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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 February 2006, 02:46 GMT
Super Bowl key factors
By Martin Gough

BBC Sport examines where the 40th Super Bowl could be won and lost in Detroit.

MOST IMPORTANT PLAYERS

Shaun Alexander, No 37, Running back, Seahawks

The NFL's Most Valuable Player, the running back from Kentucky rushed for a league-leading 1,880 yards during the regular season.

Shaun Alexander
Alexander is the NFL's MVP and rushing champion
With size to go with his speed and sharp moves, he was one of the biggest reasons behind the Seahawks reaching the Super Bowl for the first time in their history.

But this could be his last game in metallic blue as his contract expires at the end of the season and he has been linked with, among others, the Minnesota Vikings.

Teams are unable to adjust their defensive schemes to combat him because of an above-average passing attack, led by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.


Ben Roethlisberger, No 7, Quarterback, Steelers

Pittsburgh ran the ball more often than any other team in the league during the regular season - around 57% of the time - but without "Big Ben" they are useless.

Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger is the second-youngest QB to play in the big game
Roethlisberger, at 23 the second youngest quarterback to play in a Super Bowl after Dan Marino, struggled with knee trouble in mid-season and the Steelers lost three successive games.

A rookie sensation in 2004, he went 15 games before tasting defeat but struggled with the pressure in the post-season.

This year he has been outstanding in negotiating play-off victories over Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver.

While not the most mobile of quarterbacks, he has the stature to shrug off tacklers and can make the right move at the right time to get his passes away.

The Rothlis-burger, by the way, is a relish-laden foodstuff at the University of Miami (Ohio), its namesake's alma mater.


Lofa Tatupu, No 51, Linebacker, Seahawks

In Detroit, Seattle's sensational first-year linebacker will look to go one step further than his father, former Patriots running back Mosi, in winning a Super Bowl ring.

Lofa Tatupu
Tatpu's father played in the Super Bowl 21 years ago
At 17 stone (107.95 kg) Tatupu is the ideal size for a linebacker but he is also speedy and able to work wonders in pass coverage, where he is always a candidate for an interception.

The turning point in the NFC Championship Game (the Super Bowl semi-final) was a jarring helmet-to-helmet collision between Tatupu and Carolina back Nick Goings.

Even a dazed Goings, who took no further part in the game, could tell Pittsburgh just how dangerous number 51 can be.


Troy Polamalu, No 43, Safety, Steelers

A former team-mate of Tatupu at the University of Southern California, Polamalu is the most visible member of the Pittsburgh defence.

Polamalu brings down Brian Fletcher of the Colts
Polamalu's physical play has characterised the Pittsburgh defence
And that is not only because of the flowing hair he claims not to have cut since his college days.

Weighing in at 15st 2lb (96.16 kg), he is nominally a strong safety - the member of the defensive backfield who lines up on the "strong" side of the offence, over the tight end.

But he has appeared in every defensive position except tackle, and often appears in one before the start of the play only to dash to another at the snap of the ball.

Will he be deep, looking to pick off the pass, or sent on a delayed blitz up the middle? Those thoughts weigh in the mind of every quarterback he faces.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR

When Seattle have the ball

Attacking on the ground with Alexander may be a successful tactic but it is too easy to defend when used predictably so the Seahawks are likely to establish the pass first.

QB Hasselbeck is likely to use "play action", faking the run to get defenders to bite before looking for a receiver like Darrell Jackson or Joe Jurevicius.

Once on top, Seattle will then unleash Alexander, behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.

Pittsburgh must find success by confusing the linemen and Hasselbeck, using exotic blitzes and coverage, and Polamalu will play a part in both.

When Pittsburgh have the ball

Despite the reputation rushers Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis - playing his last professional game in his home city - the Steelers tend not to be successful on the ground early on.

Parker in particular has struggled when trying to run out of the backfield, so Roethlisberger will try to get him involved using short "screen" passes behind a shield of linemen.

They are unable to blow a game open conventionally because of the balance of their offence but may try to use an unorthodox "gadget play", probably involving elusive receiver Antwaan Randle El.

The longer Pittsburgh keep the score line close, the better their chance of victory, so Seattle will aim to stifle the run and hope for an interception in the first half to open the gap.

PREDICTION

Both have strong running games, solid quarterbacks and speedy defences, but Seattle's offensive balance just tips the game in their favour and they should come out on top, 28-14.

Live coverage of Super Bowl XL will feature on the BBC Sport website and on BBC Radio Five Live from 2200 GMT on Sunday, 5 February.


SEE ALSO
Steeler madness
29 Jan 06 |  American Football
Detroit revisited: Super Bowl XVI
25 Jan 06 |  American Football
Motown momentum
09 Jan 06 |  American Football
Super Bowl winners
02 Jan 06 |  American Football
NFL in a nutshell
14 Oct 03 |  American Football


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