After two weeks of endless chatter, analysis and breakdowns, the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers will finally take the field at the Superdome today for Super Bowl XLVII.
The game will bring a conclusion to the hoopla surrounding the biggest football game in the world.
"It's been a circus, but we haven't strayed off the path one bit," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We've still kept our eyes on the goal. We know we're here to play a football game."
The Ravens have soaked up the atmosphere throughout the week, taking on a light-hearted tone during media sessions and seeming relaxed for the big stage.
"We always are going to have fun," Suggs said. "We're always going to be us. We have fun at practice. Everybody has just been enjoying ourselves, but not getting too far off the path and making sure we're here for a football game."
The tone for the Ravens has been set by linebacker Ray Lewis, who is playing in his final game and is the only player on the roster to have won a Super Bowl. Lewis has stressed that his teammates treat the experience as a business trip, rather than worrying about all the frills that come with the game.
This game will be the final time Lewis puts on a Ravens' uniform, and his influence on the team's energy level can't be discounted. As much as his teammates want Lewis' swan song to end with another Super Bowl ring to his name, Lewis wants them to know what it feels like to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
"Knowing that this is my last time ever, the greatest reward to myself, honestly, is to give everything I got," Lewis said. "The greatest reward to my teammates is to give everything I got. At the end of the day when the clock hits triple zeros, I ride off into the sunset."
3 Questions To Answer
Does Joe Flacco stay hot?Quarterback Joe Flacco has been lights out for the Ravens throughout the playoffs, and his play has dictated the success of the offense. Flacco has been the best quarterback in the NFL in the playoffs, throwing eight touchdowns and no interceptions, and the Ravens will need him to stay on a roll in order to become Super Bowl champs.
Can the Ravens slow Colin Kaepernick?The key for the Ravens defense will be to find a way to slow second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, which has been a tough task for every team the 49ers have faced. He has a big arm and breakaway speed, and he's breathed some life into San Francisco's offense. Finding a way to limit his effectiveness will be critical for the defense to have success against the 49ers.
Who wins the battle in the trenches?This is a game that will very likely be decided up front between the offensive and defensive lines. Both teams rely on their running game within the offense, and it will be critical for the offensive lines to open up holes for the backs. Baltimore's offensive line has been superb in the playoffs since re-inserting Bryant McKinnie into the starting lineup, and the group will have to continue opening holes for Ray Rice and give Flacco time to throw. On the defensive side, the linebackers and defensive linemen have to slow running back Frank Gore and Kaepernick if the 49ers offense is going to be stopped.
RavensTotal Defense – 350.9 (17)
Rush Defense – 122.8 (20)
Pass Defense – 228.1 (17)
Points Allowed Per Game – 21.5 (12t)
Total Offense – 352.5 (16)
Rush Offense – 118.8 (11)
Pass Offense – 233.7 (15)
Points Scored Per Game – 24.9 (10)
Total Defense – 294.4 (3)
Rush Defense – 94.2 (4)
Pass Defense – 200.2 (4)
Points Allowed Per Game – 17.1 (2)
Total Offense – 361.8 (11)
Rush Offense – 155.7 (4)
Pass Offense – 206.1 (23)
Points Scored Per Game – 24.8 (11)