Nothing beats that championship feeling — the feeling the New England Patriots have felt six times in the past 20 years. After the game concludes and the team is awarded it’s championship, a Super Bowl MVP os obviously named for his exceptional individual performance. Tom Brady won that award four times in New England and again this past season. Wide receivers Deion Branch and Julian Edelman are the other Patriots to secure this honor. But who else could have taken home the championship game MVP honor? We thought it would be fun to take a look back at the others that warranted consideration in the Patriots Super Bowl victories.
Super Bowl XXXVI
Tom Brady finished the game with just 16 completions for 145 yards and one touchdown in a 20-17 win over the heavily-favored St. Louis Rams. His late game heroics convinced voters to name him MVP after he calmly guided a 53-yard drive in 1:21 to set up Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning 48-yard field goal.
Ty Law was very close to securing the game’s MVP award. His early, tone-setting pick six shocked the Rams and staked the Patriots to a 7-3 lead. Law added two more passes defended in the game and kept the clamps on Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Isaac Bruce. He also finished with eight total tackles and could have been just the third defensive back to win Super Bowl MVP honors.
Adam Vinatieri was also another close call for Super Bowl XXXVI MVP. If making a 48-yard, championship-winning field goal with the entire world watching isn’t enough to garner your vote, Vinatieri also had another field goal and converted on both of his extra point attempts. Scoring eight of the teams’ 20 points and clinching the franchise’s first championship is worthy of Super Bowl MVP consideration.
While Ty Law garnered the headline, cornerback Otis Smith also put together a stellar performance that had to be included in the MVP conversation. Smith had an interception, broke up three other passes and added four tackles while covering the explosive Torry Holt.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
Brady secured his second Super Bowl MVP award by completing a Super Bowl record 32 passes for an impressive 354 yards and three touchdowns against Carolina, while also leading his second late-fourth quarter Super Bowl game-winning drive. Brady helped set several offensive Super Bowl records and gave the Patriots the chance to win their second championship in three years, which they did when Vinatieri kicked another game-winning in the final seconds.
Deion Branch put together a legitimate case for MVP in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Branch finished his first Super Bowl with 10 receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown. Fast-forward, and compare to the next year (2004) when Branch did win Super Bowl XXXIX MVP for his 11 catch and 133 yard performance. Branch could have easily earned the MVP award against Carolina and could have been the third player in NFL history to win back-to-back Super Bowl MVP awards (Bart Starr I & II, Terry Bradshaw XIII & XIV).
Linebacker Mike Vrabel also could have garnered MVP honors. He finished with six tackles, two sacks – one a strip sack that set up the game’s opening touchdown – and caught a touchdown pass when lined up at tight end. Willie McGinest said it best, “Arguably, Vrabel could have gotten MVP. He was close. Vrabel had a couple sacks, made a lot of big plays, and he scored a touchdown.”
Super Bowl XXXIX
Branch became the first Patriots player not named Brady to win a Super Bowl MVP award. The wide receiver shined in his second straight championship appearance. His 11 receptions for 133 yards led both teams and played a critical role in keeping the Patriots offense moving on it’s way to a 24-21 win.
Anytime a wide receiver has an excellent game, the player who delivers that ball to them is not far behind. Brady’s 23 completions for 236 yards and 2 touchdowns were certainly worthy of a third Super Bowl MVP award. Similar to the Branch hypothetical above, had Brady won MVP against the Eagles he would have joined Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw as the only players in NFL history with back-to-back Super Bowl MVP trophies.
Patriots Hall of Famer Rodney Harrison also made a significant impact on the game that could have earned a bid for MVP. Harrison finished the game with seven tackles, one sack, two passes defended, and two interceptions – one coming on Philly’s final possession that secured another championship for New England.
Super Bowl XLIX
Brady returned to championship and Super Bowl MVP glory in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks. Brady executed yet another fourth quarter comeback to win a championship and shattered NFL records while doing it. He tallied 37 completions for 328 yards and four touchdowns – undoubtedly a Super Bowl MVP performance.
