Are we headed to a repeat of Super Bowl XLVII when the San Francisco 49ers met the Baltimore Ravens?
One could logically make that assumption based on the two primetime games this weekend. The 49ers closed out Sunday action with a 37-8 whipping of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. On Monday night, in Los Angeles, the Ravens looked even more impressive with their 45-6 trouncing of the Rams.
The victory by San Francisco keeps them atop the NFC in search of home field advantage in the playoffs. The Ravens are still one back of the 10-1 New England Patriots in the hunt for the AFC top seed, but they have an edge in that they downed the Patriots in their head-to-head meeting, handing Bill Belichick and company their only loss of the season.
Now, before we get to the playoffs, both these teams have some major challenges in front of them, not the least of which is a head-to-head meeting this Sunday in Baltimore. The Ravens will be favored by something less than a touchdown in that game, and bring the longest active win streak in the league into that contest with seven straight victories.
While we may have a repeat of the Super Bowl teams that competed against each other to complete the 2012 season, a game in which the Ravens beat the 49ers in a game as much remembered for the lights going out in New Orleans as the final score, 34-31, few things are as they were that year.
In the seven seasons since these two teams squared off in the Big Easy, both teams have made switches at quarterback. The Ravens quarterback who guided Baltimore to the Super Bowl title in 2012 was Joe Flacco, who parlayed that win into a contract that was worth more than his talent dictated. The 49ers quarterback that season was Colin Kaepernick, who took over for an injured Alex Smith early in the season and never relinquished the job.
His performance in that first year as the 49ers starter made their incumbent quarterback expendable, and Smith first moved on to Kansas City before surrendering that starting role to Patrick Mahomes. Smith started the season last year for the Washington Redskins, but his season, and perhaps career, ended in November to a gruesome injury.
The coaching matchup in 2012 was a brotherly affair, John Harbaugh for the Ravens and Jim Harbaugh for the 49ers. Once the Harbaugh in San Francisco decided to stick with Kaepernick and let Smith go, the Niners only made one more postseason under his guidance. San Francisco advanced to the NFC Championship Game in 2013, where they were downed by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.
Kapernick’s effectiveness faded in 2014, and by season end the 49ers clubhouse was an uncomfortable place to visit and an even worse environment in which to work. Harbaugh was out after that season, and headed for his current position with the Michigan Wolverines.
Meanwhile, his brother has stuck with his job in Baltimore, and once again has the Ravens in a position to go deep into the playoffs. Ironically, the Ravens success over the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII was when they relied on the pocket passing of Flacco. That year, the 49ers geared their offense around the running ability of Kaepernick.
This season, the 49ers count on the pocket work of Jimmy Garoppolo while the Ravens utilize quarterback Lamar Jackson’s running ability as much as his passing.
We may be headed for another February game between the Ravens and 49ers, but not much is the same as the last time these two teams met … except for the Ravens coach.
We’ll get an early look at this potential championship contest this Sunday when the 49ers visit Baltimore.