In an article I posted, on here, at the start of the NFL regular season (http://robmilne.blog.com/2012/09/07/super-bowl-predictions/). I predicted that the Ravens would win the AFC and the San Francisco 49ers were the dark horses to win the NFC. These predictions have turned out to be relatively close, with the Ravens fulfilling their role and the 49ers exceeding my expectations, they are now set to face off tonight at the Superdome, in the most watched annual sports event in the world, the Super Bowl. Even here in the United Kingdom the hype surrounding the game is monumental, albeit some people are more excited about Beyoncé’s half time performance. This game is a family occasion, with the Harbaughs coaching against each other, the first time ever those two brothers have faced off in a Super Bowl.
Although the ‘Harbowl’ is not the only interesting story in this game, the game will be Colin Kaepernick’s 10thstart as 49ers quarterback and a final farewell to Ray Lewis, a Baltimore Ravens legend and possibly the greatest player ever to grace the gridiron on the defensive side of the ball. I’ve written enough already about the prospect of Ray Lewis’s final moment in the league being on the presentation stage at the Super Bowl, you can’t begin to imagine his speech or the emotions he will show. Ray Lewis will motivate the Raven’s defence to get after Kaepernick, stop the 49ers running the option, make Kaepernick throw downfield and the Raven’s defence may gain the upper hand. Although
Kaepernick has proved he can throw off the back foot, throw on the run and find receivers deep downfield, keeping Michael Crabtree quiet is vital for the Ravens secondary tonight. I very much doubt that the 49ers offense will be kept completely quiet, but if any defence can do it, it’s the Ravens. They have been a defensive force for many seasons, the likes of Ray Lewis and Terrel Suggs have defined this franchise, no-one has been able silence Kaepernick in his 10 starts yet, maybe the Ravens unit can pull it off.
The Ravens go into the game as underdogs, but they have been written off all playoffs. They have gone into every game, especially against Peyton Manning and his Broncos, as the suspected ‘weaker’ force, but each game they have shown who they are and grabbed the win. Therefore you simply cannot write off the Ravens tonight, as with most teams, success lies in the quarterback, can Joe Flacco finally win a Super Bowl? Joe Flacco is the complete opposite of his opposite number Colin Kaepernick. Flacco simply does not run with the ball, never sets up in the option formation, the same cannot be said about Kaepernick. Whereas Kaepernick is a product of the new quarterback ‘hybrid’, Flacco is very much a classic, passing and offensive marshalling quarterback. For the past couple of season the blame for the failures of the Ravens franchise have been placed on Flacco’s shoulders, but he has silenced his critics in the play-offs so far. The likes of Anquan Boldin, who went to the Super Bowl with the Cardinals in 2008, and Torrey Smith, who has developed into a lethal deep threat are just a couple of the threats Flacco now has at his disposal.
The success of Flacco in the game will depend on whether the 49ers coveted pass rush show up to play, especially the combination of Justin and Aldon Smith. The 49ers pressure on the quarterback has suffered since the injury of Justin Smith late in the regular season, but the potential still lies to put Flacco on the turf. The 49ers cannot afford Flacco any time to make his reads and throw it down field to Boldin or Torrey Smith. If the game is still close in the 4th quarter the pass rush will be even more important, Flacco has now proved that he can perform in pressure situations, the 49ers defence will have to strip the Ravens quarterback of that confidence. If they can get Flacco to rush his throws, the receivers will not have time to get open and the turnover percentage should be high. Turnovers are always important in any game; especially the Super Bowl that extra possession can allow you to run down the clock, increase your advantage or give the team one last chance to drive down the field to win the game in dramatic fashion
The game will be tight; I can’t see either team running away with a big victory, both defences are too strong to let that happen. It will be one of the more interesting Super Bowls of recent times, with the Kaepernick, Ray Lewis and Harbaugh stories all circulating around it. That’s ignoring the usual atmosphere, exuberance and bright lights of your average American sporting event. They certainly know how to throw a party over there. I have a good feeling for the Ravens in this one though, winning the game 27-24, the kicker in Baltimore has looked confident in the play-offs, whereas David Akers has continued to struggle in San Francisco. Here’s to another great Super Bowl occasion, there will be twists and turns, but when the confetti falls, one city will erupt whilst the other will be silent. The Red and Gold will look to continue their 5 unbeaten Super Bowl run, whilst the Baltimore Ravens will be motivated by giving Ray Lewis ‘52’ the most incredible send off a NFL player has ever seen. Enjoy the game.