A few interesting moments along the way but they still got back to the Big Easy.
The San Francisco 49ers arrived in New Orleans Sunday night with a barrage of press awaiting them. The final practices are done back in the Bay Area with more prep work be done in Louisiana along with several more press conferences, interviews, stories, and headlines.
Of course the big story surrounds 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and the brotherly rivalry between him and John Harbaugh, head coach of the AFC Champion Baltimore Ravens.
“I mean that’s a great thing for their family,” 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said of the Harbaugh brothers. “I think it’s the first time in history, so um, I mean that’s something special for them.”
Along with it being the first Super Bowl with brothers as head coaches, it’s also Jim and John’s first Super Bowl appearances as head coaches. For most of the 49ers players, it’s their first Super Bowl appearance as well.
“We have a great thrill and great desire of being in uncharted waters,” Jim Harbaugh said Sunday night. “Our coaches and our players have always relished that, always thrived in that kind of environment.”
A reason that San Francisco has thrived in the big moments so far this postseason has been their great focus.
“Our team’s been really focused,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s the best focus on unity and winning that I’ve ever seen or been a part of.”
Another reason for their success is the talent they have starting with Colin Kaepernick. In perhaps the biggest move of the entire NFL season, Harbaugh turned over the reins of the offense permanently to Kaepernick after Colin lead the 49ers to a blowout victory over the Bears in week 11. Despite the fact that Alex Smith lead the team to the NFC Championship game last year, he stuck with Kaepernick seeing him as the better option.
“We did what we thought was best for the team,” Harbaugh said about the change at quarterback. “What helped us win games, what we thought gave us the best chance. That’s my personality.”
Kaepernick, who has taken over as starter of the team since week 11, will receive much more spotlight with this 2nd trip to New Orleans. The first time Colin played in the Superdome was back in week 12 vs. the Saints. Despite having thrown an interception in that game, Kaepernick went 16/25 throwing for 231 passing yards, one touchdown pass, and had one touchdown running the ball.
Despite all the attention and the fact that the Super Bowl is his next start, Kaepernick seemed professional as always upon his arrival Sunday.
“It’s just head down, keep working,” Colin said. “This isn’t a time to relax and get out of your routine or stop working hard. This is when you should be working your hardest.”
The work hard attitude of Colin Kaepernick certainly has been great in this postseason, especially in that NFC Divisional playoff game vs. the Packers where he ran for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns. With all the headlines and the records he’s set, it hasn’t gone to his head.
“I think people put too much focus on me,” Kaepernick said about all the attention. “I think they don’t realize the other weapons we have on this team. I don’t think they realize the great offensive line we have. There’s a lot of other parts on this team that do great things to make it easier on me to go out there.”
That front line has been one of the best in football with left tackle Joe Staley being one of the integral pieces. Staley can also attest to other great players on the team not named Kaepernick.
“I think sometimes you want to have some characters,” Staley said. “We have players like Justin Smith, Frank Gore, Vernon (Davis), Patrick (Willis), and myself. We have a lot of older, veteran leaders that really speak up and make sure there is no issues.”
One of those Staley mentioned is defensive tackle Justin Smith. While he hasn’t been the most talked about player defensively, he is key to helping players like linebacker Aldon Smith look really good.
“We work well together,” Justin Smith said about playing alongside Aldon Smith. “He’s a cool easy going guy, and works hard, plays hard, and that’s all you really got to have in a good teammate and he does all those.”
Aldon has had a breakout year with 19.5 sacks during the regular season. None of those sacks, however, came after week 14 with part of the reason being Justin Smith missing the last two regular season games due to a elbow/triceps injury he sustained in New England. Justin is expected to get surgery after the Super Bowl.
The leader for the San Francisco defense is neither of the Smith’s but Patrick Willis. The 27 year old linebacker has been on the team since he was drafted as the 11th overall pick in the 2007 draft. He’s been a pro bowler every year he’s been in the league and matches up with Ray Lewis, the heart and soul of the Baltimore defense.
“I’m a big fan of those who have ‘been there and done that’ or guys who have done it at a high level consistently,” Willis said about his respect for Ray Lewis. “I always have respect for him.”
Willis and Lewis have gotten to know each other thanks to the pro bowls and even share the same jersey number: 52.
San Francisco has a lot of talent on both offense and defense and also has a lot of super bowl history to live up to going into this Sunday’s game. The 49ers are 5-0 in Super Bowl having never lost on the big stage.
“The organization has a tremendous history and we’re very proud of it,” Harbaugh said. “This is new business and our team is focused on winning a championship.”
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Written by Daniel Trucios