I tried not to give in to the two-week-long hoopla surrounding the city of New Orleans, and watched a limited amount of coverage of the big game ever since the major networks such as ESPN and NFL Network arrived in New Orleans.
It's all hype. That's all it is.
I wanted to be able to quickly discuss some of the headlines without beating a dead horse for two weeks. So now that we're only a couple hours away, I thought it'd be a nice time to give my take on the headlines, and the match-up itself.
Super Bowl XLVII Headlines:
This is one of the multiple obvious headlines, so I'll make it quick. Yes, it's the first time that two brothers have ever faced off in the Super Bowl. And yes they have faced each other one time before as head coaches––last Thanksgiving. John got the best of his little brother Jim as the Ravens defeated the 49ers 16-6 at home.
Fans are deeming this one the "Harbowl" or the "Harbaugh Bowl." Call it whatever you want, but I think I'll just stick to calling it by it's actual name. The Super Bowl.
*Ray Lewis' last ride
Win or lose, 17-year veteran linebacker Ray Lewis is hanging up his cleats for a microphone following this evening's game. He won a Super Bowl MVP trophy early in his career, so who knows maybe he'll finish his career with one as well. One thing is for sure, Kaepernick better watch out for No. 52 tonight.
*Alex Smith is benched for Colin Kaepernick and the young 25-year old's 10th career start is a Super Bowl
Let's face it, Colin looks like a 14-year old kid out of uniform. But once he steps onto that field he puts fear in opposing defenses. Well not exactly the kind of fear that Lewis and SF linebacker Patrick Willis puts in opposing offenses. But it's still a form of fear. Kaepernick ran the pistol offense just as well as RGIII and Russell Wilson did this season, and his 105.9 QB rating in two postseason games shows he's just as effective through the air.
*Baltimore defense vs. San Francisco defense
Both of the defenses will be facing different challenges. San Francisco will need to put pressure on Joe Flacco and force mistakes (which they will then need to capitalize on), while Baltimore will be focused on keeping Kaepernick in the pocket. Unfortunately for both sides, doing so doesn't necessarily mean success.
Flacco has recently thrived under pressure over the last few games, while Kaepernick has proven effective through the air and completed nearly 80% of his pass attempts and ran the ball just two times in a victory over Atlanta. San Francisco's overall defense was ranked No. 2 during the regular season, Baltimore's No. 12, but today brings completely different challenges.
*Joe Flacco's brilliant postseason success
Baltimore's Flacco has garnered quite a few critics over the years, including myself. But in the midst of an expiring contract following this season, he's stepped his game up a few notches––especially in his three postseason games. Normally the success of this offense would be based on the amount of touches and the effectiveness of Ray Rice, but as of late he's been coming out of the backfield and catching passes more often than he's been running the ball.
This may also have to do with the success of backup running back Bernard Pierce. But either way, Flacco has played lights out with the ball in his hands. Ever since the firing of Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator, Flacco has been trusted with the offense. With 8 TDs and 0 interceptions in his three postseason games this season, Flacco is now just three touchdowns away from surpassing Joe Montana for most in a single postseason. Interesting.
Finally we've gotten to the actual game and the match-ups, and frankly this has to be the potential to be one of the best Super Bowls in years. And that's saying a lot considering the Super Bowls recently.
All eyes will undoubtedly be on Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick and Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis. With two game-changing running backs in the backfield––Ray Rice and Frank Gore––one would think that both offenses will come out and run early and often to establish a heavy-dose on the ground. I have a feeling that that wont be the case tonight, however. The game will come down to the signal callers, and whichever plays a mistake-free game will come out winners.
San Francisco has a top 3 run defense, so why wouldn't offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell want to come out of the tunnel and put the ball right in Flacco's hands from the start. He's proven over the last month that he's ready to handle the reins of the offense. Lining Torrey Smith out wide and letting him test out free saftey Dashon Goldson's range is what I would do early. Rice is great coming out of the backfield and catching passes, but I believe Pierce will end up being a more effective option at running back tonight as well.
As for San Francisco's offense, Kaepernick will need to keep the ball in his hands a little more often this time around. With 16 rushing attempts in a 45-31 Divisional round shellacking of the Packers, why wouldn't you let the young kid spread the field out and use his legs to tire out Baltimore's defense. At this point, I think that's the best option they have. Baltimore's defense shut down future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in two consecutive games, but they are both pocket passers.
Completely different ball game here.
Baltimore's defense has only faced one team that uses the pistol offense to its advantage this season, and that was in a 31-28 overtime loss to Washington. Allowing 268 passing yards and 179 rushing yards––423 total yards––Baltimore's defense clearly struggled, and they only forced one Washington turnover.
Bottom line: Both teams have great defenses, capable rushing offenses and great quarterbacks. But Flacco has been seemingly unstoppable and has limited all mistakes, which is something that used to haunt him. Baltimore has had an extra week to prepare for Kaepernick's style of play and have great game film from a December game in which Seattle exposed San Francisco's offense (won 42-13 two days before Christmas).
So here it goes, Baltimore pulls one out and wins its second Super Bowl in franchise history...12 years following its first one.
Final score: Baltimore 24, San Francisco 21
MVP: Joe Flacco (it feels weird saying that).
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