In the first ever meeting between the Harbaugh brothers, the home Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving night 2011 by the score of 16-6.
It was the first of just two games under Jim Harbaugh where the 49ers failed to score a touchdown. Much has changed for the better since that night in the mind of 49ers cornerback
“It’s a totally different team than what they saw on Thanksgiving,” the eight-year veteran said this week at his locker wearing the Super Bowl XLVII home uniform the 49ers will wear when they play the Ravens on Feb 3.
The 49ers cornerback with 69 tackles and three fumble recoveries in the regular season, plus a timely end zone pass breakup in last week’s NFC Championship Game,
believes his entire team has greatly improved.
“A lot better at a lot of different positions, just as a team, our experience,” Rogers pointed out “It’s our second year in it. Offensive-wise, we’ve got a new quarterback, different receivers, a different package when Kap is under center and when he can run that Pistol offense.”
Rogers also sees growth on his side of the ball, a 49ers defensive unit that was recognized with six Pro Bowl selections.
“Defensive-wise, it’s our second year, we’ve pretty much got everybody up with our communication and knowing what guys are doing at other positions,” Rogers said. “It allows guys to play more free and know where their helps at and where you’re not supposed to be.”
Preparation time will also be a huge difference for the second meeting between Jim and John Harbaugh.
The 49ers traveled to face the Ravens on a Thursday night following a Sunday night game. This time they’ll have two weeks to gameplan for a game at a neutral site.
During that added preparation time, San Francisco’s defensive backs will be looking to familiarize themselves with the passing tendencies of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
After a regular season that saw him throw 22 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, Baltimore’s fifth-year pro has thrown eight touchdowns with no interceptions this postseason to go along with a 114.7 quarterback rating.
“He’s always coming out putting up numbers, leading his offense,” Rogers said. “That’s what he’s doing. He’s a quarterback who is big, strong, can make all the throws, got a great connection with his receivers and a running game that’s helping him out a lot.
“Week in and week out, he makes unbelievable plays and the receivers are helping him out. He’s just leading his team.”
This postseason, the 49ers have intercepted both Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan in consecutive weeks. But what makes Flacco and the Ravens passing game different than those previous matchups is the balance provided by hard-charging Ravens running back Ray Rice.
“It’s another quarterback,” Rogers began, “not the quarterback that we’ve faced throwing the ball 40-something times like a lot of these offenses, but they got a balanced offense and he’s in control of it.”
Boldin averaged 14.2 yards per catch in the regular season and has since extended his average to 17.3 yards per catch in the postseason.
“Strong hands, aggressive guy,” Rogers said of the physical Ravens wideout. “They bring him in to block. He does it all. He’s not as fast as those guys, but he has separation speed to get open.”
Being a defensive back in the Super Bowl, Rogers realizes those one-on-one matchups on the perimeter tend to have a direct impact on the game’s final outcome. The 49ers defensive back isn’t the biggest Super Bowl buff, but he’s viewed several big receptions over the years that have decided the final score in the big game.
“Yeah, it could,” Rogers said of a potential of the big reception happening in Super Bowl XLVII. “I hope not. It could, you never know… Hopefully we don’t have to give up a catch and our offense doesn’t have to make the catch like that. If they do, we have the confidence that we can make those throws and catches. Defensive-wise, we don’t want to be in position to give up that catch.”
Case in point, the last two Super Bowl victories by the New York Giants featured sensational catches to beat the New England Patriots. First, it was David Tyree. And last year, it was current 49ers wide receiver
Rogers will be ready for any big passing plays that come his way, just like the deep throw Ryan intended for Roddy White in the second half of the NFC title game win. Rogers nearly intercepted that pass if not for the Falcons wideout who turned into a defensive back to break up a would-be interception.
In this matchup against the Ravens, however, Rogers expects it to be a balanced offensive attack, but also a physical contest just like last Thanksgiving.
Above anything else, Rogers remembers the hard-hitting nature of that game.
“I remember it was a physical game,” he said. “They were making plays. We were making plays. It was a physical game.”
The rematch on Feb. 3 figures to be much of the same.