49ers Primed for Sixth Lombardi TrophyBy Marc U.
Down 17-0 on the road in Atlanta in the first half last week, San Francisco Head Coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t do or say anything out of the ordinary. He simply stuck to the game-plan he and his coaches had concocted and remained patient as well. Obviously the plan worked as did the plan to stay with it as the Niners defeated the Falcons 28-24 in the NFC Title game.
They entered as a rare road favorite by giving five points and if I may toot my own horn, I liked the Niners to win but not to cover and so they did. San Fran stuck to running the football and took advantage of Atlanta’s inability to deal with the read option, especially when Frank Gore got the ball off tackle. He had several long runs on the play and LaMichael James’ touchdown run came on the same play.
QB Colin Kaepernick was coming off a game where he rushed for 181 yards and many expected the same against a Falcons’ team that was abused by running quarterbacks five times during the season. Turns out that the 49ers didn’t need that from Kaepernick as he carried just two times for 21 yards. Gore and James combined for 26 carries and 124 yards and three scores.
The defense stiffened after halftime holding the Falcons and Matt Ryan scoreless in the second half but also benefited from a terrible turnover by Ryan deep in Niners’ territory when he fumbled a shotgun snap. Atlanta threatened late but a 4th and 4 pass was knocked away by Navarro Bowman and the Niners were on to New Orleans.
Just in case you’ve been on the far side of Jupiter, Harbaugh’s 49ers will play the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII and they of course are coached by his older brother John Harbaugh. This is just one several big sub-plots heading into the game. The Ravens’ Ray Lewis is reportedly playing the final game of his Hall of Fame career. You have the unique stories of the two quarterbacks and also the presence of Commissioner Roger Goodell in New Orleans for the first time since ‘BountyGate.’
The gameplan for San Francisco will be no secret on either side of the ball and I’ll get into that in more detail next week but here’s what to look for in Reader’s Digest form.
Offensively, they will continue to pound away with the running game behind arguably the league’s best offensive line. Whether that means lots of Gore and James or more attempts for Kaepernick really doesn’t matter. They will do what they do best and they will take their shots when necessary.
Defensively, they will do two things. They’ll limit Ray Rice as much as possible. The Ravens have clearly done a better job of getting him the ball since Jim Caldwell took over play-calling duties and that will continue. The Niners also know that if they can pressure Joe Flacco, he will make mistakes. Flacco throws a great deep ball but can only do so if he has the time.
San Francisco is going after their sixth Super Bowl championship which would equal the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only franchises ever to acheive the feat. The Niners are currently 5-0 in the big game, but have not been in it since they defeated San Diego after the 1994 season.
Ironically, New Orleans was the site for the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history when the Joe Montana-led Niners crushed Denver 55-10. I don’t look for that same type of game in this case. What I look for is typical 49ers which is control the ball on offense and pressure the opponent on defense. As of right now, the Niners are a 4-point favorite and I’ll break it all down next week.