On the Bench: Super Bowl 47

Brobowl, Harbowl, Superbaugh — whatever you want to call it, Super Bowl 47 will make history. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers will take on the Baltimore Ravens, coached by his big brother Head Coach John Harbaugh. It will be the first time in National Football League history that two brothers will coach against each other on the sport’s biggest stage.

Born just 15 months apart, Jim and John have been there for each other since they began their football careers. While they may have taken completely different paths in the sport, they have both led to New Orleans’ own Mercedes-Benz Superdome, in what should be a game for the ages. Even though the duo grew up together, they will barely even text each other in preparation for the Feb. 3, 6:30 p.m. kickoff.

While the story of the two brothers is intriguing, the teams who will be playing against each other should draw even more attention. The storied franchise of the 49ers will try to win their sixth Super Bowl ring, after an 18-year absence from the big game. Meanwhile, the heavily inspired Ravens will try to win their second ring and send linebacker Ray Lewis into retirement on top of the world.

The 49ers’ offense will have to play up to and exceed their production from the regular season. After eight-year veteran quarterback Alex Smith suffered a concussion, Jim played 25-year-old backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Once Smith was cleared to play, Jim still stuck with Kaepernick, causing a big midseason controversy for the team.

Since Kaepernick was named the starter, he has thrown for 1,849 yards, 10 touchdowns and has rushed for five touchdowns. If Kaepernick plans to win the game, he will need to utilize the key players around him. The 49ers need to run a balanced game, evenly using their running and passing plays. If they are successfully able to establish their league leading running game with Frank Gore, then they will be able to open up the passing game to have Kaepernick throw to wide receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis.

However, moving the ball against the Ravens defense is never an easy task, especially with their level of motivation. Pro Bowl linebacker Lewis missed 10 games this season with a torn tricep. Lewis announced four days before his return to the field that he would be retiring at the end of the season.

Led by Lewis, the Ravens defense is ranked fifth in rushing yards allowed per game, ninth in passing yards allowed and seventh in overall defense. If they want to help Lewis win his final NFL game, the Ravens will need to concentrate their defense on shutting down Gore, who has helped the 49ers lead the NFL in most rushing yards per game throughout the season.

Offensively, the Ravens will have to depend on running back Ray Rice to wear out the second ranked 49ers defensive line, in hopes of opening up the passing game for quarterback Joe Flacco. Once they establish the running game, Flacco will be able to utilize the play action pass in order to find receiver Torrey Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta down the field. Flacco will definitely have to exceed expectations; he has gained a reputation of being a quarterback that cannot win in clutch situations.

Based on the statistics and the style of play from each of these teams during the season, it is shaping up to possibly be one of the greatest Super Bowl games in history. Who will win this epic battle of brothers and NFL greats? We will have to wait until Feb. 3 to find out for sure, but my gut says that the emotional Baltimore defense will allow Ray Lewis to retire with a second Super Bowl ring in his collection.

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