The 2013 Super Bowl is between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens? Believe it or not the Ravens did happen to knock off both the Patriots and Broncos on the road as a number 4 seed.
Before we get into discussing the actually game itself, let’s just point out how special it is for a father to be watching his two sons coaching in the biggest game of the whole year. The father I’m talking about, Jack Harbaugh. He had some football experience as well. He was the head coach of Western Michigan and Western Kentucky, while also being an assistant coach at major schools including Iowa, Michigan, and Stanford.
It would be an understatement to say that Jack is a proud father. He is the father of the first pair of brothers to serve as NFL coaches and the first pair of head coaching brothers to face off in a Super Bowl.
Now, lets move on to the game, shall we?
It’s not as big as a surprise that the 49ers happened to make it to the Super Bowl. But, this is significant considering the last time they reached the Super Bowl was in 1995 where they defeated the chargers pretty handily 49-26. Now that San Francisco reached it this far the media can’t doubt whether or not Colin Kaepernick is scared of the big moment. You’re talking about a guy who absolutely shredded the Packers defense and propelled his team on the road against Atlanta in the NFC Championship game. It certainly appears that Kaepernick doesn’t mind falling behind in games. The pressure of having to lead his team and come back doesn’t faze him at all. If anything it makes him play with more of a sense of urgency and pumps up his guys. From there, his teammates play at a much higher level too as a result of his intensity.
Vernon Davis had a monster NFC Championship game, and the relationship between Colin and Vernon is only starting to emerge. Davis had 5 catches for 106 yards and a touchdown; it seemed like every big play Kaepernick needed he went to someone he can trust: Vernon Davis. One thing to keep an eye on over the next 2 weeks leading up to the Super Bowl is the assault investigation of Michael Crabtree. Crabtree’s status for the NFC Championship was in doubt, but he ended up playing and contributing in a major way. It’ll be interesting to see how the whole process plays out. All 49ers fans out there should be praying he plays because they’ll need to exploit all the weapons they have versus a tough Ravens defense. It’s astonishing how much Ray Lewis over the course of his career has inspired and motivated his players to win. However, these last couple games are a little bit different and have more meaning because this is Ray Lewis’ last season. Ray Lewis will be known as one of the best linebackers of all time, no tight end wants to go over the middle and take a hit against him. It would have been nice to see the matchup between Tony Gonzalez and Ray Lewis (both players are retiring after this season), but Vernon Davis against Ray will be a pleasure to watch as well.
The Super Bowl has always been about guys elevating their level of play, and as a result people view them differently after getting a ring. Eli Manning is a perfect example, and Joe Flacco can do the same thing if he wins this game. Joe Flacco has received a lot of the heat from the media, and people gave him no chance to out-duel Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. You have to root for a guy who’s been under so much pressure and final comes through by proving people wrong. Give Flacco a lot of credit, this is not the same Ravens defense from 2000 that won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer.
QB: Joe Flacco vs. Colin Kaepernick
Advantage- Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has better arm strength while possessing an uncanny ability to run out of the option which can give the Ravens defense some issues. Facing Tom Brady and limiting him to 13 points seemed impossible, but going up against Kaepernick is definitely different and hard to prepare for.
RB: Frank Gore vs. Ray Rice
Advantage- I’ll take Ray Rice. Ray Rice’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes him nearly impossible to take down in the open field. Although Frank Gore is also an elite running back who should challenge the Ravens Defense.
WRS: 49ers wideouts vs. Ravens wideouts
Advantage- Ravens WRS- I’d prefer having Torrey Smith (dangerous deep ball threat) and Anquan Boldin rather than Crabtree and Moss. Boldin and Flacco’s chemistry has developed well over the years and it will show.
Tight End: Vernon Davis vs. Dennis Pitta/ Ed Dickson
Advantage: A couple weeks ago it would have been a toss-up, but due to last week’s monster game, Vernon Davis. Davis has always been known as a prime-time performer in big games.
