49ers and Ravens Advance to Super Bowl XLVII
After a pair of thrilling conference championship games, the stage is set for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on Feb. 3.
Only two attendees remain at the Big Dance that is the NFL postseason, as the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 and the Baltimore Ravens pulled off their second consecutive road upset, knocking off the New England Patriots 28-13.
The weekend’s result sets up an all-Harbaugh Super Bowl, as Niners coach Jim Harbaugh and Ravens coach John Harbaugh will square off against one another for the first time in the playoffs. It’s also the first time that two brothers will be coaching against each other in the Super Bowl.
“I don’t know if we had a dream this big,” John Harbaugh said, according to ESPN.com. “We had a few dreams, we had a few fights, we had a few arguments — just like all brothers.”
The dream scenario for the Harbaugh brothers started to become a reality as the 49ers rallied from 17 points down to beat the Falcons at the Georgia Dome in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game. It was the second straight week the Falcons had blown a double digit lead and this time they were not able to overcome it.
The 49ers will aim for their sixth Super Bowl win and first since 1995 when Steve Young led the team to victory. This year, Colin Kaepernick will be under center, making just his 10th career NFL start. But with the way he’s played so far, no one is worried about his inexperience.
“He just competes like a maniac all the time,” said Jim Harbaugh. “It’s always the same when I’m looking in through the facemask.”
After setting an NFL playoff record for rushing yards for a quarterback a week ago, Kaepernick was limited by Atlanta in running the ball, but his decision to hand it off most times in the read-option helped the Niners secure the win, as Frank Gore and LaMichael James accounted for three of SF’s touchdowns.
“…I assumed Frank and LaMichael were going to have a big day,” Kaepernick said. “Frank ran hard today, and I can’t say enough about him.”
However, as always with San Francisco, its defense was just as responsible for the comeback, as it forced two crucial turnovers in the second half and stymied Atlanta on its final drive on fourth down.
A powerful defense was also on display in the AFC title game, as Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens held the NFL’s highest-scoring team–the New England Patriots–to just 13 points.
Lewis, who announced his retirement just before the wild card round of the playoffs, has returned to form since coming off a triceps injury this season, helping his team return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2000 when he earned his first ring.
The Ravens also looked good on the offensive side of the ball, as Joe Flacco outperformed Tom Brady, completing 21 of 36 throws for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Brady threw two interceptions on the game and Flacco threw none.
“We’ve always believed in Joe,” John Harbaugh said. “And for Joe to come out and to have this kind of a game and this kind of a stage three weeks in a row …”
Brady may have more postseason wins, but Flacco is developing a reputation as a true road warrior. Sunday’s victory makes six road wins for Flacco, a new NFL record.
“It was pretty awesome,” said Flacco, who has eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in the playoffs. “We were here last year and thought we had it, but came up a little short. Guys came out in the second half and made plays. … We put pressure on them like that, and it worked pretty well.”
Everything will be on the line in two weeks time when the 49ers and Ravens clash for the Super Bowl title. Be sure to tune in because you won’t want to miss this one.