The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl proving yet again that regular season records mean little in predicting the playoffs. By translating a 10-6 record in to a 4-0 playoff run, the Ravens have made history by becoming the first team in history to win a Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers.
When NFC West football coaches, players, and fans look back on this season, the biggest lesson might be, “Make sure to show up to play in the first half of playoff games.” While both the Seahawks and 49ers looked as talented as any team in football this year, their habit of digging themselves in to a hole and relying on perfect execution late in games backfired. Instead of the NFC West holding a Lombardi Trophy, the 49ers finish the season more closely resembling the team that couldn’t beat the Rams than the team that was predicted by many to win it all.
In my last article I predicted that the Ravens would pass to set up the run. As it would turn out, the Ravens rushing attack was never a factor at all. Luckily for them, they scored their three offensive touchdowns on pass plays. They ended the game with only 93 rushing yards, and averaged a measly 2.7 yards per carry. On a normal day, that would not be enough to move the chains.
However, especially for Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, this was not a normal day. His three first half touchdowns were enough to bury the 49ers in a deep hole. They were also enough to set a new NFL record with 11 touchdown passes in a single post season without an interception.
Flacco’s first pass was thrown to the middle of the end zone to Anquan Boldin who found a pocket between two defenders. The next touchdown was a 1-yard pass to Dennis Pitta who calmly spiked the ball. The body language of the Ravens squad exuded confidence. The third touchdown made people stop and look. It was a 56-yard completion to Jacoby Jones, who caught the ball in the air, fell down, and got up in time to elude San Francisco defenders on his way to the end zone.
With the possession of the ball to start the second half, the Ravens were in good position with a 21-6 lead at halftime. By the time Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown, things were looking great.
It looked like a good old fashioned Super Bowl blowout, until, of all things, the power went out in the Super Dome. While the power outage delayed the game for 34 minutes, it is impossible to judge what effect it had on the two teams. Some say that the 49ers benefited by being allowed to regroup and kill Baltimore’s momentum.
It could be just as easily presumed that Baltimore benefited from the blackout, by being allowed to regain some energy that allowed them to withstand the onslaught that was soon to come. In the end, the real beneficiary of the power out was probably the bar owners across the world who kept their patrons drinking for an extra half hour. At the end of the unexpected intermission, the game really started to get competitive, and turned in to what many called an instant classic.
Colin Kaepernick, who was flustered and ineffective early, suddenly was able to connect with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Both receivers topped one hundred yards, and Crabtree hauled in a touchdown. The other two 49er touchdowns were run in by Frank Gore who ran for a game best 110 yards, and Kaepernick who celebrated his touchdown run with a highly predictable kiss of his tattoo.
While the touchdown brought the 49ers to within a field goal of the Ravens, perhaps Kaepernick’s celebration was a bit premature if not entirely unnecessary. The Ravens would go on to build their lead to 5 on a Justin Tucker field goal giving the 49ers time to take the lead.
However, Baltimore’s defense held tight on a four-down goal line stand that included one controversial non-call in the end zone on a ball thrown to Michael Crabtree. While Jimmy Smith clearly had a handful of jersey, Crabtree was also engaged in contact. Being that it’s a Super Bowl, I’m a big believer in letting the players play, and saving the flags for obvious penalties, like the illegal formation that stalled a promising opening drive by San Francisco.
After turning the ball over on downs, San Francisco’s defense was able to hold the Ravens to a three and out. The Ravens, who had faked a field goal earlier in the game, pulled another unorthodox special teams move. With twelve seconds left, the punter, Sam Koch, scrambled around in the end zone for eight seconds before running out of bounds giving the 49ers a safety and two points.
The score tightened to 3 points, but with four seconds left on the clock, a field goal was not a possibility. Instead of punting from the end zone with 12 seconds left, the Ravens were able to kick off with four seconds left. There were no repeats of the music city miracle as Baltimore’s kickoff team found the ball quickly, and made the winning tackle as time expired.
It was a fitting end to an exciting season of NFL football. The Ravens have some questions surrounding an aging defense, and a free agent quarterback, but have been consistently competitive over the years. The 49ers also look like they’re built to compete for years to come.
The Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, and Denver Broncos all exited the playoffs with unfulfilled expectations. Expect them to be in the thick of the hunt next season. But, until then, The Baltimore Ravens deserve to hold their well-earned title of NFL Champions.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens, Colin Kaepernick, Dennis Pitta, Denver Broncos, featured, football, Frank Gore, Green Bay Packers, Jacoby Jones, Jimmy Smith, Joe Flacco, Justin Tucker, Michael Crabtree, NFC West, nfl, playoffs, Popular, power out, Sam Koch, San Francisco 49ers, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, St. Lois Rams, Super Bowl, super bowl mvp, Super Bowl XLVII, Super Dome, Vernon Davis
The match up for Super Bowl XLVII is incredibly difficult to call. Both teams have overcome adversity, and both teams have weaknesses. In fact, I don’t totally trust either quarterback, or defense. Baltimore shut out the New England Patriots in the second half of the AFC Championship game, but San Francisco runs a totally different offense. San Francisco plays physical, but their defense almost let the Atlanta Falcons run away with the game early on in the NFC Championship game.
As for the quarterbacks, Joe Flacco has won playoff games in each of his seasons in the league, but he has also lost playoff games in each of those seasons. Colin Kaepernick has great skills, but he was shut down by the Seattle Seahawks in a prime time match up earlier in the season.
Both teams also have questions on special teams. San Francisco’s place kicker, David Akers, has missed several field goal attempts. The Baltimore Ravens, on the other hand, have a better kicker in Justin Tucker, but have been known to blow coverages on kick offs and punts.
In the passing game, The Ravens have a slight edge with their deep threat of Flacco to Torrey Smith. Anquan Boldin, and Dennis Pitta are solid, but The 49ers have the better overall receiving corps with Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, and Vernon Davis.
Both teams are solid in the run game. Baltimore’s Ray Rice is the top rusher in the playoffs this season with 247 yards. However, Frank Gore is number three with 230 yards in one less game. Right behind him is San Francisco quarterback Colin Kapernick has put up a jaw-dropping 202 yards rushing in his first NFL postseason. 183 of those yards came in one game against the Green Bay Packers.
Historically, both teams boast impressive records. San Fransisco is undefeated in five trips to the Super Bowl, and Baltimore has won one Super Bowl, and holds the best post season record of any team in history at .650. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco also has the most wins away from home of any quarterback in history at six.
San Francisco’s last Super Bowl victory was in 1988. Baltimore’s was in 2000. Because the 49ers history is much older than the Ravens’, I don’t see that playing any part in predicting this game. While they still have the mystique of being the 49ers, they are only three years removed from being one of the most underachieving teams in football. At the same time, the Ravens have been in the thick of the hunt for the better part of the past fourteen seasons.
In the previous round, both teams beat pass-first teams to get to the game, so it’s hard to tell how either will react to each other’s run-first attacks. But, it might be fair to say that the game will go to which ever team manages to pull off the first big pass plays, and if it comes down to that, my money is on Joe Flacco.
Being that both teams dodged bullets to get to the super bowl. The Ravens had a miraculous comeback against the Broncos, and the 49ers mounted an impressive come back against the Falcons. That should indicate that this game will be competitive until the end, even if one team gets off to a quick start.
On the line, the edge should go to San Francisco’s defense vs. Baltimore’s offense. Running the ball will be a challenge. So, I expect Baltimore to pass early to set up the run. Don’t be surprised if they take a shot at the endzone on first or second down of their first drive if they are not trailing.
San Francisco, on the other hand, has to hope that their read option offense has enough spark to confuse a veteran Ravens defense led by Ray Lewis who may have lost a step in terms of speed, but still reads an offense as well as anybody in history. I expect the Ravens to minimize Kaepernick’s rushing attack forcing Frank Gore to provide the bulk of the ground yards. Meanwhile, Kaepernick will have to rely on his arm, the major factor that set him apart from his teammate Alex Smith. Expect Gore to have a big game, and expect Kaepernick to air it out.
In the end, I believe that the Ravens’ experience, will outmatch the youth of the 49ers. The Ravens have spent years deliberatley improving their offense. The plan was to balance out their great defense to have a shot to win a super bowl. Now that they have made it back to the dance, I expect them to show up with their laces tied tight, and ready to rumble.
