49ers vs. Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII

The Super Bowl is the pinnacle of American sports. It’s the most-watched event on television, with nearly 177 million viewers tuning into last year’s big game for at least six minutes according to NBC. This year’s match-up between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers is one of the most interesting Super Bowls in recent history, both on and off the field.

The first thing anyone will mention about Super Bowl XLVII is the coaches. John Harbaugh, head coach of the Ravens, and Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the 49ers, are the first set of brothers to ever coach in the same Super Bowl. They are also the first set of brothers to come to a Super Bowl on different teams.

The “HarBowl” nearly came to fruition last year, but both teams lost in their respective conference championship games. The media have had a full year to work on every pun and nickname involving the Harbaughs and the Super Bowl and is now unleashing all of its pent-up efforts on the world.

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is the other source of headlines, as he told reporters in the last week of the season that this season would be his last.

Lewis has been a polarizing player in his career, mostly stemming from his alleged involvement in the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar during a fight that took place at a party celebrating the Ravens’ victory in Super Bowl XXXV (Lewis was named MVP of the game).

Lewis entered into a plea bargain, in which he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and had his murder charges dropped in exchange for testifying against his friends.
Lewis received one-year probation and a $250,000 fine from the NFL, and has been improving his image ever since.

While these stories may appeal more to the casual fan, for football fans, this Super Bowl’s real intrigue comes from the matchup of teams on the turf.

Both the 49ers and Ravens feature run-first offenses, as well as pounding defenses that force turnovers and smother the other team. Each team has had excellent performances from quarterbacks whose abilities were initially questioned coming into the season.

The 49ers’ hopes rest on the shoulders of inexperienced quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who replaced an injured Alex Smith in week 10. Kaepernick’s play convinced Jim Harbaugh to make an official starting quarterback change once Smith was cleared to play. At the time of Smith’s injury, Smith was named as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week, so Harbaugh’s decision to make Kaepernick the starting quarterback was highly criticized.

Harbaugh’s switch appears to have paid off. Kaepernick’s ability to throw as well as run was instrumental in the 49ers’ victory against the Green Bay Packers and forced the Atlanta Falcons to construct a game plan around Kaepernick. This opened up room for running back Frank Gore to smash through defensive lines and punch the 49ers a ticket to the Super Bowl.

Baltimore has had its own quarterbacking issues with fifth-year starter Joe Flacco taking constant abuse from Ravens fans. He has been criticized for his inconsistent play and seeming inability to win the big game. Flacco is the only quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons.
However, his propensity for untimely turnovers — and the perception that his success is owed to a strong running game and stellar defense — makes this a moot point in the eyes of the Ravens’ faithful.

The difference this year is that Flacco is performing well. Flacco has gone toe to toe with three of the best quarterbacks in the AFC: the Colts’ Andrew Luck, the Broncos’ Peyton Manning, and the Patriots’ Tom Brady. In each game, he came out on top — not just on the score board, but on the stats sheet as well.

The two Super-Bowl-destined teams are both at the top of their games, performing better than ever before.

Super Bowl XLVII provides chances for family bragging rights, for a player to end his Hall-of-Fame-worthy career on top, and for one of two quarterbacks to silence the critics once and for all. The drama of the bowl has taken on a personal side, fueling television’s most-watched event.

This, combined with a Beyoncé halftime show and entertaining commercials, will surely make this year’s Super Bowl the absolute must-see thing on television.