Super Bowl preview: A super standoff

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2013 - 7:35 AM

One Super Bowl quarterback does things the old-fashioned way. The other stretches the limits of what a signal caller can be.

hide

New-style quarterback: San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick can hurt you running or passing.

Photo: Dave Martin, Associated Press - Ap

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

NEW ORLEANS — Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick are, in so many ways, similar. Strong-armed, no-flinch quarterbacks from small schools playing in the biggest game there is for the first time in their careers.

But Super Bowl XLVII's greatest appeal isn't in the similarities of Flacco's Baltimore Ravens or Kaepernick's San Francisco 49ers. It reaches deeper than head coaches who share Jack and Jackie Harbaugh's last name. It's bigger than Randy Moss thinking he's better than Jerry Rice or future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis trying to join the likes of Bronko Nagurski, Otto Graham, Norm Van Brocklin and John Elway as NFL greats who retired as world champions.

No, the most fascinating aspect of Super Bowl XLVII might become its place in history. The Superdome on Sunday night could be the symbolic intersection of a traditional style of quarterback play and a brash new era. A standard created by guys with names such as Unitas, Manning and Brady vs. an approach that wasn't supposed to work at this level yet is taking the NFL by storm because of fearless kids named Newton, RG3 and Kaepernick.

"The standard, isolated-to-the-pocket quarterback, the Joe Flacco, the Peyton Manning, the Tom Brady, you're going to see fewer of them," said ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, who helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV. "The Flaccos of the world, you'll see them slide [in future drafts]. They'll be extremely talented passers, but they'll be looked at differently because they don't do all this other stuff that we all love."

Don't say that to the guy who drafted Flacco and has ridden him to five straight playoff appearances. In fact, Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome has a rather strong opinion on the longevity of the 49ers' highly popular "read-option" play and the "pistol" formation from which it is run.

"As far as this pistol and this read-option goes, when these [NFL] defensive coordinators get together this offseason, it's going to be just like the Wildcat and the run-and-shoot and all of that other stuff," Newsome said. "It's going to become extinct, too."

In other words, game on.

Joe Cool and red-hot Colin

Flacco doesn't have a contract beyond Sunday night and seems locked in perpetual disagreement with reporters and fans who don't consider him as good as Flacco considers himself. In other words, he's kind of like Eli Manning before Eli won a couple of Super Bowls.

A win Sunday night would be Flacco's first Super Bowl title and ninth postseason victory, an NFL record he'd share with Brady. With eight touchdowns and no interceptions in this postseason, Flacco also is chasing Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young. Montana holds the record for most postseason touchdowns without an interception (11 in 1989), while Young ranks second (nine in 1994).

The 6-6, 245-pound Flacco's strengths are his flat-line demeanor and a great deep ball off play-action in the Ravens' run-oriented offense. His completion percentage (59.7) ranked 18th in the league, but he also threw a league-high 11 deep-ball touchdowns without any deep-ball interceptions.

Flacco is one dropped pass from this being his second straight Super Bowl. But he'll need a win to maximize his next contract and quiet his detractors.

"I think there is definitely a part of all of us that hears things," Flacco said. "And when somebody doubts you, you definitely go show them that they may be wrong."

At least Flacco's boss is happy.

"We made enough mistakes on quarterbacks before we got Joe that we knew what we were looking for," said Newsome, who picked Flacco 18th overall out of Delaware in 2008. "You win with quarterbacks. Would [Bill] Belichick be where he is without Tom Brady?"

Meanwhile, no one doubts the multi-dimensional talents of the 6-4, 230-pound Kaepernick. In fact, the 49ers are favored to win their sixth Super Bowl title -- tying the Steelers for most ever -- despite the fact that Kaepernick is making only his 10th professional start.

Since taking over for the concussed Alex Smith in Week 11, Kaepernick is 7-2 with a passer rating of 101.2, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also has run for 440 yards and four touchdowns, including an NFL quarterback-record 181 yards in the divisional playoff victory over the Packers. A week later, he ran only twice for 21 yards, but his 233 yards passing on just 21 attempts (11.1 average) broke Montana's team record (10.7) and beat the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC title game.

Disarming the pistol

The pistol formation -- or at least the version that the 49ers use about 30 percent of the time -- was conceived by former Nevada coach Chris Ault in 2005. That's where Kaepernick excelled in it before he was selected 36th overall by the 49ers in 2011.

Ault wanted to combine the spread passing game that's enhanced by having the quarterback in the shotgun with the power running benefits of a running back lined up behind the quarterback. What makes the 49ers' pistol especially difficult to stop is Kaepernick's powerful, accurate arm, his running skills and his training in the read-option, which, if run correctly, creates blocking angles that Dilfer calls "a dream come true" for the offensive linemen.

"It makes it 11-on-11 football, not 10-on-11," Kaepernick said. "You [the quarterback] are actually blocking the defender by reading him. ... And if I was worried about my health, I wouldn't be playing football."

When the Packers' perimeter defenders pinched in to take away running back Frank Gore, Kaepernick kept the ball and set an NFL record for rushing. When the Falcons took away the perimeter a week later, Kaepernick handed off to Gore or took advantage of the passing lanes created by a defense that was focused on the run.

