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  • Gail Burton / Associated Press file, 2011

    Today's Super Bowl will be only the second time the 49ers' Jim Harbaugh and the Ravens' John Harbaugh have coached against each other in the NFL. Before their Thanksgiving Day game in 2011, the Harbaughs – from left, dad Jack, mom Jackie, John and Jim – chat on the field in Baltimore.

  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Colin Kaepernick will become just the third 49ers quarterback to win a Super Bowl, joining legends Joe Montana and Steve Young, if he can lead his team to victory over the Ravens.

  • Jose Luis Villegas / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    The 49ers' Justin Smith, a 12-year NFL veteran, will play in his first Super Bowl today.

  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    The 49ers' David Akers misses his only field-goal attempt in the NFC Championship Game against Atlanta.

What to watch: Five story lines that really stand out today

Published: Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2X
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 - 1:46 pm

1. CONNECTIONS ABOUND

For head coaches Jim and John Harbaugh, the game is a culmination of their childhood struggles in the back seat of the family car.

One brother will be the first in the family to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The other probably will be the first to get a visit from parents Jack and Jackie, for whom the game will admittedly be an emotional tug-of-war.

The connections, though, extend into the 49ers' coaching staff. When Jim Harbaugh was looking for his right-hand men at Stanford, John Harbaugh recommended Greg Roman and Vic Fangio, who had both coached on the Ravens' staff. Roman is now the 49ers' offensive architect, wielding such weapons as Colin Kaepernick's legs and the pistol formation. And Fangio is the coordinator for a 49ers defense that rivals the Ravens' in stinginess and physicality. Both will be trying to out-scheme the Baltimore regime that let them go.

2. WATCH THE WUNDERKIND

When quarterback Colin Kaepernick lines up to take his first snap in the Super Bowl, he'll be making just his 10th career NFL start. Only two quarterbacks in league history have had fewer going into a Super Bowl.

As with each test since he assumed the starting role at midseason, Kaepernick has handled the avalanche of media attention in New Orleans this week with a cool hand.

But the theory that no moment is too big for the 25-year-old from Turlock will likely meet its ultimate test today. On the other side of the ball are a plethora of savvy veterans, including middle linebacker Ray Lewis in his final game, ball-hawking safety Ed Reed and a few other hard hitters.

And which Kaepernick will the 49ers unleash? The read-option runner who crushed the Packers on the ground? Or the more traditional quarterback who led the 49ers back from 17 points down against the Falcons?

Either way, Kaepernick will be trying to join Joe Montana and Steve Young as the only quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl for the 49ers.

3. ONE FOR THE OLD GUYS

The 2005 NFL draft netted the 49ers such players as erstwhile starting quarterback Alex Smith and running back Frank Gore. The next year brought tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.

All weathered a string of non-winning seasons that finally ended with last season's trip to the NFC Championship Game. Throw in defensive anchor Justin Smith (12th NFL season), kicker David Akers (14th) and wide receiver Randy Moss (14th), none of whom have won a Super Bowl, and the 49ers have a handful of veterans for whom they would love to get a ring.

These two Smiths – Alex and Justin – also are going into today's game under odd circumstances. It remains to be seen whether this will be Alex's final game in a 49ers uniform, should he choose after the season to seek a situation elsewhere that would allow him to start. Justin, meanwhile, will virtually head straight to the operating table to repair a triceps that he estimates is 50 percent torn.

4. HOLDING THEIR BREATH

On Thursday, Delanie Walker was asked who would be the difference-maker should the Super Bowl come down to the final play of the game.

His response: "David Akers."

But how confident would the 49ers be in that scenario?

After Akers missed his lone field-goal attempt in the NFC title game from 38 yards, Jim Harbaugh wasted no time throwing his support behind the 38-year-old kicker.

Still, Akers would come out to attempt a field goal at the Superdome with more than just that miss looming over his head. His 69 percent success rate in the regular season – the lowest of his career – has left the veteran Akers as bewildered as anyone. He's trying to put it all behind him before the 49ers play their biggest game in nearly two decades.

But if Walker's scenario does come true, and Akers trots out onto the field to attempt a pivotal late field goal, it's hard to imagine much exhaling on the 49ers' sideline.

5. QUEST FOR PERFECTION

In Super Bowls, the 49ers are a flawless 5 for 5. With a win today, they will tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins.

It has been 18 years since their last Super Bowl – but what would a win today mean for the future?

The 49ers have arguably the NFL's hottest head coach and potentially transcendent talent at quarterback, and Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick are surrounded by young talent. On top of that, they have a new stadium scheduled to open in Santa Clara in 2014.

And on top of that, their San Francisco counterparts on the baseball diamond have won two of the last three World Series championships, and another ragtag bunch is making waves across the bridge in Oakland.

Beyond thoughts of a new dynasty for the 49ers, a win today would fuel the notion of this being a golden age in Bay Area sports.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Matt Kawahara



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