by Lawrence Vos
When the 2012 season began there certainly was no thought in my head that I would be witnessing the dawn of a new dynasty, from a team that I grew up idolising.
I predicted the Houston Texans to finally rise to the occasion and win a Vince Lombardi Trophy. I even went as far as to say they would beat the Detroit Lions in said game.
The Lions were their typical basement dwelling selves, and the Texans got knocked out in the final eight by a fading Patriots team.
When the Baltimore Ravens shutout the New England Patriots in the second half of the AFC Championship I was one of millions of neutrals to punch a proverbial fist in the air.
Not having to suffer another four hours of Tom Brady’s smug mug, and his puppet master the evil Emperor Belichick was one of the true delights of a truly remarkable NFL season.
Perhaps the most remarkable performance of the season was San Francisco 49ers second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick single-handed destruction of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional playoffs.
To then somehow defy ridiculous odds, a longer shot than a bullet fired from Mars, we have two brothers, both head coaches in the NFL, both facing each other in the Super Bowl.
So, to the game, which mercifully pits two teams in the big dance who have never faced each other at this stage, and who have both not reached the Super Bowl for over a decade.
Baltimore Ravens path to the Super Bowl
My feeling was that a year ago when former Buffalo Bills wide receiver Lee Evans dropped a Joe Flacco pass in the end-zone against the Patriots in the AFC Championship that the drop was the last chance for the current Baltimore Ravens team to reach their second Super Bowl for the next ten to fifteen years.
Their defensive captain Ray Lewis had already cemented his place in history and lifted a Super Bowl, so when he tore his triceps and was not projected to return until the playoffs I just thought the Ravens were going to personify their leader on the field and limp into the night like a wounded bird with a broken wing. Instead they have fought far harder than I or any non Ravens fan thought possible.
The whole ‘Wild Card entry reaches the Super Bowl’ is no longer such a rare occurence, The New York Giants did it only last season. The Ravens run actually bears a remarkable resemblance to the Giants in that they won a home Wild Card game and then they beat the number one and number two seed on the road.
This is not the same Ravens team that sent chills down the spine of the teams they played, as this season they allowed over 420 yards five times in the regular season and twice in the playoffs. They also leaked 150+ yard rushing yards in five games.
What mattered was their playoff performances where the rushing yards allowed has gone down during each playoff performance.
San Francisco 49ers path to the Super Bowl
The 49ers followed a similar playoff rout to the Ravens, having suffered a painful NFC Championship loss to the Giants a year ago.
When their coach decided that veteran quarterback Alex Smith was no longer good enough to remain the number one there were plenty of cynics, myself included. I believe in redemption and thought Smith, who was 6-2-1 when pulled, was enough of a game manager to get the Niners to the big dance. He remains the 49ers quarterback rating leader for 2012.
Coach Harbaugh’s call to install Colin Kaepernick as the signal caller was brave, and proved to be the edge that the 49ers needed for a deep playoff push.
What made the 49ers turn from a wannabee to a conference champion was not Kaepernick alone, it was a monster offensive line, a workhorse gritty Frank Gore at running back and a defense that man for man is superior to the Ravens defense.
Kapernick said of Gore just today: “He’s a great player. He’s a great leader. He’s a workhorse. He’s going to do whatever it takes to win and we need Frank Gore to be Frank. That will be good enough on Sunday. I think you can put Frank in any offense and he will be successful. He’s the type of running back that can adapt. He can do anything we need him to do. I think that’s why he has been doing so well.”
The 49ers defense had four first team All-Pro’s on defense (the REAL judge of excellence) linebackers Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman along with safety Dashon Goldson, compared to zero first team Ravens.
Part Two of my preview will look at breaking down some of the key match-ups.