One of the great stories for the 2011 Giants has been the emergence of WR Victor Cruz, who led the team with 82 catches and 9 touchdown receptions while setting a franchise record with 1,536 receiving yards.
One of the great stories for the Patriots the last 5 seasons has been WR Wes Welker, who once again led the NFL in receptions with 122, becoming only the second player in league history to total 120-plus catches in 2 different seasons (Vikings’ WR Cris Carter turned the trick in 1994 and ’95).
With TE Kevin Boss leaving for free agency this season (Raiders), TE Jake Ballard stepped in and caught 38 passes for 604 yards and 4 touchdowns, including the game-winner against the Patriots in Week 9 at Foxborough with only :15 seconds remaining.
This trio of performers has one very simple thing in common: none of the three were selected in their respective drafts, Cruz from Massachusetts, Welker from Texas Tech (and originally signed by Miami, then traded to the Patriots) and Ballard from Ohio State. Yet all could be primed for something special come Super Bowl Sunday.
Why? Because take a look at some of the great moments in this game as of late and see what they all have in common.
Consider that the 3 biggest passing performances in Super Bowl history in terms of yards have come from Rams’ and Cardinals’ QB Kurt Warner, his record 414 yards coming in St. Louis’ win over Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV, while he also threw for 377 and 365 yards, respectively, in losses to the Steelers (XLIII) and Patriots (XXXVI).
However, while Warner has made his share of big plays, the longest pass play in Super Bowl history is courtesy of Panthers’ QB Jake Delhomme, who connected on an 85-yard score with WR Muhsin Muhammad in Carolina’s Super Bowl XXXVIII loss to New England.
Looking for a breakaway play via the ground game? Pittsburgh’s Willie Parker raced 75 yards for a score in the Steelers’ win over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, the longest run in Super Bowl history.
How about a game-changing play? When Steelers’ LB James Harrison stepped in front of a Warner pass in Super Bowl XLIII at Tampa and rumbled 100 yards for a touchdown, it completed the longest play of any kind in the Big Game’s proud history.
Finally, back to Welker. The former Dolphins’ special teams’ ace, in his first season with New England in ’07, tied the Super Bowl record for receptions in a game (11) in the 17-14 loss to the Giants (XLII).
It is amazing to consider that some of the most memorable moments in Super Bowl history are by some of those somewhat forgotten come the NFL draft.
So could there be another surprising performance in terms of a big play on Super Bowl Sunday. If there is, you shouldn’t be that surprised at all.