NFL Monday Stew: Harbaugh Brothers, 49ers, Ravens and Super Bowl XLVII
Welcome football fans to a weekly column served hot and fresh every week, NFL Soup’s Tuesday Stew, brought to you by Monday. Here, I will recap the top headlines and stories from this past week’s games, go over some absurdly awesome stats and show the week’s most mind-blowing play. So sit back, relax and fill up on everything NFL.
Championship Sunday is in the books, with a Harbaugh v. Harbaugh matchup set for Super Bowl XLVII. But there was plenty more that occurred in Sunday’s games and it’s time to dish out on all the action. So without further ado, here’s what I’m serving up in this week’s stew:
Touchdown: Six Points From Championship Sunday
1. 49ers Are NFC Champs
Lask week, Colin Kaepernick defeated the Packers with his legs in a record-setting performance. This week, Kaepernick defeated the Falcons with his arm, completing 16-of-21 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Of course, he once again had plenty of support from his surrounding cast, with Frank Gore rushing for 90 yards on 21 carries and scoring twice, while Vernon Davis had 106 yards on five receptions and caught Kaepernick’s lone touchdown.
After not showing up in the first half, the 49ers defense was stout in the second half, not allowing the Falcons to score any points, while intercepting Matt Ryan once and making a huge fourth down stop inside the red zone late in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line.
Now, for the sixth time in franchise history and first time since 1995, the 49ers are going back to the Super Bowl.
2. Falcons Blow Another Big Lead
Last week against the Seahawks, the Falcons had a 20-0 halftime lead and led 27-7 going into the fourth. After blowing the lead in the fourth and being down 28-27, the Falcons found a way to sneak away with the win.
This time, not so much.
After opening up the game on fire and leading 17-0, they were outscored by the 49ers 28-7 the rest of the way. Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense looked unstoppable out the gate, as he threw for nearly 400 yards and three touchdowns. Julio Jones had a monster, franchise record-breaking day, catching 11 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns, while Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez added 100 and 78 yards, respectively.
Yet in the end, the Falcons offense couldn’t get the job done, and the defense wasn’t able to stop the 49ers offense when they needed to. It’s going to be a long offseason in Atlanta.
3. Choosing Kaepernick Over Smith
So, about that decision by Jim Harbaugh to keep Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith? Looking pretty smart now, huh?
Since taking the helm, Kaepernick has led the 49ers to a 7-2 record, throwing 13 touchdowns to four interceptions, while adding another four touchdowns on the ground. And now, he’s led them to the Super Bowl. Obviously Harbaugh saw something in Kaepernick the rest of us didn’t, believing in the second-year quarterback more than Smith to lead the team to the Super Bowl.
Well, the decision’s paid off, regardless of the outcome of the game in two weeks.
4. Ravens Are AFC Champs
After taking down Peyton Manning and the Broncos in double overtime, the Ravens continued their route to New Orleans by taking down Tom Brady and the Patriots. Joe Flacco proved to everyone (again) why he is an elite quarterback, throwing for 240 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. While Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce did enough for the Ravens offense on the ground, it was Flacco who shined in this game. With the Ravens keeping Torrey Smith in check for the most part, Anquan Boldin hauled in two touchdowns with 60 yards receiving.
On the other side of the ball, Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense did their part as well. Lewis led the way with a game-high 14 total tackles, as they shut out the Patriots offense in the second half and forced two interceptions out of Brady. However, the biggest turnover of the game was Bernard Pollard forcing a fumble out of Stevan Ridley, giving the Ravens offense great field position early in the fourth quarter while holding onto a 21-13 lead. The ensuing touchdown pretty much sealed the victory.
Now, for the second time in franchise history, the Ravens are headed back to the Super Bowl, hoping to send Lewis out as a champion with his second ring.
5. Patriots Sputter in Second Half
As I said, the Patriots offense completely collapse after halftime, not putting a single point on the board. Everything that worked for Brady and his weapons in the first half just couldn’t get anything going against the stingy Ravens defense. The Ridley fumble was definitely the killer for this team, who found themselves down two scores when they began their next possession. This put them into hurry-up desperation mode, which forced Brady’s two interceptions.
For the league’s highest-scoring offense, paired with Bill Belichick’s revamped defense, this game, and how they had no answer for the Ravens is going to linger. It’s going to be a long offseason for New England.
6. The Ray Lewis Effect
Prior to their first playoff game, Ray Lewis announced his intention to retire following this postseason. Since then, the Ravens have won all three playoff games and are back in the Super Bowl, with one win standing in their way of sending Lewis out on top. His emotion and enthusiasm has no doubt lit a fire in this team, and they must be motivated in getting that last win for Lewis.
I can’t wait for his final pre-game huddle and speech before kickoff at the Super Bowl. It’s going to be epic.
Extra Point: Harbaugh v. Harbaugh
For the first time ever, head coaching brothers will face off in the Super Bowl. Previously, the Harbaugh Bros. have only faced each other once, which was last season, when John’s Ravens bested Jim’s 49ers 16-6 in Baltimore. Much of the media talk for the next two weeks will be about the Harbaughs (as it should) but there is much more to their respective teams then just them. Still, going to be interesting to see how this plays out in New Orleans during the big game. All I know is that whoever wins is going to have some ultimate bragging rights at family reunions for the next year.
Five Absurdly Awesome Stats
1. Joe Flacco now has six road playoff wins in his career, moving ahead of Eli Manning for most all time. Additionally, Flacco is the only quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in his first five seasons as a starter.
2. The last time the Patriots went scoreless in the second half of a game was in Week 2 of the 2010 season against the Jets.
3. From ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter, this is just the third time since the merger that both road teams won in the conference championship games.
4. The 49ers overcame the largest deficit to win in the history of the NFC Championship Game.
5. The 49ers and Ravens are a combined 6-0 in Super Bowls (five for the former, one for the latter). Well, something’s got to give in this year’s big game.