Super Bowl 2013: Under-the-Radar Players Who Will Steal Show

Jakub RudnikContributor IIIJanuary 31, 2013

Jan 20, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) bumps helmets with Frank Gore (21) prior to the start against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

While the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are preparing for Super Bowl XLVII, several big-name players have been the focus of the media coverage.

The Ravens have Joe Flacco, who has played his best football this postseason, and Ray Lewis, who has the most tackles of any player during the playoffs and will retire after the game.

San Francisco has one of the best defenses in football, led by Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith. They also have Colin Kaepernick, the freakishly athletic quarterback that will be recording just his 10th career start in the Super Bowl.

While everyone expects these players to take a key role in the game's outcome, they are not the only players that will make a difference on Sunday. Here are three players that nobody is talking about that can be game-changers.


Dennis Pitta: TE, Baltimore Ravens

San Francisco's defense was fourth in both rushing and passing yards allowed during the regular season, so the Ravens will have their work cut out offensively. Ray Rice is averaging a respectable 82.3 yards per game on the ground this postseason, but the passing game has been Baltimore's strength.  

Flacco has passed for 284.3 yards per game in their three playoff games. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith get the majority of the attention as receivers, but tight end Dennis Pitta has the potential to be a game-changer.

At 6'4" and 245 pounds, Pitta is a big target for Flacco over the middle and in the red zone. Pitta had seven touchdowns in the regular season and already has two in the postseason. Expect Pitta to play a major role in the Baltimore offense if they expect to have success against the 49ers' defense 


Jacoby Jones: WR and returner, Baltimore Ravens

While the 49ers have very few weaknesses on defense, the team's kickoff coverage was second-worst in the NFL during the regular season; the 26.9 yards per return they gave up was only better than Oakland, according to ESPN.

Unfortunately for the 49ers, Jacoby Jones of the Ravens was the leading kick returner in the NFL this season, averaging 30.7 yards per return and scoring two touchdowns.

If the 49ers continue to struggle covering kickoffs, Jones has the talent to hurt them. Even if he doesn't return a kick for a touchdown, he can help Baltimore win the field position battle and set up some easy scores.


Frank Gore: RB, San Francisco 49ers

Most of the talk about the 49ers leading up to the Super Bowl has revolved around the passing game; the emergence of Kaepernick, Vernon Davis' resurgence against Atlanta and Randy Moss telling media, "I do think I'm the greatest receiver to ever do it," as reported by ESPN.

It has been the running game that has been San Francisco's biggest strength all season, as the team rushed for the fourth-most total yards and averaged the third-highest yards per carry.

Frank Gore played the biggest role in that success, rushing for 1,214 yards and eight touchdowns on 4.6 yards per carry. He has added another 209 yards and three touchdowns this postseason.

Not only does San Francisco excel at running the ball, but Baltimore struggles to stop it, giving up the 20th-most rushing yards during the regular season. The focus may be on how to stop Kaepernick, but Gore is very much a threat to the Ravens as well.