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Last Updated: Friday, 28 January, 2005, 22:58 GMT
Who to watch at the Super Bowl
By Martin Gough

Sunday, 6 February
Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville
Live coverage on BBC Radio Five Live from 2200-0500 GMT and on this website
Quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Tom Brady will take the headlines as the Philadelphia Eagles square off against the New England Patriots in Sunday's Super Bowl.

But there are 53 players on each side, and almost all of them will have a part to play.

Here are just three from each side who could make a crucial difference, and the key factors to victory in Jacksonville.


Jevon Kearse, Defensive End, No 93

Jevon Kearse
Kearse played a key part in taking the Eagles to Jacksonville
After accepting a 35m eight-year contract to move from Tennessee last spring, "The Freak" has made a great impact, boasting speed to go with his size.

He was brought on board to get Philadelphia past the semi-final stage (the NFC Championship game), where they have stalled in the past three years, and made a huge impact against Atlanta this time.

Kearse switched to the right side of the defensive line and held prolific quarterback Michael Vick to just 26 rushing yards by containing him in the backfield.

Brian Westbrook, Running Back, No 36

Whereas most backs simply take a hand-off from their quarterback and run out of the backfield, Westbrook appears short of acceleration in that role.

Instead, the Eagles use him in different positions in the backfield, and split out wide as a receiver. And once he is at full pace Westbrook's array of moves are dangerous.

With an opponent focussing attention on a single player opportunities open up for other players, so look for the Eagles to use Westbrook heavily for a spell and then throw deep.

Jeremiah Trotter, Linebacker, No 54

Jeremiah Trotter
Trotter returned to his old club and took control on defence
Cast out by the Washington Redskins last summer, Trotter returned to his old team as a back-up player, and had to wait until mid-season to take a commanding role.

He ended the regular season as the leading tackler among the front seven with 63, and has the athletic ability to make interceptions, as he did in the divisional playoff against Minnesota.

As middle linebacker, he is in charge of implementing the calls of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who favours complicated blitzing to keep quarterbacks off balance.


Troy Brown, Wide Receiver/Defensive back, No 80

A veteran receiver, Brown was expected to take a back-up role on offence this season, behind starters David Givens and Deion Branch.

But when an injury crisis hit the New England defensive backfield, Brown was pressed into action in passing situations, and responded with three interceptions.

Brown is just one of the back-up players who have helped the secondary remain one of the best, all illustrated when they shut down star Colts QB Peyton Manning in the playoffs.

Corey Dillon, Running Back, No 28

Corey Dillon
Dillon's arrival has given the Patriots an extra dimension
It is hard to believe that New England steamrollered their way to last season's title without establishing a running game - a basic requirement for any side.

If they were formidable without Dillon, the Pats have been unstoppable with him, the former Bengal contributing 1635 - third in the league and more than the team total in 2003.

Even when he is not overly successful, as against Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game, Dillon still takes attention from the passing game, which Brady exploits.

Mike Vrabel, Linebacker, No 50

Imagine going into a rugby game without any forwards - that is what New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has chosen to do at times this year.

Instead of bullocking defensive linemen, he uses a platoon of linebackers like Vrabel, who have the athleticism either to rush the passer or drop back in pass coverage.

Last year it was a surprise when he did it in the Super Bowl, but this season Vrabel has regularly lined up on offence near the goal line and acted as an extra, super-sized receiver.



Life suddenly becomes a lot easier for the Eagles if star wide receiver Terrell Owens can play a significant part despite his broken leg.

Even if he only appears in a small number of players, if Owens can help McNabb stretch the defence with the occasional long pass it will open up space for Westbrook underneath, and allow lesser receivers, like Freddie Mitchell to succeed.

If Kearse and Co can stop Dillon in his tracks, an All-Star secondary could be given more help covering New England's short-passing game.


Adam Vinatieri
Vinatieri's kicks have already won two Super Bowls
Many would say they just have to turn up, but New England coach Bill Belichick will still leave no stone unturned when preparing for the Eagles.

Pundits have stopped predicting what offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will come out with - look for five receivers on one drive and an overdose of Dillon the next.

And that no-name defensive backfield stopped Colts star Manning and his three star receivers so why shouldn't they be able to deal with McNabb, even if Owens is fit?

If the game is still close in the dying moments, ice-cool kicker Adam Vinatieri, who has been responsible for the Patriots' last two Super Bowl victories, waits in the wings.

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