Quarterbacks have always been favorites to win Super Bowl MVP. Despite the fact that football’s a team sport, pivots attract the lion’s share of media attention. More than half of all Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks. A poor performance by both pivots tend to be the only reason QBs don’t win this honor.
Defensive players win the award on occasion, but the least likely Super Bowl MVP performances involve QB legends like Elway, Warner and Favre taking a backseat to other members of the offense. Every now and then the NFL witnesses amazing feats which force fans and experts to vote for unexpected Super Bowl MVPs. The best NFL future bets usually focus on teams with a superstar who is potentially in the MVP discussion, but not always. These Super Bowl MVPs prove that notion.
KR/PR Desmond Howard
Super Bowl XXXI – Green Bay Packers
During the run-up to the Super Bowl, the Green Bay Packers were two-touchdown favorites to whip the Patriots. In addition to featuring Brett Favre and Antonio Freeman, one of the deadliest combos during the late 90s, the Packers had a terrific defense anchored by the legendary Reggie White, who held the opposition to less than 14 points per game throughout the playoffs.
Reggie set a new Super Bowl record with three sacks, but the spotlight ended up on Desmond Howard. Howard set his own records with 244 combined yards, including a 99-yard kick-off return, the longest Super Bowl TD until James Harrison returned an interception for a 100-yard TD for the Steelers. Instead of Favre, Freeman or White leading the way, Desmond became the first and only special teams member to become a Super Bowl MVP.
RB – Terrell Davis
Super Bowl XXXII – Denver Broncos
QB John Elway dragged underwhelming Denver Bronco teams to three NFL championship finals, losing Super Bowl XXI, XXII and XXIV. During his fourth final, the Broncos were 11-point underdogs against the previous Super Bowl winners – the Green Bay Packers – led by Brett Favre. Running back Terrell Davis started the game with a trademark TD run but sometime in the second quarter migraines brought Davis to his knees.
Terrell forgot to take his meds, which created blinding pain when he absorbed a hit to his head. Despite a migraine blurring his vision so badly that he couldn’t see the field, he stood as a decoy which would allow Elway to rush for a second-quarter TD. Davis, after recovering at halftime, was unstoppable, rushing for 157 yards and finishing the game with a trio of one-yard touchdowns, including on the game winning drive.
Recovering from literal blindness to outplay a pair of hall-of-fame quarterbacks for Super Bowl MVP remains one of the most unlikely achievements in the NFL.
WR Santonio Holmes
Super Bowl XLII – Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers entered the fourth quarter with a 20-7 lead, powered by a record-breaking 100-yard pick six. Kurt Warner had other ideas, marching the Cardinals back in the game with a pair of touchdown drives. When Larry Fitzgerald exploded for a 64-yard catch and run to push the Cardinals ahead 23-20, it looked like Arizona pulled off one of the best comebacks in Super Bowl history, with Kurt Warner poised to win MVP.
Instead, pivot Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes created one of the most memorable two-minute winning drives in NFL history. After a 10-yard holding penalty moved the Steelers back to the 12-yard line, Holmes caught a pair of first-down passes to bring Pittsburgh out of their own territory. Then, Big Ben hooked up with Santonio for a 40-yard play to bring the Steelers into the red zone.
After a couple of failed attempts for a TD, Holmes ran a perfect route to the corner of the end zone, extended his body to maximum length, and reeled in a high toss without letting his toes leave the ground. Catching the game-winning score gave Santonio nine receptions for 131 yards, along with the MVP trophy.
Warner was a couple of minutes away from another Super Bowl. Instead, he watched the Steelers pull off an improbable comeback due to an invincible Santonio Holmes making what might be the best clutch reception in NFL history.