The Super Bowl is unique in the respect that every play is magnified in a major way. Small moments that would normally be overlooked during the regular season or early in the postseason are suddenly viewed as potentially game-changing plays.
Since there's a greater focus on every snap, it gives a chance for players who usually don't enjoy much of the spotlight to shine. To emerge as champions, both the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos will be looking for a couple key plays from unheralded players to help turn the tide in their favor.
By most accounts, it should be a pretty even contest featuring the league's best offense and best defense, making those unsung heroes even more important. Let's check out one from each team who will need to step up in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Where: MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Spread: Broncos -2.5 (via Vegas Insider)
Seahawks: Zach Miller, Tight End
Seattle sports an outstanding defense that should be able to slow down Peyton Manning and the high-powered Broncos offense. It's unlikely the unit will be able to completely stop a team that averaged nearly 40 points per game during the regular season, however.
In other words, to win the game, the Seahawks must be able to move the ball as well. While Marshawn Lynch has rightfully been viewed as the vital asset who can slow the pace of the game in the process of grinding out a lot of yards, that won't be enough.
The key plays will come when Seattle is forced to pass on third down and in the red zone. Converting those opportunities so they can keep pushing the ball down the field, use the clock and eventually turn the possession into points is essential.
One member of the receiving group who can help that process is Zach Miller. The tight end has just four catches through two playoff games after a mundane regular season that saw him reel in 33 passes for 387 yards and five touchdowns.
He has been a productive pass-catcher in the past, though. He had at least 56 catches in three straight seasons for the Oakland Raiders before moving to Seattle. His role has been different with the run-oriented Seahawks, but that could change in the big game.
In fact, John Clayton of ESPN noted in the NFC title game that he was being flexed out wide quite a bit early in the contest:
Interesting that the Seahawks would flex out Zach Miller on two plays instead of having him line up next to a tackle.— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) January 19, 2014
Miller probably won't post monster numbers in the Super Bowl. If he comes up with three or four key catches to move the chains or find the end zone, however, he could emerge as the difference-maker the Seahawks need to come out on top.
Broncos: Danny Trevathan, Linebacker
Denver's defense has suffered several key losses during the course of the season, the most notable ones being Von Miller and Chris Harris. And while there have been few constants as players rotated in and out of the lineup, Danny Trevathan has played a huge role in keeping the defense afloat.
Which player will have a greater impact on the Super Bowl?
The second-year linebacker finished the regular season with 128 total tackles, four forced fumbles, three interceptions and two sacks. Just as those across-the-board numbers suggest, he filled any role the team needed to win.
Yet, he's remained out of the spotlight. Whether it's Champ Bailey moving into a larger role and stealing headlines or Terrance Knighton putting on a clinic in the AFC title game to take the attention away, Trevathan hasn't gotten his due on a large scale.
That could very well change in the Super Bowl. The Broncos defense knows the Seahawks want to dominate on the ground to keep Manning on the sidelines. Trevathan has to lead the charge again like he did in the conference championship game to prevent that from happening.
He's been using all of the talk about the unit and the losses it has suffered as motivation. Robert Klemko of The MMQB on SI.com passed along comments from the linebacker, who told his fellow defenders they needed to step up against the New England Patriots:
I usually don't even watch that media stuff, but this time I took heed to it.
I took it as a personal challenge. I showed the D-line and the linebackers in the locker room on Wednesday on my phone. I said we needed to step up.
The Broncos defense did step up to help them reach this point. Now the group must do it one more time to make sure Seattle can't control possession.
It will take a terrific performance from Trevathan to make sure the patchwork unit thrives again.