January 27, 2013 in Super Bowl XLVII
With the Super Bowl being one week away, we should look at what experience the Ravens will have in New Orleans. The Ravens have four players who have played in the Super Bowl before and their head coach along with both of their coordinators have been to the Super Bowl.
The first, and most obvious of the Ravens to play in a Super Bowl, is LB Ray Lewis. He is the only player on the Ravens team with a Super Bowl ring. Lewis got his ring in Super Bowl XXXV where the Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7. This is the only other time the Ravens have made it to a Super Bowl and Lewis is the only player left from this team.
In the game, Lewis only had 3 solo tackles, 2 tackle assists, and 4 pass defensed. However, Lewis still was able to win the Super Bowl MVP. The reason that Lewis won the MVP was he was the leader of a defense that allowed no points (the Giants returned a kickoff for a touchdown). In fact on ESPNs Super Bowl MVP page, it just says "Led a dominant Ravens Defense" under why he received the award. Every MVP except one, Super Bowl XII, has the players statistics. During that season, Lewis was also the Defensive Player of the Year and he led arguably the best best defense in history.
In his post game press conference, Lewis said "I told Shannon Sharpe [TE] and I told Jamal Lewis [RB]: Give us 10 points and the game is over. That's not boasting. If you give us 10 points, game over. You go down against our defense, you're in a whole lot of trouble. We've dominated people like that all year. And they didn't score on us. Make sure you quote that. They didn't score on our defense." As you can see, Lewis was very proud of his, and the defense's accomplishments.
The next Ravens player who has made a Super Bowl is fellow LB Brendon Ayanbadejo. Ayanbadejo was part of the Chicago Bears when they made it to Super Bowl XLI. The Bears lost to the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 29-17. Ayanbadejo only played special teams for the Bears and recorded 1 tackle during the game.
Starting WR Anquan Boldin was part of one of the most unexpected Super Bowl runs ever. He played a key part in getting the Arizona Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII. In the regular season, the Cardinals went 9-7 and many people believed they didn't belong in the playoffs at all. The Cardinals run was ended by the Pittsburgh Steelers as they handed the Cardinals a 27-23 loss on an improbable touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left. Boldin had 8 catches for 84 yards including a 45 yard catch. For that season, Boldin had 89 catches for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns in the regular season.
Last is backup S James Ihedigbo who played for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI which was last year. Despite the Patriots losing 21-17 to the New York Giants, who like the Cardinals went 9-7 in the regular season, Ihedigbo played a decent game. He had 5 tackles as one of the starting safeties. However, Ihedigbo was covering Giants WR Victor Cruz on his touchdown catch. At the end of training camp this year, Ihedigbo was cut and the Ravens quickly signed him. By beating the Patriots twice, including the AFC Championship Game, Ihedigbo has is revenge and now is going for back-to-back Super Bowl victories.
On the coaching side of things, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell was the Colts QB coach/assistant head coach when they beat Ayanbadejo and the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. This experience should be helpful during preparation for the Super Bowl over the next week. Since he was also the assistant head coach, Caldwell would have had more responsibilities than a regular QB coach.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been to two Super Bowls with the Patriots. The first was Super Bowl XXXIX where he was the LB coach and the second was Super Bowl XLII as the defensive coordinator. The Patriots won the first Super Bowl but not the second. The loss in Super Bowl XLII wasn't exactly on Pees because his defense only gave up 17 points. They did give up 14 points in the 4th quarter but, coming into the game, the Patriots would have been happy giving up 17 points as their offense was one of the best in history. However, the Giants were able to stop this high-powered offense.
Head coach John Harbaugh has been to the Super Bowl once when he was the Philadelphia Eagles special teams coordinator. The Eagles faced the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX and as we already know, the Patriots won. The Eagles special teams didn't give up any touchdowns and the longest return they allowed was only 26 yards. It definitely wasn't Harbaugh's fault that the Eagles lost.
Now, what does this mean for the Ravens? It means that they have some experience in all aspects of the game. On offense, they have Boldin, a veteran receiver and a key players, and the offensive coordinator in Caldwell. On defense, they have Lewis, a great leader, and coordinator Dean Pees. Both Ayanbadejo and Ihedigbo play special teams so they will bring experience to that part of the game. It is good that the three most important coaches all have been to the Super Bowl as they have already been through this before.
The San Francisco 49ers don't have the same experience at the top of their coach staff as head coach Jim Harbaugh went to Super Bowl XXXVII as the Oakland Raiders QB coach and neither offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio have been to a Super Bowl. The 49ers do have more players who have played in Super Bowls as they have five players with Super Bowl experience.
It will be interesting to see how experience ends up impacting the game. It is interesting that the teams combined will only have a total of nine players with Super Bowl experience which is probably a recent low.