Credit Justin Tuck for the role he played in both of the Giants’ Super Bowl titles in the last four years.
In the two victories, Tuck had a total of four sacks, nine tackles, a forced fumble and a forced safety. In Sunday’s game, he made two of the most important defensive plays of the game, pressuring Tom Brady into his first-quarter intentional grounding penalty that resulted in two New York points, and sacking Brady in violent fashion on a third down in the second half. After that latter play, Brady was never the same again.
As a result, Tuck was a top-tier MVP candidate in both games.
In Super Bowl XLII, he was arguably the Giants’ leading candidate for the award until Eli Manning led the Giants on an 83-yard, game-winning touchdown drive in the final moments, making big throw after big throw — headlined, of course, by that historic completion to David Tyree.
Obviously, Manning was the MVP.
In Super Bowl XLVI, Tuck was again probably right there with Manning. If not for the safety created by him, the Giants would have needed a touchdown, not a field goal on that final drive, and thus New England wouldn’t have let them score. And in all likelihood, the Pats would have only needed a field goal on that final drive.
But it was again Manning who led the way on a final, game-winning drive, completing another pass for the ages and going 5-for-6 to essentially put the Patriots away.
Tuck’s hilarious reaction to that second Eli masterpiece was: “That guy stole my MVP again.” But here’s the problem with that logic: if not for Manning’s heroics, the Giants would have lost both games, and the MVP in both cases would have gone to a member of the Patriots such as Brady or Wes Welker.
If Manning comes up big, Tuck loses the MVP. If Manning doesn’t come up big, Tuck loses the game, and in turn, the MVP.
Tuck was clearly the defensive MVP of both Super Bowls, and considering that the Patriots averaged less than 16 points per game in those affairs, that counts for something when assessing his legacy as an elite defensive player. Unfortunately, though, there’s no such thing as a defensive Super Bowl MVP award.