For both of the participants in Super Bowl XLIV, their arrival in South Florida has been keyed by stellar performances from a handful of unsung playmakers.
These X-factors emerged from their obscure roles as unheralded starters or reserves to provide their teams with big plays at critical moments.
Whether coming up with key receptions in the clutch or delivering impact plays on defense, their ability to elevate their respective games has been essential to the success of their squads.
Given the enormity of the stage, one of these unknown players could follow in the footsteps of past Super Bowl heroes David Tyree (XLII), Deion Branch (XXXIX) and Dexter Jackson (XXXVII), and provide their team with a game-changing play that leads to victory.
Let's examine some of the X-factors who could emerge in this matchup:
Saints: Tracy Porter, CB
It is not a coincidence that the defense regained its opportunistic prowess with the return of Porter (and CB Jabari Greer) to the lineup. The second-year cover man was quietly enjoying a spectacular season prior to his knee injury, and his presence gives coordinator Gregg Williams the ability to use some of the exotic pressure packages that have been a hallmark of his defenses for years. In this matchup, Porter will be counted on to blanket Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon on the outside. How well he fares in his one-on-one matchups against the Colts' playmakers will determine how often Williams will be able to utilize some of the all-out blitzes that have given opponents problems throughout the postseason.
Colts: Raheem Brock, DE
The veteran has been a valuable contributor as a situational player for the Colts. However, he may be thrust into the starting lineup due to an ankle injury suffered in the AFC Championship by Dwight Freeney who is jeopardy of missing Super Bowl XLIV. Brock, who had 3.5 sacks in the regular season, has shown a knack for getting to the quarterback in the past, and came up with a critical forced fumble in the divisional-round win over the Ravens. Given the importance of getting pressure on Drew Brees to disrupt his rhythm in the pocket, Brock could be counted on to deliver a spectacular performance as an edge rusher in place of Freeney.