Ranking the Super Bowl MVPs

It took one of the greatest comebacks in sports history to top Joe Montana in his prime. Here's where Tom Brady's masterful rally in Super Bowl LI -- and his three other MVP performances -- ranks all time.


1Tom Brady

QB, New England Patriots
Super Bowl LI

It doesn't get better than the most iconic player in Super Bowl history leading his team back from a 28-3 deficit to deliver a 34-28 overtime victory for his fifth championship. This wasn't just the greatest comeback in NFL history. It was one of the great comebacks in sports history, orchestrated by a 39-year-old legend who had to conquer Father Time, not just the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. Brady set Super Bowl passing records for yards (466) and attempts (62) while claiming postseason victory No. 25 as a starter.


2Joe Montana

QB, San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl XXIV

Montana and the 49ers came about as close to perfection as a team could come during their 55-10 victory over the Denver Broncos, who had led the NFL in points allowed that season. Montana had five touchdown passes on 29 attempts before heading to the sideline for the game's final 11 minutes. During the Bill Walsh-George Seifert era, the 49ers carved up defenses with their short passing game, but the deep ball was also their friend in this game. On throws traveling at least 20 yards past the line of scrimmage, Montana completed 3 of 4 passes for 101 yards and three scores. Jerry Rice caught two of them. John Taylor caught the other. It's tough to beat one of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks functioning at his best within one of its greatest offenses.


3Terry Bradshaw

QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl XIII

Pittsburgh's previous Super Bowls had not met expectations, but the Steelers' 35-31 victory over the defending champion Cowboys became a classic. Bradshaw passed for 318 yards and four touchdowns, capping a 1978 season that marked the NFL's first under rules designed to stimulate passing. The Steelers led 21-17 in the fourth quarter when they faced third-and-9 from the Dallas 22. The Cowboys' Doomsday Defense had sacked Bradshaw four times on third down already, twice forcing fumbles, including one that linebacker Mike Hegman returned for a touchdown. With the Cowboys poised to blitz, Bradshaw called a quick handoff to Franco Harris, who scored on the play. Pittsburgh often won with its Steel Curtain defense and ground game, but Bradshaw's arm and play calling put his stamp on this Super Bowl. He completed 8 of 9 passes for 156 yards and two scores on third down. No starting quarterback has had a higher third-down completion rate in a Super Bowl.


4Steve Young

QB, San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl XXIX

The six touchdown passes Young threw during a 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers remain a Super Bowl record. The 49ers proved oddsmakers correct in favoring them by as many as 20 points. Young found Rice for a 44-yard touchdown on their third offensive play. San Francisco scored touchdowns on its first three drives and took a 28-10 lead into halftime. The desperate Chargers came after Young, but he completed 8 of 11 passes for 141 yards and three scores against their blitzes. Young had long sought this moment after spending much of his career in Montana's shadow.


5Doug Williams

QB, Washington Redskins
Super Bowl XXII

This is how good Williams was during the Redskins' 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos: He completed 9 of 11 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns in the second quarter. There were other MVP candidates. Ricky Sanders caught nine passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. Timmy Smith rushed for 204 yards and two scores. But it was Williams' accurate passing during the Redskins' 35-point second quarter that got Washington going. The Redskins trailed 10-0 and their ground game was faltering when Williams first struck deep, finding Sanders for an 80-yard touchdown. It was the first of three passes Williams completed at least 20 yards downfield, which resulted in 157 yards and three scores.


6Jerry Rice

WR, San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl XXIII

The 49ers' 20-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals is famous for John Taylor's winning catch and Bill Walsh coaching his final game. All Rice did was compile 11 receptions for 215 yards, still a Super Bowl record, and the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Rice caught five passes for 109 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 27-yarder on second-and-20 that gave the 49ers a first down from the 18-yard line in the final minute.


