectly balanced in the game, rushing for 160 yards and totaling 162 net passing yards.
Of course, the vivid image from this Super Bowl remains the Packers’ player carrying Lombardi off the field. And for a second straight year on this stage, Starr was also head and shoulders above the competition.
30. QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots (Super Bowl XXXVIII)
New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29
Here is an instance where someone played well but arguably, someone else played a little better.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns in this see-saw affair with the Carolina Panthers. He completed 66.7 percent of his throws (32-of-48) but did serve up one interception. Brady also led his team six plays in 37 yards to set up Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal with four seconds to play.
But what more could teammate and linebacker Mike Vrabel do to help the cause? The standout defender totaled six stops, a pair of sacks, forced a fumble and caught a touchdown pass from Brady in the three-point win.
29. QB Joe Namath, New York Jets (Super Bowl III)
New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7
I guarantee some football fans will be upset regarding the lower placement of Joe Namath’s performance in Super Bowl III.
The Hall of Famer had more success throwing the ball against the Baltimore Colts 45 years ago than he had with the coin toss in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Back to the past where Namath completed 17 of 28 attempts for 206 yards in the Jets’ stunning upset. Of course, it should also be known that teammate Matt Snell ran for 121 yards and a score on 30 carries and caught four of Namath’s passes for 40 yards in the victory.
However, a win is a win and Namath certainly did his part. And apparently the lesson learned here is that there are some guarantees in life…or at least in the game of football.
28. LB Chuck Howley, Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl V)
Baltimore Colts 16, Dallas Cowboys 13
The Dallas Cowboys and their defense certainly did their part in Super Bowl V at the Orange Bowl. But it simply was not meant to be that afternoon for Tom Landry’s club this afternoon.
The Baltimore Colts did their part to hand the Cowboys their first NFL title. The club committed seven turnovers in the contest and still found a way to get the victory. Dallas did its own part in its own demise, coughing up the ball four times in this so-called “Blooper Bowl.”
So what about Howley, who remains the only player named Super Bowl MVP in a losing effort? He totaled four tackles and a pair of interceptions in a very strange loss.
27. QB Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (Super Bowl XLVII)
Baltimore Ravens 34, San Francisco 49ers 31
The Baltimore Ravens entered the 2012 postseason losers of four of their last five games. And quarterback Joe Flacco had thrown only 22 touchdown passes compared to 10 interceptions in 16 regular-season outings.
So what happened? John Harbaugh’s signal-caller got hot at the right time. He finished the team’s four-game playoff run with 11 scores through the air and was not picked off. Against the 49ers at the Superdome, Flacco hit on 22 of 33 throws for 287 yards and three touchdowns. Baltimore was also nine of 16 on third-down conversions in the victory.
And it was a perfectly balanced attack orchestrated by the Ravens’ attack, which totaled 70 plays, equally distributed between the run (35) and the pass (35).
Say it was so, Joe.
26. RB Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl IX)
Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Minnesota Vikings 6
In a battle between a pair of legendary defensive fronts, Pittsburgh prevailed thanks to the ‘Steel Curtain” and a healthy dose of running back Franco Harris.
The Steelers owned a 2-0 lead in this game (sound familiar?) and their offense had its own issues against Alan Page, Carl Eller and that stellar Minnesota defense.
But when it was all said and done, Chuck Noll’s team rolled up 249 yards rushing on 57 carries and Harris was the workhorse, running for 158 yards and a score on 34 carries against the Purple Gang.
However, let’s also give due to the Pittsburgh defensive unit, which allowed a Super Bowl-record 119 total yards and didn’t allow the Minnesota offense to reach the end zone.
25. QB Mark Rypien, Washington Redskins (Super Bowl XXVI)
Washington Redskins 37, Buffalo Bills 24
While the Buffalo Bills were busy either looking for or busy trying to keep on their helmets at the Metrodome, Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien and his team kept their heads.
The Washington signal-caller did overcome an interception but would hit on 18 of 33 throws for 292 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a game that Joe Gibbs’ team led 37-10 early in the fourth quarter.
