Dwarfed by the story lines of brotherly competition and deer antler spray is the fact that Super Bowl XLVII will feature two teams who play much better after receiving their halftime orange slices.
While halftime adjustments are far from an exact science, for both the Ravens and 49ers, something just clicks. Unlike the 49ers, the Ravens have played in some poor weather conditions lately, first in frigid Denver then in blustery New England. For whatever reason, it takes the Ravens a little while to warm up, but what they’ve shown during the second half is that they’ve used halftime to get refueled, recharged, and reenergized.
Part of the reason the Ravens and 49ers will have the chance to call themselves champions is because they’re two of the best second half teams this postseason. When they meet Sunday evening, something has got to give.
This postseason, the Ravens have outscored their opponents 51-17 after the break, including a double-overtime victory against the Broncos during the Divisional round. A last minute 70-yard pass by quarterback Joe Flacco to wide receiver Jacoby Jones solidified that something was special about this team and that destiny may possibly be on their side.
The 49ers games haven’t involved as much drama, but they’ve been efficient in finding ways to win after halftime as well. During the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta, they overcame an early 17-0 deficit and cut it to 10 points by halftime. Following a 14-0 second-half run, they found themselves with an invitation to play in the Super Bowl while the Falcons sit home wondering how they let the game get away from them.
Their margin isn’t as large, but the 49ers have outscored the Packers and Falcons by a combined 35-10 in the second-half, a 25-point swing against two very good teams.
Defensively, both the Ravens and 49ers have stepped up in major ways when the game mattered the most. Both teams shut out their opponents in the second half of their respective conference championship games and the Ravens even held the Patriots to their lowest point total (13) since 2009.
On Sunday, the Ravens’d x-factor will be wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who is the primary vocal leader in the locker room for the offense. Much of the second-half swing on offense has to be credited to Boldin’s leadership and pulling the team together. He demands attention from his teammates as they make adjustments at halftime, and he got the attention he was looking for on the football field, putting up huge second halves against Indianapolis and New England.
This postseason, Boldin has only caught three passes for 24 yards during the first half. However, the second half is a totally different story as Boldin has caught 16 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns.
As the media spectacle of Super Bowl week begins to subside and players focus more on their game plan and execution, the game being played on the field looks like one that is shaping up to be very memorable – especially in the second half. Both of these teams have proven that they can turn it on in the third and fourth quarters.
The team that is able to best continue that trend Sunday will very likely be the one hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.