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Coaches, QBs hold keys to NFL title game

Posted: January 23, 2013 8:03 a.m.
Updated: January 23, 2013 5:00 a.m.

If anyone bet money in the off-season that two brothers would face off in the Super Bowl, the name Manning would have certainly come to mind first.

With New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning coming off his second championship season and his older brother Peyton joining a promising Denver Broncos team this year, the stars were certainly aligned.

That scenario turned out not to be the case. Eli actually failed to even reach the playoffs after finishing with a highly disappointing 9-7 record that included an embarrassing loss to the eventual 4-12 Philadelphia Eagles and a 34-0 drubbing at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons.

Peyton, on the other hand, had a stellar regular season, clinching the AFC’s No. 1 seed, only to see it crumble away at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.

Those Ravens, lead by Head Coach John Harbaugh, have turned out to be the real deal so far. After beating rookie sensation Andrew Luck and two future Hall of Famers in Manning and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the team seems poised to bring home the Lombardi Trophy.

Of course, John’s younger brother, Jim, will be patrolling the other sidelines at the big game in New Orleans, hoping to take down Baltimore in Super Bowl XLVII.

Baltimore’s success will likely rest on the throwing arm of quarterback Joe Flacco. For a team built on rushing and defense, the fifth-year player out of Delaware has been called on this postseason to make big plays under center. So far, he’s gotten the job done. In three playoff wins this year, he’s thrown eight touchdowns without an interception. Despite having a number of NFL records, including being the only quarterback to start and win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons, Flacco’s status as an elite quarterback still comes into question.

Baltimore has a reputation of relying heavily on its defense to win ball games, particularly with safety Ed Reed and retiring linebacker Ray Lewis, but to this point, Flacco has been the key cog in the machine. He torched the Patriots for three touchdowns and 240 yards to clinch Baltimore’s spot in the title game. If he can carry the Ravens on his back and bring home the franchise’s second championship, there will be no questioning his status as an upper echelon quarterback.

San Francisco’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick may not have as much success as Flacco, but that may only be because he hasn’t been in the league as long. A second round draft pick in 2011, the Nevada graduate has become the hallmark for the new breed of dual threat quarterbacks. Only 25-years-old, he’s already had perhaps the greatest playoff game in NFL history, statistical wise.

Against the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the playoffs, Kaepernick set a league single-game record for most rushing yards by a quarterback with 181, breaking Michael Vick’s 2002 regular season record of 173. He also passed for 263 yards, scoring two touchdowns through the air. Surprisingly, his first Super Bowl experience will also be only his 10th game as an NFL starter. Some of the league’s greatest passers including Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Frank Tarkenton, played their entire careers without winning a championship ring. Topping of the 49ers season with a Super Bowl title would certainly make Kaepernick’s season one of the most memorable in the sport’s storied past.

Regardless of next Sunday’s outcome, the Harbaugh family will undoubtedly be feeling mix emotions. Whatever the result, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, the parents of the two coaches, will be watching the game in a different spot than they did for the conference title match ups last Sunday. They stayed at home for those games, but on Feb. 3, they expect to be hunkered down in the Super Dome in New Orleans, watching their boys fight for a taste of NFL history.

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