The San Francisco 49ers are looking to tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins of all-time this weekend, while the Baltimore Ravens are looking to capture their 2nd Super Bowl title in franchise history. The head coaches of both teams that are facing off this weekend just happen to be brothers, and damn good leaders of their respective franchises. It's also Ray Lewis' final ride into the sunset before he goes on to his next chapter after football life. These are just a few of the story lines that have taken a hold as everyone awaits kickoff in New Orleans on Sunday evening.
But one thing is clear: this will be a defensive battle, and both teams feature some of the most explosive play makers that are in the NFL today. Colin Kaepernick is coming in as a rookie with a ton of confidence and a ton of elusive ability in the backfield. He took over for Alex Smith halfway through the season, and has risen as one of the top players in the league this season. He hasn't done it all though, as he has one of the best defenses in the league, with the 49ers defense ranking 4th in the regular season. Stopping Joe Flacco will be a task within itself, as Baltimore boasts one of the best offensive lines in all of football. If Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and Co. cannot put pressure on Flacco throughout the game, it could be a long evening for the 49er defensive unit.
San Francisco made one of the best decisions in last April's draft when they picked up Nevada's Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick became one of the most highly touted quarterback's to ever come out of the Mountain West Conference. He learned the pistol offense under one of the pioneers of the formation in head coach Chris Ault. The 49ers realized how potent the pistol could be with Kaepernick, and implemented it with great results, as they now find themselves vying for a record 6th Super Bowl. Kaepernick rushed for an NFL record 181 yards versus the Green Bay Packers towards the end of the season, and the Niners will be heavily reliant on the young quarterback to use his feet regularly against the Raven defense on Sunday.
One of the bright spots on the 49er defensive unit this season has been 2nd year linebacker Aldon Smith. He recorded a career high 19.5 sacks this season, and finished 5th on the team in tackles. Aldon can thank his teammate on the other side of the defense for taking a lot of the pressure off of him in defensive tackle and fellow Missouri Tiger Justin Smith. Smith is a 12-year veteran who will have surgery for his tricep after the Super Bowl but nonetheless has been a huge key to Aldon's success this season. If both Smith's can put a lot of pressure on the front five of Baltimore's offensive line, Joe Flacco could be in for a long night.
The 49ers also boast two of the top linebackers not just in the NFC, but in the entire league. Navorro Bowman lead the team in tackles, and made the Pro Bowl as well as his partner in crime, Patrick Willis. Both have a unique ability to always find the football, and fall back into coverage when the quarterback isn't expecting it. Both have a very keen instinctual knowledge of coverage patterns and play options, and will look to bottle up Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice and fullback Bernard Pierce. If both linebackers along with Aldon Smith can halt the ground attack from Baltimore and force Flacco to air it out, the Ravens could very well find themselves on the losing end of the battle Sunday.
The 49ers didn't exactly have one of the scariest offensive units in football when Alex Smith was leading the team, but with Kaepernick at the helm in the pistol formation the Niners are always looking for a big play. Long-time veteran receiver Randy Moss exclaimed on Tuesday that he was the best receiver of all-time. Moss may be past his prime and isn't the best ever, but he very well can give the 49ers a deep threat on one of a few play-action plays and still attracts the attention of safeties and defensive backs on every down. Crabtree, Manningham and Vernon Davis will definitely see a lot of looks in Sunday's match-up, and having a healthy Frank Gore in the backfield also bodes well for the 49ers chances.