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Column: Key Super Bowl Players


By Zach Stavis




We already know the marquee names in Super Bowl XLVII.

Lewis, Rice, Reed and Suggs on the Ravens side and Kaepernick, Gore, Willis and Smith for the 49ers.

But the Super Bowl, and football in general, has never been about individual talent.

Usually, it’s a lesser-known player that makes the biggest plays.

David Tyree, Dexter Jackson and Tracy Porter have all played this role in recent Super Bowls.

So who will do it this year?

There’s no way of knowing who that player will be until Sunday, but here are a few players on each team to look out for.

Baltimore’s defense is stacked with a set of dominant linebackers and arguably the best safety in the league, but the work of two players has been overlooked.

Cornerbacks Corey Graham and Cary Williams have been crucial members of a defense that went through a lot of injuries during the regular season.

With top cornerback Lardarius Webb out for the season, Graham and Williams were called upon to carry the torch and they have filled in beautifully.

Williams was already set to be the second cornerback after starting every game in 2011, whereas Graham was not supposed to be a major part of this team.

And while the regular season provided its fair share of success to both, the playoffs have treated the cornerbacks very well.

Both Graham and Williams have two interceptions each, including Graham’s overtime interception against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, which led to a Ravens win.

The defenses will likely decide this game, but that doesn’t mean the Ravens can’t get a game changer on offense.

Their offensive X-Factor is wide receiver Torrey Smith.

Yes, Smith is already a major part of the Ravens offense, but in a game where the defenses are the story, this game could easily come down to one possession.

And with Smith’s speed, he has the ability to have the biggest play of the game just by beating his man.

On top of that, Flacco has one of the most accurate deep passes in the NFL, making it that much more difficult to defend Smith.

For San Francisco, the defense is loaded.

Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks are enough proof that the 49ers have the most deadly front seven in football.

But the forgotten man in their defense is always Justin Smith.

Justin will work with Aldon on the left side of the Ravens’ offensive line, and the chemistry that the two have allow Aldon to be effective.

The two like to rotate along the offensive line, which consistently frees Aldon up to give him a clear path at the quarterback.

Every team in the NFL runs that play, but the 49ers are so effective doing it that it usually requires extra help from the offensive line.

Offensively, the self-acclaimed best wide receiver in the game could be the biggest surprise in this game.

Randy Moss recently claimed he was better than Jerry Rice, who won three Super Bowls with the 49ers. Moss has never won one.

Now, with the focus in the passing game on Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, Moss has the opportunity to step up and play a major role for San Francisco.

Any way you look at this game though, these teams are pound for pound for positions. We should be watching an excellent game Sunday.

­— zstavis@indiana.edu

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