Super Bowl XLVII: Facts and figures you may not know
Stuff you might not know about the San Francisco-Baltimore matchup in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, on Feb. 3...
• Forget the HarBowl (if only for the moment). The 49ers-Ravens Super pairing is really better labeled the Redemption Bowl, or the Resiliency Bowl. For only the second time ever in the Super Bowl era, and the first since the 1994-95 seasons, two teams that lost in the conference championship round one year earlier have fought their way back to earn a Super Bowl berth the very next year.
The only other time this sort of dual comeback has been mounted came when both Pittsburgh and Dallas met in Super Bowl XXX in Phoenix, after enduring bitter disappointment in conference title game losses the year before. In 1994, Pittsburgh was the AFC No. 1 seed and was so sure it was going to the Super Bowl that some Steelers met that week to plan a rap video for the game, five days before their AFC Championship game showdown with San Diego.
Naturally, the No. 2-seeded Chargers rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit and beat the Steelers 17-13, with linebacker Dennis Gibson knocking down Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell's fourth down pass in the end zone to seal the upset. I covered that game, and I will never forget the utter silence that descended as the stunned Steelers fans filed out of Three Rivers Stadium to begin their months-long mourning period.
The No. 2-seeeded Cowboys didn't lose quite so dramatically, but the 38-28 loss at top-seeded San Francisco in the NFC title game still stung, given that the Cowboys were the two-time defending Super Bowl champ, and were within one game of going for the first Super Bowl three-peat in NFL history. It the was the third year in a row that Dallas and San Francisco waged epic NFC title game battles, and the Steve Young-led 49ers had finally won their revenge.
But in 1995, as the Ravens and 49ers have accomplished this year, the Steelers and Cowboys rebounded and got the job done in the conference championship round, earning their Super Bowl XXX trips with homefield defeats of Indianapolis and Green Bay, respectively. Current 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh certainly remembers that Pittsburgh win. He was the Colts' "Captain Comeback'' quarterback that season, and his final-play Hail Mary pass into the end zone was nearly caught by an Indianapolis receiver, which would have changed the outcome of the Steelers' narrow 20-16 victory.
But maybe there's a good omen in all of this for Jim Harbaugh, because the only other time we've had this scenario in the Super Bowl, the NFC team triumphed, with Dallas winning its third ring in a four-season span, beating Pittsburgh 27-17 that day in Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
• But I can make another strong case for why Baltimore will win this matchup with San Francisco, and it's because the Ravens were the No. 4 seed in the AFC, while the 49ers finished as the NFC's No. 2 seed.
A low seed making the Super Bowl has become an almost annual affair since 2005, when the Steelers became the first No. 6 seed in league history to not only make the game, but also win it. The 2007 Giants (No. 5 seed) followed suit, as did the 2010 Packers (No. 6) and 2011 Giants (No. 4). Only the 2008 Cardinals (No. 4) didn't finish the job, losing in the final seconds to Pittsburgh.
All told, in six of the past eight seasons, a seed in the No. 4, 5 or 6 neighborhood has made the Super Bowl, and those teams are 4-1 in the big game, knocking off a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in all four of the wins.
One more piece of good karma for the Ravens? In their only previous Super Bowl season, in 2000, they were also fourth-seeded in the AFC, and demolished the NFC's top-seeded New York Giants in Tampa.
• For what it's worth, the Ravens lead the all-time series between these clubs at 3-1, with the 49ers not having beaten them since 1996, which was the transplanted franchise's first season in Baltimore, and also Ray Lewis' rookie year. San Francisco won that game 38-20 at Candlestick Park, en route to a 12-4 wild-card-berth-qualifying season. The Ravens finished 4-12 that year.
San Francisco had a pretty good coaching staff that year, led by head coach George Seifert, with new Bears head coach Marc Trestman coordinating on offense and current Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll coordinating on defense. Niners starting quarterback Elvis Grbac would go on to play for Baltimore in 2001, helping the Ravens earn a playoff berth the year after their Super Bowl run.
Baltimore's wins in the series came in 2003, 2007, and of course, in 2011, in the first meeting of the Harbaugh brothers, on Thanksgiving night at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens took that highly anticipated matchup 16-6.
• Under the heading of bizarro links between these two teams is this: The first sack of Ray Lewis' 17-year NFL career came on Oct. 13, 1996, when he dropped Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh in a 21-16 Baltimore loss at the then-named Hoosier Dome.
But that's not all. Two years later, Harbaugh went on to become the Ravens starting quarterback in 1998, where he and Lewis were teammates. The Ravens that year went 6-10 in the third and final season of Ted Marchibroda's coaching tenure. Marchibroda had coached Harbaugh with the Colts in Indy, taking them to the playoffs in both 1995 and 1996. Baltimore gave up third- and fourth-round picks in the 1998 draft to acquire Harbaugh, who went on to start 12 and play in 14 games that season. He was just 5-7 as a starter, completing 164 of 293 pass attempts, for 1,839 yards, with 12 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and 23 sacks.
The Ravens did open a new stadium that season, the now-named M&T Bank Stadium, and Harbaugh was Baltimore's starter in Week 1 at home against Pittsburgh. Harbaugh and Marchibroda left Baltimore after 1998, with the Ravens hiring Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick as head coach in January 1999.
• And there's even more 49ers-Ravens coaching ties to this game than the Harbaugh brothers angle. San Francisco's underrated defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was a defensive assistant for the Ravens from 2006 to 2009, spanning the first two seasons of the John Harbaugh era in Baltimore. Fangio, in 1984, also served a stint as a defensive assistant for the Baltimore Stars of the now-defunct USFL.
49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman was the assistant offensive line coach in Baltimore for two seasons, 2006-07, the final two years of Billick's nine-year tenure leading the Ravens. So the top three names on the San Francisco coaching flow chart -- Jim Harbaugh, Fangio and Roman -- all either coached or played for the Ravens.
• Somebody's perfect record in the Super Bowl is getting marred. San Francisco is 5-0 in the game, and can tie Pittsburgh for most wins with six. But the 49ers are the only team undefeated in the Super Bowl with at least two appearances. Baltimore is 1-0 in the game, with its only appearance coming 12 years ago against the Giants. The Ravens, with a win, can become the 12th NFL team with multiple victories.
Baltimore can also strike a blow for the AFC, snapping a three-year winning streak for the NFC (2009 Saints, 2010 Packers, 2011 Giants), the conference that has won four of the past five Super Bowls, with only the 2008 Steelers bucking the trend.
• Other things the Ravens and 49ers have in common: Star power-type running backs with four-letter last names, Ray Rice and Frank Gore.... Middle linebackers of some pedigree, wearing No. 52, Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis.... Sack-happy outside linebackers who thrive in a 3-4 defensive formation, Terrell Suggs and Aldon Smith. Suggs was the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and Smith is a top contender for this year's award.....
Reserve 49ers linebacker Tavares Gooden played his first three seasons in Baltimore (2008-2010) and the past two in San Francisco (2011-12). .....The Ravens and 49ers thought they had a trade worked out for receiver Terrell Owens in the spring of 2004, but it got nixed when Owens protested the trade and filed a grievance claiming he was due free agency instead. An arbitrator ruled in Owens' favor, and T.O. signed with the Eagles instead, saying his "heart was in Philly.'' Owens got to play with Donovan McNabb like he wanted, and we all know how that turned out. The Ravens got back the second-round pick they had sent to San Francisco for Owens, and by losing out on T.O., dodged a major headache.