2013 Super Bowl: Full Preview
By Joey Levitt on February 03, 2013
Super Bowl XLVII
Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers
When: Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
TV: CBS Coverage Beginning at 11 a.m. ET
Radio: CBS, ESPN, FOX, NBC, Sirius Satellite, Yahoo! Sports Radio
Online: CBS Sports Live Stream
Super Bowl Halftime Show: Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child
Odds: San Francisco (-4.0), 47.5 O/U (h/t ATS411.com via ESPN.com)
What happens when two brothers serve as the respective head coaches in the Super Bowl?
Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, and a first in NFL history.
John Harbaugh’s Ravens made it to Super Sunday following an unexpected playoff run as considerable underdogs. Nobody had them advancing past the No. 1 seed Denver Broncos or Super Bowl favorite New England Patriots.
Yet, they did anyway. Credit the inspiration provided by team-leader Ray Lewis in his final NFL campaign and the near flawless play by quarterback Joe Flacco.
The 49ers, for their part, entered the season as the chalk of the NFC. Most expected them to make it to New Orleans with Jim Harbaugh back at the helm for a second straight year.
And that they did—riding on the back of unprecedented first-year starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick and a defense that shut out the Atlanta Falcons’ prolific offense in the second half of the NFC Championship Game.
Now, two hard-nosed defenses coupled with big-play offenses and powerful rushing attacks hit the gridiron in pro football’s ultimate stage.
Rushing Offense versus Rushing Defense
Led by Ray Rice and impressive rookie Bernard Pierce, the Ravens are averaging 148.7 yards per contest in three playoff games. That’s good for fifth-highest in the postseason.
Rice has 247 yards and two TDs, with Pierce supplying an additional 169 on the ground.
Baltimore’s No. 1 back amassed 131 and a score against Denver. His first-year backup led the way against the Colts with 103 yards on a huge average of 7.9 per rush.
With Rice’s low-to-the-ground power and speed, and Pierce’s yards-after-the-catch production, they certainly provide a formidable one-two punch at running back.
San Francisco, though, boasts the best ground game with 472 yards through two January contests.
Frank Gore has accumulated 209 yards and three touchdowns on an average of over 4.7 per carry. LaMichael James brings a speed dynamic and added a critical touchdown against the Falcons as well.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, has been completely out of his mind. He’s racked up 202 yards, two scores and a captivating average of nearly 11 yards per rush.
His exceptional capabilities out of the read option produced an all-time NFL record 181 yards rushing by a quarterback against the Green Bay Packers.
Defensively speaking, the Ravens have been stout by holding opposing rushers completely out of the end zone and to an average of 3.9 yards per carry.
Ray Lewis and Bernard Pollard have wrought havoc with 59 combined tackles, one forced fumble and numerous soul-crushing hits.
The 49ers surrendered a rushing touchdown to Green Bay’s DuJuan Harris, but have stonewalled the opponent’s ground game overall in the playoffs. They have given up just 92.5 yards per game.
Despite a partially torn triceps, defensive tackle Justin Smith has controlled the line of scrimmage, freeing up linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman to wrap up ball-carriers.
The Ravens have an intelligent, disciplined unit. However, they also have deficiencies in the second level and lack speed on the outside, highlighted by inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and outside backer Paul Kruger.
Baltimore is solid, but San Francisco is younger, multidimensional, more athletic and simply better on both offense and defense. It features the league’s unrivaled run-blocking offensive line and run-stopping defensive front seven.
The trio of Kaepernick, Gore and James, whether in the read-option, pulling schemes or traditional power formations, outrank the duo of Rice and Pierce.
Passing Offense versus Passing Defense
With Flacco under center, Baltimore graded out in the middle of the pack with 233.7 yards passing per game and 22 total touchdowns. Yet, it was their big-play ability that made this area of the offense so potent.
The Ravens totaled the fifth-most plays of 20-plus yards (62) and fourth-most of 40-plus yards (12).
