Seattle’s Malcolm Smith earns Super Bowl MVP award
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (AP) — Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith returned an interception of Peyton Manning 69 yards for a touchdown and later recovered a fumble, earning Super Bowl Most Valuable Player honors in the Seahawks’ 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday night.
Smith is only the third linebacker in Super Bowl history to earn the award, joining Ray Lewis of Baltimore in 2001, and Chuck Howley of Dallas in 1971.
“I woke up jumping, bouncing,” Smith said when presented with a truck amid the confetti-strewn field after the game. “It turned out great for us tonight.”
It was rather appropriate that a member of Seattle’s league-leading defense would be the MVP of the Super Bowl, considering the way the Seahawks shut down Manning and Denver’s record-breaking offense, forcing four turnovers and holding the Broncos scoreless until the last play of the third quarter.
Only eight of 48 Super Bowls have ended with a defensive player getting the MVP honor; the last example was Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Dexter Jackson in 2003.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas were first-team All-Pro selections this season, and both finished among the top five vote-getters for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Safety Kam Chancellor was a second-team All-Pro choice.
That trio of defensive backs is part of a talented secondary known as the “Legion of Boom,” and guys such as Smith often get overshadowed.
But it was Smith who wound up with the victory-sealing interception at the end of Seattle’s NFC championship game victory over the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago, grabbing the football after Sherman tipped it away from receiver Michael Crabtree in the end zone.
And then, in the biggest game of all, Smith’s pick-6 made it 22-0 late in the first half Sunday, and Seattle was on its way. He grabbed a fumble in the third quarter, too, as the Seahawks made sure the Broncos never made things interesting.
In many ways, Smith is emblematic of Seattle’s success this season.
First and foremost, he plays defense, the unit that is the heart and soul of the team. He’s relatively young, in only his third year in the league. He was not a high draft pick, taken in the seventh round out of Southern California, where he played for current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Pegged mainly as a second string player, his speed and ability to handle both outside linebacker slots earned notice.
When Bruce Irvin was suspended for four games in May for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, it was Smith who filled in as a starter.
When Bobby Wagner was sidelined, and K.J. Wright slid over to middle linebacker, Smith got another opportunity to start. And when Wright broke his right foot, well guess who Seattle called upon? Yep, Smith, of course.
Then suddenly, on Sunday, there he was at the Super Bowl, in the right place and right time, as usual.
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