We have plenty of time to break down the matchups and hammer to death the soon-to-be-played-out story lines. In the meanwhile, here is a list of the 47 reasons to love Super Bowl XLVII — Ravens vs. 49ers:
1. The 49ers haven’t been in the big game since the 1994 season.
2. The Ravens are back for the first time since 2000.
3. Two teams that love to run the ball.
4. Two teams that love to beat the opposition’s brains in — and can do it.
5. An NFC West team making a Super Bowl after years of being the NFL’s doormat division.
6. An AFC North team other than Pittsburgh representing. Always cool to get new blood involved.
7. Colin Kaepernick, the third-least experienced (in terms of starts) quarterback to start a Super Bowl. Vince Ferragamo lost. Jeff Hostetler won. May Kaepernick’s career last longer than both.
8. Kaepernick — have we ever seen this athletic a QB in the Super Bowl before? Just a special athlete.
9. Joe Flacco proving the doubters wrong. Again. And having the chance to do more.
10. Flacco doesn’t care what you think, but there’s something strangely noble about this. He only cares about his coaches and teammates, and he knows they have his back.
11. So much for momentum heading into the playoffs. Both teams were in dark places — Baltimore more so — in December.
12. This Super Bowl has rewarded bold choices. Jim Harbaugh picking Kaepernick over Alex Smith. John Harbaugh firing Cam Cameron and promoting Jim Caldwell.
13. Smith and Cameron — what are they thinking? Mixed emotions, certainly.
14. Justin Smith, so tough. It’s rare that a player this late in his career is recognized for the effect he has on a unit. But to a man, the 49ers know that Smith is their engine.
15. The Harbaughs. Come on, you have to love it. Who would have imagined that they would be the NFL’s first family in, say, 1988, when John was coaching special teams at Morehead State and Jim was completing 48.5 percent of his passes for the Bears?
16. We’ll get plenty of baseball stories this week. Jim was a heck of a pitcher who could strike out big-brother John’s friends. John could play a little, too.
17. The Ravens’ defensive tackles: Haloti Ngata (330 pounds), Ma’ake Kemoeatu (364) and Terrence Cody (349).
18. The 49ers’ front three: Smith (285), Isaac Sopoaga (330) and Ray McDonald (290). It’s a big man’s party — who could ask for more?
19. The threat of a punt- or kickoff-return TD. Ted Ginn and LaMichael James can take it the distance. So can Jacoby Jones — two KR touchdowns and one PR touchdown this season.
20. Special teams in general. John Harbaugh is a long-time special-teams coach. Take a bow, coordinators Jerry Rosburg and Brad Seely. Your units are solid. With the possible exception of …
21. David Akers. Can he mentally straighten it out by Feb. 3? He nearly was replaced by Billy Cundiff (!), but saved his job with a good week of practice. Then Akers doinked a 38-yarder in the NFC title game. Ouch.
22. So does that mean that Ravens rookie PK Justin Tucker, author of three game-winning kicks (including one in the postseason), is the more sure-footed of the two? What happens if either team comes down to a game-winning kick situation?
23. Option football: Kaepernick handing to James or Frank Gore, or keeping it himself. Expect to hear a lot about the Niners’ inverted veer this week — you watched it played like a Stradivarius the past two weeks. It’s a beautiful thing. We’ve seen the NFL game change so much offensively the past 3-4 seasons. Jim Harbaugh has a giant fingerprint on that.
24. Unbalanced lines: We’ve seen Jim and offensive coordinator Greg Roman turn back the clock offensively with heavy fronts, multiple tight ends and extra offensive linemen. It’s the football that Bud Wilkinson loved, or better yet, Bo Schembechler. Jim played for Bo. Also loved driving the coach nuts. Funny how it worked out like that.
25. Matt Birk — With all the talk of Ray Lewis’ final game, it also could be the last for the Ravens’ center, a 15-year vet. The 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year (210 regular-season games, 10 more in the playoffs) narrowly missed making the Super Bowl as a rookie with the Vikings in 1998. Birk didn’t miss this time, though. He has his chance to ride out into the sunset … if he choses.
