By Joseph Gunther

Welcome to The 50, where we’re counting down to Super Bowl 50 with the top Super Bowl quarterbacks, players, biggest upsets, most memorable plays, and matchups that never lived up to the hype.

Quarterbacks are usually the talk of Super Bowl week. They are the storylines. They are also usually the player deemed to be the most valuable. However, every once in a while a running back, wide receiver, defensive lineman, linebacker or defensive back put up eye-popping numbers or make game-changing plays. Here are the top 10 MVP performances by non-quarterback players.

10. Larry Csonka, Miami Dolphins, Super Bowl VIII

Larry Csonka helped the Dolphins win back-to-back Super Bowls with a 145-yard, two-touchdown performance in Super Bowl VIII against the Minnesota Vikings. Csonka scored the game’s first touchdown in the first quarter and put the game away with his second score in the third quarter. The Dolphins, led by Csonka, dominated the game on the ground and only needed to throw the ball seven times.

9. Jake Scott, Miami Dolphins, Super Bowl VII

Jake Scott was just the second defensive player ever to win the Super Bowl MVP award. He did so by intercepting the Washington Redskins twice, including once in the end zone in the fourth quarter to preserve a seven-point victory for the Miami Dolphins. Not only did the fourth quarter interception keep the Dolphins in the lead, but it also preserved the only unbeaten, untied season in NFL history. The Dolphins finished with a 17-0 record, and their defense was a big reason why.

8. Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XLIII

Despite finishing the game with nine catches for 131 yards and a touchdown, it was the six-yard grab in the corner of the end zone with 35 seconds left that got Santonio Holmes the MVP award. The wide receiver kept his toes on the ground in the end zone as he lunged out of bounds to secure the pass thrown by Ben Roethlisberger. It appeared after three quarters that teammate linebacker James Harrison was a lock to win the award after returning an interception 100 yards as time expired in the first half. Then the Arizona Cardinals took a 23-20 lead with two and a half minutes left to set up the unbelievable game-winning catch by Holmes.

1984: Running back Franco Harris #32 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs during a game in the 1984 NFL season. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

7. Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl IX

Franco Harris recorded a then-record 158 rushing yards and scored a touchdown early in the third quarter to seal the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 16-6 Super Bowl IX victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The Steelers had a 2-0 lead at halftime, but Harris gave the Steelers a two-score lead on a nine-touchdown run after the Vikings fumbled on the second-half kickoff.

6. Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XXXII

Terrell Davis stole the show for the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII. In what many thought was going to be John Elway’s day to finally win, Davis took home the MVP award. Davis secured Elway’s first Super Bowl victory with a 157-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Green Bay Packers. He scored his third touchdown to give the Broncos the lead for good. He still holds the record for most rushing touchdowns in a Super Bowl game.

5. Lynn Swann, Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl X

Lynn Swann wasn’t highly used in Super Bowl X by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the wide receiver was highly visible. He caught four passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Among his four catches were a game-deciding 64-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter and an acrobatic 53-yard grab in the second quarter. His second-quarter catch is considered one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history.

4. Richard Dent, Chicago Bears, Super Bowl XX

Richard Dent gave one of the greatest defensive games in Super Bowl history while leading the game’s best defense to a blowout 46-10 victory over the New England Patriots. Dent became the fifth defensive player ever to win the MVP award by posting 1.5 sacks and forcing two fumbles. Led by Dent, the Bears defense allowed a record-low seven rushing yards. They also allowed just one of the first 16 Patriots’ offensive plays to gain yardage. The Patriots did not get a first down until the second quarter.

30 Jan 1983: Running back John Riggins #44 of the Washington Redskins during Super Bowl XVII against the Miami Dolphins. Mandatory(credit: Allsport /Allsport)

3. John Riggins, Washington Redskins, Super Bowl XVII

The year before Allen moved into Super Bowl lore, John Riggins ran for a then-record 166 yards on 38 carries and scored a touchdown. He also caught a pass and ran 15 yards for a touchdown. Riggins gave the Washington Redskins their first lead (which they would not relinquish) with a 43-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter on a fourth-down play.

2. Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders,  Super Bowl XVIII

Marcus Allen became the second consecutive running back to win the Super Bowl MVP award with a record-breaking 191 rushing yards (since broken). He also scored two touchdowns. Included in the two touchdowns was the longest run in Super Bowl history at the time. The 74-yard, field-reversing run is still the second longest run in the 49-year history of the game. Allen also still holds the record for highest yards per carry average among any player in a game with at least 20 carries with his 9.6 yards.

1. Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XXIII

Jerry Rice is widely considered the greatest wide receiver in NFL history; he holds almost all receiving records. In Super Bowl XXIII, Rice set records for catches (since broken) and receiving yards in a game. It wasn’t just the numbers that gave Rice the MVP award. He hauled in a pass for a 14-yard touchdown that tied the score immediately after the Cincinnati Bengals took the lead and had several important catches on the game-winning drive that resulted in a touchdown pass to teammate John Taylor.

Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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