Super Bowl XLVII projection: Defense gives edge to 49ers

sports@macon.comFebruary 2, 2013 

It’s not easy to watch a game when you think your team should be there. That’s why Sunday will not be easy for Atlanta Falcons fans.

Sure, San Francisco won fair and square two weeks ago. But to know the Falcons were only 10 yards away from winning the NFC championship will be something replayed in a lot of minds in these parts while they’re chomping on chicken wings watching someone else play Baltimore.

Probably more than anything, the vision of a scoreboard that read 17-0 will be the lasting memory. To know Atlanta had that big a lead on the 49ers and then lost it is tough to take.

All right, enough whining about that game. It’s over, right? Time to focus on San Francisco and Baltimore.

It’s actually a very good matchup. Two solid defenses. Two dangerous quarterbacks. Two productive running games.

Two Harbaughs.

There’s no doubt that the fact these two teams are coached by brothers is a neat story. I’ve pretty much tuned out most of the pregame coverage for the past week. No need to get overloaded on that story and the unending Ray Lewis lovefest by the national media.

Jim Harbaugh of San Francisco and John Harbaugh of Baltimore will be the focus Sunday. We’ll see split screens and shots of their proud parents all day long.

Hopefully, the game will be good enough to curtail that a bit.

Since we watched San Francisco a bit more closely two weeks ago when the 49ers were in Atlanta. It’s easy to drink the Kool-Aid on the 49ers and believe they are going to beat the Ravens.

Colin Kaepernick might have a tougher time against Baltimore than he did against Atlanta, although the Falcons did contain the San Francisco quarterback pretty well. But there may be more of a pass rush from the Ravens, and Kaepernick will have to deal with Lewis and safety Ed Reed.

But the 49ers will probably win the game because of their defense. Joe Flacco must have a great game for the Ravens. He might do just that, as you have to give the fifth-year quarterback tremendous credit.

Flacco is not Trent Dilfer, the quarterback who was with the Ravens when they won the Super Bowl in 2001. Dilfer wasn’t very good, but he was good enough to not mess up and allow the Baltimore defense to whip the New York Giants 34-7.

Flacco has 10 touchdowns and has not thrown an interception during the postseason. He’ll need that type of efficiency again Sunday as he faces a very tough San Francisco defense.

The 49ers have to worry about the Lewis mystique that seems to be in play. Lewis still says he’s retiring, and, like we did as we wondered about Tony Gonzalez, you have to wonder if Lewis’ emotion is pushing Baltimore along here a bit.

But with what we saw in Atlanta two weeks ago, it’s just hard to go against San Francisco. They were down 17-0 on the road and didn’t panic. That’s coaching. Jim Harbaugh has been very impressive in his coaching career. You wouldn’t think a mediocre NFL quarterback would be so good as a coach, but he is.

Look what he did at Stanford. He made the football program relevant again. Now in his second year with San Francisco, Harbaugh had the courage to switch quarterbacks at midseason, even though his starter wasn’t doing that bad.

But Harbaugh believed Kaepernick was better than Alex Smith, and he made the change. It worked. Kaepernick made the 49ers even more dangerous with his running ability. Now, they’re not just a good defensive team, but one that can put points up on the board -- even when they are trailing in an unfriendly stadium.

So take the 49ers 27-20. But like many Sunday who’ll watch without their favorite team in it, I’m just hoping for a good football game and a few entertaining commercials.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill at and e-mail him at

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