Inside the Super Bowl – Friday

Friday was a day of big press conferences in New Orleans as the Harbaugh brothers took the stage together to discuss Sunday’s clash between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell delivered his annual ‘state of the league’ address.

Let’s start with Jim and John, who - among other subjects - discussed Jim’s son Jay coaching for John in front of family members including Jack, Jackie and Joanie. Confused yet?

I watched this press conference unfold alongside my Inside the Huddle podcast host Darren Fletcher and we both wanted to get as close to the stage as possible to gauge the mood of the competing coaches.

We got to row number two and were then told the remaining seats were reserved for special guests. Little did we know we would be sat among the entire Harbaugh clan, who giggled and chuckled their way through the press conference featuring their two sons.

As the press conference kicked off, it soon became evident that John was the looser and more relaxed of the coaches and Jim was happy to cede the floor to his elder brother. John was also more willing to tell tales of the brothers’ childhood.

It was a little bit different for Jim, who was more intent on talking about his team, even citing the play of Randy Moss and discussing David Akers’ 63-yard field goal in Week 1 when asked a direct question about the rivalries between him and his brother when growing up.

In short, he wanted to make it about the team and not him. John also stressed the importance of his team, saying: “It’s the guys out there whose faces are marred with blood, sweat and dust who will determine this game.”

After a very interesting press conference between the Harbaugh brothers, it was time for the commissioner to take the stage and he quickly revealed how both Wembley games are now sold out.

That is an incredible effort on behalf of the NFL and is a tribute to the British fans, once again proving the game is heading in the right direction in the UK.

I even got to ask a question in the press conference and the commissioner suggested the quick sell-outs were good news for British fans and we could see even more regular season games per year considered for London in the near future.

As we get closer to Sunday’s big game between the Ravens and 49ers, we should not lose sight of the fact that the NFL continues to grow bigger and bigger in the UK with each passing season.

It’s certainly a good time to be following America’s favourite sport on our side of the Atlantic.

The Super Bowl 5 – 5 additional observations from New Orleans

  1. 1.       The Jaguars will be a much tougher team in 2013. I spent a few minutes interviewing their new head coach, Gus Bradley, on Friday and he will bring some swagger and steel to the AFC South club. He also brings a great deal of passion and emotion to his new job.
  1. 2.       Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph is huge! And he is also excited about heading to London to take on the Steelers.
  1. 3.       Player safety is an issue not going away in the NFL. It remains the most talked-about subject when the commissioner takes to the stage. And rightly so.
  1. 4.       The crowds are beginning to flock into New Orleans as we head into the weekend. Strangely, Radio Row now begins to settle down as every product known to man has been hawked to death by the players of the NFL.
  1. 5.       For those of you thinking that getting interviews on Radio Row is like shooting fish in a barrel, think again. If you don’t want to promote their product, they don’t want to know. I’ve been blown out more times than a wind sock this week. I’m talking about you, J.J. Watt, Vinny Testaverde and Kellen Winslow Sr.

They said what?

“It would be the greatest thing in the world to work for Jim. There’s no better coach in the NFL than this guy sitting right here.” – John Harbaugh admits that if the situation ever presented itself, he could indeed work for his younger brother, Jim.

It’s true! It’s a Super Bowl Fact !

Super Bowl 47 will be the third consecutive Super Bowl to be played indoors. The previous two Super Bowls were played in Dallas and then Indianapolis. It will be all change next year as we head outside in the wintry weather for what should be a memorable Super Bowl in New York/New Jersey.

Super Bowl By the Numbers…

Here are a few examples of just how little there is between the Ravens and 49ers as they head into Super Bowl 47.

                                                Baltimore            San Francisco

Points scored                            398                         397

TDs scored                               44                           44

Rushing TD scored                    17                           17

Passing TD scored                    22                           23

Return TD scored                     5                              4

Sacks                                      37                           38

Interceptions                           13                           14

The X’s and O’s bit... A key to the game!

I will be very interested to see how Vernon Davis is used by the 49ers on Sunday night. If he gets matched up one on one against the likes of Ray Lewis, Bernard Pollard or Ed Reed, he is likely to win those battles from an athletic ability point of view. Davis has wide receiver’s speed and how he is used could be a key in Super Bowl 47. Of equal importance will be how the Ravens defend Davis and the middle of the field. If they choose to do so, the Ravens can get very physical and we know Pollard can hit like a train. And Ed Reed can read quarterback’s like a book and he could very well step in front of a pass or two intended for Davis. Atlanta took away the outside from the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game and Davis had a big game because the Falcons couldn’t cover him. If he can do so again on Sunday, it could be an X factor to San Francisco’s advantage. When talking tight ends, it is also worth noting that Delanie Walker has downfield speed and could also be a factor.

Final Thought

I think we’re in store for one of the most physical Super Bowls in recent memory and as Ravens center Matt Birk rightly warned: “This will be a bloodbath.” I think this is going to be a close game and the Ravens are going to give the 49ers all they can handle. This is your classic coin-flip game and there is so little to choose between the two teams. But I am just about leaning towards the 49ers – I think they have just a tiny bit more talent from top to bottom and the bigger game-breaker in Colin Kaepernick. But this is a tough one to pick, especially when you factor in the emotional impact Ray Lewis is sure to have on the Ravens in his final game. There are people on both teams I will be happy for if they lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday. I just plan to sit back and enjoy the show that will bring the curtain down on what has been a memorable, exciting and dramatic 2012 season. I hope you can all do the same. Enjoy the game!

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