After 17 years, Ray Lewis' career is finally over. 61 interceptions later, Ed Reed's career looks to be nearly over as well. On top of that, the Baltimore Ravens have 22 free agents this offseason, including quarterback Joe Flacco.
So, as Jim Harbaugh would say, "Let's move on with humble hearts." And Congratulations to the world champion Ravens - they fought hard.
Now, in the grand scheme of things, one could assume this game meant more to the Ravens. The Ravens were closing an epic chapter in their book while the 49ers were just beginning theirs. One of the major narratives going into this game was that NFL would witness the end of an era in Baltimore.
Moreover, a supplemental storyline was that the Niners were undergoing a new age of quarterbacking in San Francisco.
At midseason, they made the transition from veteran QB Alex Smith to second-year player Colin Kaepernick. The move was made to provide more dynamism from the position and it did.
Kaepernick's insertion into the lineup vaulted this offense from a conservative, proficient approach to a threatening, aggressive-style attack. And when it comes to the tangibles and intangibles, Kaepernick possess the tools to be an elite quarterback.
Considering that Super Bowl XLVII was only his 10th career start, he has a lot of growth ahead of him.
And despite the lack of real game experience, he had a tremendous postseason. His game against Green Bay was one of the greatest single performances by a quarterback in playoff history. He shredded one of the best teams in the league, posting 444 total yards, four touchdowns and a 94.7 QBR.
He made Aaron Rodgers and one of the top-scoring offenses in the league chase him on the scoreboard and they couldn't keep pace.
In the NFC Championship against Atlanta, Kaepernick and the Niners fell behind 17-0 on the road. But no matter the circumstance, No. 7 was poised and continued to chip away at the defense. A lot of players would wilt under this situation but Kaepernick rose to the challenge to pull an unlikely upset.
Despite the slow start, he finished with a 127.7 passer rating and the win.
With only a handful of career starts, Kaepernick would take the 49ers to their first Super Bowl since 1994. But once again, the Niners would have their back against the wall after the Ravens jumped out early. For a while, it had the makings of a blowout.
The 49ers were facing a 22-point deficit, but with Kaepernick behind center the offense put together another late-game rally. He began to get his playmakers involved, targeting Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis to push the ball downfield. And even though San Francisco lost at the end, they brought the game within two points.
Kaepernick accounted for 364 yards of total offense and two touchdowns.
Perhaps the singe best thing about his postseason run as a whole was his ability to bounce back. In limited time, Kaepernick demonstrated the ability to shake off bad plays and respond. What he endured and overcame during this run was inspiring.
When giving Kaepernick the 'eye test,' it's clear to see he possesses the "it factor." As he develops and grows wiser, he can become a true clutch quarterback. He already has the physical tools and mentality to fight through adversity --all he needs is the experience.
At age 25, Kaepernick now has Super Bowl experience, which entails quite a bit. On his way to the big game, he played and won at home and on the road. He also dealt with the highest level of media scrutiny in sports. And with the QB change, Kaepernick really went through the ringer this year.
After Alex Smith moves on and the Niners shore up some of the personnel issues, it should be a much smoother ride for Kaepernick going forward. The 49ers should be thrilled that they have their quarterback of the future -- perhaps their third true franchise quarterback in the history of the organization.
That is quite something, especially when you look around the league and see some teams have never had one. The foundation for the 49ers is in place, so the future is bright for San Francisco.
"We've always got next year, we've got next season." -Vernon Davis