"It was either Kaep or Frank Gore who asked me, 'Moss, how long do you think this pistol offense will work in the NFL?'" said Moss, the 49ers receiver and former Vikings star. "I said, 'Man, as long as you keep doing what you're doing, it'll go as far as you will take it.' Kaep's a blessed young man."

Lewis hinted that the best way to put an end to the pistol is to repeatedly clobber the trigger man.

"[The pistol] doesn't intimidate anything we are coming here to do," he said. "We are coming here to play football, and if you are carrying the football, from my defense, we gonna hit you, because that is what the game is all about."

Dilfer, meanwhile, calls the pistol/zone read combination "genius" and argues that if it's run properly, the quarterback not only won't get hit but will "torch" the defense if unblocked defenders steepen their angles to go after the quarterback.

"You're going to hear a lot of really smart defensive people say, 'Oh, it will go away. It'll become extinct. We'll hit the quarterback,'" Dilfer said. "And I always say this: Get into a room with an offensive-centric coach and a defensive-centric coach. At the end of the conversation, the defensive-centric coach usually leaves with his tail between his legs. We [the offense] always have an answer for what you [the defense] think your answer is."

49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman makes things even more difficult for defenders by running such a wide selection of plays from multiple formations and schemes that he says he's plucked from long-ago decades.

"We even run the Lombardi sweep," Roman said. "I mean, how cool is that? But the main idea for any offense is to put pressure on all 11 defenders. You want to make it a bad day for those guys on the other side."

Now, the question is who wins the present? The team that resembles the league's successes of the past or the team that's trying to take NFL quarterbacks into a future few thought was possible?

  • SUPER BOWL XLVII BALTIMORE VS. SAN FRANCISCO

    5:30 p.m. today • Superdome, New Orleans • TV: Ch. 4 (100.3-FM) • Line: 49ers by 4

