For most of Sunday night, the biggest debate off the football field wasn't whether the Seattle Seahawks would win the Super Bowl or the Denver Broncos could come back, it was about who should win the game's MVP award for Seattle when the game was finally and mercifully over.
There were plenty of choices. Percy Harvin returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Kam Chancellor was one of the leading tacklers in addition to having an interception. Russell Wilson led his team magnificently, managing the game without an interception and collecting two touchdown passes. Malcolm Smith's 69-yard interception return served as the eventual dagger. Some could have even argued awarding the entire award to Seattle's defense.
The one consistent performance that stood out the most, though, was courtesy of former Detroit Lions' defensive end Cliff Avril. Most of the night, Peyton Manning looked uncomfortable in the pocket, and most of the night, that was due to the exploits of Avril, who never took his foot off the gas after securing the game's first points on a safety. Denver's offensive line didn't have the strength to stop Avril. When things broke down, Manning didn't have the speed to get away.
Considering Avril got credit for a safety, two tackles for loss, two passes defended and two quarterback hits, it was arguably his performance that stood above the rest. Without Avril's pressure, there would have been no interceptions by Smith, the game's eventual MVP, or Chancellor. Arguably, without Avril's pass rushing exploits, the entire defensive secondary, led by Chancellor, Earl Thomas and the boisterous Richard Sherman, wouldn't have looked quite as nasty, either.
Mostly, the dominance of this Super Bowl started up front in the trenches and continued that way, and that tone was set most by Avril. For all those accustomed to watching Avril, it was a clinic in the usual. His swim moves were flawless while his footwork and speed were special. Though he didn't have the sacks or the forced fumbles helping his case statistically, it was perhaps his best performance of all considering the moment.
Considering he's a class individual with a history of always putting the team first, Avril will likely never himself admit he was overlooked, but those on the outside who know his game and understand his impact will continue to think he was. From start to finish, Avril set the tone behind one of the most dominating defensive performances in Super Bowl history up front at his position.
If that feat isn't MVP-worthy, there aren't many accomplishments in football that are. Instead, Avril can rest easy with satisfaction knowing he's a Super Bowl champion, and that his performances will stand out on highlight reels for eternity. He'll even know that many, including veteran writer Peter King of The MMQB stumped for his candidacy.
All in all, it wasn't a bad night for the third round pick from Purdue and one time Lions' star. Despite this, the majesty should have been made a tiny bit sweeter for Avril with some well-deserved MVP honors.
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