7Emmitt Smith

RB, Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl XXVIII

The Buffalo Bills were tied with the heavily favored Cowboys in the third quarter when Smith went to work. He accounted for 18 carries and one reception during three second-half touchdown drives, helping Dallas pull away to win 30-13. Smith touched the ball on all but seven plays during those drives. He finished with 30 carries for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Smith was the obvious MVP choice on a day when Troy Aikman and Jim Kelly combined for no touchdowns, two interceptions and five sacks.


8John Riggins

RB, Washington Redskins
Super Bowl XVII

Riggins' iconic 43-yard touchdown run on fourth down in the fourth quarter gave the Redskins their first lead during a 27-17 comeback victory over the Miami Dolphins. Riggins finished the game with 38 carries for 166 yards. Both were Super Bowl records. "Yellow 41, Yellow 41!" was the call as quarterback Joe Theismann shouted signals before the snap. Riggins ran through Dolphins cornerback Don McNeal before sprinting into the clear around the left side. This was a signature performance for Riggins and the famed "Hogs" offensive line. Riggins' record for most carries in a Super Bowl still stands.


9Joe Flacco

QB, Baltimore Ravens
Super Bowl XLVII

Only a 34-minute game delay caused by a power outage in the Superdome could slow Flacco during the Ravens' 34-31 victory over San Francisco. The 49ers' defense finished the 2012 regular season ranked among the NFL's top five in a long list of categories, but Flacco did not seem to notice. His three first-half touchdown passes gave Baltimore a 21-6 halftime lead before the power went out early in the third quarter. The 49ers stormed back to make the game close, but Flacco's early brilliance was enough for Baltimore. He finished the day completing 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs. Flacco was 7-of-10 for 158 yards and two scores on third down.


10Terrell Davis

RB, Denver Broncos
Super Bowl XXXII

An aging John Elway completed only 12 of 22 passes for 123 yards with no touchdowns and one interception, putting pressure on the Denver ground game to overcome the defending Super Bowl champion Packers. A migraine headache sidelined Davis for the second quarter, but he still finished the game with 30 carries for 157 yards and three 1-yard touchdowns. His third score gave the Broncos the lead for good in the final two minutes, and Denver claimed its first championship.


11Larry Csonka

RB, Miami Dolphins
Super Bowl VIII

The Dolphins attempted seven passes during their 24-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings to claim their second consecutive Super Bowl victory. They handed the ball to Csonka on 33 of their remaining 53 offensive plays. A bruising fullback, he turned those carries into 145 yards and two touchdowns. During the Dolphins' 10-play opening drive, Csonka carried the ball five times for 36 yards and a touchdown. When the Dolphins scored on their second drive to take a 14-0 lead, it was Csonka moving the chains with three carries for 28 yards during a four-play stretch.


12Drew Brees

QB, New Orleans Saints
Super Bowl XLIV

Brees completed 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns during the Saints' 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Coach Sean Payton's aggressive call for an onside kick to start the second half would not have mattered so much if the Saints' offense had not capitalized. Brees completed all five pass attempts for 51 yards and the go-ahead touchdown on that drive. With the Saints trailing by a point in the fourth quarter, Brees connected on all seven pass attempts, capping the drive with a TD pass, and a successful two-point conversion toss as New Orleans took the lead for good.


13Phil Simms

QB, New York Giants
Super Bowl XXI

Simms completed 22 of 25 passes for 268 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions during a 39-20 victory over the Denver Broncos. The Giants trailed 10-9 at halftime, but not for long. Simms completed all 10 of his second-half pass attempts for 165 yards and two scores as the Giants pulled away. That included third-and-6 scoring throws to Mark Bavaro and Phil McConkey. Coach Bill Parcells called it perhaps the best quarterback performance he had seen to that point.


