When San Francisco and Baltimore meet in Super Bowl XLVII this Sunday at the Superdome in New Orleans, it will mark the first time ever that brothers will face each other as head coaches in the NFL’s showcase game.
Older brother John Harbaugh is the Ravens mentor, while Jim will direct the 49ers, and both are chips off the old block because their father Jack coached for more than four decades including tours at Western Michigan and Western Kentucky, where he won an NCAA Division I-AA championship in 2002.
The way in which the rules are set up to favor the offense, points will be scored, but never overlook what the 49ers and Ravens have accomplished on defense.
San Francisco and Baltimore are very much defensive-minded. The 49ers allow 17.1 points per game and are second in the league, while the Ravens give up 21.5 points and are 12th.
Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis announced before the playoffs this would be his final season, and will be a key figure along with linebacker Terrell Suggs, free safety Ed Reed, and tackle Haloti Ngata. These guys are elite and really tough to contain.
In three playoff victories, Lewis, a sure Hall of Famer, leads the Ravens in tackles with 44, and is seeking his second title with Baltimore.
The Ravens came into the postseason having dropped four of five games, but have since knocked off the Indianapolis Colts, 24-9, edged the Denver Broncos, 38-35, in overtime, and drilled the New England Patriots, 28-13, in the AFC title game.
The 49ers have their own hit machine in linebacker Patrick Willis, who has 19 tackles in the playoffs, and scares quarterbacks and running backs alike.
Linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, along with tackle Justin Smith, free safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Carlos Rogers, will all be factors.
Going old school, San Francisco and Baltimore like to pound the ball on the ground. The 49ers are fourth in the NFL with 155.7 yards rushing, and the Ravens are 11th at 118.8 yards.
Both are capable of picking up yards through the air as the 49ers passing attack is led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick and rank 23th (206.1 yards), while strong-armed Joe Flacco does the same for the Ravens, who place 15th (233.7 yards).
In Kaepernick’s first start against the Chicago Bears, the 49ers were 32-7 winners, and have since claimed six of eight games including playoff victories over the Green Bay Packers, 45-31, and Atlanta Falcons in the NFC championship match, 28-24.
Kaepernick is equally adept at running and throwing the ball, which will cause Baltimore fits.
When Kaepernick isn’t running away from defenders, he’ll be looking out for Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and tight end Vernon Davis.
Flacco is the traditional drop-back passer and will be gunning for Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta.
San Francisco is hoping to capture its record-tying sixth Super Bowl title, and when it runs Frank Gore will have the football in his hands, as will LaMichael James. Baltimore’s primary ground-gainer is Ray Rice, but Bernard Pierce will also see action.
On paper the game looks even, but the oddsmakers favor the 49ers by five points. The call here: San Francisco 31, Baltimore 24.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.