It’s also worth noting that the Redskins rolled up 417 total yards in the contest and Rypien was not sacked. Gibbs’ team jumped out to a 24-0 third-quarter advantage and was never really threatened.
24. QB Eli Manning, New York Giants (Super Bowl XLVI)
New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17
This Super rematch four years in the making between the Giants and Patriots was a very unusual game.
New York jumped out to a 9-0 lead, fell behind 17-9 in the third quarter and then scored the final 12 points of the game.
Manning captured his second Super Bowl MVP award in five seasons thanks to 296 yards through the air. He completed 30 of 40 passes and threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Victor Cruz.
However, Manning saved his best for late once again for the Patriots. He orchestrated a nine-play, 88-yard touchdown drive to secure the team’s second championship in five seasons.
23. LB Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens (Super Bowl XXXV)
Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7
Although the Baltimore Ravens took the wild card route to an NFL championship, they would field one of the legendary defenses in league annals.
The ringleader was middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who set the tone for his team with five tackles and four passes defensed in the win.
Keep in mind that the last team to be limited to single digits in a Super Bowl prior to Seattle’s win over the Denver Broncos was these Giants, whose offense never found the end zone against Lewis and Co. New York totaled 152 yards in the loss and the Ravens came up with five takeaways.
It was a fitting performance for those 2000 Ravens, who in 20 overall games that year allowed a mere 188 points.
22. WR Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl XLIII)
Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23
Mike Tomlin’s Steelers showcased a stellar defense in 2008. But against the very-game Cardinals this day, the team needed all the help they could get from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Santonio Holmes.
The Pittsburgh wideout totaled nine receptions for 131 yards and a scintillating six-year touchdown catch with only 35 seconds to play. Holmes caught four passes for 73 yards on that final drive alone and his amazing scoring grab came when he was surrounded by three Arizona defensive players.
In a Super Bowl that featured 377 passing yards and three touchdown passes from Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, seven catches for 127 yards and two scores by teammate Larry Fitzgerald and a record-setting 100-yard interception return for a score by Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Holmes (and Roethlisberger) came up just a little bigger when it counted most.
21. QB Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams (Super Bowl XXXIV)
St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16
From Green Bay Packers training camp to 1994 to packing groceries a few years later.
But when it was all said and done, Rams quarterback Kurt Warner came up huge in what proved to be an amazing storybook season for him and Dick Vermeil’s team.
Warner would throw for a Super Bowl record 414 yards and two touchdowns against the Titans, the final score coming with 1:54 to play and the game tied at 16-16 . For most of the game, the Rams moved the ball and settled for field goals against Tennessee’s defense.
And when linebacker Mike Jones tackled Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson short of the goal line on the final play of the game, Warner and the Rams had the franchise’s first NFL title since 1951.
20. QB Jim Plunkett, Oakland Raiders (Super Bowl XV)
Oakland Raiders 27, Philadelphia Eagles 10
When you think about it, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that quarterback Jim Plunkett would wind up a Super Bowl champion.
But he sure took the long road to a satisfying championship.
Plunkett was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1971 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. Nine years later and with his third team, the former Stanford star was a backup to Dan Pastorini in Oakland. But the 10-year veteran was suddenly a starter again when Pastorini broke his leg five games into the season.
The rest is history. And it was all wrapped up nicely in a bow at the Superdome against the Philadelphia Eagles. The heroes were many in this game. Linebacker Rod Martin picked off quarterback Ron Jaworski three times on the afternoon.
However, Plunkett hit on 13 of 21 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns in an impressive victory which saw the Raiders become the first wild-card team to win a Super Bowl.
19. KR Desmond Howard, Green Bay Packers (Super Bowl XXXI)
Green Bay Packers 35, New England Patriots 21
We have seen the second-half kickoff return for a touchdown in each of the last two Super Bowls courtesy of Jacoby Jones (Baltimore Ravens) and Percy Harvin (Seattle Seahawks).
But no one to date has enjoyed a better special teams’ performance in a Super Bowl like kick returner Desmond Howard.
