Monday, January 21, 2013
Quick Take: Ravens vs. 49ers
By Jamison Hensley
Five nuggets of knowledge about Super Bowl XLVII, in which the Baltimore Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 3:
1. Historic family reunion: When John Harbaugh's Ravens battle Jim Harbaugh's 49ers in the Super Bowl, it will mark the first time that siblings face off as head coaches in any major U.S. professional sports championship. This will be the second game in NFL history between head coaches who are brothers and the first since the Harbaughs met when the Ravens beat the 49ers, 16-6, on Thanksgiving night 2011. The Harbaugh brothers both lost in the conference championship games last season and both watched their teams rally on the road to make it to the Super Bowl this year. Both made risky decisions during the season that propelled their teams to the NFL title game. John fired his offensive coordinator with three weeks left in the regular season, and Jim changed starting quarterbacks in November.
2. Small-school quarterbacks hit big time: The Super Bowl features two quarterbacks who didn't come from major programs. The Ravens' Joe Flacco was drafted in the first round in 2008 out of Delaware. The 49ers' Colin Kaepernick was selected in the second round in 2011 out of Nevada. Both quarterbacks, though, have shined in the spotlight this month. Flacco has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 114.7 in the playoffs. Kaepernick has averaged 248 yards passing and 101 yards rushing in the postseason. The Ravens have to figure out a way to contain Kaepernick's big runs, and the 49ers have to stop Flacco's big pass plays.
3. Deceptive defense: When the Ravens went to the Super Bowl in the 2000 season, they had one of the best defenses in league history. Baltimore wasn't as dominant on defense this season, finishing 17th in the NFL in the regular season. Still, the Ravens have been playing solidly in the postseason. Baltimore's defense held Peyton Manning to three touchdowns in a double-overtime win in the AFC divisional round and shut out Tom Brady and the Patriots in the second half of the AFC Championship Game. The Ravens became the second team to beat Manning and Brady in the same postseason, joining the 2010 Jets. The 49ers boast the NFL's third-ranked defense, but the Ravens shouldn't be overlooked on that side of the ball.
4. Phenomenal four seed: The Ravens became the seventh No. 4 seed to reach the Super Bowl since the current seeding system was introduced in 1999. This is nothing new to the Ravens, who won the Super Bowl in the 2000 season as the fourth seed. There were two other No. 4 seeds who have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy: the 1997 Broncos, who beat Green Bay, 31-24, and the 2011 Giants, who edged the Patriots, 21-17. The Ravens, who have already knocked off the top two seeds in the AFC, have to beat the NFC's second seed to win the Super Bowl.
5. Last dance for Ray Lewis: The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has been the emotional rallying point for the Ravens ever since he announced that he would retire at the end of the season. Lewis' "last ride" will come in the Super Bowl in New Orleans, where teammates have talked about sending the 17-year veteran out on top. But Lewis isn't just along for the ride. After missing 10 weeks following surgery on his torn triceps, he has led the Ravens in tackles in each of the three playoff games. His 44 tackles top the NFL this postseason. All eyes will be on Lewis when he comes out of the tunnel at the Superdome, where he'll perform his signature pregame dance one last time.