Ravens: 24 49ers: 17
Tags: afc, Alex Smith, Anquan Boldin, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Colin Kaepernick, David Akers, Dennis Pitta, featured, football, Frank Gore, Joe Flacco, Justin Tucker, Michael Crabtree, NFC, nfl, Popular, Previews, Randy Moss, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, San Francisco 49ers, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XLVII, Torrey Smith, Vernon Davis
12. When you have Jesus (Charlie Whitehurst) on your side anything is possible. Those footprints you see in the turf beside Justin Forsett’s? Those are Charlie’s footprints. And when you only see one set, that’s because Charlie is carrying him. You didn’t think the Seahawks were paying him millions just to hold a clipboard, did you?
11. The 49ers are game planning for Troy Polumbus, not Tyler Polumbus.
10. You know Matt Hasselbeck always puts up big numbers when he benches himself on his fantasy football team.
9. Unlike 49ers fans, the 12th man won’t be distracted by an exceptional wine harvest in Napa Valley. While 49ers fans taste the latest chardonays, Seahawks fans will be making things miserable for San Francisco’s new offensive line. Rookie false starts make up for an unimposing defense.
8. Taylor Mays is going to be amped up to play against the college coach who didn’t draft him. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of being amped is explosive brain farts. He’s big, fast and strong, but they don’t make Beano for brain farts. The referees will have their flags poised and ready. He’s going to give up big plays, commit penalties, and leave the John Schneider looking pretty smart. This would make a great time for Golden Tate to step up.
7. Nobody in this league drops a pass with the frequency of Ted Ginn Jr. And nobody runs a bobbled pass back for a touchdown like Earl Thomas. That’s at least six points right there.
6. This year’s Sea Gals are looking very good and the 49ers are a team of wandering eyes. The Sea Gals have received special training from a sexy squad of CIA agents in the classefied art of disabling the male brain through the slightest of jiggling and high kicking.
5. Lofa Tatupu’s torn pectoral muscle is healed, and Vernon Davis’ incredible pectoral muscles are actually breast implants. Good luck getting off the line VD.
4. Brian Westbrook was a great player, but with all the head injuries he’s sustained, he may end up being the first player in a long time to run the wrong way and end up in the opponents endzone.
3. Vernon Davis has already gotten into it with Michael Crabtree for holding himself out of preseason games and being a diva. A few things go wrong in the first quarter (like the 12th man chanting DIVA everytime he gets thrown to) and don’t be surprised if Crabtree has a meltdown, and a huge slap fight breaks out.
2. People think this is the year Alex Smith puts it together. Not going to happen. When a team has already been given Joe Montana and Steve Young, it’s just not going happen a third time, no matter how early you’re drafted.
1. John Schneider still has a few roster moves to make before kickoff…
Tags: 12th Man, Alex Smith, Brian Westbrook, Charlie Whitehurst, football, Humor, John Schneider, Lofa Tatupu, Matt Hasselbeck, Michael Crabtree, nfl, Pete Carroll, Qwest field, San Francisco 49ers, Sea Gals, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, Taylor Mays, Ted Ginn Jr., Top 12, Tyler Polumbus, Vernon Davis
Three wide receivers will be selected to represent the NFC West. Feel free to share your opinion, and don’t forget to vote!
Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald could very well be the best wide receiver in the National Football League. His combination of size, speed, and ball skills compare with the best pass-catchers of all time. Since Fitzgerald was drafted third overall in 2004, he has averaged 87 catches, 1,178 yards, and 10 touchdowns per season (including his rather pedestrian rookie campaign).
Arizona Cardinals: Steve Breaston
Breaston has developed into a quality receiver at the professional level after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. With Anquan Boldin out of Arizona, he’ll finally have an opportunity to start full-time with the Cardinals. Though Breaston’s opportunities have been minimal, he has started 15 games in three seasons. In 2008, Breaston’s best season so far, he started nine games and caught 77 balls for 1,006 yards and 3 touchdowns.
