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Last updated: Fri. Jan. 17, 2014 - 09:15 am EDT

COLUMN

NFL quarterbacks don't deserve all the love

Here are four other players who could tilt conference titles

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There are some great quarterbacks in the NFL's conference championships Sunday and I'm going to ignore them for one day.

Granted, they might sneak into the peripheral of this column, but only as teammates.

Today, the question is about everyone else: Who are the most important players in the Broncos-Patriots and Seahawks-49ers games who don't play quarterback?

Believe me, if you want to read a Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady piece, you can find one. It'll take approximately two seconds of online searching.

Today, these are another big four of the final four:

Danny Trevathan, Broncos outside linebacker

Casual fans might remember Trevathan from his infamous moment in the season opener vs. the Ravens, when he picked off a Joe Flacco pass, waltzed toward a touchdown and dropped the ball to celebrate before actually scoring. The ball went out of the endzone, back to Baltimore, and the Ravens ended up driving for a score.

So Trevathan has a shot at making his potential last appearance much better than his first.

If the Broncos are going to beat the Patriots, they'll need to force some turnovers and prevent game-breaking runs. In the first Broncos-Patriots game, Trevathan had 13 tackles and two forced fumbles. He recovered a fumble by running back LeGarrette Blount.

Trevathan is only 23, in his second season. He's still a little raw. But he's also capable of making the big play that gives Peyton Manning and the Denver offense a valuable extra possession.

Julian Edelman, Patriots wide receiver

Many thought Danny Amendola would be the undersized wide receiver who earned the lion's share of Tom Brady's crossing-pattern passes when Wes Welker left in free agency to join the Broncos. Instead, it's been Edelman, who had 105 receptions this season.

Edelman was a quarterback in college, so he understands well the value of running a great route and earning yards after catch. When Brady is desperate to move the chains, he turns to Edelman.

Denver's defense can be vulnerable to the quick-strike passing game. Over the last six games of the regular season, Edelman caught 53 passes, most in the NFL in that stretch.

Broncos safety Mike Adams was asked to compare Edelman to Welker.

“I can't compare the two because Wes is – he's something special,” Adams said. “He can jive the ball and then speed out and have you off balance. Edelman, he doesn't do that. He's a one-speed guy. He doesn't have the same ability or the quickness that Wes has in the slot.”

Didn't it seem like Patriots coach Bill Belichick was mocking the Colts with Brady throwing a pass to Austin Collie late in the game last week? I'd imagine the Patriots would love to have Edelman out-Welker Welker.

Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks running back

The San Francisco 49ers know all about Lynch's “beast mode.” The 49ers have allowed only nine individual 100-yard rushing games in six seasons. Lynch has four of them, and ran for 98 yards when Seattle beat San Francisco 29-3 earlier this season.

Lynch ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the Seahawks' win over New Orleans last weekend.

The Seahawks' running game, when it's successful, meshes well with the defense to create a situation where opposing teams have fewer possessions and fewer chances to strike.

Lynch has an argument (after 1,257 regular-season yards, 4.2 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns) as the best running backing the game. San Francisco's defense thrives on the idea it can shut opposing running backs down. Yet Lynch has been the kryptonite to the 49ers Superman defense.

NaVorro Bowman, 49ers linebacker

OK, so the 49ers need to slow, if not stop, Lynch. So they have a reputation of being a run-stopping defense. It's a collective effort, no question.

But, Bowman leads the team in tackles and has a knack for the type of bone-crushing hits that shake footballs loose from running backs, tight ends and receivers. Bowman forced four fumbles during the regular season and one in the wildcard-round win at Green Bay.

Defense becomes such a big factor when teams play on the road, so Bowman will need to set a tone for the 49ers. If they can give Lynch some problems, then Seattle will rely more on quarterback Russell Wilson and the passing game. That opens up the possibility of interceptions for cornerback Tramaine Brock, Donte Whitner or Eric Reid.

If Bowman and the defense rise to the challenge of Lynch, it'll be back on Wilson's shoulders.

And, of course, it always ends up riding on the quarterback at the end.

rhayes@news-sentinel.com


This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.


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