A Head-to-Head History: Super Bowl Edition

A Head-to-Head History: Super Bowl Edition
by Larry Schmitt

San Francisco and Baltimore both have an illustrious Super Bowl history. The 49ers are 5-0 all time in the biggest of games, with their most recent victory in 1995, while the Ravens are 1-0, having won their lone Championship in 2001 in Super Bowl XXXV.   Super Bowl XLVII will be the tenth Super Bowl in New Orleans, and the seventh in the Super Dome.

This will be the fifth time that the Ravens and Forty-Niners have played each other, and the Ravens hold a 3-1 advantage.  Ravens' head coach and older brother John Harbaugh is 1-0 versus younger brother Jim, the 49ers' coach.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The first meeting between this years Super Bowl participants took place in Week 12 of the Ravens inaugural  1996 season when the injury plagued and 3-7, the Ravens traveled to Candlestick Park to take on the 7-3 49ers.

Vinny Testaverde connected with Michael Jackson on a 65-yard touchdown strike in the first quarter to give Baltimore an early lead. Unfortunately San Francisco gradually assumed control of the game and Testeverde left with rib injuries following a 2nd quarter sack.

Back up Eric Zeier lead two drives that ended with Matt Stover field goals, and also tossed a touchdown to James Jones, a defensive lineman filling in at fullback. The day belonged to the 49ers however. Elvis Grbac completed 26 passes to six different receivers for 268 yards, including a touchdown to Hall of Famer Jerry Race, and Grbac also ran for another score. After the Zeier to Jones score put Baltimore ahead 20-17, San Francisco scored 21 unanswered points. A spectacular Chris Doleman end zone strip-sack fumble recovery score was sandwiched in between two one-yard scoring runs for the 38-20 final.

The Ravens finished their inaugural season in Baltimore 4-12 for fifth place in the AFC Central Division. The 49'ers won the NFC West Division at 12-4. After beating Philadelphia in the Wild Card round they would fall to eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay in the Divisional Round.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Ravens franchise enjoyed their most lopsided victory in their existence (up to that point) at the expense of San Francisco in Week 13 of the 2003 season.

Forty-Niners quarterback Jeff Garcia had a miserable day as he completed less than half of his pass attempts and was intercepted four times. The Ravens defense actually outscored the San Francisco offense: Ray Lewis returned one of the interceptions for a touchdown just before halftime for a 24-6 lead, while the 49ers managed just two Todd Peterson field goals and 10 total first downs.

The Ravens were able to turn what was actually a very close 7-6 game into a blowout in the final three minutes of the first half with big plays from all three units of their team.

The first came on the kickoff following a San Francisco field goal at 3:25, when Lamont Brightful set up his offense with a 75-yard return to the 49ers 19 yard-line. Baltimore could not capitalize on the great field position though, and after three plays settled for afield goal.

Baltimore forced a three and out after the kickoff, and a personal foul on the punt return set the Ravens up at the San Francisco 49 yard-line at 1:18. The two-play drive was capped by an Anthony Wright to Marcus Robinson touchdown from 38 yards out.

Now leading 24-6, the Ravens sealed the ultimate outcome with the Lewis interception 29-yard run-back with 0:41 on the clock on the second play of San Francisco's next possession. 

The Ravens won the AFC North Division with a 10-6 record but lost to Tennessee in the Wild Card Playoffs. San Francisco finished in third place of the NFC West at 7-9.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Both defenses were strong in Week 5 of the 2007 season when the Ravens met the quarterback who guided them to a victory in Super Bowl XXXV.  The Ravens nearly doubled the 49ers total yardage output, 315-163, but could not find the end zone. However, three Matt Stover field goals were enough for a 9-7 victory.

San Francisco provided the games only real fireworks with a two play sequence in the third quarter as they sought to chisel into Baltimore's 9-0 lead. Facing a third-and-six on their own 35 yard-line, Trent Dilfer, the former Raven who was starting for the injured Alex Smith, lofted a deep pass down the left sideline to Bryan Gilmore, good for 42 yards. On the very next play found Arnaz Battle in the middle of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown.

