With the 49ers on their way to the Super Bowl, the Bay Area – and much of the nation – is buzzing about quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Since taking over for Alex Smith in November, Kaepernick has been sensational and the Niners’ offense has become much more explosive.
A 49ers win in the Super Bowl would vault him to superstar status and complete a shocking transformation from quarterback-in-waiting to football hero in a three-month span.
Yet when the Niners face the Ravens in New Orleans on Feb. 3, Kaepernick will be just one of two startling quarterback success stories in the game.
The San Francisco defense will be tasked with stopping Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, whose performance has perhaps been even better than Kaepernick’s.
Flacco – often maligned in his five-year NFL career – had a solid regular season, but has had a spectacular playoff run.
In successive victories over the Colts, Broncos and Patriots, Flacco has been brilliant. He’s completed 51-of-93 passes for 853 yards and eight touchdowns – with no interceptions. His quarterback rating is 114.7 this postseason. By comparison, Kaepernick is 2-0 this postseason with three TD passes, one interception and a 105.9 quarterback rating -- which doesn't take into account, of course, the fact he's also run for 202 yards and two more TDs.
And, according to the NFL Media research, every previous quarterback who has thrown eight or more TD passes without an interception in the playoffs has not only gone on to win the Super Bowl, but has been named Super Bowl MVP. Those quarterbacks were Joe Montana, Steve Young, Phil Simms and Drew Brees.
As Dan Hanzus of NFL.com wrote this week, “Flacco is one killer performance away from some very impressive company.”
Though Flacco has at times in his career been plagued by throwing key interceptions and making mistakes in big games, he’s turned that trend around in recent opportunities. As the Baltimore Sun noted, in his past five playoff games, Flacco has four wins, 1,335 passing yards, 12 TD passes and just one interception.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh simply points to his quarterback’s growth as a reason for his most recent success, and the fact he’s achieved consistency. And, he’s not surprised.
“I can’t point to anything different than what you see,” Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun. “And what you see is some good output, obviously, in terms of production. That’s really good to see, but Joe’s had that before. To string it together like he’s done, back-to-back-to-back-to-back in the most critical time of the year, is the great thing about it. I really believe we saw that coming as a football staff and as an organization and as players.”
For a few years now, a debate has flourished among NFL observers about which quarterbacks rank in the “elite” status. Flacco’s name often comes up as a candidate, but just as often has been rejected by most.
Yes, he has a strong arm, wins games and at times can look terrific. At others, though, he’s looked pedestrian.
After Flacco beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game last week, however, New England safety Steve Gregory says Flacco is one of the NFL’s best.
“He is one of the elite quarterbacks,” Gregory told reporters after the game. “I know he gets a lot of flack for possibly not being that type of guy, but he is.”
Flacco, meanwhile, is just excited about playing in the Super Bowl. After coming up short in the playoffs previously, winning an AFC crown and getting a chance to play against the 49ers is gratifying.
“I think it is just one of those things you dream of when you are a little kid,” Flacco said this week. “You watch Montana and those guys light them up in the Super Bowl. So, to be here at this point is pretty special.”