Several offensive players were neck and neck as Brady distributed the wealth to almost everyone in this Super Bowl thriller. Julian Edelman, playing in his second Super Bowl, was one of Brady’s work horses against the Seahawks Legion of Boom defense. He caught nine passes for 109 yards, including the Super Bowl winning touchdown.
Not many players have won Super Bowl MVP honors based predominantly for a single play. But if someone were to accomplish that feat, it would have been Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl XLIX. He made arguably the greatest play in Super Bowl history to clinch the Patriots fourth Lombardi Trophy. Despite only playing 18 defensive snaps all game, Butler also three tackles and three passes defended to accompany his championship interception. A Super Bowl MVP award would have capped a special night for the undrafted rookie.
Super Bowl LI
The greatest comeback of all-time, led by the greatest quarterback of all-time gave Brady his well-deserved fourth Super Bowl MVP award. With most of the offense’s success coming in the second half of the game, Brady’s final statistics look even more miraculous. He completed a record 43 of 62 passes for 466 yards and two touchdowns. His performance in Super Bowl LI will be forever remembered, the MVP award was a no-brainer.
When one leads a 25-point comeback win, it’s hard to deny him MVP honors. But football is the ultimate team game and James White’s Super Bowl LI performance was also worthy. White totaled 20 touches, for 139 yards, 3 TDs, and a two-point conversion. His 20 points scored set a Super Bowl record, and he drove his way through defenders for the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
So many incredible moments occurred on the Patriots defensive side of the ball during this game, and selecting a single defensive player as the potential MVP is challenging to be sure. The two defensive players most influential in the game and closest to securing an MVP bid were Trey Flowers and Dont’a Hightower. Flowers six tackles and two-and-a-half sacks were crucial in stopping the Falcons explosive offense in the second half. Flowers came up big at the right time and kept New England’s hope alive when he took down Matt Ryan and pushed the Falcons out of field goal range on two separate occasions in the second half. Dont’a “Mr. February” Hightower made arguably the biggest play of the game midway through the fourth quarter with a strip sack that turned the tide and gave the Patriots the break they needed. The importance of both players is easily over-shadowed on the stat sheet, but when considering the game in it’s entirety, those plays are as important as any other.
Super Bowl LII
Nick Foles had 28 completions for 373 yards and three touchdown passes as well as one touchdown reception.
No, the Patriots did not win Super Bowl LII, but the disappointing loss to the Eagles included another incredible Brady effort. His Super Bowl record 505 yards passing had to warrant MVP consideration even in a losing effort. He would have been only the second player in NFL history to win Super Bowl MVP from the losing team (Chuck Howley, Cowboys, Super Bowl V).
Super Bowl LIII
Julian Edelman became the second Patriots receiver to be named Super Bowl MVP when he delivered a superb performance with 10 receptions for 141 yards in a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams. The veteran work horse, coming back from an ACL injury the year before, deserved the game’s MVP award while building his legacy as one of the best postseason receivers of all-time.
Super Bowl LIII was an incredibly strategic football game to watch. A talented offense versus a brilliant defense, resulted in a classic field position battle. Patriots punter Ryan Allen delivered the best performance of his career. He was forced to punt five times but for a total of 215 yards and a net average of 40.6 yards. Allen forced the high-powered Rams offense to start deep in their own territory three times without a touchback. Following Allen punts, the Rams started drives at their 6, 35, 2, 23, and 7-yard line. It may be unheard of for a punter to win MVP, but Allen had to be in the conversation.
Stephon Gilmore was also in the running. Gilmore’s five tackles, three passes defended, forced fumble, and championship securing interception was impressive.
With so much of the game spent on the ground, Sony Michel was likely a few extra yards away from the MVP stage. The rookie running back had 94 yards on 18 carries and scored the game’s only touchdown. In a game heavily dominated by defense, but with an award that loves offense, Michel was likely close to visiting Disney World.