It’s finally here. The endless debates, the nonstop analysis, the deer antler spray. It all culminates in one football game.
With so much hype and media attention, it’s always odd when the outing actually begins. Oh yeah, all this for a football game. We all have the friends and family members who ignore football all year, only to embrace the one day that is more celebration-oriented than sport-centered. You know, the folks who await the commercials as they tolerate the football.
For all the football fans out there who have seen every last ESPN and NFL Network debate about whether Kaepernick or Flacco will play better, you probably feel like there’s nothing left to hear. I understand. Still, the bigger-than-life persona that the Super Bowl takes on can make us forget that it is still a football game. Here are five general things to watch that will likely determine which Harbaugh brother is going to have a rough night.
- The ground game
San Francisco lives off it, and Baltimore depends on running to generate consistent offense. The 49ers have the more potent rushing attack, but Baltimore has shown the ability to stymie the ground game. If San Francisco has trouble getting Frank Gore going, it could be uphill sledding for young Kaepernick.
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Ever heard the name Adam Vinateiri? He’s a household name because of his heroics in this very game. For all the running, passing, and tackling, it could all come down to some soccer guy trying to boot the ball through the uprights to decide this year’s champion.
- 49ers’ secondary
Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, and the rest of San Francisco’s rowdy front seven lead one of the best run stopping units in the NFL. They can’t cover Torrey Smith, though. If Baltimore is able to generate some big plays, they are going to be in good position.
- Field position
If your first reaction is “DUH,” bear with me. This is especially pertinent if the game comes down to the wire and a coach has to decide whether to punt, kick, or go for it. Also, neither team wants to get in the unfortunate habit of starting deep in their own territory.
- The butterflies
The Super Bowl is America’s biggest athletic stage, and football is a game of minimizing mistakes. It’s fairly easy to understand how someone could be overwhelmed by the moment, and anybody on either team has the potential to make that one error that changes the game. Both teams are in a battle against their butterflies, and the winner of that contest will likely get to hoist the Lombardi trophy.