Unsung Heroes  


Blackburn, Tuck, Weatherford all came up huge for Giants


Super Bowl MVP balloting typically is just a matter of the voters being able to identify the winning quarterback. (It's a good thing this Giants fan was not asked to cast a vote.) But there are a number of unsung heroes who often go unnoticed. Here is a look at some of the biggest ones for the Giants:

Chase Blackburn

Tom Brady probably couldn't believe it when he saw Blackburn -- who didn't even start the season with the Giants -- trying to keep up with Rob Gronkowski 50 yards downfield. But Brady underthrew the ball and Blackburn made one of the most unlikely interceptions in Super Bowl history.

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"I had to carry Gronkowski," Blackburn said after the game. "I heard the crowd go wild a little bit, and I thought we had a sack. But I continued to see Gronk go up the field, and I just tried to stay with him. When I saw him look back, I looked back for the ball, and when I spotted it, I tried to just block out and go up for a rebound like in basketball."

Blackburn's interception helped turn the momentum toward the Giants, after it had swung the Patriots' way since the final play of the first half.

Justin Tuck

Some could say Tuck deserved the Super Bowl MVP award in the Giants' previous Super Bowl win over the Patriots four years ago. He might have been even better in Super Bowl XLVI. Tuck again sacked Tom Brady twice and there were a number of times when he sent Patriots sprawling to the ground just after Brady threw the ball.

Most importantly, Tuck was haranguing Brady on the Patriots' first offensive play of the game, forcing him to throw the ball away. The play ultimately was ruled intentional grounding, giving the Giants their first points of the game.

Mario Manningham

Manning has benefited from having his receivers make some incredible plays, starting with David Tyree's helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII. Manningham came close to duplicating the feat with his feet as he contorted himself like a Cirque Du Soleil acrobat on a 38-yard over-the-shoulder grab on the Giants' winning drive.

"After I caught that, I figured we're going to win," he said.

The only question was if he really did get his feet down. Patriots coach Bill Belichick immediately challenged the call, but Manningham indeed pulled off yet another big-time play.

Steve Weatherford

Al Davis thought so much of special teams, he once used a first-round pick on Ray Guy. So it seemed like a fitting homage to the late Raiders owner that Weatherford would have a huge impact on the game. Weatherford pinned the Patriots on the 6-yard line with his first punt of the day. The Giants got a safety on the next play.

Who knows what could have happened if Weatherford had booted the ball into the end zone, but this led to the Patriots' slow start. A huge play in the first quarter is just as big as one in the fourth quarter, however, no way a punter is going to be selected as the Super Bowl MVP.

So who was the biggest unsung hero of the game? And no, you can't vote for Bernard Pollard.

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.



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