That concluded the scoring for the day. Following two exchanges of punts, Steve McNair helped seal San Francisco's fate with a 17-play drive that consumed over eight minutes of the 4th quarter game clock. On that drive, Baltimore was able to convert two third downs, and one fourth down on a running into the kicker penalty on a punt play.

Dilfer followed with a 46-yard drive that stalled on Baltimore's 34 yard-line, and Joe Nedney's 52-yard field goal attempt for the lead sailed wide left at 2:37 and the Ravens ran out the clock for the road victory.

Both teams finished with disappointing records and out of the post season. Baltimore was 4-12 in last place in the AFC North while San Francisco was 5-11 in third place in the NFC West.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The NFL's first ever head-to-head meeting of head coaching brothers occurred when two 8-2 teams battled on a cold Thursday night in Baltimore during Week 12 of the 2011 season.

For the third straight meeting between the clubs, Baltimore's defense dominated, this time establishing a team record with nine sacks as they harassed 49'er quarterback Alex Smith relentlessly, and they did it without Lewis who was on the sidelines with a foot injury. Terrell Suggs emerged as the Ravens dominant force, registering three of the sacks.

Baltimore lead 6-3 at the half. Remarkably, the third quarter featured just two possessions. San Francisco downed the kickoff to start the quarter on their own 20-yard line. The 13-play drive consumed 7:25 and featured Smith completed three of three passes, but he was also sacked twice and forced to scramble for eight yards once. The key play occurred on third-and-seventeen when Smith completed an 18-yard pass to Michael Crabtree to move the chains. The drive stalled at the Baltimore 34 and Akers kicked a 52-yard field goal to knot the score at 6-6.

The Raven followed suit with their own lengthy drive. The first 15 plays terminated the balance of the third quarter, and included three third-down conversions. Eleven of the calls were passes and Flacco completed seven of them, and Baltimore moved from their own 24 to the San Francisco eight yard line. The first play of the fourth quarter was also a pass, a touchdown catch by Denis Pitta to give the Ravens a 13-6 advantage.

The Baltimore defense cranked up the pressure, pressuring and sacking Smith several times. When the Ravens had the ball they leaned heavily on backs Ray Rice and Ricky Williams to muscle the ball to move the chains and eat more time from the clock. A Cundiff field goal at 3:14 sealed the 49'ers fate and a desperation drive by Smith ended on downs.

Both teams won their respective divisions and had strong post season showings, but fell short in their Conference Championships. The 12-4 Ravens defeated Houston at home before losing a heart breaker in New England where they missed a near winning touchdown reception, then a tying field goal in the final seconds. The 13-3 49'ers fate was just as excruciating. After capturing a thrilling come from behind upset victory at home over New Orleans, they lost a slug-fest in a rain soaked Candlestick Park in overtime to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

This year both teams advanced to the ultimate game, where neither franchise has ever lost before. Which brother will take home the Lombardi Trophy and family bragging rights


While the NFL officially recognizes the Baltimore Ravens as a unique franchise, their lineage does trace back to the original Cleveland Browns. Coincidentally, Browns/Ravens late owner Art Modell is a finalist for Hall of Fame enshrinement, which will be announced Super Bowl Eve Saturday afternoon.

The 49ers were a charter member of the All America Football conference with the Cleveland Browns, as well as the first Baltimore Colts franchise {which went defunct in 1951 and is not connected to the one residing in Indianapolis today.} San Francisco was the Browns toughest adversary in the league they thoroughly dominated. Cleveland sported a 52-4-3 record over the four season of the AFC, with two of those losses coming to the 49ers. They met the leagues final game to decide the championship.

The 9-1-2 Browns hosted the 9-3 49ers as their dynasty looked to for an unprecedented four-peat. San Francisco had confidence on their side. In October they dealt the powerful Browns the worst loss in their brief existence, 56-28 in San Francisco, which was also their first loss since 1947. Three weeks later in Cleveland the Browns pulled out a close 30-28 win.

In the title game, the defenses were in charge early. Cleveland scored early on a two-yard plunge by Edgar Jones. San Francisco had a chance to score in the second quarter, but Frankie Albert was sacked on third down and Joe Vetrano's field goal attempt missed and the first half ended 7-0.