14Aaron Rodgers

QB, Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl XLV

Rodgers completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and three scores with no turnovers during the Packers' 31-25 victory over the Steelers. Pittsburgh, led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu, allowed a league-low 14.5 points per game during the regular season. Rodgers had two touchdown passes by halftime. The Steelers blitzed Rodgers 59.5 percent of the time, their third-highest rate of the season. Rodgers made them pay the other 40.5 percent of the time. He completed 10 of 16 passes for 135 yards and all three scores when Pittsburgh sent four or fewer rushers.


15John Elway

QB, Denver Broncos
Super Bowl XXXIII

Elway finished his Hall of Fame career by completing 18 of 29 passes for 336 yards with one touchdown and one interception during the Broncos' 34-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Elway's 80-yard touchdown to Rod Smith broke open a game Denver was leading 10-3 in the second quarter. His 11.6-yard average per pass attempt ranks fourth among Super Bowl MVPs. Elway put an exclamation point on his performance with a 3-yard scoring run for a 31-6 lead in the fourth quarter.


16Eli Manning

QB, New York Giants
Super Bowl XLII

The Giants needed a dominant defensive effort to pull a 17-14 upset over the previously undefeated New England Patriots. They also needed Manning to show up big in the fourth quarter. He did. Manning completed 8 of 12 passes for 144 yards and two scores when the Giants needed a touchdown to take leads in the game's final 12 minutes. Giants receiver David Tyree's catch against his helmet for a 32-yard gain sustained the winning drive and became the game's iconic play. Manning made it possible by breaking free from multiple defenders to deliver a desperation heave.


17Tom Brady

QB, New England Patriots
Super Bowl XXXVIII

The Patriots and Carolina Panthers combined for 37 fourth-quarter points before New England claimed a 32-29 victory on Adam Vinatieri's 41-yard field goal. Brady completed 10 of 13 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown on two late scoring drives to pull out the victory. He completed 32 of 48 passes for 354 yards and three scores overall, more than offsetting the fourth-quarter interception he threw deep in Panthers territory while attempting to stretch a 21-16 lead.


18Tom Brady

QB, New England Patriots
Super Bowl XLIX

Brady completed 13 of 15 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the Patriots overcame a 24-14 deficit to beat the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. The game stands out for Malcolm Butler's interception to stop Seattle in the final minute, but the Patriots needed Brady to grind away against Seattle's stifling defense just to have a shot. No Super Bowl MVP has completed more passes (37), had more attempts (50), thrown for as many first downs (21) or averaged so few yards per completion (8.9) as Brady did in this performance. It was more gritty than pretty -- and exactly what the Patriots needed.


19Bart Starr

QB, Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl I

The Packers, already without halfback Paul Hornung, lost starting receiver Boyd Dowler to an injury early in the first Super Bowl. But they never trailed after Starr found Dowler's replacement, Max McGee, for a 37-yard touchdown to spark the 35-10 Green Bay victory over Kansas City. Starr completed 7 of 9 passes for 131 yards and two scores against the Chiefs' blitz. Starr is one of two Super Bowl MVPs with a maximum 158.3 passer rating against the blitz (Len Dawson was the other, in Super Bowl IV).


20Troy Aikman

QB, Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl XXVII

The Cowboys' 52-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills is a game remembered nationally for Don Beebe hustling to stop Leon Lett from scoring. In Dallas, the game should resonate for giving the Cowboys their first Super Bowl victory in 15 years. While the Bills committed nine turnovers, Aikman was in control all the way. He completed 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards and four touchdowns. He took no sacks, exploiting a Bills defense that was apparently preoccupied with stopping the run. Aikman punished Buffalo on first down, completing 10 of 11 attempts for 143 yards and all four scoring passes.


21Franco Harris

RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl IX

Harris had 34 rushes for 158 yards and a touchdown to carry the Steelers to their first Super Bowl victory, 16-6 over the Minnesota Vikings. The teams combined for seven fumbles, including two by Harris. But on a day when Pittsburgh lost more yards on penalties (122) than it gained passing the ball (96), Harris' production on the ground was important. He outgained the entire Vikings offense, 158 to 119. Pittsburgh was leading 2-0 when Minnesota fumbled away the second-half kickoff. Harris followed with a 24-yard run and a 9-yard score to give the Steelers breathing room.


