Superbowl Surprise!

Matthew Greenberg


– [post-date] –

Super Bowl logo
Super Bowl logo

The Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers clashed in the New Orleans Superdome, each team in hot pursuit of the Super Bowl XLVII Lombardi Trophy and a ring on their finger that would solidify their place in NFL history. This year, however, there was more at stake than winning the greatest championship in the world.

John and Jim Harbaugh, head coaches of the Ravens and 49ers respectively, are two of the most lauded head coaches in the league. Not only that, but they’re also brothers. This is the first time that two brothers have been the head coaches of opposing Super Bowl teams, and they both bring strong cases to the table as to which one had the edge in this game.

John Harbaugh has been the head coach of the Ravens for five years, during which time they have had multiple playoff appearances, including trips to the AFC Championship, but they have never made it to the Super Bowl. From a personnel perspective, some people would say John Harbaugh’s Ravens had the edge due to the team being made of veteran players. Interestingly enough, only one of those veterans, Ray Lewis, has won a Super Bowl before.

The Ravens have a high-powered offense led by quarterback Joe Flacco, who has arguably the strongest throwing arm in the NFL, as well as a very tough running game behind Ray Rice. The staple of the Ravens, however, is their daunting defense. Led by veteran linebacker Ray Lewis, as well as feared players the likes of Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed, and Haloti Ngata, the Ravens defense is the heart and soul of the team.

If the defense is the heart and soul, Ray Lewis is the pastor. His passion for the game is what de- fines his impact every time he steps onto the field. That and he leads the team with 44 tackles this postseason. When he went out earlier in the season with a tricep injury, no one was sure if he would be able to return at all. Lewis was having none of that, and promised that he would return before the season ended. He was right, and in what he has announced publicly to be his final sea- son in the NFL, the Ravens want to send Lewis off in style: with a shiny new Super Bowl ring.

Last year the 49ers made it to the NFC Championship, and this year they took another step forward by making it to the Super Bowl. Jim Harbaugh has been the head coach of the 49ers for just two years, but in that time it has become very apparent that he controls absolute reverence with regards to how he runs his team.

The biggest question concerning Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers has to do with his decision to bench starting quarterback Alex Smith, and replace him with rookie Colin Kaepernick. Why the switch? At the time of the decision, Smith had one of the best completion ratings in the league, and the team was winning. Kaepernick has been utilized in specialized situations for small portions of the season, particularly on hot-read option plays. The coach obviously saw something the rest of the world didn’t, because since Kaepernick was named the starting quarterback, the 49ers offense has gone from danger- ous to menacing. The kid can run, throw, throw while running, and he doesn’t make the types of silly mis- takes that are common from a rookie QB. No one on the team questioned Harbaugh’s decision when it was made, and no one in the league would dispute the results now.

Kaepernick’s success, in addition to the already powerful running of Frank Gore and threat of wideouts like Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss, would seemingly be enough to warrant a victory. But the 49ers team is solid through and through, and their defense is one of the most feared in the NFL. Aldon and Justin Smith (no relation) are sack factories, and Patrick Willis, former defensive rookie of the year and six-time all-pro, has been vaunted as the next Brian Urlacher.

Hey Coach, I’m going to the Super Bowl. What should I bring with me? Pack a run game. Pack a defense. The Ravens and the 49ers both have these aspects checked off of their packing lists. Besides that, it is interesting to note that neither of these teams has ever lost a Super Bowl. The Ravens are 1-0 (Super Bowl XXXV vs. the New York Giants) and the 49ers are 5-0 (Super Bowls XVI vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, XIX vs. the Miami Dolphins, XXIII vs. the Bengals, XXIV vs. the Denver Broncos, and XXIX vs. the San Diego Chargers). The Ravens, wearing visiting white jerseys with black bottoms, won the coin toss and elected to defer. The 49ers, wearing home red jerseys with gold bottoms, started slow with a 3-and-out. The Ravens offense surged behind Joe Flacco, who threw a touchdown to Anquan Boldin to put the Ravens up 7-0. The 49ers responded with a field goal on their next drive, making the score 7-3. Flacco and the Ravens weren’t going to ease off, and ended up adding two more touchdown passes, including a 56-

yard bomb to Jacoby Jones, who danced his way into the end zone. The keys to the first half were takeaways and Flacco’s performance. Flacco went 13-of-20 with 192 yards and 3 TDs. The Ravens were able to force a Mike James fumble, and intercepted a pass by Kaepernick, the first interception in a Super Bowl by the 49ers. With less than two minutes left in the half, the 49ers tried one more time to get the ball into the end zone, but were denied by a stout Ravens defense, and had to settle for a field goal, making the score at halftime 21-6. The Ravens received the kick- off after halftime, and Jacoby Jones returned the kick for a 108-yard, record-tying touchdown. It seemed as though the Ravens were set to steamroll the rest of this game as they took a 28-6 lead, but a darkness was about to creep over the team. Actually, it was half of the Su- perdome. Just into the second half, half of the power was lost in the stadium, causing a 35-minute delay. Officials stated that a power surge caused the outage, but no more information was provided.

The 49ers couldn’t have been given a greater gift. The delay took the wind right out of the Ravens sails, and breathed new life into Kaepernick and the 49ers. They re- bounded with a monster of a third quarter. Kaepernick passed to Michael Crabtree for a 31-yard score, Frank Gore rushed in for another, and a David Akers field goal brought the game within one score, at 28- 23 going into the fourth quarter.

The teams were determined to leave nothing on the field, but the Ravens were struggling and the 49ers were mounting a monumental comeback. The Ravens were able to stay ahead with a Justin Tucker field goal, making the score 31-23. But Kaepernick wasn’t finished. He led his team on a touchdown drive, topped off by his own 15-yard rush for the score. Now down by only two, the 49ers elected to go for the 2-point conversion. They failed.

The Ravens got the ball back, and although they still couldn’t muster much offense, they were able to come away with another field goal, making the score 34-29.

Kaepernick had approximately 4:30 left on the clock in order to bring his team back for the victory. The 49ers drove down to the red zone, and were forced into a fourth and goal situation. This was their last chance to score, but they were denied by a rallying Ravens defense.

The Ravens took back possession, ran the ball three times to wind the clock, and finally ran the clock down to four seconds before the punter stepped out the back of the end zone for a self-inflicted safety. The 49ers didn’t score on the ensuing punt, and the game ended with a final score of 34-31.

Joe Flacco was named the Su- per Bowl MVP, going 22-of-33 for 287 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. The Baltimore Ravens are the champions of Super Bowl XLVII, and they are most certainly going to Disney World