Super Bowl XLVII is sure to feature an abundance of big and clutch plays, but there will inevitably be one or two bone-headed plays made under pressure that turn the tide.
In addition to those game-changing mistakes, a handful of stars will fail to deliver in pressurized situations. In the case of the Super Bowl, every moment from kickoff on qualifies as pressurized.
Here we'll highlight some stars who are sure to come up small on Sunday inside the Superdome.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers, WR
San Francisco 49ers leading wide receiver Michael Crabtree nearly coughed up the Niners' chances in the NFC Championship Game two weeks ago, fumbling right at the goal line in the second half vs. Atlanta. Luckily, his defense won the ball back, and San Francisco scored on its following drive.
Crabtree has playoff experience but he's shown a lack of complete focus in recent outings, and that's worrisome coming into Super Sunday.
If Crabtree suffers a key drop or gives the ball away again this weekend, that could seal San Francisco's fate against a team as solid and well-rounded as Baltimore.
Paul Kruger, Baltimore Ravens, LB
Fourth-year pass-rusher Paul Kruger had the best year of his career in 2012, recording nine sacks for the Baltimore Ravens. But after a fast start to the postseason against the Indianapolis Colts, in which he recorded two and a half sacks, Kruger has since cooled off.
The 26-year-old linebacker has zero sacks in Baltimore's last two playoff wins over Denver and New England.
On Sunday, he'll be up against a stiff test in Colin Kaepernick, and I expect Kruger to fall victim to the pressure of that challenge. Kaepernick is incredibly elusive and quick when turning the corner, and if he finds himself in a one-on-one situation with Kruger, I have to give the edge to the more nimble Kaepernick.
Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers, LB
Like Paul Kruger, San Francisco pass-rusher extraordinaire Aldon Smith is sure to go largely unnoticed on Sunday evening in New Orleans.
Smith has yet to record a single sack in two playoff games after leading the team with 19.5 during the regular season, and he boasts just three combined tackles and one forced fumble in January. Plus, the 23-year-old former Missouri Tiger is only in his second NFL season.
It's very easy for outside edge-rushers to disappear, and in a big game like Sunday's, I expect both offensive lines to get the better of their opposition. I look for both passers to stay relatively clean and anticipate that eventually the pressure to make a play in a key moment will swallow up guys like Aldon Smith.
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