Super Bowl 47: The three key points that will determine the match
We are just hours away from Super Bowl 47, which pits the Baltimore Ravens up against the San Francisco 49ers as the two battle it out with the winner claiming the Vince Lombardi trophy.
This game has a lot of stories which include Ray Lewis playing his last ever game in the NFL as one of the greatest linebackers to play the game calls time on his long career hoping to go out on the ultimate high. The Ravens are appearing in their second Super Bowl with the first coming back in 2001 when Baltimore blew out the Giants in a 34-7 win with Ray Lewis grabbing the Super Bowl MVP award on a memorable day for Baltimore. Also spare a thought for Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith who lost his brother early on in the season so he will be pumped up ahead of tonight’s game.
Now you may have heard that the Ravens and 49ers head coaches are brothers so tonight’s game is being dubbed as the Harbaugh Bowl as John and Jim go head to head in what will be a fascinating encounter as two of the league’s best and brightest head coaches battle it out on the biggest stage of them all.
The loser will never near the end of it from their fellow sibling despite whatever may be said after the game in terms of modesty from the winning and losing head coach but it is worth noting that the San Francisco 49ers have never lost a Super Bowl with the team winning all five of the Super Bowls that they have appeared in. Their last appearance in the big game though was 1994 so if has been a long wait for the franchise to reach the heights that used to come oh so naturally to them back in the days of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.
With any big game there are always going to be key points that can determine or change the outcome of the match. Let’s look at what I think are the key things to look out for tonight ranked in order of importance:
1. Defenses: Both of these teams have great defenses and as they say defense wins championships. The 49ers possess every sort of quality on this side of the ball. They have the ability to pass rush, great man coverage options and their secondary is second to none. From linebackers Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith to the super impressive Justin Smith to the likes of Carlos Rodgers and Dashon Goldson in the secondary all of these guys can make a game changing play and will feel like they deserve a Super Bowl ring. You bank on the 49ers forcing a turnover at some point tonight and the luxury of having a defense like this will take a lot of pressure off of the offense knowing that they can get it done on both sides of the ball.
As for the Ravens well they have been written off all year but a resurgent Ray Lewis has led Baltimore strongly as always and this time he has inspired as well as guided Baltimore back to the Super Bowl. The Ravens will do their utmost to try and make sure that Ray Lewis bows out of the sport in the greatest possible way. If they are to pull off yet another upset then this defense will need to keep the 49ers versatile offense in check so the likes of Ngata, Suggs and Lewis will have to muster up one more big performance to get the win. In the secondary they have the great Ed Reed and the hard hitting Bernard Pollard who can both change the game in the blink of an eye meaning that Baltimore’s defense does have the talent as well as the experience to rival the Niners incredibly talented defense.
The key factors on defense will be who can come up with the big third down stops, who can force turnovers, most likely the 49ers, and who can be the most efficient in the red zone; most likely the Ravens whose red zone defense has saved them points time and time again during the playoffs.
2. Quarterbacks: Now it sounds obvious considering that the quarterback position has become undoubtedly the most important position on a football team but with Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick both getting ready for their first appearance in a Super Bowl and knowing that they’ll have the chance to join the greats they will be nervous when stepping out on to the field in New Orleans. This may only be Kaepernick’s first season starting as the 49ers QB and he only came in half way through the year but he has torn up many different types of defenses this year so when he goes up against the old Baltimore defense will this young, talented quarterback who has all the intangibles to succeed tear up the Ravens.
I would say that is quite possible but Baltimore has been written off throughout the playoffs and so has quaterback Joe Flacco. He has the ability to keep the Ravens in this game no matter how hot the heat gets in Super Bowl 47; we’ve seen Flacco call himself elite and he is one win away from being just that. During a Ravens playoff run which has seen Flacco knock off a superhuman like rookie and two future hall of fame quarterbacks who were playing some of the best football of their careers Flacco himself has completed 54.8% of his passes for 853 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions, and compiled a 114.7 quarterback rating. Now that Flacco is putting up astronomical numbers especially when you consider the fact that he has thrown no interceptions despite going on the road to Denver and New England he is finally getting some of the recognition he deserves during this fine playoff run.
Now I think that Colin Kaepernick deserves a lot of respect too with him putting in some fine performances during his short time as San Francisco’s quarterback. He has taken this 49ers football team to the next level and while some people are criticising this young man’s ability to throw the football I’ve seen him make some great plays and veteran- like throws too since coming in at quarterback midway through the season. During a huge win over the Packers and a road game which saw them overcome a tough as well as underrated Atlanta Falcons team, Kaepernick has completed 63.5% of his passes for 496 yards, 3 touchdowns and one interception. He didn’t throw a pick on the road against Atlanta and helped his team rally back from 17-0 down to 17-14 only for them to go in behind at halftime 24-14. In that second quarter the Niners came up big all over the field and it was clear that Kaepernick was key in engineering the comeback which saw the Niners win the NFC Championship. Both these wins showed off all the qualities he has to offer as on the ground he is also great with this being proven when the young QB put up big numbers against Green Bay in the divisional round when he put up two scores for 181 yards whereas against the Falcons he had only two rushing attempts but in the air he completed 16/21 passing attempts for 233 yards and a score whilst using Frank Gore in the backfield to get it done and get the Niners in to tonight’s game.
