AFC East: Chuck Howley
If you haven't had a chance to read the compelling Super Bowl MVPs feature ESPN.com unveiled Monday morning, do yourself a favor and check it out.
With that in mind, and with no reason other than history to write about the AFC East in the Super Bowl, I was inspired to take a look back at the division's six MVPs from the big game and rank them in order of their performance.
Seven AFC East teams have won a Super Bowl, but when the Baltimore Colts did it, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley won the award -- the lone player from a losing team to pull it off.
|Andy Lyons/Getty Images|
|Tom Brady has a pair of Super Bowl MVP trophies, including one following Super Bowl XXXVIII.|
1. Larry Csonka, Super Bowl VIII
In one of the Super Bowl's most dominant rushing performances, Csonka trudged for a then-record 145 yards and two touchdowns to power the Miami Dolphins past the Minnesota Vikings, 24-7, at Rice Stadium.
Csonka's relentlessness -- his 33 attempts still rank third in Super Bowl history -- didn't leave much else to do. Bob Griese threw seven passes to complete back-to-back championship seasons.
2. Tom Brady, Super Bowl XXXVIII
For the second straight Super Bowl, with the score tied and with a little more than a minute to play, Brady deftly guided the New England Patriots to a game-winning field goal, this time to beat the Carolina Panthers, 32-29, in Houston.
Brady's 32 completions are a Super Bowl record. His 354 yards rank fifth. He threw three touchdowns and one interception.
3. Tom Brady, Super Bowl XXXVI
Brady's heroics hold special meaning for Patriot Nation, helping to secure the team's first championship after so many years of futility. He took over with the score tied and no timeouts with 1:21 to play and completed 5 of 6 passes -- the incompletion was a spike to bring Adam Vinatieri onto the field for a 48-yard field goal to beat the St. Louis Rams.
But this MVP takes a back seat to XXXVIII because Brady's numbers were pedestrian by comparison: 16 of 27 for 145 yards and one touchdown. That 8-yard scoring toss to David Patten was the only touchdown New England's offense produced.
4. Deion Branch, Super Bowl XXXIX
A rarity for offensive players, Branch earned Super Bowl MVP honors without scoring a touchdown in the Patriots' 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Branch, who was limited to 35 catches in the regular season because of injury, became one of only five receivers to win the MVP. He tied a Super Bowl record with 11 receptions (Jerry Rice, Dan Ross, Wes Welker) and 133 yards. Branch's 21 catches in two Super Bowls stand alone.
Only 103 of Brady's passing yards went to other receivers. On one third-quarter touchdown drive, Branch caught four passes for 71 yards.
5. Joe Namath, Super Bowl III
The AFC East was two years from formation then, but we're going to include this seminal game anyway.
I'm not ranking these based on historic symbolism. Had Broadway Joe not uttered his famous guarantee beforehand, he would not have been the MVP of the New York Jets' 16-7 upset of the Colts.
The lasting image from the AFL's momentous victory is Namath wagging his finger No. 1 as he ran off the Orange Bowl field, but the only special aspect of his stats was that he didn't throw an interception. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 206 and zero touchdowns. Yawn.
Matt Snell should have been the MVP. He ran 30 times for 121 yards and the Jets' lone touchdown and caught three passes for another 40 yards. The Jets' defense also recorded five takeaways.
6. Jake Scott, Super Bowl VII
Appropriately enough, a defensive player was selected for the lowest-scoring Super Bowl, a 14-7 Dolphins victory over the Washington Redskins in the L.A. Coliseum. The Dolphins would have recorded a shutout if not for kicker Garo Yepremian's absurd fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Scott is one of only two safeties (Dexter Jackson) to be honored. He had two interceptions, including one in the end zone he returned 55 yards in the fourth quarter to lock down the championship.