With all the media attention given to coach John and Jim Harbaugh, people tend to forget it’s the players that are going to decide the game. From Patrick Willis to Ray Lewis, the team that executes the best, will win the Super Bowl. And if history is any indication, the Baltimore Ravens hold the edge.
Last year, the San Francisco 49ers played the Ravens on Thanksgiving day. The berth of the “Har-Bowl” was born, and the home-field advantaged Ravens beat the 49ers in a defensive struggle 16-6. However, that was last year, and both teams have drastically changed since then.
On one hand, you have the 49ers changing quarterbacks, going from Alex Smith to now Colin Kaepernick. The move was quickly scrutinized by NFL pundits around the league, and even amongst the 49ers very own fan base. However, despite these acts, Harbaugh stuck to his guns and rolled the dice with Kaep; and as a result, the 49ers now find themselves in Super Bowl XLVII.
On the other hand, you have Jim’s older brother, John Harbaugh, making a coaching change. Rarely do you see a playoff team make a coaching change in December, but that’s what happened, as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was relieved of his duties, in favor of Jim Caldwell.
Cameron was let go in large part to the offense’s inconsistency as well as not getting Ravens running back Ray Rice enough touches. Cameron who was fired, had this to say:
It was a brilliant move. Everyone on the team took a look in the mirror after that.
How can one argue? Since Caldwell took over in Week 15, the offense has since flourished with a more balanced attack. The team also looks more explosive averaging 30.0 points per game in the playoffs, good for second best in postseason play. Apparently, Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome thought the same, releasing a statment saying Caldwell would be brought back in the same position for the 2013 season.
With two drastic moves, what team has the upper hand? The answer lies in the offensive line.
The two teams clashed last year in the first ever, “Har-Bowl.” In that game, Alex Smith was sacked nine times and hit three more. He was on his back more often than not and was consistently rattled. Furthermore, the smash-mouth run game the 49ers pride themselves in was non-existent, evidenced by 74 total rushing yards. the 49ers were not themselves and looked like they met their match.
As for the Ravens, they struggled just as much. Although Baltimore did not allow a sack, the run game was shaky, gaining only 92 yards to a stingy 49ers defense. So with both teams scrambling on offense, what gives? In my opinion, it is the offensive line that is going to determine the outcome of the game.
Whoever can control the line of scrimmage from an offensive standpoint will win the game. We all know both defenses will show up, and play lights out. But what we don’t know, is which offensive line will. With the game being about inches, it will be fun to see which unit can come out on top, and if I were to guess, I would put my money on San Francisco, to get the job done.