3. Kickers: The position of kicker is often undervalued in the National Football League but in a game like the Super Bowl which has seen so many close encounters tonight’s game could come down to one last field goal attempt. Why this is so key is because both of these teams have had problems with kickers in recent memory. The Ravens had Billy Cundiff to blame for missing out on a shot at overtime and the Super Bowl last season but this year they have rookie Justin Tucker who has excelled in his debut season. The undrafted rookie from Texas kicked 30 of his 33 attempts successfully during the regular season and came up with the game-winning field-goal in overtime on the road at Denver against the Broncos.
The 49ers are having some problems with their kicker David Akers being off the boil this year as he only completed 29 out of his 42 kicking attempts in the regular season and missed his 14th field goal of the season against the Falcons in the NFC Championship game which almost proved costly. His dip in form was so alarming to head coach Jim Harbaugh that he added none other than Billy Cundiff to the roster ahead of that game before deciding to stick with Akers.
Now going in to the biggest game of the season the Niners will hope that if Akers is called upon he comes up big whereas the Ravens have full confidence in their young kicker to get the job done.
4. Running backs: Ray Rice and Frank Gore go head to head as both to open up the passing game for their respective quarterback’s or come up with the big play that would fulfil their dreams. Gore is a four- time pro bowler and the 29 year older is appearing in his first Super Bowl. He has racked up 209 yards in the Niners two playoff games with his two scores against the Falcons getting the Niners over the line and in to the Super Bowl. In his 8 years as the 49ers running back Gore is one of the guys on the roster who has helped transform the team and deserves to be representing them tonight and you can expect him to come up big tonight.
Ray Rice is in his fifth year as an NFL running back and over the years as established himself as one of the best. He leads all running backs in yardage with 247 to his name but has played a game more than his opposite number in Frank Gore. Despite coming under some criticism for the way he was carrying the ball against Denver Rice bounced back with an efficient performance in the AFC Championship win over the Patriots as he rushed for 48 yards from 19 carries and for a score. Rice is willing to do the dirty work for this football team but also possesses the ability to come up with a big play and tonight he will need to come up big for the Ravens to have a shot as his success on the ground will be key if Joe Flacco is to succeed himself when the time comes for him to throw the ball.
5. Receivers: By ranking receivers at fifth I am by no means saying they are not important as obviously they have to do their fair share of the work when it comes to making a big offensive play and it is very likely that one of these guys on either side will produce a Super Bowl picture perfect moment.
The Ravens and 49ers both have offensive weapons that can change the game for them but let us rank who is the most likely on either side to come up with the big play:
1. Vernon Davis – The big tight end is one of the best in the game and will be effective as always
2. Torrey Smith – Underrated but has come up big for Baltimore when needed. Expect more tonight.
3. Michael Crabtree – He has become a big time player since Kaepernick become the Niners QB.
4. Anquan Boldin – Caught two touchdowns in the Ravens AFC title win so could be the difference maker
5. Randy Moss – The self-proclaimed best wide receiver ever gets another shot at a ring tonight.
6. Dennis Pitta – Not the most dynamic tight end in the league but does his job well.
Prediction: This year’s Super Bowl could be one of the closest ever and is one of the hardest to predict in recent memory. The term elite is starting to be defined more by the money paid to a quarterback as opposed to Super Bowl wins so I stand by my claims that Joe Flacco is elite following two big wins over Peyton Manning and Tom Brady during this post-season. Flacco will get paid big in the off-season but he is no Eli Manning and as comparable as this playoff run has been for Flacco to Eli Manning’s run that saw him win his first Super Bowl I’m predicting that the Ravens fall short tonight.
I’m not saying that Flacco is going to be the one who costs them the game as if he can keep his team in the game then of course they have a chance but Baltimore is coming up against a 49ers team that is tough and physical so they won’t be able to bully teams like they did to the Colts, Broncos and Patriots throughout their playoff run. The NFC has many physical teams but the Niners are also heavily talented and although I wrote it off earlier in the season I am predicting Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick to pull off a feat similar to what Bill Belichick and Tom Brady achieved on February 3rd 2001 which yes is the exact same date as today 12 years later and remember it is also being played in the same place, Louisiana, New Orleans.
Skye’s predicted score: Baltimore Ravens 24-28 San Francisco 49ers
Bold prediction 49ers win: With the Niners down by 6, 27-21, Colin Kaepernick engineers a game winning drive deep in the fourth quarter finding Vernon Davis at the back of the end-zone which looks like a reenactment of Joe Montana’s pass to Dwight Clark in the NFC Championship game back in 1982 against the Cowboys.
Bold prediction Ravens win: The Ravens lead the Niners 24-21. Kaepernick goes down the field to set up a David Akers field goal which goes wide left to give the Ravens the win.