NEW ORLEANS - Two weeks of hype, two weeks of wondering if the French Quarter has any monetary value or not and two weeks of learning more about the Harbaugh clan than you could ever ask for. At last, it’s Super Bowl Sunday in the Big Easy again.
New Orleans is hosting the NFL’s crown jewel for the 10th time today. For the 49ers, it’s a site that brings back warm and fuzzy feelings. The Niners annihilated the Denver Broncos 55-10 at the Superdome for their fourth Super Bowl championship in January 1990.
While Super Bowl XLVII won’t be nearly as lopsided, the Niners should be partying til the wee hours on Bourbon Street once again tonight.
This isn’t a situation nearly as one-sided as the NFC Championship Game with the Atlanta Falcons was, though. Atlanta was a team with a history of not being able to put teams away and the 49ers possessed clear advantages across the offensive and defensive lines.
The Ravens are quite the opposite. They embrace the biggest stage and won’t back down. You don’t go into Denver and New England and beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, respectively, in consecutive weeks by accident.
Baltimore is fully capable of capping off what seemed like a highly improbable postseason run after losing four of its last five regular-season games with a Super Bowl crown. But the Ravens won’t.
Ever since Jim Harbaugh came to town, the 49ers have employed a sledge-hammer offense and knock-your-socks off defense. That formula will play out once again today.
Whether it’s Colin Kaepernick darting around the corner or Frank Gore slicing up the middle, the Niners’ ground game should control the tempo against a Ravens defense that surrendered 122.8 yards per game during the season. Add in the precision with which Kaepernick is throwing the ball and the matchup problems tight end Vernon Davis can create, and the Ravens will have plenty to keep themselves busy.
Where the 49ers should be concerned, outside of uncharacteristically turning the ball over in bunches, is facing Joe Flacco and Baltimore’s passing game. Flacco is hardly the NFL’s most accurate passer, he completed less than 60 percent of his attempts in the regular season, but he can pick up big chunks in a hurry.
He’s ability, and gumption, to throw the deep ball is what makes him most dangerous. When you add in Ray Rice coming out of the backfield, and the 49ers could find themselves in a pick-your-poison situation.
To combat that, San Francisco has to get Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks breathing down Flacco’s neck. Counting the playoffs, Smith has gone five straight games without a sack.
Baltimore will be as prepared to face the 49ers as any team could be having played them last season and enjoying the two-week break to prepare.
But the well-balanced and physical nature of Jim Harbaugh’s squad will prevail over big brother’s team, bringing an early start to Mardi Gras for the Niners today. Break out the beads.
Dylan Kruse is the sports editor of The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @dylan_kruse.