It’s finally here. After all the days and hours and interviews and match-up talk, there will be a Super Bowl taking place on Sunday evening between the AFC Champion Baltimore Ravens and NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers. It’s cliché to say that this game will boil down to one key area, but let’s examine what may ultimately decide the winner of Super Bowl XLVII.
The easy answer here is to say the play of Colin Kaepernick who was a playoff virgin until just a few short weeks ago, but actually both quarterbacks will play a key role in this showdown. Joe Flacco has all of the playoff experience with a postseason victory in each of his first five years in the league, but none of that really matters when placed upon the biggest stage.
Where this game will hinge is in each respective squad’s secondary. Both sides have ball-hawking safeties with the veteran Ed Reed on one side and the hard-hitting combo of Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner on the other. The intimidation factor to make receivers think twice when it comes to going over the middle and making tough grabs is certainly valid in this one.
That quickly segues into the wide receiver position where the Ravens have one of the toughest to ever play in Anquan Boldin while the 49ers have an up and coming Michael Crabtree. There will be no fear factor for Boldin who has had his jaw wired up as a result of a hit once in his career. Crabtree doesn’t have those veteran calluses just yet and he may be the one giving the alligator arms in some tight windows over the middle of the field.
Some may point to the ground game being a bigger determining factor than anything, but it’s been quite some time since the rushing success of a team actually dictated the Super Bowl winner. Clubs have to run outdoors in the elements en route to the big game, but once playing for the largest prize, they are free to air it out early and often.
Both Frank Gore and Ray Rice are the upper crust of the NFL when it comes to running backs. Many think Gore will find alleys to run through on Sunday, but it would seem more likely that the Ravens will try everything they can to take away the run and force the game onto the arm of Kaepernick.
With Rice, the Niners had one of the league’s stingiest rushing defenses all season long and that is likely to continue in this contest. Rice’s touches have increased with new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell calling the plays, but after a handful of runs for very little yardage, look for Flacco to have to game on his arm as well.
This is one of the most unpredictable Super Bowl match-ups in recent memory. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see either side have a double-digit victory while it also wouldn’t be all that shocking if this one went down to the final whistle.
After all of that double-talk and hedging, give me the Ravens. There is just something about the lift that this team has experienced from their veteran leader Ray Lewis and his last run at the Lombardi that will propel them to victory.
Ravens 31 – 49ers 27
MVP: Joe Flacco