The former Heisman Trophy winner tied a Super Bowl record with 244 yards on punt (90 yards) and kickoff returns (154 yards), including a 99-yard kickoff for a touchdown in Green Bay’s 14-point victory over the Patriots.
Howard touched the ball 10 times against the Patriots, six times on punts and four on kickoffs. And his 244 combined yards were just 13 less than New England (257) managed on offense.
18. QB Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers (Super Bowl I)
Geen Bay Packers 35, Kansas City Chiefs 10
It never hurts to set the standard.
Playing in the very first Super Bowl (excuse me, the AFL-NFL World Championship Game), Packers quarterback Bart Starr did throw one interception. But he also hammered Chiefs cornerback Fred Williamson and the Kansas City defense for 250 yards and two touchdowns through the air in Green Bay’s convincing 35-10 victory.
Starr’s yardage total came on just 16 completions. He found wide receiver Max McGee for scores covering 37 and 13 yards. Vince Lombardi’s team rolled up 361 yards and walked away with a trophy that would soon bear his name.
17. QB Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl XXVII)
Dallas Cowboys 52, Buffalo Bills 17
The Cowboys were making their first Super Bowl appearance in 14 years and were on the verge of three trips to the Big Game in four years.
The first title for head coach Jimmy Johnson in Dallas featured the “triplets” at their best, including Aikman at the top of his game. The first overall pick completed 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards and four touchdowns, three of those scores in the first half.
The Dallas offense rolled up 408 yards. Wide receiver Michael Irvin caught six passes for 114 yards and two of Aikman’s scores. Running back Emmitt Smith ran for 108 yards and a touchdown. And the Bills assisted the cause by turning over the ball nine times.
Still, it was No. 8 and not necessarily the nine that proved to be the difference in this rout.
16. WR Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl XL)
Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Seattle Seahawks 10
On an afternoon when Steelers second-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seemingly developed a case of the jitters, it was teammate Hines Ward who shook the Seattle defense.
The hard-nosed and sure-handed wideout made his share of difficult catches in the game, snaring at least one low throw while simply outmaneuvering the Seahawks secondary for another catch that set up his team’s first touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, Ward put the finishing touches on a four-play, 56-yard drive via a 43-yard touchdown toss from wide receiver Antwaan Randle-El.
In a Super Bowl more known for shaky calls rather than play calls, Ward’s play was an easy call when it came to figuring out the game’s Most Valuable Player.
15. QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (Super Bowl XLV)
Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25
Two of the most storied franchises met in Dallas in Super Bowl XLV. But if the Green Bay receivers had managed to hold on to a few more passes, this clash may not have been much of a story at all.
Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers completed 24 of 39 passes throws for 304 yards and 3 scores as the Pack was back once again, holding off the Steelers, 31-25.
Head coach Mike McCarthy’s team ran 55 plays but only 13 were rushing attempts of some sort. Green Bay’s defense did its share with three takeaways, including a pick-six of Ben Roethlisberger.
However, despite some drops by his teammates, Rodgers riddled a proud Pittsburgh secondary, with two of his three touchdown passes going to wide receiver Greg Jennings.
14. RB Larry Csonka, Miami Dolphins (Super Bowl VIII)
Miami Dolphins 24, Minnesota Vikings 7
You could perhaps make a case that the Miami Dolphins offensive line deserves as much or more of the credit than fullback Larry Csonka did in the dismantling of the Vikings
But you would be short-changing the Hall of Fame runner, who amassed 145 yards and two touchdown on 33 carries as Don Shula’s club won its second straight Super Bowl.
So dominant were the Dolphins on the ground, running 53 times for 196 yards, that quarterback Bob Griese attempted only seven passes, six resulting in completions.
And as dominant as Miami’s line was, Csonka’s punishing running style took its toll on the Minnesota defense as well.
13. WR Lynn Swann, Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl X)
Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17
Up until this game, Super Bowls had not been very super. But this game between the defending NFL champion Steelers and wild-card Cowboys was a cut above.
