It’s been a bit of a surreal day. The end result of two conference championship games is that brothers Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh will be coaching against each other in football’s biggest game with the San Francisco 49ers (Jim) facing the Baltimore Ravens (John). A surprise to say the least with both road teams winning, and the fashion in which both of these teams punched their tickets to New Orleans.
The most glaring similarity in these two games was how the games were won. Both winners were successful today in a big way thanks to second half turnovers from Matt Ryan and then Tom Brady. The two quarterbacks were responsible for four of the combined five turnovers that the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots committed in the second half of their respective games.
With Ryan, it was an interception and then a fumble that ruined good drives for the Falcons. First, Ryan was intercepted by Chris Culliver when he tried to force a pass and Culliver got in front of it; the interception was made inside the 49ers’ 40-yard line. Then the Falcons were even closer to a touchdown when Ryan failed to grasp a snap while in shotgun, fumbled, and the 49ers recovered. And while neither turnover resulted in points for the 49ers, they resulted in missed opportunities for the Falcons to increase their shrinking lead. This led to their downfall when Frank Gore broke through for the 49ers with a touchdown run in the third quarter and a nine-yard touchdown run with around eight minutes to play that turned out to be the game-winner.
The 49ers missed opportunities were a 38-yard missed field-goal from David Akers that hit off the left upright and Michael Crabtree being stripped and turning the ball over at the goal-line in what could have been a 49ers touchdown.
Brady’s turnovers both occurred in the fourth quarter and both signaled doom for the Patriots. Danell Ellerbe intercepted a Brady pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. The ball went high into the air, decently far, and into Ellerbe’s hands. This came one play after a 36-yard catch from Wes Welker and came inside the Ravens’ 30. Brady’s second interception of the quarter came with less than two minutes to go and was the last pass of his season. Cary Williams made the interception on a pass intended for Aaron Hernandez in the end-zone. In both cases, drives that had some momentum to them were stopped dead in their tracks with these interceptions. Also, a turnover on downs from the Patriots came in between the interceptions from Brady.
The most devastating turnover, in terms of how the turnover was made, had to be Stevan Ridley‘s fumble early in the fourth quarter. On a first down run, Ridley was on his way to a good run when he leaned down and ran into Bernard Pollard of the Ravens, their helmets colliding. Ridley appeared to be knocked out cold, went to the ground awkwardly, and fumbled the ball away. The Ravens scored their final touchdown four plays later.
Obviously the big story heading into this game is going to be the fact that Jim and John will be on opposite sidelines, coaching against each other in the biggest game in all of football with the world and their parents watching. I know this. It is a relevant story because it’s a first in Super Bowl history and a first in sports history to my knowledge. However, I will always pride myself on being someone who is more interested in on-the-field stories because I still pride myself as someone who writes about the sport first and the off-the-field stuff second. Both areas of sport will provide me with endless material, but because sports are decided on the field, that stuff matters more to me. There are plenty of other writers out there (this is guaranteed) that will take care of the Harbuagh brothers story. And besides, when it comes to on-the-field stories in Super Bowl XLVII, none can be bigger than Ray Lewis‘ last ride ending in New Orleans.