Super Bowl Preview: The HarBowl
Sunday's Super Bowl is the first time brothers will coach against each other in the big game. The Super Bowl has been referenced as the HarBowl, Bro Bowl, or even the Jimmy John's Bowl.
These story lines have dominated Super Bowl XLVII: Ray Lewis' last ride of his 17-year NFL career, and allegations using deer antler spray as a performance-enhancing drug. Is this Ed Reed's last game in a Baltimore Ravens uniform? Colin Kaepernick is making his Super Bowl debut in only his tenth NFL start. Is Joe Flacco finally a elite quarterback?
However, it all comes down to Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens square off after two weeks of preparation and speculation. Let's take a look at the game's biggest match-ups, and what to watch for on the NFL's biggest stage.
Jim Harbaugh vs. John Harbaugh
Which brother can outwit each other and motivate his team to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy? John Harbaugh is 54-26 and 8-4 in the postseason as Ravens coach. Jim Harbaugh is 24-7-1 and 3-1 in the postseason as 49ers coach.
Colin Kaepernick vs. Ravens Defense
The Ravens have to stop the 49ers' pistol read option to win the game's most coveted trophy. They faced Robert Griffin III earlier this year, and took Griffin out of the game with a knee injury, but still lost. Griffin had 242 passing yards and touchdown, and 34 rushing yards on seven carries against the Ravens.
The Ravens also allowed Alfred Morris to run against them (122 yards and a touchdown), which means that the Ravens can be run on, and Kaepernick isn't the only runner to game plan for. Frank Gore has rushed for 209 yards and three scores this postseason for the 49ers.
The Falcons limited Kaepernick to two carries on 21 yards, but made the second-year quarterback comfortable in the pocket. He passed for 233 yards and a score.
The Ravens must make the early adjustments and set the tone early to try to get Kaepernick and his offense uncomfortable.
Joe Flacco vs. 49ers Secondary
Joe Flacco has finally grown up and got past the New England Patriots two weeks ago to send the Ravens to the Super Bowl. The Falcons exploited the 49ers secondary for 396 touchdowns and three touchdowns, and was the reason the 49ers played from behind in the NFC championship game.
The Ravens have three deep threats, Torrey Smith (17.1 yards per catch on 99 career receptions), Anquan Boldin, and Jacoby Jones (burned Denver on a 70 yard score to send game to overtime).
Flacco, meanwhile, has thrown eight touchdowns, and no interceptions this postseason, and the 49ers live for turnovers. Perhaps none was bigger last week when Chris Culliver intercepted Matt Ryan in the second half two weeks ago and shift the momentum for the 49ers.
The craziest stat of all is Flacco has thrown the ball 101 times for 21 or more yards and hasn't been intercepted.
Offensive Lines vs. Defensive Lines
The biggest battle of the Super Bowl may be in the trenches. The 49ers Mike Iupati and Joe Staley will have their hands full against Haloti Ngata, who has the most tackles of all the Ravens defensive lineman. It will also be interesting to see how the 49ers cover the Ravens linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis (44 tackles in 3 postseason games).
The 49ers offensive line also must establish itself early in the game for the pistol read option and run game to work, or else the Ravens will figure them out.
On the flip side, the 49ers have two dominant pass rushers, and a dominant middle linebacker, as well. Aldon Smith and Justin Smith have combined for 22.5 sacks on the year, Aldon Smith has a 20 quarter sack drought, and Justin Smith is still trying to get over his torn triceps. The two Smiths' will be key to put pressure on Flacco to make mistakes and not hit his wide receivers deep for long plays.
The 49ers also have Ray Rice to worry about. Rice has ran for 247 yards and two scores in the postseason.
Super Bowl XLVII should be exciting and it appears balanced between the 49ers and Ravens which will provide for great entertainment. Neither the 49ers and Ravens have ever lost a Super Bowl and one will for the first time. It all comes down to Sunday for the Vince Lombardi trophy.