With Super Bowl XLVIII just days away, there’s much to be said about the big-name players who will be taking part. From Peyton Manning to Marshawn Lynch to Champ Bailey, there’s no shortage of stars in this game. However, it will could be a trio of unsung heroes that will decide the outcome.
The Seahawks boast a talent-filled roster, but there are three guys with much less recognition than most who will be in major roles come Sunday.
Receiver Doug Baldwin perfectly embodies what all of these players represent; they are blue-collar, hardworking guys who focus on doing their job and doing it well. Baldwin, along with a pair of his fellow ‘Hawks, will be key to a Seattle victory.
3. Steven Hauschka, K
As Rich Eisen has famously (at least among NFL fans) said, kickers are people too—and Steven Hauschka is a great one. He missed just two of his 35 field-goal attempts in 2013, and he finished the season with an eye-popping 143 points.
Hauschka could become a major player in deciding whether his team wins or loses. The main objective for the Seahawks is to keep up with the offense of Denver, and they will need to take points whenever they can—especially in the snowy tundra they could be playing in.
Although there are always exceptions, they should be trotting Hauschka out there anytime they’re faced with a fourth down in field-goal range.
Given the weather forecast (31 degrees with a chance of snow), it could be an ugly game in East Rutherford, and Seattle may need to lean on Hauschka a bit in order to get its momentum going.
2. Doug Baldwin, WR
Doug Baldwin is the Seahawks’ secret weapon. His name often gets lost behind guys like Percy Harvin and Golden Tate, but Baldwin has been a fundamental part of the offense all season long, especially in Harvin’s absence.
Baldwin had only 50 catches during the regular season, but he scored five touchdowns. 36 of his 50 receptions resulted in first downs, and four of those catches were plays of 20 yards or more. The Broncos defense is vulnerable in the secondary (sixth-worst team against the pass), and Seattle will try to capitalize on that.
Baldwin has arguably been their most consistent receiver and is coming off a huge game against the San Francisco 49ers. He caught six of his seven targets for 106 yards against a defense that is much better against the pass than Denver, meaning he could post similar (if not better) numbers against the Broncos.
1. Brandon Mebane, DL
Seattle is known for their stingy defense, and Brandon Mebane is a large part of that. He’s got the ideal size for a run-stuffing defensive tackle and uses that to his advantage—he recorded eight tackles for loss in 2013.
What’s been a tremendous aid to Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense is the resurgence of their rushing attack. Mebane will be right in the middle of the trenches and could stymie Denver’s stable of runners.
Mebane and the Seahawks will have a better chance of defending Manning competently if they can get the Denver running game to sputter.
Considering this could turn into a bad-weather game, the Broncos may opt to pound the rock and utilize the run more than the pass, making Mebane’s efforts that much more important.
*All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference*
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