22Kurt Warner

QB, St. Louis Rams
Super Bowl XXXIV

Warner's 73-yard touchdown strike to Isaac Bruce in the final two minutes propelled the Rams to a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans. It wasn't that simple, of course. The Rams needed linebacker Mike Jones' touchdown-saving tackle on the final play to hold on. Warner completed 24 of 45 passes for 414 yards and two scores without an interception. The Titans held Rams running back Marshall Faulk to 17 yards rushing, but Warner piled up 162 yards passing to Bruce, 109 to Torry Holt and 90 to Faulk.


23Von Miller

LB, Denver Broncos
Super Bowl 50

Miller's two strip sacks on league MVP quarterback Cam Newton propelled the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory over the 15-1 Panthers despite minimal contributions from the Denver offense. Miller finished with 2.5 sacks, two additional quarterback hits and a pass defended. He was the best player on an all-time great defense and the driving force behind this resounding 24-10 victory.


24Marcus Allen

RB, Los Angeles Raiders
Super Bowl XVIII

Allen's serpentine touchdown run from 74 yards out remains the signature play in the Raiders' 38-9 trouncing of the favored Washington Redskins. The Raiders took control of the game early when cornerbacks Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes shut down the Redskins' usually productive "Fun Bunch" receiving corps. Allen carried 20 times for 191 yards and two touchdowns. His 140 second-half rushing yards remain a Super Bowl record by a wide margin. Riggins had 108 in the second half of Super Bowl XVII.


25Lynn Swann

WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl X

Swann went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame based on the quality of his catches, not the quantity of them. That is also how he won MVP honors during the Steelers' 21-17 victory over the rival Cowboys. Swann caught four passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. On average, he was 30 yards downfield for the seven passes Terry Bradshaw threw his way, the highest figure for any player with more than one reception in a Super Bowl. Swann soared high for a 53-yard reception in the second quarter, and later, with Pittsburgh leading 15-10 in the fourth, he made another TD grab -- this one a 64-yarder.


26Jake Scott

S, Miami Dolphins
Super Bowl VII

Scott's fourth-quarter interception and 55-yard return past midfield provided a finishing blow as the Dolphins completed their perfect 1972 season with a 14-7 victory over the Redskins. Scott intercepted two Billy Kilmer passes overall. The Dolphins led 14-0 with 5:33 remaining when Kilmer targeted Charley Taylor in the end zone on third-and-6 from the Miami 10. Scott intercepted the pass, part of a dominating effort from a Miami "No-Name Defense" that ranked first in points allowed that season.


27Jim Plunkett

QB, Oakland Raiders
Super Bowl XV

Plunkett completed four first-quarter passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns as the underdog Raiders jumped to a 14-0 lead on their way to a 27-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Plunkett finished 13-of-21 for 261 yards and three scores overall. He averaged 20.1 yards per completed pass, second only to Bradshaw in Super Bowl XIV among Super Bowl MVPs. It was enough for Plunkett to win MVP honors over teammate Rod Martin, who had three interceptions.


28Terry Bradshaw

QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl XIV

Bradshaw overcame three interceptions in the first three quarters to hit a pair of third-down deep balls to John Stallworth, and the Steelers came from behind for a 31-19 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. The Steelers were trailing 19-17 entering the final quarter after Rams cornerback Rod Perry intercepted a third-and-10 pass by Bradshaw intended for Stallworth. Bradshaw went back to Stallworth working deep against Perry on the Steelers' next possession. Perry nearly got a hand on the ball, but Stallworth caught it in stride and ran the remaining 32 yards for a 73-yard touchdown. Bradshaw and Stallworth connected for a 45-yard gain to set up the clinching score in the final two minutes.