Offensive Line: 49ers vs. Ravens
Advantage: 49ers’ Offensive Line- one of the most physical lines in the NFL, sets up in tough jumbo sets with 3 tight ends at times that is hard to get penetration against.
Defensive Line: 49ers vs. Ravens
Advantage: 49ers’ Pass Rush- Expect Aldon Smith to bounce back big time after not recording a sack in his past 4 games.
Linebackers: 49ers vs. Ravens
Advantage: 49ers Linebackers- I respect Ray Lewis more than anyone out there, but the combination of Bowman and Willis (both all-pros) is without a doubt the best in football.
Secondary: 49ers vs. Ravens
Advantage: 49ers’ Secondary- If Lardarius Webb was healthy for the Ravens they would get the vote, but he’s not. Carlos Rogers will have his hands full with stopping Boldin, but he’s up for the task after going up against Julio Jones.
Special Teams: 49ers vs. Ravens
Advantage: Ravens- David Akers slide has continued as he could have cost the 49ers the game against the Falcons (missed 38 yard field goal that would have tied the game). Justin Tucker has been money, and is no Billy Cundiff.
Coaching: Jim vs. Jon Harbaugh
Advantage: Even- Both coaches deserve the same amount of respect and are masterminds of their respective teams in their similar personalities.
3 Key Matchups:
1. Vernon Davis vs. Ray Lewis- Now that Kaepernick has regained his trust in Davis and is his favorite target Ray Ray will have to play one of the best games of his career. Davis is one of the fastest tight ends so it will be a difficult task for Lewis to keep up with Vernon. I’m anticipating Lewis to watch a lot of film these next 2 weeks, we’ll see what happens. Once Davis gets going it just makes this 49ers offense that much tougher to stop.
2. Ray Rice vs. Patrick Willis- Will Jon Harbaugh and Jim Caldwell (new offensive coordinator) look to run the ball up the middle trusting Ray Rice can make the proper reads against the best linebacker in the game? Patrick Willis is the fastest linebacker in the game so it’ll be interesting to see who will win the footrace on the edges between Rice and Willis. Also, Willis better be ready for some screens that Baltimore likes to run with Ray Rice.
3. Aldon Smith vs. Ravens left side of Offensive Line- As mentioned before Aldon hasn’t recorded a sack in his past 4 games. He will be on a mission February 3, and will run with reckless abandon. The Ravens offensive line hasn’t gone up against anyone as quick and as strong as Aldon Smith all year. This matchup could decide the game as Joe Flacco will need time in the pocket to work his magic.
3 Ways 49ers will win game if:
1. Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense have no answer for Vernon Davis as he continuously gets first downs and big plays down the field. If Davis has similar numbers as he did against the Falcons, Baltimore will have its hands full in this one.
2. Read option continues to have success. Atlanta couldn’t figure out how to stop Frank Gore and LaMichael James in the option. As a defense you can’t totally commit to stopping one of these two backs as Kaepernick has shown his ability to run the ball out of the option for major yardage.
3. Carlos Rogers limits Anquan Boldin to 50 receiving yards. This will be one of the more physical matchups as Rogers has never been shy about making his presence felt in the secondary. Boldin is one of the most valuable Ravens, San Francisco will not win this game if he has the game he had against New England.
3 Ways Ravens will game if:
1. Ravens offensive line protects Joe Flacco. Flacco has proven that if his line holds up and gives him time in the pocket he has the ability to rip the defense apart. With the weapons he has the 49ers can IL afford to let him just sit in the pocket and get everyone involved.
2. Ravens defense limits Vernon Davis to 50 yards. Davis has become Kaepernick’s favorite target and looks for him a lot on third down conversions. After Davis the 49ers wide outs are not that special. Don’t forget the Ravens limited Tom Brady and his wide outs to 13 points, which is unheard of.
3. Ray Rice has 50+ receiving yards and at least 80 rushing yards. He is in essence the Ravens offense, the true motor that gets this Baltimore team going. If Ray Rice doesn’t show up in this game, the Ravens will not win the Super Bowl.
Prediction: 31- 24 (49ers)