Colin Kaepernick is in his first Super Bowl. Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com/Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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There is no shortage of story lines leading in to Super Bowl XLVII; Baltimore’s leader Ray Lewis gearing up for his last game; Jim and John Harbaugh coaching against each other in the Har-Bowl; and the 49ers going in to the biggest game of the year on the back of some stellar performances by a second-year quarterback who was back-up for the first nine games of the year and has only thrown five passes in his rookie season.
The real story, though, is that Baltimore has made the biggest game on the planet in the first place against San Francisco . They have been heavy underdogs the past two weeks but scraped past Denver in double overtime 38-35 and then held Tom Brady and the Patriots high-powered offence to just one touchdown in a 28-13 AFC Conference Championship win.
Lewis and his defence have done the job so far in three postseason match-ups, but they are yet to face a multi-faceted quarterback like Colin Kaepernick . Twice this year the Ravens have faced a mobile quarterback, and lost on both occasions; a 24-23 defeat to Michael Vick and the Eagles in Week 2 and an overtime loss to RGIII and Washington in Week 14. Kaepernick only rushed twice against the Falcons as the Niners played catch-up, but the week before against Green Bay he terrorised the Packers with 181 rushing yards and two touchdown runs.
San Fran also showed how potent its backfield stars are when it gets in to the red zone. Against Atlanta Frank Gore ran for two TDs and LaMichael James one. The Ravens ranked just 20th in the NFL in defending the run, so they’ll need to step up against a Niners team with multiple weapons.
Baltimore’s ground game, led by Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce , has been solid throughout the playoffs. Rice crossed for TDs against both Denver and New England, but against the Pats he managed just 48 yards on 19 runs. The 49ers held Atlanta to just 81 yards in the NFL Conference Championship game, so the Ravens may well let QB Joe Flacco loose. The fifth-year starter has been nothing of outstanding throughout the postseason with eight touchdown throws and no interceptions. If he can stretch the defence like Matt Ryan did in the first half last week, then Baltimore will be in with a big show.
Both teams have injury concerns; Lewis has been playing with a torn tricep muscle, as has San Fran’s Justin Smith. Not even a run-in with a Mack truck could stop Lewis from running out in his final game, and the fortnight break should be enough time to recuperate.
These teams met in a Thanksgiving game in 2011, with the Ravens prevailing 16-6 . The Niners haven’t lost in a Super Bowl in five appearances, while Baltimore won in its only trip to the big dance in 2000.
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