New Orleans, LA – We've spent the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLVII talking about the quarterbacks, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and the Ravens' Joe Flacco.
Two weeks of discussing who's better, Baltimore's Ray Rice or the Niners' Frank Gore. A fortnight wondering if the Ravens' Ray Lewis will excel in his last NFL game or Ed Reed will capture his first Super Bowl crown in his hometown of New Orleans. Or maybe it's Frisco's Randy Moss getting his inaugural ring or Patrick Willis outplaying that other No. 52.
But here's the thing. The names of Timmy Smith, Larry Brown and David Tyree are forever etched in NFL lore because of their performance on the big stage.
It's true great players make great plays when it counts the most but several game-changing Super Bowl moments have belonged to the unsung and the unheralded.
Here's a look at five under the radar players who could put their stamp on things when the 49ers and Ravens finally get it on Sunday:
1. Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger - Yeah, Kruger led the Ravens in sacks this season but with Lewis, Reed and Terrell Suggs headlining the Baltimore defense, few talk about him. A key strip sack of Kaepernick might change that and be the defining Super Bowl moment people are looking for.
2. 49ers backup tight end Delanie Walker - Not many reserve tight ends are as athletic as Walker, who has the speed and movement skills to beat just about every linebacker or strong safety in this league. The problem with Walker is drops. He's got the yips but ask Tyree, you only need to catch it once when it's the right moment.
3. Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta - When you think about the Baltimore offense, it's generally all about verticality and Flacco getting the ball downfield to Torrey Smith, the speedster, or Anquan Boldin, who will outphysical just about every corner he sees. Conventional wisdom says San Francisco will try to take away the deep ball and if they start using bracket coverage over the top, that could open the middle of the field for Pitta, the type of tight end who understands zone concepts really well and could sit down for a 6-to-10 catch night.
4. - 49ers running back LaMichael James - The Niners were lacking a compliment to Gore after Kendall Hunter went down with a season-ending Achilles tendon injury but the small and speedy James, who is well-versed in the read-option attack from his time in college at Oregon, is now a much bigger threat with Kaepernick playing in the pistol. In fact, James' speed makes things much tougher on the edge for the opposition and a 70-yard run in the Super Bowl could turn James into a household name.
5. 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver - Culliver had a tough week after uttering some homophobic remarks on Artie Lange's radio show. No one wants to redeem themselves more that the Niners' nickel back and Culliver should get the opportunity. Opposing teams generally try to take advantage of him when he's on the field so Culliver should get a few opportunities to make the big play on defense ala Brown.