By Mac Moore
Originally I picked the Falcons and the Ravens for the Superbowl because I really like birds.
Aside from mascot-based gambling patterns, I also think Ray Lewis, the greatest linebacker of all time versus Tony Gonzalez, the greatest tight end of all time, both playing in what would be their final game, would be one of the best Super Bowl Week stories ever.
Instead we will have to settle for something equally enticing: the Harbaugh Super Baugh to decide the best team in pro footbaugh. The Harbaugh brothers have both been dominating coaches in their time in the NFL.
Jim has won 76 percent of his games in his first two seasons with the 49ers and made it to the NFC Championship games both seasons. In John’s five years with the Ravens, the team has won a league leading 61 games. John, too, lost in the conference championship game last season. Both teams lost in the closing seconds of the game. One year later, both teams went into the victory formation in the final seconds and let the clock burn off to seal their place in the Super Bowl. I can dig it.
I like Jim Harbaugh. He is fiery, he is passionate and he will show it on the field. After winning in the closing seconds against the Lions last year, a boisterous Jim ran across the field in celebration, initiated an overly-aggressive slap-esque handshake with Lions coach Jim Schwartz. This sent Schwartz into a rage. Jim Harbaugh didn’t back down, didn’t apologize and it was great. When asked if he would apologize his response was, “Apologies always seem to me like excuses.”
Fast forward to the NFC championship game this year when Falcons wide-receiver Harry Douglas gets a reception on a ball that seemingly hit the turf. Harbaugh challenges, the refs uphold the ruling and Harbaugh jumps in the air, slinging his headset, his clipboard and any other possession he is holding in multiple directions, all while screaming to high heaven. Win, lose or draw (they literally ended a game with a tie this season), Jim Harbaugh will entertain.
Ray Lewis will try to end his 17-year career by shutting down Jim Harbaugh’s squad. 17 years ago, Ray Lewis registered his first career sack against the Colts. Their quarterback? Jim Harbaugh. The first postseason win for the Ravens this year was against the Colts. Their quarterback? Rookie Andrew Luck. Luck’s college coach at Stanford? Jim Harbaugh. Crazy.
Joe Flacco has won eight postseason games. Colin Kaepernick has only played in nine games total to this point. Flacco throws cannons down the field hoping the coverage breaks down and the Ravens steal big yardage. Kaepernick is running a fairly exotic college offense at the pro level and is still underdeveloped at passing in the pocket. This hasn’t stopped him from gouging teams through the air and on the ground. Did I mention this kid is a freight train?
The Ravens’ defense is a veteran-laden squad that is playing second fiddle to the offense for the first time in a decade. Of course there is still some bite in this old dog. If you don’t believe it, ask Tom Brady. He may have caught rabies from that last game.
The 49ers’ defense is unforgiving. While they have been prone to allowing some big plays like the Falcons showed in the first half of the NFC title game, they also beat teams into submission. Don’t plan to run; defensive tackle Justin Smith will eat you. Don’t plan to catch the ball over the middle of the field; Patrick Willis will hit you in the mouth. Don’t plan to get away from them; they will find you.
The game will come down to two things. One, how long will the Ravens’ defense slow down Kaepernick? And two, how much advantage will the Ravens’ offensive take while this is happening?
The Falcons came out to a blazing 17-0 start against the Niners. Then they neither started running out the clock nor kept a foot on the gas. They just sort of got stagnate while Gore battered the defense and Kaepernick exposed the holes containing the read-option causes. If they can keep putting up points even while this read-option does its damage, then the Ravens win.
I just don’t think they can. The younger QB has won all but three Super Bowls in the last 13 seasons: Peyton Manning over Rex Grossman in 2007 and Kurt Warner over Steve McNair in 2000. Trent Dilfer is about seven months older than Kerry Collins; his Ravens beat the Giants in 2001. Kaepernick is 25. Joe Flacco is 28. I will gimmick gamble whenever I can, so I pick the 49ers to win their record-tying sixth Super Bowl. Niners 30, Ravens 23.
Contact Mac Moore, sports editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.