In a photo taken with a fisheye lens, Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis celebrates after the Ravens beat the Denver Broncos 38-35 in overtime of an AFC divisional playoff NFL football game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
RAVENS VS. 49ERS 5:30 P.M. Sunday, Ch. 2
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Updated: March 4, 2013 6:32AM
NEW ORLEANS — Wait, there’s a football game, too?
After a week of discussions about deer antler spray, gays in the locker room, concussions, Harbaugh family togetherness and Ray Lewis, there is indeed a football game scheduled for Sunday. And it could be an excellent one.
Super Bowl XLVII features the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, two exemplary, but not great, teams. And that’s OK. The chances of this game being better than any GoDaddy.com commercial ever filmed are still quite good.
The 49ers are going to win for four reasons I can think of offhand, the biggest being that the universe would collapse under itself if it saw Lewis playing up to the cameras after a Ravens victory. And we can’t have that.
But let’s start with the quarterbacks, because that’s where every game starts. It’s almost beyond belief that, in a span of three months, the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick has gone from a backup quarterback to a product endorser with a milk moustache. But here he is, the Jeremy Lin of the NFL, and you can’t help but wonder how many more of him there might be out there, given the opportunity and a head coach with a ruthless streak.
‘‘It just opens the door for athletic quarterbacks to come in and try to make plays,’’ he said.
What makes Kaepernick so dangerous is, yes, his running ability, but more so the threat that he might run. If you go down the list of his starts this season, you’ll see that there were games in which he was very ordinary as a ball carrier. In the 49ers’ victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, he rushed just two times for a total of 10 yards. But it was the previous game against the Green Bay Packers, in which he rushed for a quarterback playoff-record 181 yards and passed for 263 yards, that should scare Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees enough that he lives up to his name.
Kaepernick has yet to show any indication he is vulnerable to caving under pressure. It could happen, but I don’t think it will. All week, he seemed very comfortable in the spotlight. You couldn’t out-cliché this kid.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been the subject of doubt and scorn for much of his five-year career, even though he has a 54-26 record as a starter, a completion percentage of 60.5 and a touchdown-to-interception breakdown of 102 to 56. There’s something about him that says ‘‘middle manager’’ rather than ‘‘NFL quarterback.’’ Maybe it’s the wingtip cleats. He wants to change that perception Sunday with a Super Bowl victory.
‘‘I don’t know if I would say I’m dull, but I’m probably close to it,’’ he said.
The other fun showdown will be at running back. The Ravens’ Ray Rice runs hard, but the 49ers’ Frank Gore punishes defenders. People who have taken on Gore have talked afterward about near-death experiences.
‘‘The best running back I’ve ever played against,’’ said Ravens safety Ed Reed, an 11-year veteran.
When the teams met in 2011, Gore finished with 39 yards on 14 carries. Why will Sunday be different? Because Alex Smith was the 49ers’ quarterback that day. The Ravens sacked him nine times. Kaepernick can run, which should open things up for Gore.
Which brings us to Mr. Lewis. No matter what you think of the guy — whether you think he was involved in two murders 13 years ago or you think he’s the most misunderstood figure in sports — you have to admit he’s a publicity hound of the highest degree. Do you really want the Super Bowl hijacked by him? Let me answer for you: No. In a perfect world, Lewis has more deer antlers in his locker (three) on Sunday than tackles on the field (two).
The 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and will neutralize Lewis, saving the world from close-ups of his war paint.
Here’s the wild card, or the wild-man card: Coach Jim Harbaugh is smart, competitive and just a tad off, maybe a degree or two from perfectly sane. Sadly, brother John, coach of the Ravens, was not gifted with the same psycho eyes. I think the 49ers will win this game, but part of me wants them to lose, just to be able to see Jim’s postgame handshake with his brother. Could this be the first brawl in Super Bowl history?
Nah, can’t see it happening. San Francisco wins 30-27.