This year’s Super Bowl is a great matchup, and I’m excited to see how it plays out.
In my nine years, interestingly enough, all three of our division foes have been in the Super Bowl. Seattle and Arizona came up short in their appearances, but that’s another thing that motivates me in the offseason. I see these teams year-in and year-out. Now they’re on the big stage. It only makes me want to have that feeling more. I want to get there.
It’s an interesting perspective for me. I’m definitely happy for some of the guys. If there’s anybody I was rooting for on the San Francisco 49ers, it would be Frank Gore. I’m a huge Frank Gore fan. Up until last year, he was pretty much in the same boat I was, being very productive, but not really getting the attention or some of the praise from the media because he was on a losing team. He’s been there eight years, I ’ve been here nine, so we know each other well and he’s a friend of mine.
I also have a great deal of respect for Patrick Willis, and that’s no secret. He’s my favorite defensive player to go against. He plays lights out football, he’s a smart football player and a great leader.
They definitely have some great players. I’ve been there to watch them acquire these pieces over these years. To watch them from 2004, my rookie year, when they were struggling to find an identity and a quarterback, and to see them get different pieces over the years and turn it into a Super Bowl team, it’s been interesting to watch.
Colin Kaepernick has changed the game for them offensively. He definitely brings a different level of play at the quarterback position. Both he and Alex Smith are very athletic, but I think Kaepernick does a good job of extending plays and keeping his eyes down field. You can definitely see that his confidence has gone up each week.
We were the team that first got a long look at him — not his first start, but he had to come in and replace Smith in that first game, and I remember looking at him and thinking, “Man, this kid is good!” But I never thought that he would lead them to the Super Bowl. I knew the talent was there and I had watched him at the University of Nevada, so I knew he was very athletic, but taking over midway through the season, I didn’t think he would catch on so fast. And even if he did, you would think he might slip up somewhere during the course of the season, but he’s progressively gotten better.
He takes advantage of defenses that want to play heavy coverage, like maybe a two-man situation. When your receivers are running back, those defenders are not really protecting the second level, and once he steps up in the pocket there’s a huge void. That’s what we saw in that game when he had 180 yards rushing. He’s very athletic. He gets chunks of yards, and can do it in a way that’s just really impressive, especially for a young guy without a lot of NFL experience.
RAY’S LAST RIDE
When you think about the great football players, you think about guys who have an image and personality that are going to outlive them. I can’t help but think that Ray Lewis is one of those individuals. He plays the game at a very high level, and he’s done it consistently over 17 seasons.
But I think what everyone loves about Ray Lewis is that any time he walks into a room and starts talking, he captivates his audience. No one else is going to interrupt his speech because they want to hear what he has to say. He commands that type of attention, he has that kind of leadership and he has the credibility to back it up. He’s a great individual and a great human being. You can’t help but root for someone like that.
It’s for that reason that I think Baltimore is going to win this season’s Super Bowl. For those guys in that locker room, now they have extra incentive. Last year, they went to the AFC Championship and I believe it was Ray Rice who made the comment, “We wanted to do this for Ray.”
Beyond that though, they’re a talented team and they get it. They weren’t really healthy all season, Terrell Suggs was out quite a bit, Ray was out and people were trying to say that they were getting old. But they have great coaching. They have great personnel. They’re very deep as a team and very talented, so I’m sure they know when to get hot, when to turn it on. That’s not to say that they coasted through the season, but this is a veteran team that has been in championship games. So they understand how to play at a high level, and they know that you don’t always have to shut a team out. All you have to do is win.
One of the most interesting dynamics to the Super Bowl is the head coaching matchup of brothers Jim and John Harbaugh.
I don’t have a brother, but I’m very close with my sister Rhonda, and it got me thinking what it would be like to coach against her in a game. I wouldn’t want to lose to her, that’s for sure. And if I were to win the game, I’d want to do it in a fashion that leaves no doubt that she could beat me. I’d want it to be an outright win with my team dominating a majority of the game.
For whichever brother loses, I think it will sting a little more. This is the ultimate prize that you work hard for. But at the same time, as a family member, you want the best for your family, so I think it will be a mixed emotion for sure.
I think the first half is going to be a tight defensive game. Both teams know each other well due to the brothers. A lot is going to be decided in the trenches. Both of these teams have a great defensive line, and having guys of that caliber up front can really help the back end of your defense. Any time you can have a front seven, especially the defensive line, that can get after the passer and stop the run, your linebackers and secondary don’t have to have such tight coverage. They’re going to make the quarterback get the ball out of his hands faster than he wants to.
But I believe in the second half of the game, when the jitters are gone, we’ll see big plays on both ends because you have quarterbacks that are playing at a high level. Both teams have big time receivers. Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin keeps doing what he has over the years, and Torrey Smith’s deep threat ability lets Joe Flacco throw the ball up and let him make a play. Then Kaepernick has Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Randy Moss. I think with those playmakers on both sides, the top will be blown off on both sides in the second half, and I give the slight edge to the Ravens.