Malcolm Jenkins and the play that changed Super Bowl LII

By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Staff

Just one day after the greatest safety in Philadelphia Eagles history was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he earned a Super Bowl ring as an executive with the organization. Although Dawkins was not on the field playing, many Eagles fans felt he was.

While there is plenty of praise to go around, one defensive player impacted the game more than perhaps any other, and it was not in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Yes, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett combined to make, perhaps, the most important play in Eagles history, but I would argue they are not the Defensive MVP of the Super Bowl.

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins channeled his inner Brian Dawkins in Super Bowl LII. In my opinion, he is the Defensive MVP.

Anyone who did not watch the game may believe that Brandin Cooks had a huge impact in such an offensive game, especially since it was the greatest offensive showing in the history of the NFL. After all, he was the Patriots second leading receiver with 65 receptions for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season. Malcolm Jenkins’ physical play put an end to that. Following a 23-yard catch, Cooks turned to run up the field, but did not see Jenkins bearing down on him. Jenkins was not about to miss the tackle.

While Cooks was able to walk off the field under his own power, he was on the field for a while and was almost immediately ruled out for the game. It is also important to note that there was no penalty on the play. Cooks established himself as a receiver before the hit, so it was clean according to NFL rules.

Jenkins has not yet been asked about the hit, but many players shared their thoughts on the hit. Their feedback was overwhelmingly positive for Jenkins.

The Patriots AFC rivals were quick to respond. Michael Pierce, Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle, shared his shock at the hit.

Vince Williams, a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, shared his thoughts on the hit.

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon was ecstatic to see such a hit without a flag.

Former Eagle Emmanuel Acho added a bit of humor to the situation.

Even some NFC East rivals gave their props. Cowboys defensive end Datone Jones threw some respect at both Jenkins and Dawkins.

The Patriots losing their top wide receiver was a huge blow, but perhaps the fear that the hit instilled made a larger impact on the game. When Dawkins was in the secondary, receivers were always thinking twice about going up and especially about trying for yards after the catch. Following the hit, Patriot receivers began to go down far easier, often not even trying for yards after the catch.

The primary culprit that I personally saw when I was watching the game live was Danny Amendola. While he had only had 206 yards after the catch in the regular season, he had been a force in the postseason, adding 42 yards after the catch. That number was not assisted after Jenkins’ hit.

On the drive following the one that sent Brandin Cooks to the locker room, the Patriots set up a screen play. The screen went to Amendola who looked up and saw Jenkins. Jenkins essentially misses the tackle, but Amendola sees him coming. Perhaps the hit on Cooks got in his head as it was a tackle that he could have easily avoided or trucked, but the receive falls over with hardly any contact.

This came into effect a bit later in the game, too. In the below sequence, Amendola makes a catch against Patrick Robinson. He seems to begin attempting to break the tackle before he sees Nigel Bradham coming in before he falls to the ground under his own power.

I suppose my argument is that, despite Malcolm Jenkins not having a huge night according to the box score (four tackles, one pass deflection), he greatly impacted the game. The big hit on Cooks followed by a near interception changed the feel of the game, setting up the only turnover on downs of the entire game (one of only six drives in the game that did not result in points). Perhaps it was put best by Eagledelphia editor Jesse Larch in our staff group message, “Malcolm Jenkins single-handedly punched New England in the teeth.”

It is almost poetic that the day following the announcement that Dawkins will be enshrined in Canton, the defensive player to most impact the Super Bowl for the Eagles is a safety following his physical play style. The man who, like Dawkins, has been the heart and soul of this Eagles team – leading the team in their pre- and post-game speeches. One of only two team captains left in uniform to end the season. The team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year, Malcolm Jenkins.

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