By: Bob George/BosSports.net
February 04, 2012

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INDIANAPOLIS -- It's a super feeling being in the game, but it is another thing to actually play super.

The Patriots will play in their seventh Super Bowl on Sunday, and with that goes plenty of history and memories. The Patriots have won three and lost three. Over these previous six Super Bowls, some of the best players in the NFL have been involved in their respective generations. Some have done well, some have not, and some have done exceedingly well.

It is nice that the Patriots do have enough history in the Super Bowl that you can do this sort of thing. We're going to go position-by-position and rank the best three players in the Super Bowl. Some players rate in more than one position, and will be so honored. Getting on this list is based on performance in the Big Show, not by reputation, which is why you won't see many of the great players from Super Bowl XX on these lists. At the end, we'll take a quick look at who should, or who will, or who must, get on these lists after Super Bowl XLVI.

Quarterback #3 -- Steve Grogan. Many of the Patriots who played in Super Bowl XX were not happy that Tony Eason got the start, despite three postseason wins prior to the blowout against the Bears. Grogan had been injured for most of the 1985 season and most players thought he gave the Patriots the best chance to upset the Bears. He played well but the Patriots were too far behind when he came in to make much of a difference. #2 -- Drew Bledsoe. He should not have been the focus of the Patriot offensive attack against the Packers, and wound up completing only 21 of 45 passes with four interceptions against the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI. Bill Parcells stayed away from Curtis Martin, and it's still not clear as to why to this day. #1 -- Tom Brady. Three wins, two MVPs. Completed a record 32 passes in Super Bowl XXXVIII. To quote Michael McGreevey, "Nuf ced!"

Running back #3 -- Corey Dillon. He rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIX, and made the most of his first postseason appearance. #2 -- Kevin Faulk. Ran for an important two-point conversion in Super Bowl XXXVIII and provides great blitz pickup and good backup for the everydown back. #1 -- Antowain Smith. 175 yards rushing in his two Super Bowls, most of them tough yards, and scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Helped with clock management in both his Super Bowls, both wins.

Wide receiver #3 -- David Givens. Became first Patriot in history to score a second career Super Bowl touchdown after the first ten SB TDs were scored by ten different players. Made several clutch catches in Super Bowl XXXVIII against Carolina. #2 -- Troy Brown. His 23-yard catch in final minutes of Super Bowl XXXVI put Patriots in position to win with walkoff field goal. Played most of Super Bowl XXXVIII with a broken nose but was right there at the finish to help bring victory to the Patriots. #1 -- Deion Branch. MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX. Third all-time in Super Bowl receptions, and his 11 catches in Super Bowl XXXIX is tied for the highest in one game with Jerry Rice, Dan Ross and Wes Welker.

Tight end #3 -- Daniel Graham. Known mostly for his blocking, his 33-yard catch late in the third quarter of Super Bowl XXXVIII was the linchpin for the crazy fourth quarter that followed. #2 -- Jermaine Wiggins. The East Boston native made the final offensive play of Super Bowl XXXVI, the six-yard catch which was followed by Adam Vinatieri's game-winner. #1 -- Ben Coates. Caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XXXI and led the Patriots with six catches for 67 yards in the loss to the Packers.

Offensive tackle #3 -- Grant Williams. He took over for the injured Matt Light in Super Bowl XXXVI and kept Brady's back side well protected. His most famous play was a left end run by Faulk late in the first half where he blocked two Rams on the same play. #2 -- Bruce Armstrong. Reggie White took over Super Bowl XXXI with several sacks of Bledsoe, but not because of Armstrong. He held down the fort on Bledsoe's blind side. #1 -- Matt Light. Four Super Bowls, three wins, great protection of Brady. Has a chance to atone for the poor performance of the O-line in Super Bowl XLII, where he and the rest of his line mates were under ambush all night long.

Offensive guard #3 -- Joe Andruzzi. Played in all three wins and was as dependable as his firefighter brothers were on September 11th, 2001. #2 -- Mike Compton. Helped Brady get comfortable in his first Super Bowl with great work in keeping the Rams pass rush at bay, and helping Smith rush for nearly 100 yards. #1 -- Russ Hochstein. His surprise start in Super Bowl XXXVIII was ridiculed by many, especially Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp. But he handled the formidable Panthers defensive line like an All-Pro, one of the grittiest performances by any Patriot in Super Bowl history, and one that doesn't get the recognition it deserves.

Center #3 -- Damien Woody. Tremendous All-Pro center from Boston College who could do anything except shotgun snap. #2 -- Mike Compton. He could shotgun snap. #1 -- Dan Koppen. Will be sorely missed in Super Bowl XLVI. Terrific at calling blocking signals, very steady and maybe best center in team history, if not either Pete Brock or Jon Morris.

