Monday, February 13, 2023

Mike Vrabel: No. 1 Best Defensive Performance in Super Bowl History That Didn’t Win MVP


by Russell S. Baxter

February 12, 2023


Winning a Super Bowl is difficult. Earning Super Bowl MVP honors as a defensive player may be even more difficult.


All kidding aside, there have been 56 Super Bowls to date and on only nine occasions has someone on the defensive side of the football walked away with that honor. There have been four linebackers, three defensive backs and two defensive linemen (counting Cowboys’ co-MVPs Randy White and Harvey Martin in XII once) that have won Super Bowl MVP accolades


So what about those defensive players that came up big but didn’t garner game MVP honors? Enclosed are some notable names.


5. LB Rod Martin, Raiders (Super Bowl XV)

The Oakland Raiders became the first “wild card” team (and second non-divisional champion) to win a Lombardi Trophy as Tom Flores’ club stifled the Eagles, 27-10. While quarterback Jim Plunkett wound up the game’s Most Valuable Players, the Raiders’ Rod Martin had a memorable performance at the Louisiana Superdome. The unsung linebacker totaled five solo tackles. He also intercepted Eagles’ quarterback Ron Jaworski three times in the win.


4. DT Manny Fernandez, Dolphins (Super Bowl VII)

The perfect Dolphins capped off a 17-0 season in 1972 with a 14-7 victory over Washington. Miami’s defense kept George Allen’s offensive unit out of the end zone that afternoon at the Los Angeles Coliseum. While safety Jake Scott picked off two passes and claimed MVP honors, Manny Fernandez was a force that Washington’s offensive line struggled to control. He finished with 10 tackles and one sack. Miami held Allen’s team to 228 total yards


3. S James Washington, Cowboys (Super Bowl XXVIII)

The Dallas Cowboys won three Super Bowls in a four-year span in the early 1990s. The club was led on offense by the “Triplets” in Hall of Famers Troy AikmanEmmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. However, it’s worth noting that in all three of those wins, Dallas limited the opposition to 17 points or less. In Super Bowl XXVIII vs. the Bills, safety James Washington totaled 11 stops, an interception, one forced fumble and a 46-yard fumble return for a score.

 2. MLB Jack Lambert, Steelers (Super Bowl XIV)

Chuck Noll’s Steelers were looking for a fourth Super Bowl win in six years. They faced the surprising Los Angeles Rams, who finished 9-7 during the regular season. Pittsburgh rallied for a 31-19 victory. Steelers’ middle linebacker Jack Lambert was the best defensive player that day. He finished the game with 14 tackles (10 solo) and picked off Rams’ quarterback Vince Ferragamo late in the fourth quarter, setting up an insurance touchdown for Pittsburgh.


1. LB Mike Vrabel, Patriots (Super Bowl XXXVIII)

Super Bowl XXXVIII was a thrilling game despite the fact that there was no scoring in neither the first or third quarters. The Patriots and Panthers combined for 61 points, so it’s hard to believe there was any semblance of defense. But New England linebacker Mike Vrabel had a big outing in the 32-29 win. He totaled six tackles, a pair of sacks and a forced fumble. The versatile performer also caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady.


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