Written by Mike Ward, John Brittingham, and TJ Meredith. Media by Mike Ward and Jeff Schaeffer.
Mike: With a few days before the vaunted BaughBowl, BroBowl, SuperBaugh, etc., I think it is necessary to identify a few things that are bit peculiar. In the words of John T. Brittingham, “Everything about this Superbowl is interesting”. I have to agree. In fact, two weeks ago I stated that the only way I would sit down and watch this year’s championship game was if it was indeed the 49ers against the Ravens. More importantly because both Harbaugh brothers were coaching against one another. Now that this hope is a reality, it is time to extrapolate why exactly this game is so peculiar.
First and foremost, the fact that the Harbaugh brothers are the first biological ‘brothers’ (I don’t want to offend Dieon Sanders) to coach against one another in a Superbowl is incredible. I have been sending intercessory prayers to God since 2005 for the Manning brothers to play against one another in a Superbowl, but some pesky guy named Brady with a video camera always shattered my dreams. Needless to say, I am hoping for shots of the Harbaugh family Sunday night where John’s family is on one side, Jim’s on the other, and their parents in the middle with those FUBU-esk jerseys that are split down the middle, half raven Black and half 49er Red.
Speaking of what the Harbaugh family will be wearing, I find what the two brothers don each week to be very peculiar. Both wear plain black turtlenecks and black hats. The only mention of their team logo comes on the brim of the shirt and face of the hat. Now this may not seem overly peculiar for John whose team colors are black and purple. However, Jim’s attire has no semblance of red or gold–ever. Am I the only one who finds this strange? If I were to take a poll of the Head Coaches around the league the only person who would say ‘meh, that is not weird’ would be Bill Belichek while in the midst of cutting of the sleeves off next season’s chosen sweatshirt. Nevertheless, I just want an answer–it has been driving me nuts all season long. Which leads me to my next topic–Ray Anthony Lewis Jr.
Interesting fact: Ray Lewis’ first professional sack came October 16th, 1996 against the Indianapolis Colts and the 49ers coach, Jim Harbaugh at Quarterback. Now I was taught to never gamble, but I cannot resist with this storyline…If the Ravens win, will Lewis ascend into heaven amidst his midfield celebration or bookend his career by finding, sacking and yelling to Jim Harbaugh, ‘Thanks for playing your role in God’s will for me, Jimmy! No weapon against me shall prosper.’? If this transpires I’ll be simultaneously overjoyed and bummed. Overjoyed because of the severe unlikelihoods of either actually taking place and bummed because Lewis would no longer be considered to be a football analyst for next season. Can you imagine…he would become the more intimidating and religious Charles Barkley of the NFL. Which of course, leads me to Ray’s post-game sermons to Sal Paolantonio–whom is he preaching to? My thoughts are that he is preaching to his old-self and current teammates, but what do you think John and TJ?
John T. Brittingham:
Mike, what’s up with you stealing my best material? Ray Lewis as the NFL Charles Barkley…borderline plagiarism if you ask me. Anyway, while it is true that “Sting-Ray” Lewis (at least I’m trying to come up with my own material) is the focal point this week, I think the bigger story is Randy Moss. Think about it: he called himself the greatest receiver of all time and yet, if gambling were legal under the lifestyle statement, who puts money on Moss getting more than 10 yards receiving for the whole game? People with disposable income and little knowledge of football, that’s who. So basically, the only people who take that bet are Atlanta Falcons fans.
Moral of the story: Watch Moss carefully cause he’s only got one catch coming in the whole game.
Another thing to watch: Mrs. Jay-Z herself, a.k.a. the queen of presidential lip-sync-gate, Beyonce. Given how much media coverage was devoted to whether or not and to what extent she did or didn’t sing the national anthem at POTUS Inauguration 2: The Reckoning, how overboard do you think the halftime show goes to demonstrate that Blue Ivy’s mom can actually sing?
Also, in response to your question about who, in fact, Mr. “The StingRay” Lewis is preaching to, I have a hypothesis. Ray isn’t preaching to anyone; he thinks he’s being interviewed, but he’s really just on the set of an Old Spice commercial. Ray talks like that all the time, that’s why he’s the NFL Charles Barkley.
Mike: First of all John, I do not think we can say POTUS under the life style statement (that’s inappropriate). What is POTUS any way?…That’s rhetorical, but how many people just looked up what POTUS is? However, I hope that Beyonce bounces back, but if it follows the precedent of recent Bowl halftime shows, I call for a sequel to her performance at the “POTUS Inauguration 2: The Reckoning”. We ought to call it “The Reckoning of the Reckoning.” Secondly, since I used material that we synthesized in organic conversation, I refuse to accept your claims of plagiarism. However, your analysis of Ray Lewis is spot on. Lewis must have been hypnotized while filming commercials for Old Spice. If that is the case, then he is in fact playing against actual bears. This would explain why he is preaching and screaming at every camera. I would act similarly.
