Under-the-radar 49ers who make or break a Super Bowl run

Azeez Al-Shaair #51 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Azeez Al-Shaair #51 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /
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Arden Key, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arden Key (98) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers may have good odds for the playoffs this season, but the only way the Super Bowl winds up being within reach is if these less-known players help.

The San Francisco 49ers falling to 6-6 after their disheartening loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 13 wasn’t overly disastrous, at least in terms of the Niners’ playoff chances this season.

San Francisco only dropped one spot in the NFC playoff picture, going from the No. 6 seed down to No. 7, and it still holds tiebreakers over two of the currently non-slated teams in the standings because of wins over the 6-7 Philadelphia Eagles and 5-7 Minnesota Vikings with another game in hand against the 5-7 Atlanta Falcons.

With five games remaining, and some likely challenging road contests if they do get into the postseason dance, the 49ers are understandably going to have to rely on their top talent to advance to the Super Bowl.

But, in order to make the Super Bowl and have a realistic chance at winning it, they’ll need to dive into the deeper parts of their 53-man roster.

Here are four under-the-radar players who’ll have to play a major role in any serious Super Bowl push.

No. 4: 49ers EDGE Arden Key

The Niners’ biggest defensive standout this season has been, without question, EDGE Nick Bosa.

His team-leading 12 sacks and NFL-leading 16 tackles for a loss has been a primary reason why San Francisco’s defense, despite all its deficiencies elsewhere, has remained a top-10 unit in terms of yards allowed.

But Bosa can’t be the only one supplying the entirety of the pass rush, and the 49ers have generally lacked a quality complementary pass-rusher, particularly with fellow EDGE Dee Ford banged up again for much of the year.

Good thing fellow EDGE Arden Key, one of the former Las Vegas Raiders castoffs picked up by the Niners last offseason, has had something of a resurgence in 2021.

Key is second on the team behind Bosa with 3.5 sacks. And while no one will jump up and down about that number, it’ll nevertheless be crucial for Key to finish off the regular season strong and carry any momentum into the playoffs.

Especially if playoff-caliber opponents do their best to negate Bosa’s presence, opening up the need for Key to be a big contributor.