Super Bowl XLVII: Five Underrated San Francisco 49ers To Watch
Five Under The Radar San Francisco 49ers To Watch In Super Bowl XLVII
The San Francisco 49ers almost made to the Super Bowl last year, and if not for a couple of fumble punts may be making their second straight appearance in the big game this coming Sunday.
Of course there is a big change for this year’s 49ers compared to last year, as Colin Kaepernick took over for an injured Alex Smith under center during the second half of the regular season and never gave the starting job back. Head coach Jim Harbaugh clearly made the right choice in sticking with Kaepernick even after Smith was healthy, as he is the superior talent and adds something to the 49ers’ offense that Smith simply does not.
But the formula that has helped San Francisco be successful over the last two seasons remains, with an efficient, run-oriented offense and one of the league’s best defenses firmly in place.
The bigger names on the 49ers’ roster will definitely have to perform well on Super Bowl Sunday, and Kaepernick is surely first on that list, but significant contributions will be needed from other players for the team to get a win over the Baltimore Ravens . Getting impact plays from unheralded players will be essential for both teams in what is sure to be a close game throughout.
A win on Sunday would give the 49ers' franchise its sixth Super Bowl win, and first since after the 1994 season. As I did previously with the Ravens, here are five “under the radar” San Francisco 49ers that I feel could have a big impact on Super Bowl XLVII.
5. TE Delanie Walker
Vernon Davis is clearly the main man among 49ers’ tight ends, which limits Walker’s opportunities as a pass catcher. Multiple drops in the Divisional Round against the Green Bay Packers will not do him any favors in terms of seeing more targets from Colin Kaepernick, and rightfully so with how Davis played in the NFC Championship Game. But with Baltimore’s defensive attention largely going elsewhere throughout Sunday night’s game, Walker could find himself in line to make an impact play or two.
4. NT Isaac Sopoaga
Sopoaga will face a challenging individual matchup against Baltimore center Matt Birk, and even without putting up big statistics his ability to be an anchor in the middle of the 49ers’ defensive line will be a big factor in stopping Ravens’ running back Ray Rice. Look for an occasional impact play from Sopoaga, but the performance of those around him is likely to be a better indicator of how well he played when Sunday’s game comes to an end.
3. FB Bruce Miller
Miller does not show up prominently on the stat sheet, with just 17 total touches all season (including the playoffs), but his contribution as a blocker can’t be overlooked as the 49ers had the league’s fourth-best rushing offense during the regular season. Miller may find himself responsible for handling Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis a lot on Sunday, making him a key factor in San Francisco’s success on the ground.
2. RB LaMichael James
James scored his first NFL touchdown in the NFC Championship Game against theAtlanta Falcons, continuing his increased role in the 49ers’ offense that stretches back to late in the regular season. He should also see time as a kickoff returner on Sunday, which will create more chances for him to show his big-play potential. James will most likely not see any more than a handful of carries as Frank Gore’s backup, but the Ravens’ defense will have to keep him from making a momentum-shifting play when he does get an opportunity.
1. OLB Ahmad Brooks
San Francisco’s other linebackers are more notable names and their production speaks for itself, but Brooks finished second on the team during the regular season with 6.5 sacks and is widely regarded as one of the league’s best outside linebackers. He is dealing with a sprained shoulder he suffered during the NFC Championship Game and has reportedly been playing with a dislocated finger all season, but there is little doubt Brooks will play on Sunday. Even being a little banged up, his effectiveness as an every-down player will be a key for the 49ers’ defense.