By Jerrell Richardson
Although the Ravens finished the regular season with a 10-6 record, no one thought that they would make it to the Super Bowl. Things looked bad for Baltimore after it was announced that the heart and soul of the organization, Ray Lewis, tore his triceps and would most likely miss the rest of the season. Even after Lewis vowed that he would return in time for the playoffs, with him playing with essentially one arm, the odds were still not good. Lewis and his team have defied all odds. Playing on raw emotion they have emerged the AFC’s best. Despite playing with one arm, Lewis is the leading tackler in the post season, and his play, along with his words and presence, have lit a fire under the Ravens. Not only have they come together for the cause of Ray Lewis, but they also have experience and a defense that will make Super Bowl Sunday an epic match-up.
The Ravens have the unfair advantage of playing with a little extra motivation. They know that Ray Lewis is done at the end of the season, and with the most influential and important player in the history of their franchise asking them for one final push, the entire team has responded. Lewis is not 100 percent, and his teammates know it, but the effect he has on the field now is almost the same as when he was in his prime. And while he might not be the old Ray Lewis, he’s no slouch–he happens to be playing pretty well. This is not something that can be explained, or prepared for, and the only thing San Francisco can do is prepare for a start to the game like Atlanta, and expect an opponent firing on all cylinders.
Helping the confidence of the Ravens is that, unlike the 49ers, Baltimore has several players that are not only seasoned veterans, but that also have Super Bowl experience. Baltimore knows what they are getting themselves into, and will not be a prisoner of the moment. Outside of Lewis, they also have Ed Reed and several others who can make sure that the entire team is mentally prepared and doing the right things as they try and deal with the two week media circus that has begun and will only intensify as the game draws closer. The 49ers appear to have the personnel in place to remain focused on the task at hand, but there is no question that the Ravens will emotionally be ready for the immense pressure that will continue to build up until, and after kickoff.
The San Francisco offense has done a fantastic job against the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons, but in the Super Bowl they will be against an elite defense. The regular season stats of the Ravens do not jump out at you, but that’s because they have been beat up all year. Pro Bowler Terrell Suggs has joined Ray Lewis on the injured list, and they have had to deal with a multitude of injuries that have fooled some into thinking they are not the same dominant defense they have been in recent years. The Ravens have given up their fair share of points this post season, but they shut out the Patriots in the second half last week and did a good job confusing Peyton Manning the week before. Colin Kaepernick does not have the resume of their Manning or Brady, and although he has handled everything that he been thrown at him this year, he has yet to face a team like the Ravens on a stage like the Super Bowl. The saying is that, “Defense wins championships,” and in this game, there are two elite defensive units butting heads. If Baltimore can do the same job on Kaepernick that they did on Brady and Manning, the 49ers could have a very difficult time scoring, which is obviously important to winning the game.
Ravens Are Underrated
Lost in the hype of Tom Brady, is how good the Ravens have been the past two season. It may not have resulted in Super Bowl Rings, but if not for a missed field goal and a dropped pass, the Ravens would be going back to a second consecutive Super Bowl, and could even be the defending Super Bowl Champs. The Ravens have a complete team, Super Bowl experience, a great defense and riding an emotional wave that may be enough to win on more game. The 49ers will hope that they can take the pressure, and deal with fired up Ravens, as it will take a solid, error free game if they want to end the season as the best in the NFL.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.