Super Bowl 2013: Unsung Heroes Who Will Star in New Orleans
The respective losers of last year's NFC and AFC Championship Games, both have already gone one better than 2012 by progressing through to the final. But who will be the team to take home that elusive Super Bowl ring and championship victory?
We won't know the answer to that question for another two weeks, but what we do know, is that several stars are likely to dominate the Super Bowl in 2013.
The likes of Colin Kaepernick, Patrick Willis, Ray Rice and Ray Lewis are all household names that are expected to thrive on the big stage at New Orleans this year, and they most likely will, having done so already in the playoffs this year.
Yet the Super Bowl always seems to produce several unsung heroes whom people don't expect to change the game like they always end up doing.
In 2010, it was Tracy Portor's interception return against Peyton Manning. In 2012, it was Mario Manningham's incredible sideline catch.
Who will it be in 2013? Read on to find a couple of players that could well be the unsung heroes of Super Bowl XLVII between the Ravens and the 49ers.
Chris Culliver, San Francisco 49ers
Chris Culliver posted an excellent game as part of a poor secondary against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.
Culliver pulled in a key interception that turned the momentum the way of the 49ers, but was also excellent in coverage throughout the game.
The cornerback could be faced with some difficult coverage assignments in the Super Bowl, such as stopping Joe Flacco connecting underneath on Dennis Pita, so the opportunities will certainly be there for Culliver to make a name for himself once more.
If the Niners incredible pass rush can get great pressure on Flacco and eliminate the running room for Ray Rice, then the chance will be there for the likes of Culliver and the secondary to make some huge plays on the ball come Superbowl Sunday.
Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens
In an otherwise mediocre offensive line, Marshal Yanda stands as the clear best player and blocking unit in front of Joe Flacco heading into the Super Bowl.
According to ProFootballTalk, Yanda averages a positive rating in pass blocking, run blocking and screen blocking—the only Ravens lineman to do so.
And against the pass rush that Jim Harbaugh will no doubt serve up for Joe Flacco at times, Yanda will have a huge chance to show just how strong he truly is.
If he can win the battle of the trenches and allow good running room for Ray Rice as well as keep the pocket from collapsing for Flacco, Baltimore will certainly remain in this one. If not, expect another long night for the Ravens offense against what is arguably, the best defense in the NFL.
Randy Moss, San Francisco 49ers
Veteran wide receiver was seemingly a bizarre fit at the San Francisco 49ers when he signed with them during the offseason, but he could very well turn out to be the hero come Super Bowl Sunday.
Colin Kaepernick has shown that he can throw the ball downfield well, and Moss has clearly proven throughout his career that he is a receiver to be trusted.
Ed Reed certainly isn't in career-best form at the back for Baltimore, and could just be undone by a well-timed throw and catch here for San Francisco.
As we saw with Manningham last year, it only takes one strong catch to completely define the match, and Moss is certainly capable of achieving that.
He has been to a Super Bowl before—unlike the majority of the 49ers roster—so expect him to be a key player against the Ravens defense here.
Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
Justin Tucker has been arguably the best placekicker in the league this season, and could well change the outcome of the Super Bowl as a result.
Compared to the inconstancy and easy misses plaguing 49ers kicker David Akers, Tucker has been a strong force of late on both kickoffs and field goals, and can certainly be counted on to make a big play in this one.
The 23-year-old has yet to miss in the NFL playoffs this year, and having missed just twice all year, is definitely going to be a game-changing weapon for the Ravens offense.
Baltimore simply must finish off drives with points, and Tucker is a great weapon to have available in that regard—rated as the third-best kicker in the league.
Tucker's numbers this season are 30 field goals from 33 attempts; Akers' are 29 field goals from 42 attempts heading into Super Bowl XLVI.
He could certainly be an unsung hero at New Orleans this year.
Who do you think will be the unsung heroes of the Super Bowl?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre
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