Super Bowl Lesson: Special Teams Really Are

Elaine Thompson/AP

Of the three phases of football, special teams play tends to receive the least fanfare. Analysts and announcers lavish attention on offensive and defensive units, making quarterbacks and middle linebackers out to be the heroes and leaders of football. The men who play special teams—the kickers, punters, return men, and coverage players—only seem to get mentioned if they screw something up or do something spectacular.

But on Sunday, three of the most memorable plays of Super Bowl XLVII took place on special teams, and the Baltimore Ravens, who defeated the San Francisco 49ers 34-31, showed how one special-teams play in a close game can be the difference between victory and defeat.

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