Super Bowl 2013: Complete Preview for Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers
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The matchup for Super Bowl XLVII has been set after another wild Sunday of football on conference championship weekend.
Representing the NFC as the home team, the San Francisco 49ers will arrive in New Orleans' Superdome on February 3 to take on the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens.
Whether you call this unprecedented clash between sibling head coaches John and Jim Harbaugh the HarBowl, SuperBaugh or dub it by another moniker, this is a storyline that will leave a unique mark in NFL history.
As captivating as it will be to view the most widely watched sporting event in the world, there is even more reason to be excited for the battle for ultimate pro football glory this time around.
With the introduction of CBS Sports Radio (h/t SportsVideo.org) and the modernization of other media outlets, New Orleans will harbor an unprecedented amount of coverage and exclusive access to the Super Bowl spectacle.
Here is a complete breakdown of where to catch all the action leading up to the big game, including game-day information and what to watch for in what promises to be a sensational finish to the NFL season.
When: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET
Radio and Live Stream: CBSSports.com
Media Day/Radio Row: FOX Sports Radio
Behind-the-Scenes: NFL Fan Pass
Tickets: Click here (courtesy of NFL.com)
Entertainment: Alicia Keys will perform the National Anthem; Beyonce and Destiny's Child will headline the halftime show.
Betting Line (courtesy of Bovada)
Opening Spread: San Francisco (-4)
The line for the Harbaugh Bowl currently favors the younger Jim's 49ers. Considering how well the Ravens' defense stood up to the likes of Tom Brady, though, this line could get a little narrower as game day approaches.
Tale of the Tape
Regular-Season Record: 10-6, AFC North champions; No. 4 seed
Offensive Categories (NFL rank)
Scoring: 24.9 points per game (10th)
Total Yards per Game: 352.5 (16th)
Pass Yards per Game: 233.7 (15th)
Rush Yards per Game: 118.8 (11th)
Defensive Categories (NFL rank)
Scoring: 21.5 points per game (12th)
Total Yards per Game: 350.9 (17th)
Pass Yards per Game: 228.1 (17th)
Rush Yards per Game: 122.8 (20th)
San Francisco 49ers
Regular-Season Record: 11-4-1, NFC West champions; No. 2 seed
Offensive Categories (NFL rank)
Scoring: 24.8 points per game (11th)
Total Yards per Game: 361.8 (11th)
Pass Yards per Game: 206.1 (23rd)
Rush Yards per Game: 155.6 (4th)
Defensive Categories (NFL rank)
Scoring: 17.2 points per game (9th)
Total Yards per Game: 294.4 (4th)
Pass Yards per Game: 200.2 (4th)
Rush Yards per Game: 94.2 (4th)
Top Performers to Watch
RB Ray Rice
The emergence of rookie Bernard Pierce has taken some of the workload off of Rice's capable shoulders, but he is what makes the Ravens offense work.
With exceptional ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and obvious ability to run the ball, Rice can score from anywhere on the field. He will be the primary focus of the 49ers defense in the Superdome, because if he is able to get going early on, Baltimore will have the inside track to winning the game.
Rice struggled to find his groove on the ground against New England, but did power into the end zone for a key two-yard TD to get the Ravens on the board.
SportsCenter's Twitter page provided humorous, rhyming commentary on the big moment:
Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice tried to go up the middle, but he bounces it outside for the go-ahead TD. 13-play, 90-yd drive for Ravens.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 21, 2013
With a week to rest, Rice should come back fresh and ready to have a great performance in the biggest game of his life.
WR Torrey Smith
A lot of favorable matchups have resulted for Anquan Boldin as a result of Smith's improvement.
Not to dismiss Boldin's two TD catches in the conference championship, but Smith has emerged as one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league. He is a great match for the huge arm of Ravens QB Joe Flacco.
Smith was relatively quiet on Sunday against New England in the first half, but came alive shortly thereafter. The big-play capability he possesses has forced safeties to lay back and shade coverage his way more frequently.
He caught two huge touchdown passes in the divisional round and has added polish to his game and improved his route running immensely in just his second season.
With all the success that Matt Ryan and the Falcons had throwing the ball down the field against the 49ers, it should be assumed that Smith will be a big part of the game plan in New Orleans.
LB Ray Lewis
This is indeed the legendary linebacker's self-described "last ride" as the heart of the Ravens franchise, and he is certainly making the most of it.
Once again, Baltimore's defense was able to confuse the Patriots enough to pull out a second consecutive road victory.
The Ravens' run is a fitting send-off for a player who has been at the epicenter of so many Super Bowl-caliber defenses, yet has had only one previous appearance on the big stage to show for it.
Extremely emotional prior to kickoff in Foxboro, Lewis broke into tears as the national anthem drew to a close. It translated to yet another outstanding game, in which New England couldn't get on the board in the second half.
He may not be quite as fast or agile as he used to be, but he will certainly make up for it with his outstanding football IQ and give the Niners offense all they can handle.
San Francisco 49ers
QB Colin Kaepernick
It was Kaepernick's incredible running ability that garnered all the attention leading up to this game. Yet in the Georgia Dome on Sunday, the second-year signal-caller beat the Falcons almost exclusively from the pocket.
Kaepernick was extremely efficient, going 16-of-21, 233 yards and a touchdown. Atlanta took away his ability to get to the edge all afternoon, and he continued to make wise decisions.