As for Moss, if I were a betting man, which I am not Norm, I would say that he is going to go over ten yards. In fact, I think he will use the last of his old-man strength to go over fifty yards and a possible touchdown. After which I want to see him reenact every touchdown celebration in his career. It could be thought of as a his finale and a second halftime show. Furthermore, I believe this will be Moss’ last game. Thus, which NFL ‘great’ will go out in grand fashion: Moss or Lewis? Could this be a bigger storyline than the Harbaugh brothers?
Another thing to watch is the front seven of each defense. These two front sevens are the best in the league. The 49ers are led by the Smith Brothers and a linebacker core in which Patrick Willis is second-best. The Ravens are led by Terrell Suggs (which is one of the best names in football), Haloti Ngata, and Lewis. I think the 49ers group is better overall, but it will be interesting to see how they play against the Ravens’ offense which has a tendency to rely on the run and screen plays to Ray Rice.
Speaking of offense, what are your guys’ thoughts on each offense? Should Joe Flacco be considered an elite quarterback if he leads the Ravens to victory? Can Kaepernick overcome pressure and lead the Niners to their first Superbowl victory since the very similar Steve Young led them to victory in 1995?
TJ: Okay enough of the shenanigans, let’s get to the important stuff. The position that will play the biggest role in the outcome this Sunday: quarterback. Colin Kaepernick will be starting his tenth game this season, and it will be a game that could change his perception as an NFL quarterback forever. Kaepernick brings the new era of the NFL quarterback to the table, and with a win Sunday it could become what most NFL quarterbacks will play like in ten years. He can outrun an entire defense (has done it multiple times this year) out of the read option, but he can also throw a Marino’esqe laser into one of his receivers’ hands. On the other sideline, you got your ordinary Joe Schmoe. Joe Flacco is the old school NFL quarterback; 6 feet 6 inches tall with a cannon for an arm. He is not very mobile at all, but if Flacco is given time he can make secondaries look rather sorry. The two quarterbacks could not be any less similar, but whoever wins the this big one this Sunday will be put in a whole new category.
Since 2004, the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks have been: Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. In that mix you could arguably find the top 5 quarterbacks of the last decade. Needless to say, it is quite an impressive list. The list is about to add either Joe Flacco’s name or Colin Kaepernick’s. Winning this game means that one of these two quarterbacks could easily be considered elite for years to come. Both quarterbacks have the tools to do it, and adding that Super Bowl champion next to their name is a quite the accomplishment.
Now onto your question Mr. Ward. The Ravens’ offense is surprisingly consistent. Flacco’s arm presents big play capabilities for Baltimore. Furthermore, if you watched the first half of the 49ers vs Falcons game you saw that San Francisco’s secondary is vulnerable. The Ravens do not have the receiving core that the Falcons have, but Boldin, Smith, Jones, and Pitta are definitely good enough to create havoc. The key to stopping the Ravens pass offense starts will be Justin and Aldon Smith. It could be a long day for Flacco if they can put pressure on a not so mobile Joe.
The 49ers’ offense, and in my opinion more explosive offense, is going to be quite the handful for the Ravens’ defense. Stopping the read option will put Ray Lewis and company to the ultimate test. Frank Gore, Lamichael James, and Kaepernick are a deadly with the spread offense behind the vaunted 49ers offensive line. This will be one of the biggest keys on Sunday–stopping the 49ers read option. Furthermore, Kaepernick has shown that the Ravens cannot sleep on his arm. He can hurt opposing secondaries just as much with his arm as his legs. This is what makes him so dangerous. Although we have two very stout defenses Sunday, this game has potential to be high scoring. With all the storylines involved, this Super Bowl might be the most anticipated we have had for several years.
John: Is Joe Flacco an elite QB? 15 years ago I think we wouldn’t even have this discussion. 15 years ago, Joe Flacco would easily have been considered an elite QB if only because he didn’t lose games for his team. The Ravens, on the whole, are a much more old school football club than the Niners and most other pass-happy teams. Flacco is a decent game manager with a long ball threat, but you’re right to point out his lack of mobility. He’s got a pretty decent 4.8 yards per play when under heavy pressure and an equally adequate 6.9 per play when lacking pressure. So its not exactly like he’s going to shred SF’s secondary, but I’m sure he’ll perform adequately.
The real story, at bottom, is Justin Smith’s injury. With him out, the vaunted 49ers defense was drastically worse (remember the second Seattle Game—AKA Russell Wilson’s Bar Mitzvah—he made the Niners look like a bunch of nerds). While the Niners, on paper, have a better front 4, better LBs, and a better (read: less-injured/old) secondary, they have also seen a sharp decline in their defensive performance over the course of the playoffs. It was actually their offense that won them their spot in the SuperBowl. So I think a high scoring affair is definitely a possibility. However, the last time these two teams faced each other, it was an unbelievably low scoring affair, as in, neither team scored more than 10 points. So we might see something like that.