Speaking of above, that’s where you could find wide receiver Lynn Swann most of the afternoon at the Orange Bowl. The Hall of Famer would total four receptions for an astonishing 161 yards, including the game-winning 64-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Of course, the catch everyone really remembers is a 53-yard grab that he secured as Swann and Cowboys cornerback Mark Washington fell to the ground.
But why try and describe it when you can see it?
12. RB Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders (Super Bowl XVIII)
L.A. Raiders 38, Washington Redskins 9
Reminiscent of Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII, the Silver and Black dominated an opponent that had (at the time) set an NFL record (since broken) for points scored in a season.
Tom Flores’ team scored on offense, defense and special teams in routing the defending Super Bowl champions. Allen rushed for 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the highlight his 74-yard score in which he headed left, reversed his field, ran up the middle of the Washington defense and headed for the end zone.
Once again, why try and describe this magnificent play when you can see it (is there an echo with this slideshow)?
11. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (Super Bowl XLIV)
New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17
In the first meeting between the conference’s top two seeds in 16 years (Super Bowl XXVIII), the Colts looked like they were getting ready to make fast work of the NFC South champions.
But what looked like a struggle eventually turned into a Brees.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees finished the game with 288 yards and two scores. The prolific passer completed
32 of 39 passes against the Colts, this after missing on four of his first seven attempts. Brees’ completion percentage for the game was a tidy 82.1 percent, the second-highest in Super Bowl history.
And dat’s all I have to say about dat.
10. WR Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl XXIII)
San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16
We all remember 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and his 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver John Taylor with 34 seconds to play was the difference in the win over the Bengals.
However, it was wide receiver Jerry Rice that set the tone the entire game for a San Francisco offense that stalled most of the afternoon. The Hall of Fame wideout totaled 11 catches for a Super Bowl record 215 yards and the team’s first touchdown of the game.
While Taylor caught the game-winner, Rice snared three passes for 51 yards on the team’s 92-yard march in the final minutes.
And as we found out as time wore on, no receiver (be it with the 49ers or Oakland Raiders) came up bigger in Super Bowls than Rice.
9. QB Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl XIII)
Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31
It was one of the epic contests of the 48-game series and featured more than its share of Hall of Famers. But it was Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw that rose to the occasion in the four-point win over the Cowboys.
The first overall pick in the 1970 NFL draft had never enjoyed a 300-yard passing performance until this day at the Orange Bowl. Bradshaw completed 17 of 30 throws for 318 yards and four touchdowns. Despite a pair of turnovers, one of which led directly to score, the Steelers signal-caller frustrated Dallas defense, which never figured out a way to cover either John Stallworth or Lynn Swann.
The eventual Hall of Famers became the first duo in Super Bowl history to each have 100 yards receiving in the game. And it was Bradshaw who successfully pulled the trigger all afternoon.
8. RB Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos (Super Bowl XXXII)
Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24
Mike Shanahan’s Broncos had a lot of things working against them when they took the field against the Packers in San Diego.
Green Bay was the defending Super Bowl champion and member of an NFC that had beaten the AFC in 13 consecutive Super Bowls.
However, Mike Holmgren had no answers for the Denver running game and Terrell Davis. The third-year pro ran for 157 yards and three touchdowns, scoring the deciding points with 1:xx remaining when the Packers allowed him to score in order to get the ball back.
Davis also missed parts of the game due to migraines. In the end, he proved to be a huge headache for the Packers defensive unit.
7. QB Phil Simms, New York Giants (Super Bowl XXI)
New York Giants 39, Denver Broncos 20
When you look at the final score of Super Bowl XXI, it is very easy to forget that Bill Parcells’ Giants trailed at halftime, 10-9.
And while it wasn’t totally all New York in the second half at the Rose Bowl, it certainly was when it came to quarterback Phil Simms. In completing a Super Bowl record 88 percent of his passes, he did not throw an incompletion in the second half.
All told, Simms finished with 268 yards and three scores as he completed 22 of 25 passes. And while his third touchdown pass had a little luck attached to it (see Mark Bavaro and Phil McConkey), it was the Denver defense that ran out of luck when it came to stopping Simms.
