It has happened, Steeler Nation. Despite our prayers and wishes, the Falcons, and heck, the Patriots couldn't come through Sunday, and it will be Jim Harbaugh vs. John Harbaugh in Super Bowl XLVII. The 49ers will be going for their Steelers-tying sixth Lombardi trophy, while the Ravens will be looking for their first title in 12 seasons.
Some Haribowl thoughts:
-Sunday night, during the CBS post-game ceremony, when asked about how it felt to be going up against his brother in two weeks, John Harbaugh said something along the lines of, "It's going to be their players vs. our players. Make no mistake about that." How many times do you think we'll hear a similar phrase uttered by either coach over the next two weeks?
-How soon until we see the first sit-down interview involving both coaches? Will someone go to their childhood home and talk to the parents?
-For all you conspiracy theorists out there, it is kind of chilling how eerily similar the end of the Ravens' 2012 season is to Pittsburgh's 2005 campaign:
*Like the '05 Steelers, who started out 7-2 before losing three games in a row to fall to 7-5, Baltimore lost three games in a row after starting out 9-2. After appearing to be a lock for a bye earlier in the year, both teams had to start their postseason journey on Wildcard Weekend.
*Much like the '05 Steelers, who got blasted by the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts as part of their three-game losing streak, Baltimore lost in blow-out fashion to the Manning-led Broncos during its three-game skid. However, like Pittsburgh in '05, the Ravens were able to vanquish Manning's squad by three points in the divisional round of the playoffs after a victory seemed rather far-fetched in the week leading up to the game.
*Then, of course, there's the whole Jerome Bettis vs. Ray Lewis retirement angle. The Steelers wanted to ride the Bus back to his hometown of Detroit for Super Bowl XL and get him a ring on his way out the door.... mission accomplished. Baltimore wanted to get Lewis one more shot at Super Bowl success on his way out the door.....mission........?
-Moving on. The Ravens became the first AFC team not named the Steelers, Colts or Patriots to make it to the Super Bowl since Oakland in '02. During that same time-span, the NFC has had nine different teams make it to the Super Bowl--only the Giants have been able to make it twice.
-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked rather impressive in his two playoff games, passing for a combined 496 yards and three touchdowns to only one interception as he led his team through the playoffs and to its first Super Bowl appearance since the '94 season. Throw in his rushing ability--202 rushing yards and two touchdowns --and I wonder if the "traditional" stand in the pocket QB will become antiquated and more teams will start handing over the keys to a spread-option type quarterback.
-Of course, Joe Flacco may have a lot to say about that. In three playoff games, Flacco was 51/90 for 853 yards and eight touchdown passes to no interceptions. During the Lamar Hunt trophy presentation, Flacco received the least amount of attention of all the guys at center stage in Baltimore's locker room, but forget Harbaugh and Lewis, Flacco is the reason the Ravens are on the door-step of a second world title. If he hasn't earned the "elite" label by now, he may in two weeks. His six road playoff victories are the most for a QB in NFL history, and people forget he made the pass he needed to make in the final seconds of last year's AFC Championship Game, only to have a New England defender knock that pass out of Lee Evans' possession. And if that's not enough for you, his 70 yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones in the waning seconds of the divisional round in Denver could go down as "the Catch-"esque if it leads to a championship. Heck, it's already achieved legendary status. As much as it pains me to say this, Flacco is the real deal.
-Baltimore's trip to the Super Bowl is rather impressive when you consider just how agonizing that team's playoff exits have been in recent years. In terms of struggles, you might say the Ravens are similar to the 70's Raiders in terms of finally breaking through after so many years of early playoff exits. Of course, we'll have to wait to see what happens in two weeks--there could be a whole new level of pain awaiting Ravens Nation.
-The Ravens became the seventh Super Bowl team in the last eight seasons to begin its playoff journey on Wildcard Weekend.
-If the 49ers win in two weeks, they'll not only match Pittsburgh for the most Lombardi trophies, they'll be a perfect six-for-six in the Super Bowl.
-One last thought from Sunday: Patriots head coach Bill Belichick refused a post-game interview with CBS (much like he has done several times in the past after a tough loss), and studio analyst Shannon Sharpe took the coach to task for the snub. What do you think of Belichick's antics?
Super Bowl XLVII is set. Let the Harbaugh/Ray Lewis/"is Joe Flacco elite?" hype begin!