As a player making just his ninth career start, it can't be emphasized enough how composed Kaepernick has been. He has overcome major obstacles in his first two postseason games and hasn't pressed the issue no matter the score.
The lack of mistakes that Kaepernick makes at this early stage in his career bodes well for his future as the Niners' longtime quarterback—and for San Francisco's chances at winning the Super Bowl now.
RB Frank Gore
As he crossed the goal line for what proved to be the deciding touchdown in Atlanta, Gore did the coveted "Dirty Bird" routine. It was a bold move to do such a thing in the Georgia Dome, but it is precisely the type of confidence and swagger that defines this 49ers team.
Gore is the franchise's all-time leading rusher, and he enjoyed another productive 2012 campaign in running for over 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns.
He was unable to get going early against the Falcons, which is part of the reason San Francisco fell behind 17-0. Part of that can be attributed to the lack of option looks the 49ers ran, but regardless, the rushing attack must get off to a stronger start in New Orleans.
As the NFC Championship wore on, though, Gore continued to gash Atlanta. LaMichael James provides a nice change of pace to complement Gore, and it should continue to be a successful combination.
Baltimore will be a serious physical test despite the defense's statistics not being particularly impressive in 2012.
LB Patrick Willis
The perennial Pro Bowl linebacker is the longtime heart of this San Francisco defense, who has been loyal to the franchise even in the dark times that defined the Niners prior to this outstanding two-year run.
Willis led the way for the Niners again on Sunday against the Falcons, racking up a whopping 11 solo tackles and keying a strong effort that kept Atlanta's offense off the scoreboard after halftime.
For San Francisco to bring home the Lombardi Trophy, it will be essential for Willis to maintain his extremely high level of play. His ability to drop back in coverage is irreplaceable, as is his sure tackling in the open field to limit opponents' yards after contact.
Road to New Orleans
|Wild Card||Indianapolis Colts||W, 24-9|
|Divisional||Denver Broncos ||W, 38-35 (2OT)
|Conference||New England Patriots ||W, 28-13|
Having already beat the Pats 31-30 back in Week 3, there was still a big revenge factor in the conference championship game. The Ravens avenged last season's conference championship loss in Foxboro, coming from behind in the second half to emerge with a 28-13 victory.
Questions surrounded this team all year long, particularly after a three-game losing streak to kick off the month of December.
Injuries and age seemed to finally be catching up to the typically stout defense. Also, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired very late in the season, planting more seeds of doubt in the 2012 Ravens.
But as this core of players always seems to do, they responded—Flacco especially. The oft-criticized QB bounced back from a rough first half to explode for three touchdowns, showing doubters that he may actually warrant elite status.
With his contract situation up in the air, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora tossed out his prediction on Flacco's offseason fate during Sunday's clash:
Joe Flacco is going to get paid— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 21, 2013
As the CBS telecast indicated, the Pats were 67-0 at home under Brady's guidance when leading at halftime. Talk about shattering a trend in style.
Next up, though, is a Super Bowl encounter with the 49ers, where Flacco should be able to have success creating big plays again assuming he gets good pass protection.
San Francisco 49ers
|Divisional||Green Bay Packers ||W, 45-31
|Conference||Atlanta Falcons ||W, 28-24|
In both hurdles preceding the Super Bowl, the Niners had to overcome extreme adversity. First, it was Kaepernick's opening pick-six against Green Bay, which led to a resounding, record-setting response.
On Sunday, the deficit was far more difficult to overcome. After Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones hauled in his second TD grab, the Niners fell behind 17-0.
ESPN Stats & Info illustrated just how long the odds seemed to be of the biggest comeback in NFC Championship Game history:
Since 2001 (including playoffs) 49ers are 1-27 in games they trailed by at least 17 points in 1st half. Only win, 2011 at Eagles— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 20, 2013
But a strong running game led by Frank Gore's two touchdowns and explosive plays in the passing game from TE Vernon Davis drove the team to a stunning 28-24 victory.
San Francisco overcame a critical missed field goal by David Akers and goal-line fumble by WR Michael Crabtree in the second half, then did just enough to keep the Falcons out of the end zone in the final minutes.
The team's official Twitter page captured the excitement, evoking head coach Jim Harbaugh's locker room battle cry:
Who's got it better than us? The #49ers are headed to the Super Bowl with a 28-24 win vs. Atlanta!— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) January 20, 2013
Five straight road playoff losses for the Niners weren't enough to keep them down. There's no reason to count them out, no matter what the score becomes in New Orleans, either.
Biggest Matchup Implications and Storylines
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The obvious headline here is the two head coaches who happen to be brothers. John and Jim Harbaugh have squared off once before back in November of last season, where the Ravens coach got the best of his younger sibling.
In this matchup, the stakes couldn't be higher, and it will be extremely interesting to see what happens when two coaches who are so familiar with each other go head to head.
Both teams have fought through a ton of adversity throughout the season, which is a testament to the relentless coaching style of the Brothers Harbaugh.
Each offense relies on the running game as the foundation and have two of the most dangerous play-action passing games in the NFL. A wonderful concoction of deep passes, big plays, physicality and hard-hitting defense should be expected.
Taking all of those factors into account, this year's Super Bowl is bound to be an absolute thriller.
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