A lot has changed since the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers faced off in the 2013 Super Bowl.
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains out of the league, awaiting another NFL opportunity following a November workout in Atlanta. The coach that helped Kaepernick become an elite talent, Jim Harbaugh, left the pros to take the head coaching job at the University of Michigan.
One of the few remaining participants is Jim’s brother, John Harbaugh, but even his play-calling has changed since that 2013 contest. Pocket passer and Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco is now with the Denver Broncos, replaced by a dual-threat quarterback in Lamar Jackson.
But in 2019, it could be a rematch of the two coastal cities in football’s biggest game. When asked about the possibility, Ravens safety Earl Thomas said: “You think the 49ers are going to the Super Bowl? It could be, let’s see. We’ll just go out there and try to play the best football we can possibly do. And when the Super Bowl comes, whoever we play, they’re going to be in trouble.”
Baltimore has good reason to be confident. The team has ripped off seven straight wins following a 2-2 start. Of those seven teams the Ravens defeated, four are currently slated for playoff contention. A large part of that impressive run has been the speedy Jackson, who has accounted for 30 touchdowns this season due to his passing and running ability.
Jackson’s five-touchdown performance against the St. Louis Rams last week was just another example of the Louisville product’s prowess. It was good enough for a fourth AFC Offensive Player of the Week nod, something not accomplished since Tom Brady won the award four times in 2007. Jackson, humbled, said: “I didn’t know that…that’s pretty cool. To have something with Tom Brady, that’s dope.”
Jackson on pace to break record
While Jackson may not be keeping track of awards, the star is keeping track of his Madden 2020 “speed” rating, which was adjusted to a 96 out of 99 possible points. That, Jackson is aware of: “I saw that. It’s still too low.”
He might be right, as the Florida native is on pace to break the record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. Jackson’s got a fan in the backfield, running back Mark Ingram, who gave an impassioned speech declaring Jackson the best player in the league: “The MVP frontrunner … if anyone else has something different to say about that, come see me.”
On the other side of the field is a 49ers squad that must be feeling a similar sense of confidence. Early in the year, questions about San Francisco’s strength of schedule continued even as the team racked up wins. Many thought the team wasn’t a serious Super Bowl contender, especially when the team lost to their division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks.
Fast forward to a 37-8 win over a division-leading team like the Green Bay Packers, and some feel the 49ers are for real. Head coach Kyle Shanahan certainly thinks so: “Every team is different each year, but we’ve got a real special group of guys.”
When asked about San Francisco having to play in an increasingly big spotlight each week, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo nodded: “It’s good for the team, the opportunities that we’re getting … but it’s only good if we take advantage of it.” Garoppolo and his squad will need to take advantage of another chance for a statement win, but at least the quarterback didn’t have the added spotlight of hosting Thanksgiving: “my brother had a packed house…he took that load off my back for me.”
The 49ers face the Ravens at 1 p.m. ET on Fox.