Super Bowl 2013: Game Boils Down to Much More Than Quarterback Play

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2013

Despite all the attention given to the quarterback, football is still a team sport.
Despite all the attention given to the quarterback, football is still a team sport.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Super Bowl XLVII's outcome will stem well beyond the two quarterbacks unexpectedly taking the field on Feb. 3.

For the past few years, two top quarterbacks have annually clashed in the big game, confirming the belief that it's all about them. 

Over the past decade, the worst quarterbacks to reel in the Lombardi Trophy have been Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, two great signal-callers who albeit hadn't reached that level during their first Super Bowl run.

This postseason, however, has demonstrated that the quarterback can only do so much to lead his team to victory. 

Russell Wilson demolished Atlanta's secondary, but he helplessly sat on the sidelines as Matt Ryan made all of that work meaningless with a late drive to top Seattle.

The following week, Ryan experienced the other side of the spectrum, carving up a top defense only to watch the 49ers run through the Falcons with the help of an inopportune tangling of the feet from Roddy White.

It's also showed that touting the better signal-caller on paper isn't enough. Aaron Rodgers ran into a team with a prolific defense and red-hot offense. John Fox took the ball out of Peyton Manning's hands when he could have at least tried to muster a game-winning drive in regulation.

And even Tom Brady is prone to an off day.

While it's natural to gravitate to the passers when evaluating teams, the Super Bowl is about way more than just Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick.

They'll certainly play a key role in swaying the final result, but a fine performance from either one of them hardly ensures a win.

Since the quarterback is the most important player who always touches the ball, his performance is thrown under the microscope. He's the only one who has to convince us of his eliteness on a weekly basis.

He's the only one judged by wins, carelessly disregarding the fact that football is a team sport.

All the talk of Flacco "carrying" Baltimore to its first Super Bowl since 2001 ignores the defense that held the NFL's best offense scoreless over the entire second half.

San Francisco accomplished the same feat against Atlanta. Had Ryan continued to light up the scoreboard, the 49ers would have been forced to abandon the run, which would have buried the entire game plan that generated success last Sunday.

Each team's ability to establish a running game is a crucial component to this game. Because Frank Gore has run so productively in the playoffs, the opposition has failed miserably to contain the pistol offense.

Although it didn't show against Atlanta, San Francisco exhibits a far more superior secondary than New England. 

Flacco has already poked holes in another well-regarded defensive unit this postseason, amassing 331 passing yards and three touchdowns against the Denver Broncos. But he was afforded the opportunity to win the game late for Baltimore because Ray Rice compiled 131 rushing yards throughout the day.

Then how about the receivers? Can Anquan Boldin continue to secure jump balls in traffic? Can Michael Crabtree not fumble the ball inches away from the end zone?

The offensive linemen are mightily important as well. Flacco's enjoyed a relatively clean pocket this postseason, while the 49ers own one of the best lines in football.

While bouts in previous years usually featured marquee names on the offensive side, this game presents a laundry list of defensive studs.

We will see Ed Reed, Patrick Willis, Haloti Ngata, Aldon Smith, Paul Kruger, Justin Smith and Ray Lewis—just to name a few. The NFC might not even have enough players to assemble a defense in the Pro Bowl without all the 49ers who were voted in.

Before delving into the inevitable "how will this game affect Flacco or Kaepernick's legacy?" question, remember that 10 other guys accompany the quarterback on the field.

Neither team is led by a superstar quarterback, so don't be surprised if a big play elsewhere changes this game's direction.