29Joe Namath

QB, New York Jets
Super Bowl III

Namath is the only quarterback to win Super Bowl MVP honors without throwing a touchdown pass. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards, however, and the Jets cemented his legend when they made good on his prediction by upsetting the Baltimore Colts 16-7. Namath completed four consecutive passes during the Jets' 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, including one for a 14-yard gain to George Sauer on third-and-4. Namath completed 39- and 35-yard passes to Sauer for his longest gains, but neither drive produced points.


30Joe Montana

QB, San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl XIX

Montana dinked, dunked and ran his way to MVP honors in a 38-16 victory over the Miami Dolphins. He completed 24 of 35 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns overall. That included hitting 12 of 14 passes for 180 yards and all three scores when targeting running backs. Those backs gained 122 of their 180 yards after the catch. Montana showed off his running ability as well, picking up 59 yards on the ground, including 6 yards on a second-quarter scoring run that gave the 49ers a 21-10 lead.


31Larry Brown

CB, Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl XXX

The Cowboys could thank Brown's two interceptions off Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell for a 27-17 victory that gave them their third Super Bowl victory in four seasons. Dallas converted Brown's first interception and subsequent 44-yard return into a quick touchdown for a 20-7 lead in the third quarter. The lead was only 20-17 when Brown parlayed a miscommunication between O'Donnell and receiver Andre Hastings into his second interception. Brown returned it 33 yards, setting up the Cowboys' final touchdown, capping a tumultuous season under coach Barry Switzer.


32Santonio Holmes

WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl XLIII

Holmes' memorable winning touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger in the right corner of the end zone gave him nine receptions for 131 yards in the Steelers' 27-23 victory over Arizona. The Cardinals had taken a 23-20 lead on Larry Fitzgerald's 64-yard scoring reception from Kurt Warner with 2:37 to play. But thanks in part to Holmes' catches of 14, 13 and 30 yards, the Steelers drove into scoring position. Holmes' game-winning grab over leaping defensive backs Ralph Brown and Aaron Francisco gave him a prominent place in Steelers lore.


33Eli Manning

QB, New York Giants
Super Bowl XLVI

Manning's 38-yard strike to Mario Manningham up the left sideline survived New England's replay challenge and sparked the Giants' winning drive in a 21-17 victory. Manning completed 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown. He completed all nine passes in the first quarter as the underdog Giants built a 9-0 lead. Trailing 17-15 in the final four minutes, Manning then completed 5 of 6 passes for 74 yards, moving the Giants into position for Ahmad Bradshaw's winning 6-yard touchdown run.


34Tom Brady

QB, New England Patriots
Super Bowl XXXVI

The Patriots claimed a 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams with a physical defense, a conservative passing offense and Adam Vinatieri's winning field goal. Brady completed only two passes on throws traveling 10-plus yards past the line of scrimmage, but he effectively moved New England into position for the winning 48-yard field goal try, going 5-of-8 for 53 yards in the game's final drive. The Patriots entered the game as 14-point underdogs. Brady completed 16 of 27 passes for 145 yards and an 8-yard scoring strike to David Patten shortly before halftime.


35Joe Montana

QB, San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl XVI

The 49ers' 26-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals gave them their first Super Bowl victory without producing big numbers offensively. Montana completed 14 of 22 passes for 157 yards and had two touchdowns, including one on the ground. He attempted only four passes in the second half after San Francisco built a 20-0 lead. Ray Wersching hit four field goal tries, and the 49ers' defense stopped the Bengals from the San Francisco 1-yard line on three consecutive plays late in the third quarter.


36Roger Staubach

QB, Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl VI

An efficient performance from Staubach earned him MVP honors during a heavily run-oriented 24-3 victory over the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys rushed 48 times for 252 yards and a touchdown and held the Dolphins to 10 first downs. Staubach connected on 12 of 19 passes for 119 yards and two scores. He completed third-down passes to sustain three scoring drives, including one to tight end Mike Ditka for a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 7.


