The Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers are set to do battle Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII. Led by quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick, the Ravens and 49ers are making their first Super Bowl appearances in over a decade.
Flacco helped the Ravens lock up the AFC North title and the No. 4 seed in the AFC with a 10-6 record. Kaepernick took over for the injured Alex Smith midseason and kept the 49ers rolling all the way to an 11-4-1 record and the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
After losing four of their last five games in the regular season, the Ravens rolled by the Indianapolis Colts at home, snuck by the Denver Broncos in overtime and avenged last year’s loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
The play of both Flacco and Kaepernick has been nothing short of brilliant, although the two quarterbacks have had very different NFL experiences leading up to this point.
Joe Flacco was selected in the first round, 18th overall by the Ravens in the 2008 NFL draft. In his rookie season, Flacco started in all 16 games and led the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, Flacco became the first rookie quarterback to win two playoff games.
Flacco has not missed a game since he was drafted and is the only quarterback in NFL history with at least one playoff win in each of his first five seasons.
At 6'6", 245 pounds, Flacco has great size and strength, especially for a quarterback. Flacco is not easy to bring down given his size and solid footwork, which helps make up for his lack of scrambling ability.
Flacco’s ability to throw deep down field continues to be the most important aspect of his game. While he’s far from the most accurate passer, Flacco has good mechanics and a height advantage when scanning the field from the pocket.
Despite completing just 54.8 percent of his passes in the postseason, Flacco has a passer rating of 114.7. He has thrown for 853 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions.
Flacco will face his toughest test yet against a 49ers defense that finished second in points allowed and third in yards allowed this season.
The biggest obstacle for Flacco will be San Francisco’s pass rush, which is led by Aldon and Justin Smith. If they consistently apply pressure, Flacco will need to make snap decisions and have a quick release. If the deep pass isn't there, Flacco may look to dump the ball off to Ray Rice more often than he has of late.
Colin Kaepernick was the 49ers' second-round pick, 36th overall in the 2011 NFL draft. In his rookie season Kaepernick attempted just five passes, completing three of them for 35 yards. He also attempted two rushes which resulted in a loss of two yards.
In his second season out of Nevada, the 25-year-old has gone from backup to NFL star in just a few months. Until Alex Smith went down with a concussion, there was little being said about Kaepernick, who is now just days away from possibly being named Super Bowl MVP.
Although he’s started just nine games, Kaepernick has shown he can do it all. The 6'4", 230-pound quarterback has great arm strength and athletic ability. An accurate passer, despite having a strange throwing motion at times, Kaepernick completed 62.4 percent of his passes in the regular season. He has gained a lot of attention for his ability to scramble and move the chains with his legs, and yet he's proven to be much more than just a read-option quarterback.
In two playoff games Kaepernick has completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 496 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He’s also rushed 202 yards, two touchdowns and has a passer rating of 105.9.
Kaepernick will face a Baltimore defense which has stepped up in a big way in the playoffs. Led by an emotionally charged Ray Lewis, the Ravens’ front seven will look to limit Kaepernick’s ability to run for first downs.
He will need to take note of where Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger are on the field, but perhaps most importantly, Kaepernick needs to make smart decisions and not force anything. The Ravens may have given up over 600 passing yards to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but they also picked the pair off a total of four times.
Super Bowl XLVII will be an exciting game that isn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter. Flacco and Kaepernick will rise to the occasion and perform well under pressure. Both quarterbacks will come up with a few highlight-reel plays and neither will throw an interception. Kaepernick and the 49ers win a close one, with the difference maker being special teams.
49ers 27, Ravens 24