Browns fullback Marion Motley provided the games most exciting play, a 63-yard touchdown jaunt that opened a 14-0 lead for the defending champs in the third quarter. A 73-yard kickoff return kept San Francisco in business. Frankie Albert threw a 23-yard touchdown to Paul Salata to keep the margin at seven.

San Francisco's defense performed admirably, keeping the normally dangerous Otto Graham-led passing attack in check, but the Browns running game wore them down. Graham, Motley and Edgar Jones each topped 60 yards rushing, and Jones' fourth quarter touchdown at 6:00 iced the game.  Cleveland was the only champion crowned during the AAFC's four season of play.

Both teams would leave a significant imprint on the landscape of the NFL after merging in 1950. San Francisco would have to wait though, as their time to reign supreme would not be until the early 1980's. Their inaugural season in the NFL National Conference was a difficult one, where they struggled to a 3-9 sixth place finish. The Browns proved to all doubters that they could indeed run with the big dogs. They rolled to a 10-2 first place tie atop the American Conference with the New York Giants. They bested the Giants 8-3 in a divisional playoff game before upsetting Los Angeles 30-28 in a thrilling NFL Championship.

11/30/58 BAL 35 vs SF 27
The 4-5 49ers traveled to 8-1 Baltimore in Week 10 of the 1958 season, and took part in a significant game that helped shape one of the NFL's legendary teams.

San Francisco exploded for 20 second quarter points as they ran out to a 27-7 halftime advantage. Deviating from their typical script, they did it with three rushing touchdown, two by the normally slow-footed Y.A. Tittle and an interception return.

Johnny Unitas lead long scoring drives as the Colts defense began to clamp down. Fullback Alan Ameche's one yard dive cut the lead to 27-20 early in the fourth quarter. After getting the ball back, halfback Lenny Moore electrified the Memorial Stadium crowd with a weaving 73-yard run where he evaded several tacklers and put the Colts on top 28-27. The inspired Baltimore defense responded by getting the ball back to Unitas where he put the finishing touches on the dominating second half with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Raymond Berry.

Here is what Hall of Famer Moore had to say about this game years later:
"I thought the best game we ever played as a team in my years with the Colts was the one when we were down 27-7 to the 49ers in '58 and came back to win. We trailed, 27-7 at halftime. We were so twisted, we didn't know what to do. The 49ers had three Hall of Famers in the backfield {Tittle, Joe Perry and Hugh McElhenney}. How do you stop those guys? But Weeb Ewbank said, 'Fellas, we're not out of this. Defense? Shut them down. Offense? Go to work.' When we went back out there, everyone was tuned in, and Johnny went to war."
San Francisco finished in fourth place of the NFL Western Conference with a 6-6 record. Baltimore finished first at 9-3 and famously went on to win their first NFL Title against the New York Giants in "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

The Colts would go on to post a 1-1 record in the Super Bowl while calling Baltimore home. This Sunday the cities of San Francisco and Baltimore will have another opportunity to carve a new niche in the NFL's championship legacy.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

While these two franchises have a limited history of playing each other, there is also the matter of their history with the city of New Orleans to contend with.  The 49ers have a vast advantage over the Ravens in the amount of history they have of playing in the crescent city.  San Francisco and the New Orleans Saints were in the NFC West together from 1970 to 2001, therefore they played in New Orleans every year during that stretch except the strike-shortened season of 1982.  They had, however, only played there once in the last five years before meeting the Saints earlier this season in one of Colin Kapernick's first starts, a 31-21 victory over the Saints.

The more relevant New Orleans experience for the Niners, however, may be their previous Super Bowl experience there.  San Francisco won Super Bowl XXIV 55-21 over the Denver Broncos in the Superdome  and tied the Pittsburgh Steelers with 4 Lombardi trophies.  It was their second consecutive title in George Seifert's first as he took over for Bill Walsh, who retired after the Niners' Super Bowl win the previous season.   The Steelers have since won two more, and with the 49ers winning their fifth in 1995, they can again tie Pittsburgh atop the all-time Super Bowl wins list at six here in XLVII 

The Ravens, although they've played the Saints five times since beginning play in 1996, have only played once in New Orleans, with the other four meetings coming in Baltimore.  Their one meeting in the Superdome was a 35-22 Baltimore win 2006.