37Harvey Martin and Randy White

DL, Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl XII

Martin and White led a Cowboys defense that forced eight turnovers while holding the Denver Broncos to 8-of-25 passing and 156 total yards during a 27-10 victory. The Broncos and their "Orange Crush" defense commanded much pregame attention after Denver reached the Super Bowl against expectations. But Dallas' "Doomsday Defense" was the one that dominated the game. The league rejected a push to list the entire defense as the game's MVP. Martin and White shared the honor on the defense's behalf.


38Mark Rypien

QB, Washington Redskins
Super Bowl XXVI

Rypien succeeded in locating Earnest Byner and Gary Clark on touchdown passes in a game famous for the opposing running back's inability to find his helmet at kickoff. Rypien completed 18 of 33 passes for 292 yards with no sacks in the Redskins' 37-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills and Thurman Thomas, who would gain only 13 yards on 10 carries. When Thomas' 1-yard TD run cut the third-quarter deficit to 24-10, Rypien responded with a 30-yard TD strike to Clark on third-and-10.


39Deion Branch

WR, New England Patriots
Super Bowl XXXIX

Branch caught 11 passes for 133 yards in the Patriots' 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The score was tied 7-7 in the third quarter when Tom Brady looked for Branch five times during a nine-play touchdown drive. Branch caught four passes for 71 yards during the drive, gaining 27 yards on third-and-6 before tacking on another 15 yards on third-and-10. This performance gave Branch 21 receptions for 276 yards in New England's back-to-back Super Bowl victories.


40Len Dawson

QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl IV

Dawson's 46-yard touchdown strike to Otis Taylor in the third quarter helped the Chiefs post a 23-7 victory as 12-point underdogs against the Minnesota Vikings. Dawson completed 12 of 17 passes for 142 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was 4-of-5 for 66 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings' blitz. The Chiefs ran the ball 42 times for 151 yards, but no individual runner had more than 39 yards on the ground. Kansas City's Willie Lanier, Emmitt Thomas and Johnny Robinson all had interceptions in the fourth quarter to keep the score lopsided.


41Bart Starr

QB, Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl II

Starr's 62-yard touchdown to Boyd Dowler in the second quarter gave the Packers a double-digit lead in a game they won 33-14 against the Oakland Raiders. Starr completed 13 of 24 passes for 202 yards for an offense that committed no turnovers. His 11-yard completion to Carroll Dale against the blitz on third-and-9 sustained a third-quarter touchdown drive. That drive stretched the Packers' lead to 23-7, putting Oakland in desperation mode. Herb Adderley intercepted Daryle Lamonica and returned it for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, making the rout complete.


42Peyton Manning

QB, Indianapolis Colts
Super Bowl XLI

Manning completed 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards with one touchdown and one interception during the Colts' 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in the Miami rain. Manning carried the Colts for years, but his defense shouldered much of the load during the playoffs that season. Chicago scored on the opening kickoff and then intercepted Manning to end the Colts' opening drive. Manning rebounded to find Reggie Wayne for a 53-yard touchdown on third-and-10. The Colts intercepted Rex Grossman twice and rushed for 191 yards on 42 carries.


43Desmond Howard

KR/PR, Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl XXXI

Who could have figured that a 14-point favorite with Brett Favre at quarterback and Reggie White on the defensive line would need a return specialist to win the Super Bowl? Howard's 99-yard kickoff return in the third quarter accounted for the final points in a 35-21 Packers victory over the New England Patriots. Howard finished the game with 244 return yards. That included a 34-yard punt return to the New England 47-yard line, setting up a Green Bay field goal drive for a 20-14 lead. Howard remains the only player named Super Bowl MVP for his contributions on special teams.


44Richard Dent

DE, Chicago Bears
Super Bowl XX

Dent collected 2.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and batted down a pass for the Bears' famed 1985 defense during their 46-10 demolition of New England. The Patriots totaled only 123 yards, and their starting quarterback, Tony Eason, took three sacks and failed to complete any of his six pass attempts before veteran Steve Grogan replaced him behind center. Dent had led the NFL with 17 sacks during the regular season. The Bears outscored their three postseason opponents 91-10, allowing only 31 first downs.


