We know about the big names: Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Darrelle Revis, Rob Gronkowski. These guys all did their part to bring the Patriots their fourth Super Bowl championship, but I want to single out a few players that also played key roles in this win, but may be flying under-the-radar a bit.
1. Danny Amendola
Amendola has had a rough stint in New England, but in this 2015 postseason, he has been absolutely money. First he was incredible in that Baltimore game, and then in the Super Bowl, he helped get the offense on track against one of the best secondaries of all time. Amendola finished with 5 catches, 48 yards, and a touchdown that pulled the Patriots within three points of Seattle. His quickness was too much for the ‘Hawks to handle at times, and it really was a key aspect of their win.
2. Sebastian Vollmer/Nate Solder
Facing some of the best edge rushers on the planet, these two have been lights out in the playoffs. Vollmer has been great all year, so that isn’t much of a surprise, but Solder has been up and down, however he really responded in the postseason. On Super Sunday, they were excellent again, as Tom Brady was rarely pressured from the edge. If it weren’t for them sealing the edge off, the Pats may not have come out winners.
3. Brandon Browner
Revis completely eliminated Seattle’s top receiving threat Doug Baldwin from the game, holding him to one catch for three yards. However Browner was just as good, as he neutralized whoever he was put on, and in the second half, it was Chris Matthews, and that was one of the biggest turning points of the game. The bigger Matthews was torching Kyle Arrington for the first 30 minutes, but once the bigger Browner took him, Matthews was pretty much shut out.
4. Shane Vereen
I don’t know if we can count Vereen as an under-the-radar player, but he was enormous for New England in this one. He tied a Patriots postseason record with 11 catches, and it was his presence underneath that really helped keep the Pats’ dink-and-dunk offense going for four quarters. Against a defense like Seattle’s, you need to take advantage of their linebackers if you want to have success, and that is exactly what Vereen did.
5. Dont’a Hightower
The Patriots didn’t completely shut down Marshawn Lynch, but they slowed him down at certain points of the game, and the one-armed Hightower was a big part of that. It is pretty unbelievable to think Hightower has played nearly two months of football with a torn labrum, especially considering the job he did on the physical Lynch. Just think: if Hightower and Akeem Ayers don’t bring Lynch down at the one-yard line before Malcolm Butler’s pick, the Pats aren’t champions.