The best Super Bowl player in Giants history is Eli Manning.
JOHN SCHMEELK: FICTION – You can make the argument for Justin Tuck, who has been the best defensive player in the Giants’ last two Super Bowls. I’m going to go back in time and go with Phil Simms. Even though he only played in one Super Bowl, his performance still stands as perhaps the best by any quarterback in Super Bowl history. Simms threw only three incompletions (two of which were drops) in 25 attempts for 268 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 39-20 blowout win. The other three Super Bowls were all close games and team efforts with good performances on offense and defense. No one performance was ever near as dominant as Simms, so he gets my vote.
DAN SALOMONE: FACT – Are there any other two-time Super Bowl MVPs? No. Case closed. He slew the mighty Patriots not once, but twice in two of the most thrilling games in Super Bowl history. He was also part of two of the most famous throws in league history, first to David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII and then again to Mario Manningham in Super Bowl XLVI. It’s his legacy.
LANCE MEDOW: FICTION – Two weeks ago, in this same feature, we responded to the following statement: “Justin Tuck is the best postseason player in Giants history.” My answer was Fiction and I made a strong case for Eli Manning but also wrote, “If the statement read Justin Tuck is the best Super Bowl player in Giants history, then it’s an easy fact.” Well, it looks like Dan Salomone was paying close attention to that line when he created the statements for this week (a very wise move on his part). Tuck sacked Tom Brady four times in two contests and made a number of game-changing plays, including forcing a safety during the Patriots’ first possession of Super Bowl 46. He’s the only player in NFL history to record multiple sacks in multiple Super Bowls. That says it all.
You would rather have the top defense instead of the top offense in the Super Bowl.
JOHN SCHMEELK: FACT – This is a tough question, but historically the top defense has had the advantage over the top offense in past Super Bowl matchups. A great defense always has the ability to shut down even the best of quarterbacks. The Giants defense did a great job of limiting Tom Brady in Super Bowls 42 and 46. The Seahawks made Peyton Manning look awfully pedestrian in Super Bowl 48. The Broncos defense shut down Cam Newton last year. In my opinion, having two weeks to prepare for the Super Bowl is also a bigger advantage for defenses than offenses. It gives them more time to prepare for specific offensive schemes and personnel. There are only so many defensive schemes a team can utilize. Give me the great defense, which is why I also think the Patriots will emerge as winners on Sunday night.
DAN SALOMONE: FACT – Especially in this era, you would think offense is the way to go here. But the numbers play out in favor of defense in the biggest game of the year. With all of the nerves, the windows get smaller, the hits get harder, and mistakes get magnified. In other words, it plays into the hands of the defense.
LANCE MEDOW: FACT – When the Patriots and Falcons collide Sunday in Houston, it will be the seventh time in Super Bowl history that the league’s number one offense (Atlanta) plays the number one defense (New England). In the six previous meetings, the top defense won five times, so that stat alone shows you more often than not having a strong defense puts you in a much better position to win than showcasing an explosive offense. Case in point, three years ago at MetLife Stadium, in Super Bowl 48 (one of the previous six match-ups), the Seahawks crushed the Broncos, 43-8, and that was a Denver offense guided by Peyton Manning coming off an NFL-record 55 touchdown season.
David Tyree’s helmet catch is the best play in Super Bowl history.
JOHN SCHMEELK: FICTION – I can’t believe I’m voting fiction here, but I am. The sheer wonder and impossibility of the Tyree catch still might place the Tyree play at the top. Eli Manning doesn’t often use his mobility to break tackles and run out of pressure. He did. Tyree was a back-up wide receiver who had trouble catching the ball at practice two days before Super Bowl XLII. He went up and caught the ball with one hand and pinned it against his helmet. It was by far the most improbable play in Super Bowl history.
At the risk of having Giants fans chase me out of East Rutherford with pitch forks, I’m going to go with the Malcolm Butler interception. Unlike the Tyree play, that was the deciding play in that Super Bowl win for the Patriots. The Giants still had to make more plays to win after the Tyree catch. As a pure football play, Butler and Brandon Browner did more things right on that play from a fundamental standpoint than the Giants did on the Tyree catch. Give me the Butler play, and I’ll keep my car engine running.
DAN SALOMONE: FACT – The circumstances push it over the top. On one side, you had the 18-0 Patriots with the best offense in NFL history. On the other, you had the fifth-seeded Giants with a coach and quarterback whom outsiders wanted to run out of town. And then thanks to the most improbable play you will ever see, the Giants beat the best team the game had ever seen. That stuff happens in movies, not real life.
LANCE MEDOW: FICTION – It’s certainly one of the best plays but, in my opinion, there are at least two others that top Tyree because they saved games and were extremely impressive defensive plays. The first is in Super Bowl 34 when Rams linebacker Mike Jones somehow wrapped up and tackled Tennessee wide receiver Kevin Dyson just shy of the goal line in what preserved St. Louis’ 23-16 victory. The other is in Super Bowl 49 when Patriots corner Malcolm Butler beat Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette to the spot and picked off Russell Wilson at the goal line to seal New England’s 28-24 win over Seattle. Regardless of whether you think the Seahawks should have given the ball to Marshawn Lynch, it was still a hell of a play by Butler, as well as fellow Patriots corner Brandon Browner.
Twenty-eight points will be enough to win Super Bowl LI.
JOHN SCHMEELK: FACT – The Patriots defense is the unit not enough people are talking about heading into Super Bowl LI, despite the fact they were the best scoring defense in the league. They might not have flashy names of pass rushers or shutdown corners that people recognize, but they are an excellent unit. The secondary is fantastic with guys like Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty. Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon are solid veterans. The defensive line is very solid against the run up the middle. Dont’a Hightower is a good young linebacker. If the Patriots get to 28 points, I think they will win because of their defense slowing down a great Falcons offense. The Falcons offense, on the other hand, will have to get to at least 24 points, maybe even 28 or 31 if they want to beat New England since Tom Brady should be able to put up points on their defense.
DAN SALOMONE: FACT – As we talked about earlier, the No. 1 defense tends to win over a No. 1 offense. My thoughts are this will be a lower-scoring game than most people think as coaches will consider punts – and no turnovers – as victories. So 28 points should be enough to take home the Lombardi Trophy. Let’s just hope it’s a good one.
LANCE MEDOW: FACT – As I mentioned earlier, the Patriots have the number one scoring defense in the NFL. During the regular season, they allowed opponents to score an average of just 15.6 points per game and since the start of their current nine-game winning streak in Week 11, they haven’t allowed more than 23 points in a single game. Just one team this season has managed to score 30 or more points against the Patriots. That was the Seahawks, who put up 31 in Week 10, coincidentally the last time New England suffered a loss. Although the Falcons averaged 33.8 points per game this season and have scored 33 or more during their current six-game winning streak, I think if the Patriots’ defense performs like it has all season long, and 28 points will be enough to win.