Super Bowl XLVII: Five Baltimore Ravens To Watch
Super Bowl XLVII: Five Unheralded Baltimore Ravens To Watch
The storylines over the next few days leading up to the Super Bowl will be plentiful, with the Harbaugh brothers, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick being the central figures for media attention. It could also be the final game for another future Hall of Famer besides Lewis, as wide receiver Randy Moss could also call it a career if the 49ers win the game.
In any case, all signs point to a very competitive contest between two closely matched teams on Sunday night, with one or two momentum-shifting plays determining who wins the game.
Super Bowl history is filled with players that were not household names entering the game that wound being key factors in their team’s win. In many cases those players had the one shining moment of their career on the NFL’s biggest stage and quickly faded into obscurity after an MVP performance. The list of those previously unheralded players is too long to go into here, but there will certainly be someone that only the most hardcore fans will be familiar with that makes an impact during Sunday night’s game.
There are plenty of players on both the 49ers and the Ravens that qualify as "under the radar", as could be expected from two teams that have made it this far and have taken down some of the league’s best teams along the way.
Here are my five Baltimore Ravens that aren’t likely to grab headlines before kickoff, but could have a big impact on Super Bowl XLVII.
5. TE Dennis Pitta
Pitta has 10 receptions and two touchdowns in Baltimore’s three playoff games after a strong regular season (61 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns). The 49ers are certain to try to bring pressure from all angles, so quarterback Joe Flacco is sure to look his way often in crucial situations on Super Bowl Sunday. Look for Pitta to get at least a handful of receptions, and his ability to keep the chains moving when he gets his opportunities will be a critical component in Baltimore’s success offensively.
4. RB Bernard Pierce
Ray Rice is obviously still the lead dog in the Ravens’ backfield, but Pierce has taken on an increasing role as his rookie season has gone on. He had 315 rushing yards over a three-game stretch that included Baltimore’s Wild Card Round win over the Indianapolis Colts, so his production when given significant opportunity should ease the minds of the Ravens’ coaches should something happen to Rice. Even with only a few carries, Pierce could make an impact play or two that helps tilt momentum Baltimore’s way.
3. CB Corey Graham
Graham has been an impactful player this postseason, with two interceptions (both against the Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round) and 26 total tackles. The Super Bowl will likely bring an assignment against wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who has been a top target for 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick since he took over the starting job. If Graham can force Kaepernick to look another direction and contain Crabtree when he does make catches, the San Francisco passing game may have a hard time finding consistency.
2. WR/KR Jacoby Jones
Jones was the beneficiary of a defensive breakdown late in Baltimore’s Divisional Round win over the Denver Broncos, but he is also one of the league’s best kickoff returners. He finished the regular season as the league leader in average yardage per kickoff return (30.7) and was also fourth in total kickoff return yardage (1,167 yards). Jones’ deep speed should present a significant challenge to the 49ers’ secondary, and it would not be surprising to see him make a big play or two on Sunday.
1. LB Dannell Ellerbe
Ray Lewis will grab most of the headlines and media attention all week, but Ellerbe will be an important player if the Ravens have a chance to contain the 49ers’ multi-faceted running attack. He had 92 total tackles during the regular season, good for second on the team, and he has 23 combined tackles and an interception thus far in the postseason. It is worth noting that Ellerbe is dealing with ankle and back issues that limited him in practice last week, but all indications are he will play on Sunday.