Unsung heroes of Super Bowl XLIX make the difference

Unsung heroes of Super Bowl XLIX make the difference

© Petarneychev | Dreamstime.com - American Football Field Photo

Sam Gilden-Weiner, contributor

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They say that in big games, big players make big plays. So, naturally, in the biggest game of the year, in the biggest sport in the country, it would be easy to say that the best players will be in the limelight. But, as history shows, the players that make the biggest plays in the Super Bowl tend to be guys who no one has heard of.

Think David Tyree, in Super Bowl XLII, who made the iconic “Helmet Catch” that led to the Giants winning the title. Tyree had four catches during the regular season, but matched that total in the postseason, with none being as big as that one.

Or last year, Super Bowl XLVIII, when Malcolm Smith, the Seattle linebacker was the MVP. He was the first defender to win the award in eleven years. He had a relatively productive season, with 34 tackles and two interceptions. But it was overshadowed because he was playing on the number one defense in the league. On a night last year when the Seahawks’ defense routed Peyton Manning’s Broncos, it was Smith who had two interceptions, taking one back for a touchdown.

Unsung heroes seem to pop up everywhere in these kinds of games, maybe because the other team doesn’t see it coming, or maybe because these players have nothing to lose. Whatever the case may be, this was never more prevalent than in Sunday’s game.

Although the MVP was quarterback Tom Brady, his third time winning, it was his receiver who might have stolen the show. Perhaps the main reason the Seahawks had any kind of passing game was surprisingly good wide receiver play from an even more surprising source. Not to mention the man who made the play to steal the game back for the Patriots, and became a New England legend in the process.

Going into the game, the only Tom Brady target anyone was talking about was the 6 foot 6 inch, 235 pound beast that is, Rob Gronkowski. And for good reason. This year he had 10 plus touchdown catches for the fourth time in his five year career. He is a touchdown machine. However, other than ‘Gronk”, Brady hasn’t had a star receiver this season.

This past Sunday, his biggest target, Julian Edelman, had less than half of Gronkowski’s touchdowns during the year, but had been targeted two more times than the big man. Perhaps the media thought that Edelman, only six foot, 198 lbs., would be easily handled by the physical, speedy Seattle secondary. Maybe people should have paid more attention. Edelman went off Sunday, for his second 100 yard receiving game of the year, and added the game winning touchdown catch with just over 2 minutes left in the game. The entire game it seemed like he was fooling the Seattle defense with short well run routes that would consistently result in first downs.

If there is one weakness on the defending champions, it’s wide receivers. In the list of top 50 receiving yards per game in the 2014-15 season, the Seahawks have only one. Doug Baldwin slides into the 50th spot with 51.6 yards per game. The Patriots focus had to be on 1000 yard rusher Marshawn Lynch, so that opened up the passing game for the Hawks.

Chris Matthews, cousin of Eagles great, Reggie White, was on Seattle’s practice squad until week 14. He got a chance in the Big Game and made the best of it as a legitimate deep threat for Russell Wilson. He caught four balls and raked in 109 yards, and a touchdown that tied the game with two seconds left in the half. Who doesn’t like a good underdog story? To make it better, he was working at Foot Locker when he got the call from Seattle to try-out.

Seattle was down by four with 25 seconds left and only one yard away from taking the lead.

Some people thought the Pats should just let Marshawn Lynch score to buy time for Tom Brady and the high-powered offense to tie or take the lead. Then, Malcolm Butler happened. Some may say it was a bad play call, but Butler made the play of his life, as he jumped in front of the ill-advised Russell Wilson throw and sealed the championship for New England with his first career interception. The fact that the call was a pass in that situation is a story for another time, but the fact is, Butler made one of the best hustle plays in the history of the game.

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