Super Bowl XLVII, also known as the “HarBowl,” is loaded with big names and personalities. From the grizzled veteran Ray Lewis, to the San Francisco 49ers’ emerging quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, the stars will be front and center.
But if San Francisco wants to hoist its sixth Lombardi Trophy on the night of Feb. 3, two x-factors need to stand out. Their names may not be heard often, but left tackle Joe Staley and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks must have their presence felt in this winner-take-all contest.
Staley, who injured his arm during the divisional round matchup with the Green Bay Packers, played through pain and helped lift the 49ers to victory, holding Clay Matthews relatively in check (five tackles, one sack). Last week against the Atlanta Falcons, the sixth-year tackle rendered John Abraham useless within the noisy confines of the Georgia Dome.
Just under a week from now, Staley has the daunting task of protecting Kaepernick’s blind side from the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year in Terrell Suggs. Through three postseason games, Suggs has notched two sacks and a forced fumble. As he continues to battle an Achilles/biceps injury, the standout linebacker has not played like his usual, dominant self, but remains a threat on any down. When the Baltimore Ravens defeated the 49ers last year on Thanksgiving, Suggs collected three sacks.
Staley, a two-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler in his own right will have his hands full with the upcoming matchup. But in order for Kaepernick and the run game to be effective, Staley and his linemates need to silence Baltimore’s front seven.
From top to bottom, San Francisco’s defense is filled with impact players. However, Brooks will have a vital role come Sunday night. Playing alongside the likes of Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, it’s very easy to overlook Brooks. He may not make the flashy highlights or bone-jarring hit, but he can put heat on opposing quarterbacks. During the regular season, he finished second in team sacks with 6.5.
Smith had a banner campaign, as he tallied 19.5 sacks. But he has been quiet the past five games. With the Ravens offensive line playing in sync, getting to Joe Flacco will be no easy chore.
Baltimore’s game plan would likely revolve around stopping Smith and defensive tackle Justin Smith. With much of the attention directed towards them, Brooks needs to utilize his quickness to get by Michael Oher. If the 49ers fail to disrupt Flacco’s timing, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith will have their way against San Francisco’s secondary.
Both franchises have elite talent at certain positions, but Staley and Brooks have a golden opportunity to ink their name in the history books.
The time is now to seize the spotlight.