Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Trend Of Unknown Heroes Will Continue In Super Bowl XLV

A theme synonymous with the Super Bowl is best explained with a quote about a box of chocolate made popular by the movie “Forrest Gump”: you never know what you’re gonna get.

Unpredictability comes at the start of the week of the big game. Teams fly in early to the location of the game and get side tracked with media day, extreme exposure by fans and analysts, and events thrown all over the city in their honor. Not to mention the endless preparation needed to get tickets for friends and family, and the diversion of being the center of attention for two whole weeks.

That topic of unpredictability then carries over to the actual game. While certain Hall of Famers have made big imprints during the football championship, it’s usually players that people know little about that make historic impact plays.

Unknowns like David Tyree and his helmet catch (Super Bowl XLII), Mike Jones and his one yard line tackle at the last second (XXXIV), or Don Beebe slapping the ball out of the hand of showboating Leon Lett as he was about to score a touchdown on a fumble recovery.(XXVII) remain the repeated stories told years later in regards to those games.

With the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburg Steelers facing off in Super Bowl XLV, one team will likely have a player that no one knows about who will create a new chapter in football’s championship record book. Both teams have standout players that were key to their success, but to win a title, it’ll be about which team will have the undercover hero.

Here are some players to look out for during the last Sunday of the NFL season:

James Starks – RB – Green Bay Packers

After surprising everyone in the wild card game with his first 100-yard running game, especially the Philadelphia Eagles, it looked as if the Packers finally found an option for their run game with James Starks. The next two playoff games featured a heavy dose of handoffs for the young rookie (20 carries or more), but he was unable to reach the century mark for yardage in either contest.

With the focus of Green Bay shinning down upon Aaron Rodgers, it could be possible that Pittsburg may over look the former sixth round running back. That means lots of deep coverage and less men in the box to contend with the spread, heavy passing offense the Packers like to go with.

If that becomes the focus of the game for Mike McCarthy’s offense and the Steelers do indeed drop coverage, expect holes to open up for the University of Buffalo tailback. A couple of big runs and scores could be on the horizon for Starks, and maybe an MVP for the Super Bowl if he can step up as the secret weapon during the title game.

Antonio Brown – WR – Pittsburg Steelers

This rookie has already made a small name for himself with game clinching catches late in the fourth quarter of both playoff games, but don’t expect Antonio Brown to be a focal point for the Packers’ defensive game plan.

With only two receptions in the first twelve weeks of the season, the former Central Michigan wideout has been involved with the regular offense in the last third of the season with multiple catches in each of the last five games. He would have his best game of the year against the Ravens in the second round of the playoffs with three catches for 75 yards.

It’s easy to overlook the 2010 sixth round selection of the Steelers when there are more established weapons like Hines Ward, Heath Miller, and Mike Wallace. If the Packers set their attention to stopping these three options, Ben Roethlisberger will most likely see number 84 open on many passing plays.

Ryan Clark – FS – Pittsburg Steelers

While Troy Polamalu creeps around the line and in the middle of the field to stalk his opposition prior to making the big play, it is their free safety Ryan Clark who sits in behind the high octane strong safety as the last line of defense.

As one of the most underrated and overlooked players on this impressive Steelers defense, this nine-year player relishes in the fact that his safety counter part gets all the attention. This allows Clark to make surprise plays like the interception and forced fumble he had against the Ravens in the second round of the playoffs.

Rodgers will definitely have to keep his eyes open for wherever Polamalu maybe lurking, but he should be just as aware of where Clark will be if he hopes to make his efficient offense run well during the Super Bowl.

A.J. Hawk – LB – Green Bay Packers

While Clark has a chance to come up big because of the attention to Polamalu, a player on the Packers defense will also have a similar chance to come up big due to the focus his teammate occupies.

A.J. Hawk plays the left middle linebacker position for Green Bay, but it is left outside linebacker, Clay Matthews, that offenses plan away from. Matthews has been influential in the playoffs with 3.5 sacks and a fumble recovery, while Hawk hasn’t created a big play at all this post season (a non-tackle statistic).

For this reason alone, the Ohio State alum is due for a breakout game.

As a key component for Green Bay’s defense during the regular season, it is unusual for Hawk to remain quiet for four straight contests. With this Super Bowl game being the fourth in the post season, he should be bounce back to have a big game.

The Steelers will also play like most other offenses do and will pay close attention to Matthews, meaning they will run everything through the middle or to the right side. The player that will clean up because of this game plan will be the middle linebacker, Hawk.

The way the Super Bowl unfolds is the same each year. On one side, there are the superstars that rise to the occasion to play to their usual standards. Then, there are those headliners who never meet the expectations they usually showcase all season long. In the end though, the team that raises the Vince Lombardi trophy usually comprises of the most important plays by the most obscure of players.

Even though it’s hard to determine what you are going to get come Sunday, having that historic, unsung hero on your side tends to lead to something sweeter than chocolate: a championship.

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