Go to the receivers, and there’s tales on both ends. Baltimore’s Torrey Smith lost his brother in a car accident a day before the first win over New England in September. Jacoby Jones caught that long TD pass in the final seconds of regulation in the epic at Denver. Anquan Boldin is always big-time, and gets a second chance after nearly winning it all with Arizona four Super Bowls ago.
The Niners have Randy Moss, never a Super Bowl winner, in, of all things, a supporting role, and liking it, which has silenced his many critics. Michael Crabtree had to fight off sexual assault allegations (questioned, but not charged) just before the NFC title game. Vernon Davis is a match-up nightmare if Kapernick wants to throw to him a lot, as Atlanta found out.
Even on the lines, there’s star power, whether it’s Haloti Ngata and local rooting interest Arthur Jones (Union-Endicott and SU) for the Ravens or Joe Staley for the Niners. And yes, that’s Michael Oher at right tackle for Baltimore, the same guy they made that movie about. You know, The Blind Side, the one where Nick Saban acted.
This game holds a chance at redemption for so many. David Akers lost a Super Bowl with the Eagles in 2005 and gets a second chance. So does Moss, part of those undefeated Patriots denied by the Giants in 2008, and so does Ravens assistant Jim Caldwell, who was the head coach in Indianapolis when it lost to the Saints in the XLIV edition.
Yet all of them pale next to the story of Ray Lewis. Yes, you’re already tired of the narrative, the pre-game dances, the post-game preaching, the paeans to his leadership, but the dimensions of his story are unlike any in recent memory.
Twelve long years ago, when Baltimore won in its only Super Bowl appearance, Lewis was the game’s MVP and also the heart and soul of one of the greatest defenses the NFL has ever seen. He was also, to a large chunk of the public, a pariah.