See Sunday's five least valuable players here.
Vince Wilfork, Defensive Tackle, New England Patriots. There are a lot of men in the NFL who are paid to be unnaturally strong, inhumanly big and completely immovable. You know what Vince Wilfork does for a living? He tosses those guys around like throw pillows. The job he did on Sunday was unbelievable. He continually collapsed the middle of the pocket, hurrying Joe Flacco or keeping him from stepping into throws. He was the reason the Patriots were getting pressure while sending three guys at the quarterback. He also re-routed any Ray Rice run that wanted to go through the middle of the line. He was a beast among beasts.
Eli Manning, Quarterback, New York Giants. The 49ers defense balled on Sunday. Justin Smith balled on Sunday. Eli was facing a very high degree of difficulty in that game ‒ guys in his face, a very good secondary, sloppy field conditions ‒ and he did what he always does. The guy just makes plays in big situations, over and over again. It's kind of amazing. I believe he eclipsed the NFL's all-time record on Sunday for "big-time throws by a guy who looked in no way like he was about to make a big-time throw." It's really hard not to love Eli right now.
Sterling Moore, Defensive Back, New England Patriots. Confession: If you'd have asked me Sunday morning if Sterling Moore was an NFL player or an English tea company, my answer would've been a total guess. And yet, I don't know if anyone made two bigger plays on Championship Sunday. He knocked the ball out of the hands of Lee Evans on a game-turning play, and it's also gotten somewhat overlooked that he knocked the ball away from Dennis Pitta on the next play, too. Of course, it was also Sterling Moore who whiffed on an attempted tackle of Torrey Smith that led to a Ravens touchdown earlier, but that's what the postseason does: your next big play makes a magnificent eraser.
Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Quarterback Destroyers, New York Giants. I'm wondering when this is going to become the blueprint for team-building, because it really seems to be effective ‒ every year, regardless of need, spend a high draft pick or two on dudes who can get to the quarterback. Forget size, forget positional fit, forget everything but the ability to beat linemen and get in a quarterback's chili. That's what the Giants do, and it seems to be a fairly reliable strategy for winning in January. What they can do to quarterbacks on third downs is almost unfair. And it's not like the 49ers don't have an offensive line ‒ they have a very good one. I even felt like Alex Smith did as good a job as could be expected handling the pressure. It's just too much. Especially when you don't have wide receivers.
Vernon Davis, Tight End, San Francisco 49ers. My hope for Vernon Davis is that this postseason is the beginning of a dominant run as one of the league's elite tight ends ‒ not just a period of time in which he happened to step up his game. Anything that can be accomplished by Gronk, Gates, Gonzalez or Graham is in reach for Vernon Davis, too. He's got to be a part of that group going forward.
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