6. QB Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl XXIV)
San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10
You could make a case that this was Joe Montana’s finest moment in these Super Bowls. Rarely has he looked better. But we are saying Joe Cool’s best for a little later.
Still, Montana threw three of his five touchdown passes to wide receiver Jerry Rice. On the afternoon, the Hall of Famer hit on 22 of 29 throws for 297 yards. Montana captured his third Super Bowl MVP award, which remains a record to this day.
It was also the former Golden Domer’s final Super Bowl appearance. In four wins in this game, he threw 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions.
Safe to say he got the hang of this football thing.
5. QB Doug Williams, Washington Redskins (Super Bowl XXII)
Washington Redskins 42, Denver Broncos 10
Well, it was a game for one quarter.
The Broncos jumped out to a 10-0 lead over the Redskins after 15 minutes of play. By the time halftime rolled around, Denver was down by 25 points.
There’s never been a performance like what we saw from quarterback Doug Williams and his team in terms of one quarter in a Super Bowl. Joe Gibbs’ team rolled up 35 points and 356 total yards in the second quarter alone. Williams overcame an early interception by throwing for 340 yards and four scores, all of those touchdown passes coming in the second quarter.
And Gibbs and Co. rolled up a Super Bowl record 602 total yards in San Diego.
4. RB Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl XXVIII)
Dallas Cowboys 30, Buffalo Bills 13
A year earlier, the Cowboys had dusted the Bills in Pasadena, 52-17, in a game which saw Buffalo commit nine turnovers.
It may be forgotten that Marv Levy’s team actually owned a 13-6 halftime lead over Jimmy Johnson’s squad at the Georgia Dome.
And that was all she wrote. The Cowboys turned the game over to their Hall of Fame running back and when proverbial smoke cleared in Atlanta, Smith had rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries and the Bills failed to put a point on the board in the second half.
Smith also caught four passes for 26 yards in the win and rolled up 158 yards from scrimmage in the victory.
3. QB Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl XXIX)
San Francisco 49ers 49, San Diego Chargers 26
Quarterback Steve Young finally got the monkey off his back with a win in the Super Bowl.
Who knew he would go bananas in the process?
As we all certainly know by now, Young completed 24 of 36 passes for 325 yards and a Super Bowl record six touchdown passes in a dismantling of the Chargers. But what some may not know is that the athletic signal-caller led the team with in rushing yards against the Bolts this day.
And for lovers of symmetry and numerology, how can you ignore the fact that the 49ers scored 49 points with Young rushing for 49 yards in the victory?
2. QB Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl XIX)
San Francisco 49ers 38, Miami Dolphins 16
Those who appreciate the game as we know it today can’t help but love what 49ers quarterback Joe Montana did against the Miami Dolphins while young quarterback Dan Marino watched.
At Palo Alto, CA, the Niners’ attack rolled up 537 total yards. Montana completed 24 of 35 attempts for 331 yards and three touchdowns. The well-rounded quarterback also rushed for 59 yards and a score on five attempts as Don Shula’s club had no answers on this day.
And in case you’re wondering, Montana’s rushing total ranks third in Super Bowl history by quarterbacks for one game, bested only by the Tennessee Titans’ Steve McNair (64 yards in Super Bowl XXXIV) and the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII (62 yards in Super Bowl XLVII).
1. RB John Riggins, Washington Redskins (Super Bowl XVII)
Washington Redskins 27, Miami Dolphins 17
When you think of value, the Washington Redskins got every penny from John Riggins this day at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
The Hall of Fame performer racked up a Super Bowl-record 38 rushing attempts in Washington’s 27-17 win over the Dolphins. Riggins ran for 166 yards and 43 of those came on a touchdown run in the fourth quarter that gave Joe Gibbs’ team the lead for good in the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl victory.
Washington ran for 276 yards on 52 carries in the victory and took the sting out of Miami’s “Killer Bs” defensive unit. They wore down the Dolphins and Riggins did the wearing.
Crank up that diesel.