A defensive Super Bowl MVP would have been appropriate for the lowest-scoring installment in its 53-game history but lol NOPE!
Despite his integral part in holding the NFL’s highest-scoring offense to just three points, Patriots defensive back Stephon Gilmore lost out to wide receiver Julian Edelman.
Edelman — he of the monetized faux chip on the shoulder and PED suspension earlier this season — made 10 catches for 141 yards. His repeated first-down conversions were crucial to what little offense the Patriots mounted…even if Rob Gronkowski’s deep reception in traffic was more directly responsible for setting up Sony Michel’s game-winning touchdown rush.
All the same, Edelman’s case for Super Bowl MVP was strong; it’s also just lazy.
Gilmore’s statistics aren’t eye-popping without context. But of his three pass deflections, one prevented a would-be, game-tying Rams touchdown (and served as karmic retribution for Los Angeles advanced on a blatant, yet uncalled, pass interference in New Orleans).
Play before Gilmore INT
Goff heating up, with two of his best throws back to back before this play
Ball is right there … Cooks HAS to grab this one pic.twitter.com/4ZIADlaaba
— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) February 4, 2019
Gilmore then slammed the door shut with an interception on Jared Goff’s last-ditch effort while under duress from the New England blitz. That two-play sequence, coupled with a forced fumble, should have sewn up Super Bowl MVP.
And I’m not alone in that assessment!
The offense only scores 13 points and they give MVP to Edelman but the D only gave up 3 points and Gilmore had forced a fumble, a int, 3 PBUs and 5 Tackles!?! Smh no respect for the masterpiece on Defense!
— Calais Campbell (@Campbell93) February 4, 2019
New England’s final field goal prevented a final score matching that of November’s Pac-12 Championship Game, which — as someone who covers the Pac-12, would have tickled me to no end. For as offensively anemic as Washington’s 10-3 win over Utah was, at least Pac-12 Championship Game voters had the sense to award Byron Murphy MVP.
Gilmore’s snub marks the second time a deserving defender was bypassed for Super Bowl MVP during the Patriots dynasty. In Super Bowl XXXIX, Tedy Bruschi recorded nine tackles, a sack, and kept the Philadelphia Eagles at arm’s length with a fourth-quarter interception of Donovan McNabb. However, Deion Branch won MVP with 11 receptions for 133 yards.
The odd angle to Patriots defensive players twice been passed over for wide receivers? Defenders won Super Bowl MVP four times in the 21st century, including book-ending honors for Ray Lewis and Dexter Jackson around New England’s first championship; and two defenders in the five years preceding Super Bowl LIII.
A theory: Awarding MVP to wide receivers tangentially honors Tom Brady, even when the Patriots quarterback isn’t necessarily deserving the recognition. It may be conspiratorial, and based off potentially specious reasoning (as conspiracy theories typically are); but when the postmortem of a game in which Brady finished with the same passer rating as Goff includes an ode to the Patriots quarterback demonstrating once again he’s “greatest ever”, it’s not a difficult leap to make.