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
After two straight blowouts the Seahawks host the formidable 49ers at the Clink in a game that figures to be as close as it is physical. Two of the league’s top defenses will do battle on Sunday and this game has the makings of an absolute nail biter. The 49ers are coming off a wild victory over the New England Patriots that was heartbreaking for Seahawks fans everywhere. As a result, this game is no longer really a battle for the division crown (unless the 49ers lose out, which would include losing to the woeful Cardinals at home). Instead this is more of a statement game/a game to keep Seattle in the #5 seed. The #5 seed is a nice place to be because the NFC only has 3 quality division leaders, the Packers, the Falcons and the 49ers, and as a result the team holding the 5th seed can avoid these dangerous teams and play the winner of the weak NFC East. That being said if the Hawks can beat the 49ers there really isn’t any team they need to be afraid of. Let’s take a lot of the big time matchups in this prime time game.
Matchup #1: Golden Tate vs. Tarell Brown
With Sidney Rice far from 100% Tate needs to step up in this game. At the beginning of the year I wrote that this was a make or break year for Golden Tate and the man has shown himself to be the playmaker we all knew he could be but weren’t sure he would become. With 7 touchdowns receiving and 1 passing Tate has impacted games all year long and needs to do it again on Sunday night if the Seahawks are going to succeed against the intimidating San Francisco defense. Rice (if he plays) is likely to be locking horns with Carlos Rogers so Tate’s opponent is Tarell Brown. Brown is a former 5th round pick who worked his way into the starting lineup of the 49ers last year and was very effective with 4 Int’s and 16 passes deflected. The 27 year old cover corner has similar size to Tate (5-11 190 to Tate’s 5’11 195) and speed (4.45 40 yard dash to Tate’s 4.42) but will need the help of the 49ers vaunted pass rush to account for Tate’s unique quickness and explosiveness. Look for Tate to be Wilson’s number one target on Sunday night.
Matchup #2: Paul McQuistan vs. Justin Smith
McQuistan is exactly the kind of offensive lineman most fans like. A quiet offensive lineman. Paul does not draw our attention with stupid penalties and is rarely has praise heaped on him by over-zealous commentators and as such we tend to forget him. On Sunday he draws a very important duty, the containing of Justin Smith. Smith is one of the keys to the 49er’s offense and opens up pass rushing opportunities for sack artist Aldon Smith by wreaking havoc in the interior of the offensive line. Not only does Smith absorb blocks for his dangerous teammate he also collects sacks himself. Smith has 32 sacks in his five years with the 49ers as a 3-4 end, which is an impressive total for that position. He is a tireless worker and a talented defender and if he can’t be held in check then Aldon Smith can run wild. If Okung is going to have any chance with the younger Smith then McQuistan will have to keep the older Smith quiet. We’ll have to see if the unheralded former 3rd round pick is up to the task.
Matchup #3: K.J Wright vs. Vernon Davis
I have made no secret of the fact that I’m a big fan of K.J Wright and what he does for Seattle’s defense. Today Wright draws a very interesting tight end in Vernon Davis. We all know the freakish athleticism and impressive skills that Davis possesses but this year he is not translating them into results. Davis is in for his worst year since 2008 and at 28 it would be hard to blame this on a physical decline, especially given how healthy he has been over his career. One thing that could account for Davis’s off-year is the emergence of Kaepernick at QB for the 49ers. Since the Kaepernick era began Vernon Davis has 10 catches for 112 yards and a single touchdown in 5 games. My first instinct is take comfort in this obvious lack of rapport but in reality Davis is so dangerous and so gifted that it just makes me nervous that the 49ers QB has an elite weapon he hasn’t even discovered yet. Davis is due for a breakout but the rangy Wright is a tough foe. I wouldn’t be surprised if Davis caught a few balls but I wouldn’t expect him to be the same player who has haunted the nightmares of Seattle fans for years.
There is no denying this is a big game but one can’t help but wonder what it would have been like as a division deciding game if the Patriots had won last week. Alas the Seahawks can only control what happens in the games they play and in this game a win keeps them firmly entrenched in the first wildcard. This is the part of the year where looking ahead is inevitable and it’s unreasonable to caution against it. We are all dreaming of playoffs but before we get there how about a marquee matchup that will be a treat not only for Seattle fans but for football fans nationwide.
This was a frustrating loss. Not because of a single huge mistake that cost them the victory, but because the game seemed to be there ready to be taken and the Seahawks couldn’t simply reach out and take it. Credit the 49ers, who made enough plays when it mattered, especially their punt return team.
This was one of those games where 1 play could have changed the outcome. The blown 3rd and goal play when the refs didn’t call the false start where Tarvaris Jackson get pushed out of bounds at the 1 comes to mind, as does the missed sack by Leroy Hill that set up a convertible 4th and 2 instead of 4th and 7 is another example. There’s also at least 5-6 horrible and obvious holding calls that were never called that should have help stall 49er drives. Any of those play could have changed this game, but the Seahawks just couldn’t get 1-2 of them to fall their way.