Defensive line #3 -- Ted Washington. Settled everyone down at the beginning of Super Bowl XXXVIII, then clogged up the middle and never allowed the Carolina rushing attack to be a factor in the game. #2 -- Richard Seymour. Good solid play in Super Bowl XXXVI with a half-sack of Kurt Warner, and a defensive force in the other three Super Bowls. The loss to the Giants was his last game as a Patriot. #1 -- Willie McGinest. The versatile defender made up for a costly holding call in Super Bowl XXXVI with a key 16-yard sack of Warner, a key play in the win by the Patriots. Played in four Super Bowls, won three of them, and was the defensive leader for most of his stay with the team.

Linebacker #3 -- Willie McGinest. See defensive line. #2 -- Mike Vrabel. His rush on Warner in Super Bowl XXXVI which produced the Ty Law pick-six was his Patriot defensive highlight. He is, along with Givens, the only other Patriot with two career Super Bowl touchdowns. #1 -- Tedy Bruschi. The perfect player. Again, nuf ced.

Cornerback #3 -- Randall Gay. Great fill-in job for Law in Super Bowl XXXIX. Vastly underrated defender. Never allowed Terrell Owens to take over the game like he could have done. #2 -- Otis Smith. Interception in third quarter of Super Bowl XXXVI was critical play in game. The entire secondary in that game took the Ram receivers out of their game. #1 -- Ty Law. Pick-six in Super Bowl XXXVI was signature moment of his career. Played well in his other two Super Bowls, the long TDs in Super Bowl XXXI surrendered by the Patriots were not thrown Law's way.

Safety #3 -- Eugene Wilson. Steady play at free safety with punishing hits. Injured in fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXXVIII and his absence felt during eventual gunfight between Brady and Jake Delhomme. #2 -- Lawyer Milloy. Made up for getting burned in Super Bowl XXXI on Antonio Freeman touchdown with terrific performance in Super Bowl XXXVI, quarterbacking the secondary and making sure everyone was on the same page. #1 -- Rodney Harrison. Made a play on Steve Smith in Super Bowl XXXVIII with a broken arm. Quarterbacked the secondary in the second two wins and was brilliant in both games. Lucky catch by David Tyree, plain and simple.

Kicker #3 -- Stephen Gostkowski. Next time, make him try the 49-yarder. #2 -- Tony Franklin. Still holds the record for quickest score in Super Bowl history. #1 -- Adam Vinatieri. We shan't insult your intelligence.

Punter #3 -- Tom Tupa. Eight punts in Super Bowl XXXI, 45-yard average, three inside the 20. When he wasn't kicking to Desmond Howard, he did great. #2 -- Ken Walter. Six of his thirteen Super Bowl punts were inside the 20. Oh, and he held for both epic Vinatieri field goals. #1 -- Josh Miller. Picture-perfect punt in closing seconds of Super Bowl XXXIX was arguably the best punt in team history, and emphasized how really important a good punter is to a team.

Kickoff returner #3 -- Stephen Starring. Da Bears sure kicked off a lot, and Starring ran back seven of them and averaged just under 22 yards per return. #2 -- Bethel Johnson. Six career returns over two Super Bowls, averaging around 20 per return. #1 -- Laurence Maroney. Had a 43-yard return in Super Bowl XLII, which helped offset his lousy day rushing. He averaged 23.5 yards per return.

Punt returner #3 -- Wes Welker. Had a 15-yard punt return in Super Bowl XLII. #2 -- Dave Meggett. Four punt returns in Super Bowl XXXI, along with two fair catches. Howard did a little better. #1 -- Troy Brown. Eight career Super Bowl punt returns. Had a 28-yard return in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Now, here is who should be favored to crack these lists after Sunday's game against the Giants.

If the Patriots beat the Giants, a big reason should be the running of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and he could easily make the list. Given the paucity of notable tight end performances, it almost behooves both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to play well enough to make the list. Welker should knock Givens off the receiver list, as he had eleven catches in Super Bowl XLII and figures to have a great day Sunday if Brady has time to throw. Vince Wilfork needs to have another great performance like he did against Baltimore, and he would then easily knock Washington off the list. Jerod Mayo could possibly bump McGinest from the linebacker list. And Gostkowski should elevate to number two, especially if he nails a late game-winner. But he'd have to nail two to threaten Automatic Adam.

Chew on these lists, along with lots of food over the next two days, and enjoy the game. The Patriots are here at the show, and it's as good as it gets.

Whoops. They have to win. Then it's as good as it gets.


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