Niners and Ravens clash in Super XLVII

by Dustin Dietz | Posted on Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Image: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Super Bowl XLVII

Baltimore Ravens (13-6) vs. San Francisco 49ers (13-4-1)

Mercedes-Benz Superdome

5:30 Sunday February 3, 2013

Line: San Francisco by 3.5

By: Dustin Dietz

Super Bowl XLVII will be the first Super Bowl held in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in August of 2005, and the first Super Bowl held in The Big Easy since February of 2002. The New England Patriots defeated the heavily favored St. Louis Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI thanks to a game winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri as time expired. Tom Brady was named Super Bowl MVP after engineering a masterful two minute drive to put New England into field goal range to give Vinatieri the opportunity to win the game.

Sunday will mark the tenth Super Bowl held in New Orleans, which ties the city of Miami for the most all time. The NFC has won five of the big games held in The Big Easy, while the AFC has won three. The Kansas City Chiefs vanquished the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in Super Bowl IV as a member of the old American Football League.

Quarterbacks have won five Super Bowl MVP’s held in New Orleans, while three defensive players and a kick returner have won the award as well. Many Cowboy fans remember Harvey Martin and Randy White being the only co-MVP’s in Super Bowl history, sharing the award in the first Super Bowl held in The Superdome, Super Bowl XII.

The Dallas Cowboys won the franchise’s first two championships in the city of New Orleans by winning Super Bowl VI handily over the Miami Dolphins 24-3 in Tulane Stadium, and the before mentioned Super Bowl XII 27-10 over the Denver Broncos.

In Super Bowl VI, Dallas legend Roger Staubach won Super Bowl MVP and hall of famer Mike Ditka caught a touchdown pass. The Doomsday Defense forced eight Denver turnovers in Super Bowl XII, and allowed the Broncos to catch only eight passes for 61 yards. The 2012 Dallas Cowboys forced 16 turnovers the entire season.

The San Francisco 49ers are making their sixth appearance in the big game, and have not lost a Super Bowl. 18 teams have made multiple appearances in the Super Bowl, and the Niners are the only franchise to have an unblemished record, 5-0. Football fans who have the propensity to gamble on which player will win the Super Bowl MVP award might like to know 49ers quarterbacks have thrown 17 touchdowns and no interceptions in their five previous title games.

The Niners went 4-0 against the AFC during the season with a combined score of 147-50. The New England Patriots scored 34 of those points, but San Francisco lead 31-3 at one point in Foxboro before a furious second half comeback by Tom Brady and the Pats fell just short.

San Francisco has a smothering, physical defense led by linebackers Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman which excels at stopping the run. The Niners run defense was ranked fourth in the NFL during the regular season, and has allowed only 92.5 yards rushing per game in the playoffs.

San Francisco’s defense features six Pro Bowlers, including linebacker Aldon Smith, who finished second in the NFL in sacks with 19.5. The Ravens offensive line has done a decent job of protecting quarterback Joe Flacco so far in the playoffs, but they have not gone up against a pass rush featuring a pair as formidable as the aforementioned Smith and defensive end Justin Smith.

The 49ers are led on offense by second year phenom quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick executes the read option to near perfection and has made the 49ers already potent running game even more dangerous. The former University of Nevada star rushed for a NFL quarterback record 181 yards in the divisional round against Green Bay, including scampering 56 yards to paydirt to give the Niners the lead for good in the third quarter. Kaepernick will become just the fourth quarterback to start a Super Bowl in his first season as a starter, joining Vince Ferragamo, Kurt Warner, and Tom Brady.

The read option has also bolstered the running game of Frank Gore as Gore has run for 209 yards and three touchdowns in two playoff games. If Gore is able to rush for over 75 yards, he would become the first 49er to do so in a Super Bowl.

