The NFL’s annual rush to scrutinize the Super Bowl teams and draw conclusions from their rosters will soon begin to focus on the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
The surface study of these Super teams would offer an easily understandable strategy for getting to the Super Bowl:
Simply hire a coach named Harbaugh.
But as the Harbaugh family is tapped of coaching brothers and most NFL teams are sticking with their own coaches for the time being, a more involved study is necessary to decipher the latest formula for NFL success.
Hint: The formula isn’t obvious because the Ravens and 49ers don’t specialize in any one philosophy or approach.
Both teams do simply collect good players — a lot of them — and they’re sprinkled throughout the roster.
“There’s a lot. I could go on talking about the talent that we have around here,” San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree said. “On the tight ends, running backs, you have to remember we have three people injured that played a major part in our offense. But I would say that with all of these weapons, I don’t think that you can go wrong.
“That’s the bottom line: You have to have as many playmakers as you can.”
Maybe that’s it. Add good players everywhere and overcome the opposition with quantity as well as quality.
Obviously the past’s ideas on how to succeed, drawn from championship teams of 2004-2011, aren’t applying to these to teams.
Unlike past years when the Saints, Colts and Patriots brought a great pocket quarterback and perhaps the NFL’s most proficient passing game to the Super Bowl — sometimes at the expense of running the football — the Ravens and 49ers are shifting that paradigm.
Both the Ravens and 49ers run the football first and pass second.
Baltimore brings a drop-backer passer to the game. But Joe Flacco’s not exactly prolific, having thrown only 22 touchdowns during a regular season in which Drew Brees led the NFL with 43. San Francisco brought a running quarterback of all things to this game. And while Colin Kaepernick adds an intriguing dimension with the pistol offense, he only threw 10 touchdowns after he took over as the starter.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady, Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers are not in this game. So the idea of needing an elite quarterback to win the Super Bowl might not be totally right.
(Yes, my hair is about to catch on fire from this thought).
Defensively, these teams also are bucking the trend set by the New York Giants on how to win championships with defense. The Giants convinced experts the best way to win a championship was to field an extraordinary pass-rush.
The 49ers really have only one accomplished pass-rusher and the Ravens are in the big game even though their best pass-rusher Terrell Suggs spent much of the season injured. The Dolphins, believe it or not, had more sacks than either team.
So what does the 2012 success of the Ravens and 49ers suggest?
The Ravens run the ball behind a zone blocking scheme, the 49ers go with a more physical man blocking approach.
That alone might suggest these teams share little in common. But look closer. It’s not a coincidence both will decide the 47th Super Bowl.
“I don’t think it’s coincidence,” San Francisco safety Donte Whitner said. “I think that when you play the game the way we play the game and the way that the Baltimore Ravens play the game, good things happen for you.