Also, let’s talk about the fractured psyche of David Akers. Nobody likes kickers, because nobody trusts kickers. Even the patron saint of kickers, Adam Vinitieri, got the boot from New England. And, after that awful game against Atlanta, Akers had to endure talks of the Niners going out and picking up another kicker the week before the big game. How busted up would your psyche be if you were the kicker for a Superbowl bound team and said team was looking for some guy whose probably spent the season playing Halo 4 and picking the marshmallows out of Lucky Charms but happens to have a decent leg?
Did they realize their mistake re: Akers’ confidence and hire him a sports psychologist? I’ve met a sports psychologist (let me just say…they use the phrase “in it to win it” without the slightest shred of irony) and they are weird people. Did they hire Alex Smith to be his confidence coach? If the Niners lose because of a botched kick (or 7), I can see it coming to light that Alex Smith, full of bitterness and a lust for revenge, whispering in Akers’ ear Machiavellian secrets. “They don’t trust you David. They never have and they never will. I got injured and they got rid of me. Your a little late, hang it a little too much to the left, and they’ll come for you too David. Any you’re not young anymore. You’ve got kids to think about. You don’t have that Vernon Davis money, you’re a kicker, a blue-collar footballer. They’re gonna come for you David, you just wait.”
This is followed by a scene in which Alex Smith, having been traded to the Cardinals/Browns/Eagles/Jaguars walks into Jim Harbaugh’s office to say goodbye and Harbaugh turns and says: “I know it was you Alex. I know it was you. You broke my heart.” And then he has him shot in front of his family.
All I’m saying is that Akers is shaky and that’s never something you want from any of your players before the big game
Mike: What just happened? John, did you just make an Alex Smith/Godfather joke? Is that necessary? Nevertheless, as you can see there are several storylines that the average fan ought to look for. Rather than continuing this word vomit accented with pop culture jokes it is now time to as Tj would say, “stop the shenanigans” and get to the top ten list to watch:
01. The Harbaugh Brothers: Their family, their twin-like looks, and their similar void of fashion sense. It will be interesting to see whose bags under their eyes better matches the shade of their turtleneck.
02. Ray Lewis versus Randy Moss: Which old-man (a.k.a. late thirties) will triumph to win another championship? I am praying for miracles for both: ascension into heaven for Ray and a touchdown for Randy.
03. The Ravens and 49ers Front Seven: You could see this as a game of passing the torch from the most dominate defense of the previous decade to this decade’s most dominate defense. That being said, whoever’s front seven creates more havoc for the opposing offense will create an upper hand.
04. The Quarterbacks: The two QBs are representatives to two very different time periods and styles in the NFL. Kaepernick is representative of the new age of NFL, while Flacco is a semblance of what the QBs of decades past were expected to be: tall, strong-armed, and having a Phd. in Management. Whoever proves to be more influential may be indicative of who the NFL is becoming or remaining to be.
05. Spread Offense: Can it become a staple of the NFL? This game will give the nation an inclination of whether or not Chip Kelly will prove to be effective in Philadelphia.
06. The Halftime Show: Will people watch the halftime show, or will they use it like they have the last five years and go for another Pizza run? C’mon Beyonce, you can do this.
07. Mario Manningham: Manningham has the opportunity to win back-to-back Superbowls. Last year he sparked the Giants’ winning drive with an incredible catch over his shoulder while tight-ropping the sideline. However, he is out with a season ending injury. It will be intriguing to see how Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis pick up the slack for the speedy and clutch Manningham in the fourth quarter.
08. David Akers and Alex Smith: Throughout the playoffs Fox has shown the two down-on-their-luck players sitting next to one another with similar looks of despair. Smith will most likely be traded in the off-season and Akers replaced by some up-and-coming Kicker with some semblance of confidence. It will be interesting to see how both might celebrate a win with the knowledge that their careers as 49er is near the end.
09. Ray Lewis’ Facemask: This alone makes me shudder in fear. Lewis has been wearing this facemask since his return from a torn tricep and in addition to his arm brace, this facemask makes him look like a combination between RoboCop, a Terminator, and Shredder from the Ninja Turtles.
10. Frank Gore’s Socks: Gore was fined by the NFL for wearing his socks at ankle length in the game against Atlanta. If anyone has followed Gore throughout his career, he has had a tendency to wear his socks low–in his collegiate and professional career. That being said, it will be interesting to see what he will do on the biggest stage in American sports. Will he make a statement against Roger Goodell and the NFL’s habit of fining players for petty reasons or fall in the payline?
So there you have it, the Top Ten peculiarities to watch this Sunday. This game has numerous storylines that we ought to pay attention to. Beyond the down and distance, score, and commentary this game has the capability to become much more intriguing if one ponders one of many the ideas we have put forth. That being said, enjoy your Superbowl XLVII experience–John, TJ, and I sure will.