This Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens will meet in the 47th Super Bowl, this year to be contested in the Superdome of New Orleans, Louisiana. Here is a look at the two teams who will be contesting it, along with my prediction for who will win the Lombardi Trophy.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers were the first professional sports team to be based in San Francisco, with the franchise coming into existence in 1946, 11 years prior to baseball’s New York Giants moving to the West Coast. Their most successful era came in the 1980s, when they had legendary quarterback Joe Montana under center, as they won Super Bowls in 1981, 1984, 1988 and 1989. After Montana had been traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, his replacement, Steve Young, led the team to a 5th title in 1994 but since then, the franchise had not returned to the Super Bowl until this year. San Francisco’s nickname of the 49ers is a reference to the California Gold Rush of 1849, which helped the city grow both economically and in population.
Baltimore Ravens: The city of Baltimore lost their first NFL franchise in 1983, as the Colts moved to Indianapolis after 30 years in Maryland, during which time they achieved one Super Bowl victory – in 1970 – with a team that featured one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Johnny Unitas. Following the bolting of the Colts, the city went without football until 1996, when Art Modell moved his Cleveland Browns franchise there, though upon their creation, the Ravens – named for the famous poem by one-time resident of Baltimore, Edgar Allen Poe – were treated as an expansion team rather than a relocated one (and Cleveland got a new iteration of the Browns just three years later, so no fan base was left without a team). In 2000, the Ravens made their only Super Bowl appearance against the New York Giants, with linebacker Ray Lewis – who has been with Baltimore since 1996 and will play his final game before retirement this Sunday – with the Most Valuable Player award in a 34-7 win. Joe Flacco was drafted to be the new quarterback in 2008 and he was the first rookie to win a road playoff game and his total of six career victories in such contests is an NFL record.
Road to the Super Bowl
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers earned the NFC West title – and a first round bye in the playoffs – with an 11-4-1 record in the regular season, with the turning point of their year being the 24-24 tie against the St. Louis Rams in Week 10. During that contest, they lost first choice QB Alex Smith to a concussion and his replacement, Colin Kaepernick, has not relinquished the starting job since he took over against the Bears the following week, leading the 49ers to a 32-7 victory over Chicago and five wins in their final seven games. It was in their playoff matchup with the Packers that the value of Kaepernick over Smith became truly apparent, as he threw two touchdowns and ran for 181 yards and two scores – the best ever rushing performance by a quarterback in the postseason. Two weeks ago in Atlanta against the top seeded Falcons, Kaepernick led San Francisco back from a 17-0 deficit to claim a 28-24 victory and a trip to New Orleans, where the 49ers have the opportunity to tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for most ever Super Bowls, with what would be their sixth title.
Baltimore Ravens: Although several of their performances had not been impressive – notably the 9-6 and 16-13 victories over the Chiefs and Chargers respectively – Baltimore had a 9-2 record heading into Week 13 of the regular season and were in contention for a first round bye. However, defeats in four of their final five games saw them slip to the number 4 seed and that dismal run of form made it seem unlikely they would be serious contenders in January. Nevertheless, after a slow start against the Indianapolis Colts, the Ravens took care of business in that matchup and then beat the top two teams in the AFC on the road, winning in Denver and New England. The 28-13 defeat of the Patriots in the AFC Championship game was revenge for Baltimore, who had lost to the same opponents, at the same stage and in the same stadium last year. During the postseason, Flacco has thrown for 8 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, while he also racked up a road victory for the fifth consecutive season, at least one in each of the years he has played in the NFL.
The Head Coaches
I am somewhat surprised that none of the major sports networks or websites have picked up on this story, but the head coaches of the two teams who will meet in the Super Bowl are actually brothers. Unlike the Mannings, who timed their appearances in the NFL’s showpiece game for different years, the Harbaughs will now face off against each other for the first time since
their infamous 1975 Christmas Day ABC’s Monday Night Football board game marathon that ended in a 98-91 victory for younger brother Jim Thanksgiving 2011, when John’s Ravens defeated Jim’s 49ers, 16-6. Continue reading