Super Bowl preview: 49ers V Ravens
Fri, 01 Feb 2013 11:16a.m.
The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens continued preparations and met with the media ahead of Super Bowl XLVII, where they will face each other on Sunday, 3rd February in New Orleans (USt).
With their Super Bowl match-up with the Baltimore Ravens getting closer, the San Francisco 49ers spent time indoors at the New Orleans Saints' practice facility.
Including the play-offs, the 49ers showcased a 13-4-1 record this season under the helm of head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh played quarterback for the Ravens in 1998.
49ers second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick makes his 10th career start. Since unseating Alex Smith as the starter, Kaepernick is 7-2 with a 101.2 passer rating, 13 touchdowns, four interceptions, and 440 yards rushing with four TDs.
Kaepernick has an arsenal of targets to throw to. Almost forgotten at times in offence, tight end Vernon Davis has emerged powerfully in the post-season. He is an excellent clutch player, is a force over the middle and down the sidelines and is among the best at his position going deep. He had 41 catches and five touchdowns in 2012 and has six receptions and a TD in two post-season games, averaging 25 yards a catch.
Michael Crabtree has matured this season and became a true number one receiver. He led the team with 85 catches, 1,105 yards and nine TDs. He is good after the catch, but needs to consider better ball security. He fumbled at the Atlanta one-yard line in the conference championship.
Although now a complementary wideout, receiver Randy Moss must be watched closely. He still has a burst to get deep and runs as smoothly as ever. Moss made only 28 catches during the season, but scored three times and averaged 15.5 a reception.
On the ground, the 49ers have a workhorse in Frank Gore. He is their career rushing leader and as dependable as they come. Gore is strong, can pound through the line, but also has quick feet to cut to open space. He rushed for 1,214 yards and eight TDs during the season and has three touchdowns in play-offs.
Fellow running back LaMichael James is a change of pace player who sat until Kendall Hunter wrecked his ankle in Week 12. His role has expanded of late and he is also a dangerous kick returner.
On defence, the 49ers rely heavily on linebacker Patrick Willis. An All-Pro tackling machine, he had 120 tackles, 88 solo this season. Willis has made All-Pro in five of his six seasons and took Defensive Rookie of Year honours in 2007.
On special teams, the 49ers will send out David Akers for their kicking duties. An All-Pro in 2011, Akers slumped in 2012. He missed the most field goals in the league (13), then failed on 38-yarder at Atlanta in the play-offs.
The 49ers are making their first Super Bowl appearance in 18 years. They have a perfect 5-0 in Super Bowl history.
The Ravens, meanwhile, practiced outdoors at nearby Tulane University on Wednesday.
Under the leadership of Jim Harbaugh's older brother, John Harbaugh, the Ravens posted a 13-6 mark this season, including the play-offs.
With a victory, John Harbaugh will pass Tom Flores (8) for most post-season wins by a head coach in his first five seasons.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco guides the team on offence. He holds the NFL record by leading his team to play-off wins in his first five professional seasons. Flacco has eight touchdowns and no interceptions in this post-season and is 8-4 in the play-offs for his career. He outplayed top draftee Andrew Luck, then Peyton Manning, then Tom Brady in leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl.
Running back Ray Rice has been the hub of the Ravens' offence throughout his career. Rice rushed for 1,143 yards and nine TDs and caught 61 passes for 478 yards this season. Rice is also a threat to break long gains on runs or screen passes.
Among Flacco's weapons on offence is receiver Torrey Smith. He is a dangerous deep threat with superior speed. Smith has run past every secondary the Ravens have faced in the play-offs, making nine catches for 22-yard average and two scores. He also scored eight times in the regular season.
On defence, linebacker Ray Lewis has been the emotional engine for Baltimore for his entire career. He missed 10 games with torn right triceps this season, but has been sensational in play-offs with 44 tackles. Lewis, who will retire after the game, was Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2001 Super Bowl, the Ravens' only championship. He was also Defensive Player of Year in 2000 and '03.
Like Lewis, safety Ed Reed will probably will wind up in the NFL Hall of Fame. Known for making big plays, Reed had four interceptions and was in on 58 tackles this season. While less demonstrative than Lewis, Reed is as much a leader to the Ravens on the field.
Baltimore will be playing in their second Super Bowl. They beat the New York Giants 34-7 in the 2001 title game.
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