Even on a stage as big as this, there can be impact players who aren't yet household names. Players like David Tyree and Tracy Porter have each turned in big plays in recent Super Bowls that have lifted them from relative obscurity to the forefront of the sports world.
Looking ahead to Super Bowl XLVIII, here are some candidates for lesser-known players that can have big impacts on the ballgame.
CB Byron Maxwell, Seahawks
By now, you know all about Richard Sherman and All-Pro Seattle safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. What about Byron Maxwell, though?
Playing cornerback opposite Sherman in place of a suspended Brandon Browner has made Maxwell a targeted man down the stretch. But as Sherman wrote for The MMQB on SI.com last week before the NFC Championship Game victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Maxwell's contributions have been invaluable to Seattle's stingy defense this season.
You see, when you’re an inexperienced cornerback playing against the best quarterbacks in the NFL, you know you’re going to get picked on. And there are two ways you can go about it: You can be nervous. You’ll wonder how you’re going to react. Guys ask themselves: What am I going to do if the ball comes? What happens if they keep catching balls on me?
Or you can go in there and say: I understand what they want to do on first down, second down and third down. I understand their concepts, their plays and their formations. I’m going to be aggressive and put myself in a position to make plays.That’s the mentality that Maxwell has. Like Earl Thomas always says, Maxwell gets “lost in the game.”
That's some high praise from Sherman, which certainly applies as the Seahawks try to derail Peyton Manning and the record-breaking Broncos passing attack. While Sherman will likely have his hands full with Demaryius Thomas all game, Maxwell will have to try to slow down other big threats like Eric Decker and Wes Welker.
Manning will surely be looking Maxwell's way, and there should be some footballs flying in his direction. Shutting down the other side of the field or creating an interception would be a firm way of removing Maxwell's under-the-radar status.
OLB Danny Trevathan, Broncos
When Von Miller missed the first six games of the season due to suspension, it created a chain reaction of events for Denver's linebackers. As a result, Trevathan earned a spot on the outside in his first year as a starter, and he hasn't disappointed.
There was a target on Trevathan's back following the season opener when he dropped the football before crossing the goal line on what would have been a pick-six of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. But the second-year linebacker bounced back nicely, as recently detailed by Arnie Stapleton of the Associated Press, leading the team with 129 tackles while making some big plays throughout the year.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated also recently offered his take on some of the big contributors to Denver's playoff run.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has a knack for escaping the pocket and making plays on the run, but Trevathan has the speed to make him think twice. In the running game, Trevathan will also be a key figure in trying to slow down Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, who became the first player to eclipse the 100-yard mark against the 49ers all season in the NFC title game.
WR Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
Doug Baldwin's name doesn't come to mind when thinking of No. 1 receivers in the NFL. But on Seattle, Baldwin is the team's top weapon in the passing game.
Jayson Jenks of The Seattle Times recently relayed some sentiments from Baldwin about the perception of his team's wideouts. Turns out, Baldwin tuned into TV for some NFC Championship pregame banter, and he didn't like what he heard.
I was able to watch a special on ESPN with Keyshawn Johnson and Cris Carter. They were talking about the wide receivers for the Seattle Seahawks. They said that we’re not the main entrees. They said that we’re the appetizers. I’ll take that. We’re the appetizers. But we’re one hell of a good appetizer.
Looking at Seattle's team makeup, the lack of depth at wideout can't be ignored. But Baldwin proved to be an effective playmaker against the 49ers in the NFC title game, hauling in six catches for 106 yards, including a 51-yard bomb from Wilson after some improvisation.
What makes Baldwin even more dangerous are his contributions on special teams. Baldwin only returned two kickoffs during the regular season, but he rattled off a huge 69-yard runback against the Niners to set up a second-half field goal. Though he didn't practice on Thursday, Baldwin (hip pointer) is expected to be ready to go in time for Super Bowl Sunday.
The wideout will go up against a Denver secondary that ranked 27th in the league in passing defense during the regular season but corralled Philip Rivers and Tom Brady in the playoffs.
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