45Ray Lewis

LB, Baltimore Ravens
Super Bowl XXXV

Lewis was the engine that drove the Ravens' league-leading defense before, during and after their 34-7 victory over the New York Giants in this Super Bowl. Lewis finished the game with five tackles and a game-high four passes defensed. Giants quarterback Kerry Collins completed 15 of 39 passes (38.4 percent) for 112 yards (2.9 per attempt) with four interceptions and was sacked four times. Statistically, this wasn't Lewis' best game, but he was certainly the key player on the game's key unit.


46Hines Ward

WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl XL

Ward caught five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown during the Steelers' 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Ward dropped a pass in the end zone, but he rebounded with a 37-yard reception to set up the game's first touchdown. Ward was later on the receiving end of the game-clinching 43-yard scoring pass from fellow receiver Antwaan Randle El on a trick play. Ward caught three passes for 65 yards on third down, sustaining drives with each of those receptions.


47Ottis Anderson

RB, New York Giants
Super Bowl XXV

Anderson had 21 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown in the Giants' 20-19 victory against the Buffalo Bills. Scott Norwood's missed 47-yard field goal try became the most memorable play of the game for either team. Anderson had four rushes for 37 yards and the go-ahead touchdown on a third-quarter scoring drive. That included a 24-yard run on third-and-1 to keep the drive moving. Anderson got the ball five more times during the Giants' drive to the winning field goal midway through the final quarter.


48Dexter Jackson

S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Super Bowl XXXVII

Two first-half interceptions made Jackson the early leader among several MVP candidates from the Buccaneers' defense following a 48-21 dismantling of the Oakland Raiders. Teammate Dwight Smith had two returned interceptions for touchdowns in the second half, after the score was lopsided, and Simeon Rice had two sacks. The Raiders, playing without AWOL center Barrett Robbins, fell behind 20-3 by halftime after entering the game as 3.5-point favorites. The Raiders finished the game with five turnovers and just 11 first downs.


49Fred Biletnikoff

WR, Oakland Raiders
Super Bowl XI

Biletnikoff caught four passes for 79 yards and no touchdowns for a Raiders offense that piled up 429 yards during a 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Oakland, led by future Hall of Famers on its offensive line, ran the ball 52 times for 266 yards and two scores. Clarence Davis gained 137 of those yards on 16 carries, but Biletnikoff's receptions set up three touchdowns. There was a 5-yarder on third-and-3 to set up a 1-yard TD pass to Dave Casper. There was a 17-yarder to set up a 1-yard scoring run for Pete Banaszak. And there was Biletnikoff's 48-yard grab to set up another Banaszak TD.


50Malcolm Smith

LB, Seattle Seahawks
Super Bowl XLVIII

Smith's interception return for a touchdown gave the Seahawks a three-score lead in the second quarter, and they went on to win 43-8 over the Denver Broncos. Defensive end Cliff Avril beat the Broncos' right tackle with a bull-rush move before hitting Peyton Manning and forcing the ball to float high in the air. Smith was there to collect the interception. His 69-yard return for a touchdown made the score 22-0. It was a whirlwind postseason for Smith, who had been only a part-time starter. He also made the clinching interception against San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game, snagging a pass that Richard Sherman had deflected.


51Chuck Howley

LB, Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl V

A game featuring 11 turnovers and only 23 first downs needed an MVP. Howley was the winner even though the Baltimore Colts beat his Cowboys 16-13. Howley had two interceptions, including one in the end zone, but the Colts won the game on Jim O'Brien's 32-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining. Howley, a five-time first-team All-Pro and a member of the Cowboys' Ring of Honor, remains the only player from a losing team to be named Super Bowl MVP.

Illustrations by Kyle Hilton

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