The Niners ability to run the football will be crucial in the big game as Baltimore ranked 20th in the NFL stopping the run, and permitted the 23rd most rushing touchdowns in 2012. San Francisco ranked fourth in the league in rushing, and scored the fourth most touchdowns on the ground during the regular season. The Niners have rushed for an incredible 472 yards in two playoff games, and if they want to win the franchise’s sixth championship, running the football successfully will be pivotal because Baltimore has shut down three excellent quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady.

While Kaepernick has not been superb in the passing game, he has made the clutch throws when his team has needed him to. Colin posted a 98.3 quarterback rating during the regular season and has yielded a 105.9 QBR in the playoffs. Tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree’s numbers have improved exponentially since Kaepernick took over for former starter Alex Smith during the middle of the regular season. Baltimore will have to play close attention to both Davis and Crabtree as the pair has combined to score 17 touchdowns in the regular season and playoffs.

The Baltimore Ravens are making their second appearance in the Super Bowl since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1996. The Raven won their only previous trip to the big game 34-7 over the New York Giants in January of 2001. Ray Lewis was named MVP, but due to Lewis’ off the field controversy, Trent Dilfer was asked to say he was going to Disneyland once the game concluded.

Baltimore went 2-2 against the NFC during the regular season, but lost to Washington by three points in overtime in December, and was defeated by only one point in Week 2 to a Philadelphia team which would later crash and burn. The Ravens were fortunate to defeat the Cowboys 31-29 back in Week 6 after Dallas head coach Jason Garrett once again displayed poor clock management in the final minute of the game, settling for a long Dan Bailey field goal rather than risk moving the ball deeper in Baltimore territory. Bailey would miss the game winning 51 yard field goal in the final seconds.

Not many football pundits believed Baltimore had much of a chance heading into the postseason after the club lost four of their final five games, but after emotional leader Ray Lewis announced he was retiring after the Ravens season concluded, Baltimore has played inspired football and has proven the experts wrong. Lewis currently leads all players in playoff tackles, and the last time Lewis accomplished this feat, Baltimore won the championship.

Quarterback Joe Flacco has played at the level of an elite quarterback as he has thrown eight touchdown passes compared to no interceptions, and has generated a quarterback rating of 114.7, first among the quarterbacks in the playoffs. Flacco has been dismissed by experts and fans as a great quarterback, but his eight playoff wins since 2008, including six on the road, are quite impressive and suggest Flacco deserves to be mentioned among the game’s elite.

Flacco will need to play superb football and try to throw the deep ball to his vertical threat, wide receiver Torrey Smith. The Niners were shredded two weeks in the NFC Championship game by Julio Jones, who had 181 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Falcons wide receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez combined for 178 yards receiving against San Francisco, which means Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Dennis Pitta could play important roles Sunday.

As I have mentioned previously, the 49ers are adept at stopping the run. So, the Ravens might avoid the ground game and rely on the arm of Flacco. After head coach John Harbaugh made a bold move and fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron after a loss to Washington in December, the Ravens have depended more on the pass. Since Jim Caldwell took over the play calling duties, rookie running back Bernard Pierce has more yards rushing than superstar running back Ray Rice.

Like San Francisco, Baltimore was a +9 in forcing turnovers during the regular season. The Ravens were 12th in points allowed in ’12, but have only allowed 43 points on defense in three playoff games. Baltimore must limit the Niners vaunted running game if they are to have a chance Sunday.

There are so many interesting subplots in Super Bowl XLVII. The Harbaugh brothers, Ray Lewis’ final game, and the precarious future of 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss, who has not had 100 yards receiving in a playoff game in 12 years.

Ultimately, I feel as though the 49ers will win the Super Bowl based on the fact they possess a more potent rushing offense and a more suffocating rush defense. Similar to Atlanta two weeks ago, Baltimore will be unable to run the football when needed at the end of the game, which will give a huge advantage to the Niners offense in their ability to wear down the Baltimore defense. San Francisco will tie Pittsburgh for the most Super Bowl wins, and Colin Kaepernick will win MVP.

Prediction: San Francisco – 34 Baltimore – 27

 Follow Dustin Dietz on Twitter @DustinDietz18

 

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