26. Vonta Leach, old-school fullback. Gets grit under his fingernails.
27. New Orleans. Best Super Bowl city. Ever. It has produced some blowouts, but we also have seen some all-time performances — the 1996 Packers, the 1989 49ers and the 1985 Bears among them. And the last time we had a Super Bowl here, Adam Vinatieri kicked a winning field goal as the Patriots shocked the Rams in a classic after 9/11.
28. The millions of dollars this game will bring to help replenish a city that’s still clawing back to some level of normalcy.
29. Terrell Suggs — dude can talk.
30. And play: Two sacks in eight-regular season games. Two more sacks in three playoff games with one good arm.
31. Two unbeaten Super Bowl franchises facing off. 49ers are 5-0, Ravens 1-0. One will lose for the first time. That’s compelling. The only other undefeated Super Bowl teams: the Jets, Buccaneers and Saints — all at 1-0.
32. Beyoncé. This year’s halftime act probably will top Madonna from a year ago. By a country mile, I am guessing. But can she touch U2 from 2002? That’ll be tough.
33. Same for national anthem singer Alicia Keys and Christina “Need a prompter” Aguilera from last year.
34. Dean Pees vs. Roman and Caldwell vs. Vic Fangio — two great coordinator battles.
35. History. The 49ers can lay claim to having the best offense ever with its 1994 team. (Or maybe ’87. Or ’95. Or ’89.) The Ravens can say they have the best defensive team ever, in 2000 (or its criminally underrated ’06 unit). Let the debates begin.
36. Lewis might be a top-five defensive player ever. The 49ers have Jerry Rice, Joe Montana and Steve Young. Discuss … something. Anything.
37. Torrey Smith. What a season it has been. The terrific young wideout came into his own, matured in a hurry amid the shocking death of his brother less than a day before the Ravens’ win over the Patriots in Week Three and now finds himself on football’s biggest stage. Great for him.
38. Jacoby Jones. He has been the added juice the Ravens have needed on special teams. And he has the biggest catch — we’re calling it “The Bomb” — in franchise history.
39. Vernon Davis. Had a monster game in Kaepernick’s first start and was money in his last one, Sunday at Atlanta. Have to think he’ll be a tough matchup for this Ravens “D.”
40. Randy Moss: 0-1 Super Bowl record. Shocking disappointment with the ’98 Vikings and ’07 Patriots, two of the top-10 offenses ever. Stops in New England, Minnesota (again) and Tennessee in 2010, then out of football in 2011. Strange path. Either he or Birk, members of the same Vikings draft class together, will win it all. Marshall and Harvard. Interesting contrasts.
41. Hard-hitting and ball-hawking safeties — Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard for Baltimore, Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner for San Fran. What a foursome.
42. The Ravens’ personalities. Not just Lewis and Suggs. Reed, a New Orleans native, will entertain. Anquan Boldin, opinionated and outspoken. Heck, even Brendon Ayanbadejo took to Twitter to bash the Patriots.
43. The 49ers’ personalities. Not the most media-friendly team of all time. Jim Harbaugh’s press conferences could be … amusing. The 49ers’ PR staff actually transcribed an answer of his to a media question this season as: “Mhmm.”
44. Ray Rice, what a back. Always seems to gain one more yard than his team needs. (And throw in Bernard Pierce, too — what a postseason for the third-rounder.)
45. Gore. So underrated. So critical to this team’s success. A few years ago he signed a very team-friendly contract and appeared on the decline before Jim Harbaugh arrived. The two have made sweet music together.
46. Patrick Willis, taking the torch pass from Lewis after the game. It will be his time atop Mount Middle Linebacker.
47. Lewis. Does he play to the cameras? Yes. Might we eye-roll at him the next two weeks? Absolutely. But he’s probably the best off-the-line linebacker of this generation. Put him up there with all the greats — Nitschke, Bednarik, Huff, Butkus, Singletary, Lambert, Lanier, all of them. This will be a celebration of an exceptional career. You might not forgive or forget his past transgressions, but Lewis deserves the praise as a player. This is his coronation.
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