This Sunday, the legacies of several key players will be written with lightning down in New Orleans.
Ray Lewis’s career, Joe Flacco’s contract and Colin Kaepernick’s ceiling seemingly are all conversations that are in play and could change depending on the outcome at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
However, come Sunday, the “other guys” on both teams will have plenty to do with the outcome and maybe have as much riding on it as the stars.
Several of those "other guys" are veterans who have helped bring their respective teams a very long way.
Bryant McKinnie has been a key cog in the Ravens' playoff success. The former Pro Bowler was at one point viewed as one of the premier offensive lineman in the game. However, after several incidents and run-ins with management, the star was released from the Minnesota Vikings.
This season, he barely played because of differences with head coach John Harbaugh. It wasn’t until several of his teammates openly campaigned for him that he became a starter in time for the Ravens' playoff run. Since then, the Ravens have only allowed four sacks. And if McKinnie keeps protecting Flacco’s blind side that well, the Ravens will definitely win and McKinnie will set himself up for another nice paycheck.
Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers knows about being in a coach's doghouse himself. Just a few short seasons ago, Mike Singletary branded Davis as being "uncoachable" and accused him of not being a leader. However, Davis kept producing and eventually shook those labels and turned himself into an elite TE.
Davis was a big part of the game plan vs. Atlanta. He will definitely need to make tough catches and stretch the middle of the field if he expects to make it to the top of the podium Sunday and prove his naysayers wrong.
Finally, two veteran defensive backs may be the last line of defense for their teams Sunday.
Corey Graham of the Baltimore Ravens was relatively unknown and unheralded by the media among the stable of Ravens DBs this season. The injury to Ladarius Webb, the Ravens' best cover corner, opened up the door for more playing time for Graham. He has not disappointed. He was the best defensive player for the Ravens in their upset of the Broncos, picking off Peyton Manning twice. Graham needs to continue playing at an elite level so that the Ravens can shut down the 49ers passing attack.
On the other side, the 49ers have one of the best defenses in football, but the widely known weakness of the team is its secondary. Tarell Brown will need to play a great game to keep Flacco from torching the 49ers back four for TDs. He definitely has the capability. He is the team’s best cover corner and he picked off Aaron Rodgers in the divisional round, helping set up a key TD drive for the 49ers. Brown will need to generate his “inner Deion” to keep Torrey Smith at bay this Sunday.
The play of these veterans will likely determine the outcome of Sunday's contest and undeniably help write history for their superstar teammates.