New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - We've spent the two weeks leading up to
Super Bowl XLVII talking about the quarterbacks, San Francisco's Colin
Kaepernick and the Ravens' Joe Flacco.
Two weeks of discussing who's better, Baltimore's Ray Rice or the Niners'
Frank Gore. A fortnight wondering if the Ravens' Ray Lewis will excel in his
last NFL game or Ed Reed will capture his first Super Bowl crown in his
hometown of New Orleans. Or maybe it's Frisco's Randy Moss getting his
inaugural ring or Patrick Willis outplaying that other No. 52.
But here's the thing. The names of Timmy Smith, Larry Brown and David Tyree
are forever etched in NFL lore because of their performance on the big stage.
It's true great players make great plays when it counts the most but several
game-changing Super Bowl moments have belonged to the unsung and the
Here's a look at five under the radar players who could put their stamp on
things when the 49ers and Ravens finally get it on Sunday:
1. Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger - Yeah, Kruger led the Ravens in
sacks this season but with Lewis, Reed and Terrell Suggs headlining the
Baltimore defense, few talk about him. A key strip sack of Kaepernick might
change that and be the defining Super Bowl moment people are looking for.
2. 49ers backup tight end Delanie Walker - Not many reserve tight ends are as
athletic as Walker, who has the speed and movement skills to beat just about
every linebacker or strong safety in this league. The problem with Walker is
drops. He's got the yips but ask Tyree, you only need to catch it once when
it's the right moment.
3. Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta - When you think about the Baltimore offense,
it's generally all about verticality and Flacco getting the ball downfield to
Torrey Smith, the speedster, or Anquan Boldin, who will outphysical just about
every corner he sees. Conventional wisdom says San Francisco will try to take
away the deep ball and if they start using bracket coverage over the top, that
could open the middle of the field for Pitta, the type of tight end who
understands zone concepts really well and could sit down for a 6-to-10 catch
4. - 49ers running back LaMichael James - The Niners were lacking a compliment
to Gore after Kendall Hunter went down with a season-ending Achilles tendon
injury but the small and speedy James, who is well-versed in the read-option
attack from his time in college at Oregon, is now a much bigger threat with
Kaepernick playing in the pistol. In fact, James' speed makes things much
tougher on the edge for the opposition and a 70-yard run in the Super Bowl
could turn James into a household name.
5. 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver - Culliver had a tough week after uttering
some homophobic remarks on Artie Lange's radio show. No one wants to redeem
themselves more that the Niners' nickel back and Culliver should get the
opportunity. Opposing teams generally try to take advantage of him when
he's on the field so Culliver should get a few opportunities to make the big
play on defense ala Brown.
The Sports Network