Drew Brees threw three interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns as the 4-2 Ravens built up a 35 to 7 third quarter lead over the 5-1 NFC South leading Saints.  The Ravens, that year, would go 13-3 and win the AFC North, but would lose to Indianapolis 15-6 in the divisional playoffs.  Prior to that game, only one other Baltimore team had ever played in New Orleans, and that of course was the Colts.

Only once before they moved to Indianapolis did they ever play in New Orleans, and that was in 1969, during the Saints third season.  This was before the Superdome opened, of course, and the Saints played their home games then at Tulane Stadium.

Johnny Unitas threw three touchdown passes and the Colts beat the Saints 30-10.  The Colts would go 8-5-1 and would miss the playoffs in the last season before the AFL-NFL merger, however they would go on to win Super Bowl V a year later.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So there you have it -- an in-depth look at the history of the previous meetings involving the teams (and cities) involved in Super Bowl XLVII.  Good luck to both teams in the big game Sunday!

The Pro Bowl and a Little History

The Pro Bowl and a Little History
by Tim Brulia

Today is a breather from all of the Super Bowl hype-nonsense that will build up into a hyperventilating frenzy that will culminate next Sunday evening when an NFL legend hands the Vince Lombardi Trophy to NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell to then hand to the owner of the winning team so that CBS' Jim Nantz can interview him/her.

Today is Pro Bowl day.

The Pro Bowl, never really a huge deal, lately has been abused and criticized by the commissioner, players, the media, fans and probably your own mother.  The NFL - at least - in the USA, is perhaps a near perfect sport, lauded and loved by almost everyone.  Its black sheep, if there is one, is this game.  The Pro Bowl is in essence, the NFL's All-Star Game.  But, there must be enough interest to have it played yet again today (according to ACNielsen, it had more viewers of its all-star game in 2012 than any other sport's "ASG.").

Our job here at the Gridiron Uniform Database (GUD) is not give our two cents on the pros (no pun intended) and cons of the Pro Bowl, but simply to provide and share the uniform history of this game.  And that we shall do.

Back in early September, the GUD launched a visual detailed history of the Pro Bowl, the entire history of the Pro Bowl, including the pre-merger Pro Bowl, the AFL All-Star Game, not to mention the lone AAFC All-Star Game, known as the Shamrock Bowl.  We accompanied that launch with a blog article detailing the evolution of the Pro Bowl's uniforms.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In a nutshell, the Pro Bowl's uniform history is that the PB started out with very simple and plain designs, with one team (normally the West All-Stars) clad in white and the other side (usually the East All-Stars) rocking red jerseys.  Effective with the merger season of 1970, the uniforms received an overhaul, but the teams retained a basic look that was more or less unchanged through the 1993 season, with the AFC clad in white jerseys and red pants, while the NFC sported blue jerseys and white pants.  Then from the 1994 season game right up through last season's clash, a bodacious explosion of out of the box designs of patterns, fonts, sublimation logos, and patches, patches, patches wreaked havoc on the PB uni template, sending traditionalist-types hyperventilating and running for cover.

If the "sneak peeks" of today's game's uniforms are indeed accurate, we will likely see the most conservative design features for the Pro Bowl in nearly 20 years.  Only two patches will adorn the jersey, one for the player's team logo and one for the Pro Bowl logo.  The word - in smallish lettering - "AMERICAN" or "NATIONAL" above the front jersey number, and a rather plain name on back (NOB) above the player's number on the back.  The numbers will be in a straight block font  The jerseys will be plain, with no sublimation, "bibs", or other creative "out there" patterns.  The pants will be the only place where the uni pays some homage to the 1994-2012 era.  There will be a single thickish stripe on the side that will wraparound the leg edge to the rear, creating what some might call a "toilet seat" effect.  The socks will be either a solid red (AFC) or a solid blue (NFC)..  Uniform purists should rejoice at this year's look.    

Whatever the case, we at GUD hope that the game will be well played and with a bit - just a bit, mind you - of intensity.  We encourage you to review the Pro Bowl yearly history of uniforms as so ably portrayed by the GUD graphic engineer, Bill Schaefer.

Then tomorrow, get yourself ready for the Super Bowl.  You'll have no choice!!


Blog Archive