Flacco and his corps of wide receivers have raised their performance level to an even higher echelon during the playoffs. Flacco hasn’t thrown an interception and together, they have combined for eight TDs and 20 total completions of 20- and 40-plus yards.
Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones offer elements of strength, speed, sure-handedness and downfield prowess. Tight end Dennis Pitta and his two TDs represent another dynamic aspect in the Ravens’ passing game.
Boldin’s 29-yard average in the Wild Card round and Jones’ game-tying 70-yard TD against the Broncos in the fourth quarter epitomizes this dangerous aerial assault.
Kaepernick, despite the hype surrounding his achievements as a runner, is a composed, accurate passer.
After throwing a pick-six on the opening drive against the Packers, Kaepernick rallied for two touchdowns, numerous big plays and a highly efficient overall performance. He connected with his favorite target Michael Crabtree for 119 yards and two scores.
The Falcons geared up against the run out of the read option one week later. Kaepernick responded by picking them apart with a 76.2 completion percentage. He and tight end Vernon Davis found their groove to the tune of 106 yards, a 21.2 average and one touchdown.
The 49ers dual-threat field general leads playoff quarterbacks with a 94.1 QBR.
Think Baltimore Ravens’ pass defense, and Cary Williams and Ed Reed should generally come to mind.
Each defensive back has produced 16-plus pass breakups, four interceptions and one defensive touchdown. Throw in three fumble recoveries for Mr. Reed, and you have one fine cornerback-safety tandem.
Only two touchdowns allowed to tight ends all year boosts the Ravens’ overall stock as well.
Yet, with ball-hawking success comes high reward, and equally high risk.
Quarterbacks are completing 65.7 percent of their passes and operating at a 98.4 efficiency rate when throwing into Williams’ coverage area. And Reed, despite his impressive 59.4 completion rate allowed, has given up three touchdowns.
Inside linebacker Ellerbe, for his part, has surrendered a 71.7 completion percentage and 97.1 efficiency rating.
San Francisco would be well served exploiting these tendencies.
Speaking of, the 49ers’ success in this area of the field begins with their linebacker corps.
Willis and Bowman are the premier coverage backers in the NFL. They take your tight ends, running backs and, in the case of NFC Championship Games, wide receivers completely out of the equation.
They cover sideline-to-sideline and utilize non-penalty-inducing form while doing so.
On the back end, Tarell Brown offers end-zone protection, Chris Culliver brings safety-like physicality and, well, safety Dashon Goldson is one of the fiercest hitters around.
Concerning weaknesses, the Ravens will find their opportunities in targeting Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones over top if Rice gets going underneath in both the run and passing game.
At the end of the day, the 49ers’ pass-rush is just a little more effective from both sides of field with Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. That said, the Ravens passing offense is just a little more effective as well.
Tie goes to the runner.
John Harbaugh has extensive experience coaching special teams. Kicker Justin Tucker and returner Jacoby Jones are proof positive.
Tucker earned the No. 3 ranking among kickers who played all 16 games with a 93.3 percent success rate. He missed just two kicks out of a total of 30.
Jones served as the league’s most dangerous return-man with a 30.7 average on kickoffs and three touchdowns off kick and punt returns.
The 49ers can’t quite speak to the same success.
Aside from featuring one of the best punters in Andy Lee, Brad Seely’s special teams unit is not quite up to par with the Ravens’ contingent.
David Akers has missed a league-high 13 field goals, including six between 40-49 yards. LaMichael James provides an underappreciated game-breaking dynamic on kickoffs, but Ted Ginn Jr. is nowhere near his former league-best self on punt returns.
On paper and in production, Baltimore wins this battle.
One can say that the Ravens possess the subjective advantage in having more heart.
But the 49ers are simply the better team across the board.
This game will appeal to both the old- and new-school fandom with smash-mouth, blue-collar football, and big-play ability by each quarterback alongside it.
Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers have the edge, but this Super Bowl will go down as one of the all-time bests in league history.
49ers 28, Ravens 24
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