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NY Jets’ Sauce Gardner advocates for different Super Bowl MVP

Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes

Should Patrick Mahomes have won Super Bowl MVP? Not according to Sauce Gardner

After leading yet another comeback of 10-plus points in the Super Bowl, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes won his third Super Bowl MVP award in five years.

While few dispute that Mahomes had an excellent performance (he finished with 399 all-purpose yards), some argue that a different player was more deserving of the MVP award. Count the New York Jets’ Sauce Gardner as one of those people.

Chiefs cornerback Trent McDuffie has arguably been the most popular alternative choice for MVP. Gardner agrees, writing on Twitter, “This might be a hot take, but I think Trent McDuffie should’ve been the Super [Bowl] MVP. I could be bias[ed] because he’s a DB, but that’s my opinion.”

Gardner’s take really isn’t all that hot. The Chiefs’ second-year cornerback was highly qualified for the MVP award.

McDuffie had a dominant performance on the outside against San Francisco’s elite wide receiver duo. Brock Purdy targeted McDuffie seven times and completed two passes (29%) for nine yards (1.3 yards per target), earning zero first downs or touchdowns. McDuffie made more plays on the ball than the 49ers’ wide receivers, as he finished with three pass breakups.

This end-zone pass breakup against Deebo Samuel was one of the biggest plays of the game.

McDuffie was particularly dominant against Samuel. He was covering Samuel on six of the seven passes thrown in his direction. On those plays, Samuel caught one pass for nine yards.

Kansas City’s defense arguably played a bigger role in the victory than the offense. While Mahomes and the offense came up clutch when they needed to, the defense single-handedly kept the team alive for nearly three full quarters while the offense was in dire straits.

Over their first nine possessions – spanning through the 2:42 mark of the third quarter – the Chiefs’ offense recorded five punts, two field goals, and two turnovers. But the 49ers only scored 10 points of their own up until that point, which allowed the Chiefs’ offense to get right back into the game despite needing three full quarters to find their groove.

And the engine behind that elite defensive performance by Kansas City? It was McDuffie.

This brings up an interesting conversation about positional value. I think most people would agree that, in this game, McDuffie played the cornerback position better than Mahomes played the quarterback position. McDuffie was essentially perfect. Mahomes was fantastic, but certainly not perfect considering his bad interception and the fact that his team scored 19 points in regulation.

However, despite McDuffie performing better relative to his position than Mahomes, you can still argue that Mahomes had the more valuable performance simply by nature of the quarterback position’s importance. When the game was on the line, Mahomes was asked to repeatedly execute difficult plays in high-pressure moments, and he got it done. In the fourth quarter and overtime, he was nearly flawless during a chain of gotta-have-it drives.

McDuffie was phenomenal, but cornerbacks do not impact the game as frequently as quarterbacks do. The quarterback is involved in every offensive play whereas cornerbacks often have no effect on the play, whether it be the majority of run plays or any pass play where the quarterback does not look in their direction.

Mahomes is unquestionably deserving of the award. He came up huge when it mattered most, and the team’s early offensive struggles weren’t really his fault, anyway. Poor separation downfield and poor pass protection deserved more blame than Mahomes. Once the Chiefs finally started protecting and getting people open, Mahomes was able to lead the team to a clutch conversion every time they needed it.

Still, despite not winning the award, McDuffie should be viewed as an equally important cog in the Chiefs’ championship victory. Quarterbacks get the award by default in the vast majority of Super Bowls, but in actuality, Mahomes-versus-McDuffie was a very close and interesting conversation.

Sauce is hoping he can join his fellow first-team All-Pro in the annals of Super Bowl history with a classic performance of his own in one year’s time.

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