Graphic by Alex Zuckerman
Let me begin by saying that I hate Ray Lewis and I would like nothing more than for his career to end with a Super Bowl loss. In fact I would be ecstatic if, between now and Sunday he was suspended since according to Sports Illustrated Lewis used a banned substance to repair his torn triceps.
Despite all the attention Lewis is receiving, the game depends on the two quarterbacks. After setting a postseason record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a playoff game with 181 against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick had just two rushes for 21 yards against the Falcons in the NFC championship.
More of the same will come Sunday. If one actually expects Kaepernick to be successful running the ball against Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and Lewis, you’re either crazy or an extremely devoted 49ers fan.
As for Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco, this will be his best chance to silence his critics. Flacco got the rematch with New England in the AFC championship that he wanted and he didn’t waste that opportunity, winning in Foxboro. He won’t waste this one either.
It is going to be a low scoring game; that’s a fact. Yes, statistically the Ravens had the 13th worst passing defense and the 10th worst rushing defense in the regular season, but they are finally healthy.
With that said though, the 49ers’ defense still has the edge. San Francisco had six defensive players named to the Pro Bowl, including three of their four starting linebackers (the lone exception being Ahmad Brooks).
San Francisco has more talent on their roster. They have a better quarterback, better wide receivers, a better tight end, and a better defense. But Denver and New England also had more talent than the Ravens and Baltimore won.
But football isn’t played on paper. The Ravens are on a mission to have Lewis go out on top. If they can beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, they can beat Kaepernick.
The x-factor will be 49ers kicker, David Akers. Akers was superb in the 2011-12 season making 84.6 percent of his kicks. This year though, Akers made just 69 percent.
In a low scoring game, field goals will make the difference. San Francisco has zero confidence in Akers and will have to be aggressive on third downs unless they wamt Akers to trout out onto the field and miss.
The aggressiveness on third down by the 49ers will play right into Baltimore’s hands. Kaepernick will choke leaving football fans to wonder if Tony Romo is actually out there.
Kaepernick will have plenty of more chances, but it is the Ravens time. Kaepernick will turn the ball over late in the game and the Ravens will drive down the field, and Anquan Boldin will pull a Santonio Holmes by catching the game-winning touchdown in the final minutes.
And when the two teams leave New Orleans, Ravens head coach John Harbuagh will have ultimate bragging rights over brother, Jim, head coach of the 49ers.
As much as I would like Ray Lewis to not win another ring, he’ll get one as the Ravens will win 20-14 with Boldin as Super Bowl MVP.