Sometimes football is like that. The 49ers won, but they are not clearly the better the team. These are 2 very even teams. Don’t let their records confuse you.
On to my game notes:
- The Seahawks loss officially eliminates them from the playoffs. It’s weird to think that there’s another game next week.
- Marshawn Lynch had another monster game, but most of it was in the first half. He finished with 21 carries for 107 yards and a TD. … [visit site to read more]
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
One tight end will be selected to represent the NFC West. Feel free to share your opinion, and don’t forget to vote!
Arizona Cardinals: Ben Patrick
A former seventh-round pick, Patrick has seemingly improved every season since he was drafted in 2007. Although he isn’t well known around the league, Patrick has a nice set of hands and is a more-than-capable blocker. He should be the starting tight end in Arizona and could become the Matt Leinart’s best friend not named Larry. Last season, Patrick had 12 receptions for 146 yards and a pair of scores.
San Francisco 49ers: Vernon Davis
Explosive athleticism and physical prowess best define Davis, who finally had a break-out season in the National Football League last year. Following a top-ten selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, Vernon Davis never lived up to the hype until San Francisco’s offense became more vertical and dynamic. In 2009, Davis caught 78 balls for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns. Prior to last season, Davis averaged 34 receptions, 377 yards, and 3 touchdowns per season.
Seattle Seahawks: John Carlson
Carlson has developed into a very good starting tight end for the Seattle Seahawks and remains one of the team’s best young prospects. Despite a selection in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Carlson surprised a lot of people, starting nine games and becoming one of Seattle’s few offensive threats. So far, in his short NFL career, Carlson has averaged 53 catches, 601 yards, and 6 touchdowns per season.
St. Louis Rams: Daniel Fells
Fells is the starting tight end in St. Louis, for now. As the franchise rebuilds, Fells will look to become one of Sam Bradford’s primary targets in 2010. Last season, Fells started 4 games and caught 21 passes for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns. If Fells isn’t the answer in St. Louis, sportscasters everywhere can rejoice: the St. Louis Rams drafted tight end Michael Hoomanawanui in the fifth round of this year’s draft.
Shaun Dolence’s take:
As a Seahawks fan, I really want to pick John Carlson here. In a lot of divisions, he would probably be the easy selection; in a few years, I’m optimistic he’ll develop into one of the league’s better pass-catching tight ends.
Despite my homer tendencies, however, I think my vote has to be for Vernon Davis. While it is possible last season was a fluke, Davis’ athleticism makes it more likely he has developed into an elite tight end. Davis possesses a rare blend of speed, strength, and pass-catching skills.
Daniel Fells and Ben Patrick may be productive components to their respective offenses, but they’re far from elite players in the National Football League. They might be good, but in my opinion, they are far behind Vernon Davis and John Carlson.
Andrew Auger’s Take:
Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Vernon Davis’ breakout season makes this a tough call for me.
Out of the gate, the second round pick John Carlson obliterates the former No. 6 overall pick in terms of production over the first two seasons.
77 C/774 Y/7 TD/13.3 YPC/39 FD for Davis vs. 106 C/1201 Y/12 TD/11.3 YPC/63 FD for Carlson.
Up until his breakout season, people were labeling Davis as the stereotypical “combine bust” with his rare tangibles and amazing athleticism skyrocketing him up draft boards.
I mean, his 2009 almost outproduced the other three seasons combined; he had 1,132 yards and nine TD’s the first three seasons and 965 yards and 13 TD’s last year. He was actually more proficient in 2009 then the other three years combined.
Against the grain, I have to go with Carlson here; Davis may be more talented, but he has proven to be inconsistent. Carlson has proven to be both talented and consistent.
It’s going to be interesting seeing who outproduces whom next season with Jeremy Bates likely running the most two tight end sets in the league and Davis being Alex Smiths favorite target in 2010.
As for the other two, I know who they are, but don’t know terribly much about them. Rookies love their big bodied tight ends, so I have to think this will benefit Daniel Fells and I wouldn’t be surprised if he receives either the most or second most targets in what is bound to be a conservative passing game.
Ben Patrick has gone from seventh rounder to starter, it’s a nice story, but defenders don’t care what round you were drafted in. In limited time he has notched 323 yards for four scores. He has 30-40 catch potential being one of the top four targets in a pass happy Cardinals offense.
I expect Davis to win this vote, but Carlson should give him a run for his money.
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Ben Patrick, Daniel Fells, football, John Carlson, National Football League, NFC West, nfl, Other, San Francisco 49ers, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tight End, Vernon Davis