Today’s Pigskin Tackles Super Bowl XLIX
We all know the high profile names that will be battling for the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, but every season a handful of under-the-radar players make a major impact on Super Sunday and sometimes even walk away with MVP honors.
Today’s Super Bowl Roundtable examines which out of the spotlight players could shine very bright in the desert next Sunday evening.
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Today’s Forum Topic: Discuss an under-the-radar player from each team that is likely to play a major role in Super Bowl XLIX.
@AlexK_47: The Patriots possess a luxury in Danny Amendola, a wide receiver whose role looms large in the Super Bowl. New England’s lack of vertical passing on the numbers helps stay clear of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, which paves a way for Amendola, his game played mainly in underneath routes in the middle of the field. With the attention surrounding Rob Gronkowski, Amendola provides an option for Tom Brady in the intermediate passing game.
On the Seahawks defensive side of the ball, I look for Kam Chancellor to belly up against Brady’s Bunch when New England possesses the ball. Sherman’s cemented his name as a top cornerback in the league with his ability to lock down receivers, handing the pressure over to Chancellor and fellow safety Earl Thomas, as they’re bound to see increased targets on Sunday.
Big players make huge plays in immense games. For the Seahawks to contain the Patriots on offense, a turnover or two could pose as the difference maker, and Chancellor’s opportunities will rise with the matchup of Gronkowski in the center of the field.
@StephenPSheeehan: Patriots: Stephen Gostkowski, K
A kicker you say? No one talks about specialists, but you can’t afford to overlook one of the most clutch kickers in NFL history. I expect this to be a close battle that could come down to a late-second field goal. There’s not another kicker in the league I’d want in that situation than Gostkowski. He’s also an excellent kickoff specialist, and field position is a critical component to any successful defense.
Seahawks: Luke Willson, TE
Seattle’s passing game is clearly a notch below their opponent’s, but that doesn’t mean they’re totally devoid of playmakers. Willson has stepped up in recent weeks and has the athleticism to challenge New England’s linebackers as well as safety Patrick Chung. The Patriots typically struggle to cover tight ends, so keep an eye on Wilson in play-action situations.
Jon Schlosser: For New England, it’s Tim Wright. He’s not even second on the depth chart, behind both Rob Gronkowski (clearly) and Michael Hoomanawanui. So far, he doesn’t have a catch in the postseason. However, what I like is his production when he does get the ball. He only had 26 catches this year, but he scored six times. That’s half as many touchdowns as Gronk on a fraction of the catches. The Seahawks are obviously going to key Gronk, which could leave Wright wide open on redzone chances in multiple-TE sets.
On the Seattle side I’m looking at Bruce Irvin. He’s an outside linebacker, not a defensive back, but he’s shown he can cover in the passing game. He’s tied for second on the team with two interceptions this year. That’s going to be huge against the Patriots, who will spread out the defense and look for mismatches; with that secondary, Irvin is the mismatch, and he’s going to have to step up. The key stat that says he can: He took both of those picks to the house.
@Pat_Whitehurst: Isn’t it just like Bill Belichick to provide a player that nobody is thinking about with a huge opportunity on the world’s biggest stage? For much of 2014 Shane Vereen was virtually non-existent in the Patriots game plans. In the postseason (2 carries for 8 yards, 7 receptions for 80 yards) he’s played even less of a role.
While I’m not expecting or predicting Timmy Smith type of Super Bowl numbers, the potential is there for Vereen to make a major impact, specifically in the Patriots passing game.
Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady will look to exploit Seattle’s linebackers and nickel backs in coverage with the crafty Vereen. As Seattle focuses on limiting Rob Gronkowski, stuffing the run, and taking away one side of the field with Richard Sherman, the versatile Vereen will find open spaces and mismatches.
Seattle needs to run the ball, and in order to do that the offensive line must move the big man in the middle, Vince Wilfork. Seahawks center Max Unger will need to provide quality seals on Big Vince at the initial point of attack. Unger is also charged with calling out the Seahawks blocking schemes and making adjustments on the fly; his ability to read, react and produce against a stout New England front will be one of the more interesting games within the game.
@ScottPoppen: Seahawks: LB K.J. Wright
Typically when an opposing team runs a wheel route out of the backfield the responsibility for covering that route falls on Wright. He is the most fleet of foot of the Seahawks’ linebackers, and is not often asked to blitz the quarterback. New England will try to get running back Shane Vereen open on such routes and while I think Wright can keep up, I am just not 100 percent sure he can do it for the entirety of this football game.
With Blount pounding the rock early on and Vereen being used for a change of pace the Seattle linebacker may not have enough gas left in the tank to keep Vereen from breaking a big play in this game.
Patriots: C Ryan Wendell
The Seahawks are going to pressure Tom Brady right up the middle as the scouting report suggest that is when he is most susceptible to make a poor decision with the football (Whether it be properly inflated or not.) Wendell will need to hike the football and keep his first step strong against a Seahawks defensive line that can get pressure up the middle better than any other team in the league. If Wendell cannot hold his own, Tom Brady will have guys in his face all night long, something that has proven to be very problematic in his last two Super Bowl losing performances.