April 17, 2024

Ranking former Vols Super Bowl performances

David Bradford ranks former Vols Super Bowl performances and lists reasons for his ranking.

Photo by Keith Allison, courtesy of creativecommons.org. No changes made.

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Over the course of the Super Bowl’s forty-nine contests, there have been a number of memorable performances, ranging from Lynn Swan’s acrobatic catches in Super Bowl X all the way to Malcolm Butler’s dramatic goal line interception to seal Super Bowl XLIX.

With each player comes a representative of a school, and fortunately for the University of Tennessee, there has been plenty of representation on the game’s biggest stage. Overall, after Super Bowl 50 is played, there will be a total of 36 Super Bowls in which a former Vol has appeared on a roster.

Only one Vol has won the Super Bowl MVP (Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLI), but there have been a few memorable performances by a Tennessee product in North America’s largest sporting event. Here are the five greatest performances by a Vol in Super Bowl history.

No. 5: Chicago Bears WR Willie Gault in Super Bowl XX

The most famous Vol is Peyton Manning, but Tennessee is known for producing some of the fastest wide receivers in NFL history, such as Stanley Morgan and others. Perhaps the fastest of them all was Willie Gault, who only had four receptions in the Bears’ 46-10 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX, but those four catches went for 129 yards, including a 60-yard receptions in the third quarter that led to a Chicago touchdown.

No. 4: Baltimore Ravens HB Jamal Lewis in Super Bowl XXXV

While there is perhaps a debate between Jamal Lewis and Arian Foster on which Tennessee running back has had the better pro career, only Lewis has starred in a Super Bowl between the two. In a 34-7 blowout Baltimore win over the New York Giants, Lewis carried the ball 27 times for 102 yards and a score. Linebacker Ray Lewis was named the game’s MVP, but an argument could have been made for the other Lewis as well.

No. 3: Green Bay Packers DE Reggie White in Super Bowl XXXI

The Minster of Defense terrorized opposing quarterbacks throughout his illustrious career, especially during his days with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he collected more sacks (124) than games played (121). However, it was his time with the Green Bay Packers that White saw the most success in terms of winning. In Green Bay’s 35-21 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, White sacked Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe three times, including on back-to-back plays.

No. 2: Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLIV

Statistically speaking, Manning was better in this Super Bowl than he was in the one he won, completing 31-of-45 passes for 333 yards and one score. What keeps this performance from being higher is the lone interception Manning threw, which came at the most inopportune time for the Colts. Down 24-17 late in the fourth quarter, New Orleans defensive back Tracy Porter intercepted a Manning throw and returned it 74-yard for a clinching touchdown.

No. 1: Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLI

The only Super Bowl MVP in Tennessee history, Peyton Manning’s performance in Super Bowl XLI has its detractors. First and foremost, many diminish the quality Peyton’s lone Super Bowl victory due to the fact he was facing a Chicago Bears team led by Rex Grossman, arguably the worst quarterback to ever appear in a Super Bowl. Lastly, the Colts were statistically better on the ground than they were in the air, rushing for 191 yards as a team.

Manning’s stats weren’t spectacular. He completed 25-of-38 passes for 247 yards with one touchdown and an interception, as the Colts defeated the Bears 29-17. However, Manning’s performance was great due to the nature of the game. Super Bowl XLI was the first and remains the only Super Bowl in history where rain was a factor. The Colts and Bears combined for eight turnovers, with a few coming as a result of the rain. In the rain, Manning found his offense facing a Chicago defense that ranked third in fewest points allowed and first in forced turnovers.

Manning’s play calling in the game was perfect. After a sluggish start that saw the Colts trail 14-6, Manning took control of the game not only physically with precise throws, but mentally by calling the right plays at the right time.

Featured image by Keith Allison

Edited by Cody McClure

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Follow me @DavidJBradford1 on Twitter, email me at dbradfo2@vols.utk.edu for any questions.