Ravens-49ers: Which brother wins?

The San Francisco 49ers never have tasted defeat in a Super

Bowl, going 5-0. It’s the most impressive mark for any franchise in

the big game.

Baltimore also is undefeated, with the Ravens winning their only

appearance, in 2001.

Someone will have the Super Bowl blahs for the first time after

Sunday’s title game in the Superdome.

The Ravens (13-6), who are 3 1/2 -point underdogs, are on one of

those runs reminiscent of recent NFL champions. Indeed, the New

York Giants reached the Super Bowl a year ago in a similar manner,

winning a wild-card game at home, then two playoffs on the road,

including an overtime thriller.

The Giants got healthy down the stretch, something the Ravens

have replicated, particularly on defense where star linebackers Ray

Lewis and Terrell Suggs are giving vintage performances following

injury-shortened seasons.

”I believe we have found a way to believe in each other, and

nothing else matters,” said Lewis, who will retire after the game.

”That is one thing about our sideline. When we are on our

sideline, there is only one thing that matters, when this game

ends, we will be victorious, and everybody believes the same thing.

That’s what’s been our road, no matter who’s been up, who’s been

down, who’s been hurt, who’s been injured. We found a way to pick

each other up.”

Baltimore’s path to New Orleans led through New England, where

the Ravens fell to the Patriots in last year’s AFC title game. But

they outscored the Patriots 21-0 in the second half to earn their

spot in the Super Bowl.

San Francisco (13-4-1) also came up one win short a year ago,

losing to the Giants for the NFC championship. That defeat has

driven the 49ers just as much as the Ravens’ failure in 2011 lifted

them.

These Niners are built around a physical, stingy defense – that

also has been the Ravens’ persona for years, although not as much

in 2012 as in Lewis’ other 17 pro seasons. Linebacker Patrick

Willis, who like Lewis wears No. 52 and is a perennial All-Pro, is

the anchor.

”As a kid, you grew up watching,” Willis said. ”Just to have

the opportunity to be able to play in this game given my first four

years (out of the playoffs), we were at home at this time watching

other teams play. Last year we were one game away. To be able to be

here, is truly special.”

To make it extra special, San Francisco’s offense will need to

outdo Baltimore’s. The Ravens have scored 90 points in three games,

and the Niners have 73 in two.

Baltimore’s defense has made big plays against Andrew Luck,

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Now it gets an entirely different

type of quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. His combination of running

skill, powerful arm and surprising cool for a second-year pro makes

him particularly dangerous against the Ravens. Baltimore does not

have the fastest defense in the league.

Then again, the 49ers must deal with Joe Flacco, the only QB to

win a postseason game in each of his first five seasons. Flacco

also has six road playoff victories, a league record.

He’s also outplayed Brady, the most successful quarterback of

the last dozen seasons, in two straight AFC title games.

But he has his critics because this is his first Super Bowl trip

in five tries.

”I think there is definitely a part of all of us that hear

things and when somebody doubts what you want to do, you definitely

go show them that they may be wrong,” he said. ”I think for the

most part we play for each other and that stuff is kind of a

secondary issue.”

While the Ravens and 49ers play for each other, the Harbaugh

brothers, John of the Ravens and Jim of the 49ers, will go against

each other in the first Super Bowl featuring sibling head coaches.

They’ve had fun with the topic this week, but it will be as serious

as football can get on Sunday.

With older brother John coming out on top.

RAVENS, 27-24

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