nabbed two of Seattle's four turnovers. (Bill Frakes/SI)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Just about any Seahawks defender who played in a 43-8 Super Bowl XLVIII win over the Broncos could have staked a claim to the game's MVP award. Linebacker Malcolm Smith, also a hero during Seattle's NFC championship win, took home the trophy.
Smith had a critical pick-six of Peyton Manning in the first half Sunday. With the Broncos trailing 15-0 but driving in hopes of getting on the scoreboard, Smith nabbed a floating Manning pass and returned in 69 yards for a touchdown. Later, Smith recovered a Demaryius Thomas fumble -- another of the four turnovers Denver committed in the blowout title game.
Smith joins Ray Lewis (Super Bowl XXXV) and Chuck Howley (V) as the only linebackers ever to win the MVP award.
"No way," Smith told FOX's Michael Strahan when he was asked if he expected to win MVP on Sunday night. "I woke up jumping, bouncing around, and it just turned out great for us tonight."
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Though Richard Sherman was a deserving recipient of the most praise after his terrific play late in the NFC Championship Game versus San Francisco, it was Smith who came down with the clinching interception after Sherman's tip. That interception sent Seattle to the Super Bowl.
Perhaps on a team featuring a quarterback making less than $1 million per year and bolstered by cheap free-agent signings like Cliff Avril
, it's fitting that Smith gets the nod. A seventh-round pick at No. 242 overall in 2011, Smith made just $555,000 this season in base salary, yet forced his way into the regular rotation. And then, in his team's two biggest games of the season, he stepped up in historic fashion.