San Francisco 49ers: Michael Crabtree
Crabtree is best known for a prima-donna attitude entering the 2009 NFL Draft and a lengthy hold out that cut his rookie season short. But in 11 games last year, Crabtree proved he is a talented prospect and can easily develop into one of the league’s better receivers. In an abbreviated rookie season, Crabtree caught 48 passes for 625 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Seattle Seahawks: T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Houshmandzadeh came to Seattle following an impressive eight-year run with the Cincinnati Bengals; although his statistics were respectable in his first year with the Seahawks, they could have been much better. With the Seahawks, Houshmandzadeh caught only 79 passes for 911 yards and 3 touchdowns. And at 32 years old, Houshmandzadeh would probably perform best in a limited role as the second or third option. Despite his imperfections, however, Housh still is an excellent possession receiver capable of running precise routes and producing with the best of them.
Seattle Seahawks: Deion Branch
Though he has disappointed in Seattle, Branch remains a candidate for this list because of his body of work. He may not be a Pro Bowl receiver, but he is very capable and can produce when healthy. Despite his potential, however, Branch has only played an entire sixteen-game schedule once, has never had a 1,000-yard season, or caught more than 100 passes. His average size – 5-foot-9, 192 pounds – doesn’t allow him to beat larger, more physical defensive backs or press coverage. At least his Pete Rozelle trophy keeps him warm at night.
St. Louis Rams: Donnie Avery
Avery was the first receiver taken in the 2008 NFL Draft and has developed into one of the only offensive threats on a poor St. Louis Rams roster. Despite inconsistent quarterback play and a lack of playmakers around him, Avery has proven his worth at the professional level. Around a more talented group, Avery would no doubt have better production and statistics to support his talent.
Shaun Dolence’s take:
Larry Fitzgerald is a no-brainer here. He is one of the best receivers in the NFL and belongs on any team of All-Star athletes.
Steve Breaston and Donnie Avery are intriguing options, but I’m not sure I’ve been impressed enough yet. Breaston is close, but he is still playing in the shadow of Fitzgerald in Arizona.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh may not be a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver anymore, but given the list of candidates, I think he deserves a spot on a three-deep roster of wide receivers. I’m usually biased towards Seahawks players, but I sure don’t think Deion Branch deserves a nod. Maybe Deon Butler will develop into an All-NFC West receiver in a year or two.
Michael Crabtree probably gets the last spot on my roster, only because he looked very good for a rookie receiver in a short season last year. His size and ball skills are impressive, and he looks like a star in the making. His resume isn’t bad, either – the guy can really produce when given the right opportunity.
Andrew Augers take:
Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Much like the blatant obviousness of the top two running backs in the NFC West, the top two wide receivers should be similarly easy to figure out.
Larry Fitzgerald not only is the clear cut No. 1 pass catcher in the West, but is in the elite stratosphere where Andre Johnson resides as arguably the top receiver in the game.
An average of 1,177 yard per season, 59 total touchdowns, four double digit touchdown seasons, three consecutive double digit touchdown seasons, and only four missed games in six seasons will do the trick.
Sitting behind Fitzgerald the second best receiver in the division has to go to TJ Houshmandzadeh based on his clear cut No. 1 status in the Seahawks offense and his recent production.
Over the past six seasons Houshmandzadeh has averaged 87 catches, and 996 yards per game to go along with 39 scores.
His “disappointing” inaugural season in Seattle resulted in a team high 79 grabs, and a team high 911 yards; his yardage totals and YPC average were both higher then they were in 2008.
Keep in mind last season could be considered disappointing for many Seahawks.
Michael Crabtree also gets the nod from me rounding out the top three based on his status as the No. 1 receiver in San Francisco as opposed to Steve Breaston being the No. 2 option in Arizona.
Despite playing in four less games, Crabtree was less than 100 yards away from eclipsing Steve Breastons receiving yardage from last season.
We can’t be entirely sure if Breaston was simply the product of outstanding quarterback play with Kurt Warner at the helm; Crabtree has proven he can produce with a mediocre guy at the helm.
Next up, tight ends!
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Deion Branch, Deon Butler, Donnie Avery, football, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Crabtree, National Football League, NFC West, nfl, Other, San Francisco 49ers, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Steve Breaston, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, wide receiver