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 FINAL
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Chicago 16 1st Qtr 5:04
Boston 19
Golden State 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Dallas 6:30 PM
Toronto
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
Detroit
New Orleans 6:30 PM
Atlanta
LA Clippers 7:00 PM
Houston
New York 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Orlando 7:00 PM
Indiana
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Phoenix 8:00 PM
Denver
Memphis 9:00 PM
Portland
Minnesota 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
NY Rangers 0 1st Prd 20:00
Philadelphia 0
Chicago 3:00 PM
Anaheim
NY Islanders 4:00 PM
Washington
Winnipeg 6:00 PM
Boston
Montreal 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Detroit 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Carolina 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Vancouver 6:00 PM
Columbus
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Florida
Edmonton 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Minnesota 7:30 PM
Dallas
Tennessee 40 2nd Half 16:12
Kansas 53
Eastern Ill 31 2nd Half 10:55
NC Central 57
New Orleans 14 1st Half 10:41
Texas A&M 14
Radford 12:30 PM
NC A&T
Butler 1:00 PM
Georgetown
Prairie View 1:30 PM
Brown
Southern U 1:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Santa Clara 1:30 PM
Rhode Island
IUPU-Ft Wayne 2:00 PM
Dartmouth
FIU 2:30 PM
Wright State
Texas-El Paso 2:30 PM
Xavier
Penn State 3:00 PM
Bucknell
James Madison 3:00 PM
Ohio State
Yale 3:00 PM
Providence
Lamar 3:00 PM
Texas Southern
Miss Valley St 3:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Missouri State 3:00 PM
Alaska-Anchorage
Minnesota 3:30 PM
Georgia
Oklahoma 3:30 PM
Wisconsin
Stephen F Austin 4:00 PM
Austin Peay
Norfolk State 4:00 PM
St Francis-NY
USC Upstate 5:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Middle Tennessee 5:00 PM
Cincinnati
Char Southern 5:00 PM
Florida State
Princeton 5:00 PM
San Diego
Drake 5:00 PM
Valparaiso
Rice 5:15 PM
Washington St
Rider 5:30 PM
Georgia Tech
High Point 6:00 PM
Clemson
Emerson 6:00 PM
Hartford
Savannah State 6:00 PM
Jacksonville St
Monmouth 6:00 PM
Maryland
South Alabama 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Boise State 6:00 PM
NC State
Vanderbilt 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Gonzaga 6:00 PM
St Johns
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Syracuse
Bradley 6:00 PM
TCU
Alabama State 6:00 PM
TX-Pan American
Delaware State 6:00 PM
Wake Forest
Tennessee St 6:30 PM
Saint Peters
North Carolina 7:00 PM
Florida
Memphis 7:00 PM
Indiana State
Hofstra 7:00 PM
Jackson State
Samford 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Cleveland State 7:00 PM
Marshall
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Nebraska
SE Louisiana 7:00 PM
Tulane
Creighton 7:30 PM
Ole Miss
Murray State 7:30 PM
Portland
North Texas 8:00 PM
Arkansas
UNC Greensboro 8:00 PM
Indiana
Michigan State 8:00 PM
Marquette
Western Mich 8:00 PM
San Jose St
Stetson 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
Texas-Arlington 8:05 PM
Montana State
Pacific 8:30 PM
Colorado State
Miss State 8:30 PM
Saint Louis
La Salle 8:30 PM
Virginia
North Dakota 9:00 PM
Utah
UCLA 9:30 PM
UAB
Baylor 9:30 PM
Illinois
Long Beach State 10:30 PM
Washington
Mercer 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
LSU 23 FINAL
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 17 3rd Qtr 3:35
Western Mich 21
Nebraska 0 2nd Qtr 1:07
Iowa 10
Western Ky 42 2nd Qtr 8:22
(19) Marshall 21
UCF 14 2nd Qtr 1:34
So Florida 0
Houston 7 2nd Qtr 4:51
SMU 0
Akron 0 1st Qtr 8:39
Kent State 7
Ball State 7 1st Qtr 11:15
Bowling Green 14
Buffalo 0 1st Qtr 9:57
Massachusetts 0
Toledo 14 1st Qtr 10:56
Eastern Mich 0
Arkansas 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Michigan 53 2nd Half 10:30
Washington St 38
Green Bay 44 2nd Half 15:30
Georgia Tech 35
Eastern Kentucky 60 2nd Half 10:06
Western Carolina 40
NJIT 39 2nd Half 12:15
Florida Atlantic 42
Fordham 21 1st Half 9:26
Incarnate Word 8
Furman 23 1st Half 10:06
Florida State 22
Illinois State 8 1st Half 11:37
Miami-Florida 17
Eastern Michigan 8 1st Half 11:23
Cal State Fullerton 16
George Washington 15 1st Half 9:31
NC State 15
Ohio State 6 1st Half 15:14
Wichita State 9
Western Ky 1:00 PM
Tulane
La Salle 1:00 PM
Long Island
Binghamton 1:00 PM
St Johns
UNC-Asheville 1:00 PM
NC Central
North Florida 1:00 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Akron 1:00 PM
Belmont
Miss Valley St 1:00 PM
UMKC
Liberty 1:00 PM
Penn State
Colgate 1:00 PM
(21) Rutgers
Mercer 1:00 PM
Saint Louis
Northeastern 1:30 PM
No Dakota State
(10) Maryland 1:30 PM
James Madison
Villanova 1:30 PM
Arizona State
Tulsa 2:00 PM
Buffalo
Boston College 2:00 PM
Brown
Wyoming 2:00 PM
Iowa State
Weber State 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Texas Tech 2:15 PM
Purdue
Washington 2:30 PM
Hartford
Fla Gulf Coast 2:30 PM
Clemson
Drake 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
UNC Greensboro 2:30 PM
Navy
(15) Nebraska 3:00 PM
UCLA
Northern Iowa 3:00 PM
Hofstra
Austin Peay 3:00 PM
Southern Miss
(17) Iowa 3:00 PM
Arkansas
Cal-Irvine 3:00 PM
Bowling Green
Samford 3:00 PM
Georgia State
Siena 3:30 PM
Denver
Abilene Christian 3:30 PM
George Mason
Towson 3:30 PM
Rhode Island
Howard 4:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Houston 4:00 PM
Idaho State
IUPUI 4:30 PM
Texas Southern
East Carolina 4:45 PM
Wisconsin
USC 5:00 PM
Sam Houston St
Minnesota 5:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kent State 5:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Montana 5:00 PM
Princeton
(9) Kentucky 5:00 PM
Oklahoma
Arizona 5:00 PM
FIU
Northern Ky 5:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Stetson 5:00 PM
Marist
American Univ 5:30 PM
Gonzaga
UAB 5:30 PM
Loyola Marymount
Oral Roberts 5:30 PM
NC A&T
Stony Brook 5:30 PM
(8) Duke
TCU 6:00 PM
Colorado State
(5) Stanford 6:00 PM
(11) North Carolina
Monmouth 6:00 PM
Wagner
Portland 6:00 PM
Nevada
Stephen F Austin 6:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Alcorn State 6:00 PM
Rice
Lafayette 6:00 PM
(12) Louisville
Florida 6:00 PM
Georgetown
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Oakland
SE Missouri St 6:05 PM
Southern Ill
Florida A&M 7:00 PM
SMU
Northern Colorado 7:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Montana State 7:00 PM
CS-Northridge
(22) Syracuse 7:00 PM
(1) South Carolina
Dartmouth 7:00 PM
Cal Poly
Utah State 7:00 PM
(13) Baylor
Toledo 7:00 PM
Virginia
Christian Brothers 7:05 PM
Arkansas State
South Florida 7:15 PM
Illinois
Coll of Charleston 7:30 PM
(3) Connecticut
Wake Forest 7:30 PM
Charlotte
San Jose St 7:30 PM
(14) California
Central Michigan 8:00 PM
Oregon
Fresno State 8:00 PM
San Diego
Boston U 8:00 PM
New Mexico
Missouri State 8:30 PM
Colorado
Ole Miss 8:30 PM
Utah
Prairie View 8:30 PM
Hawaii
Army 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Cincinnati 9:30 PM
Creighton

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Gophers and Vikings do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close