It all comes down to this.
On Sunday, February 3, the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers will meet in Super Bowl XLVII (5:00 p.m., CBS) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
The game will mark the first time in any of the four major professional sports (NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL) that brothers — Baltimore’s John and San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh — will match up against one another as head coaches in a postseason game.
“I guess it’s pretty neat,” says John Harbaugh, who has eight postseason wins in his first five seasons, tied with Tom Flores for the most since the 1970 merger. “It’s pretty cool. But it’s really about the team. It’s about the players. That’s what it’s about. It’s about those guys. The more we focus on those guys, the better it is for everybody.”
The 49ers (5-0) and Ravens (1-0) are a combined 6-0 in the Super Bowl. San Francisco won Super Bowls XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV and XXIX. Baltimore won Super Bowl XXXV. This is the 49ers’ first Super Bowl appearance since the 1994 season. The Ravens’ lone Super Bowl appearance came during the 2000 season.
Super Bowl XLVII will be the second Super Bowl (Super Bowl XXX between Dallas and Pittsburgh) in which each team lost its Conference Championship Game the previous year. In 2011, the 49ers lost to the New York Giants in the NFC title game and the Ravens were defeated by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to be in the Super Bowl,” says 49ers Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis, who leads the team with 19 tackles in the postseason. “I’m really grateful for this.”
During Championship Game weekend, the Ravens and 49ers became the first set of road teams to win the Conference Championships since 1997 (Denver and Green Bay). In the second halves of their games, the Ravens (21-0) and 49ers (14-0) outscored their opponents 35-0. The AFC (47.7 million viewers) and NFC (42.0 million viewers) Championship Games ranked as TV’s most-watched programs since Super Bowl XLVI.
“This is a great moment for our team, for the city of San Francisco and the whole Bay Area,” says 49ers Pro Bowl safety Donte Whitner. “Now for the big one in New Orleans. We’re going to be ready.”
The Ravens defeated New England 28-13 at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game. It marked the first time that the Patriots lost a home game in which Tom Brady started and New England led at halftime; the Patriots had been 67-0 (including postseason). In the victory, quarterback Joe Flacco threw three touchdown passes, including two to wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
“Joe Flacco has been great at playoff time,” says NFL Network analyst and former quarterback KURT WARNER. “That’s when he plays his best football.”
With the Ravens playing in the Super Bowl, this is the seventh time in the past eight seasons in which a team that played in the Wild Card round has advanced to the Super Bowl.
The win at New England marked the sixth road playoff victory for Flacco, the most in NFL history. His eight postseason wins are tied with Ben Roethlisberger for the second-most in a quarterback’s first five NFL seasons, trailing only Brady (nine).
“This is just one of those things you dream of when you are a little kid,” says Flacco about advancing to the Super Bowl. “You watch Joe Montana and those guys in the Super Bowl. So to be here at this point is pretty special.”
Flacco leads the NFL in the playoffs with a 114.7 passer rating, which includes eight touchdowns and no interceptions. In NFL postseason history, the only quarterbacks to finish a postseason with at least nine touchdowns and no interceptions are former 49ers quarterbacks and Pro Football Hall of Famers Steve Young (nine touchdowns; 1994) and Montana (11 touchdowns; 1989).
Veteran linebacker Ray Lewis — who was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV — has led the Baltimore defense. The Ravens joined the 2010 New York Jets as the only teams to defeat both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the same postseason. Lewis, who will retire after the season, leads the NFL with 44 tackles in the playoffs.
“Ray Lewis is a guy who has been here since the beginning of this franchise,” says Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard. “He’s a guy who is ‘The Raven.’ We all respect him. When he speaks, everybody stops, everybody hears him. He’s kept the team together. He’s kept this organization together in so many ways. We’re all in this together. We want to go win this thing.”
The 49ers erased a 17-0 deficit in the NFC Championship Game to defeat Atlanta 28-24. San Francisco is one of only three teams to win a postseason game on the road after trailing by as many as 17 points.
“We fought hard,” says 49ers running back Frank Gore, who rushed for two touchdowns in the win over Atlanta. “We fought and we deserved it.”
San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, who took over as the team’s starting quarterback in Week 11, has guided the team to a 7-2 record (.778) in his starts, including a pair of postseason victories. In those nine starts, he has a 101.2 passer rating (13 touchdowns, four interceptions) and has rushed for 440 yards with four TDs.
In the NFC Championship Game, he completed 16 of 21 passes (76.2 percent) for 233 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and a 127.7 passer rating. His 11.1 yards per pass mark was the highest in 49ers postseason history, besting the previous club record of 10.7 held by Joe Montana.
“He’s made great plays for us and stepped up big for us all season,” says 49ers Pro Bowl tackle Joe Staley about his quarterback. “I’m excited to go into this next game with him.”
Kaepernick will be the fourth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to start the Super Bowl in the same season as his first career NFL start, joining Tom Brady, Kurt Warner and Vince Ferragamo.
Kaepernick’s seven career regular-season starts are the third-fewest for a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl, trailing only Jeff Hostetler (four) and Ferragamo (five).
“If Colin Kaepernick plays well in the Super Bowl, he is going to change the face of the quarterback position,” says NFL Network analyst and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.
In the postseason, Kaepernick has a 105.9 passer rating and has rushed for 202 yards. No player has ever posted a 100+ passer rating and rushed for at least 200 yards in a single postseason.
“Winning the George Halas Trophy is a huge accomplishment,” says Jim Harbaugh. “It’s another flag. You want to get as many trophies and flags as you can. We said at the start of this there are three Super Bowls to win. We have won two so far and have one more coming up.”