Reporting David Elfin
Congrats to Baltimore, which won its second Super Bowl in 13 years in the nick of time last night in New Orleans.
Buck up, San Francisco. Your 34-31 loss was gut-wrenching, especially after such a marvelous second half, but your time could come as soon as next season.
I don’t write these words because of how Super Bowl XLVII ended in the Superdome after a super first half by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was dampened by a 35-minute power failure early in the third quarter.
Nor do I write these words because the young 49ers seemingly used the extended halftime and the unprecedented delay to gather themselves and nearly pull off the biggest comeback in NFL championship history.
And I didn’t even write these words because Ray Lewis, the heartbeat of the Ravens for all 17 years of their existence, has glared at an opposing quarterback and smacked an enemy ball-carrier for the final time or because fellow cinch Canton enshrine Ed Reed could follow him out of Baltimore this offseason.
No, since my task is always to write about sports in the greater Washington area, I’m writing this column because of what recent history says is going to happen during the 2013 NFL season.
The Ravens basically have no chance to defend their just-won title. Yes, that’s right, Baltimore. Enjoy this crown because it’s not being repeated. And that’s not just because the 1998 Denver Broncos and the 2004 New England Patriots are the only teams to have defended a Super Bowl title during the 19 seasons of the salary cap era.
However, the 49ers are of one of just 13 franchises who could be taking the Lombardi Trophy home from New Jersey next February.
Let me explain.
The Ravens lost to the Redskins 31-28 in overtime in Week 14 in Landover. Eight weeks later, Baltimore is celebrating a Super Bowl victory.
In Week 15 of 2011, the lowly Redskins upset the New York Giants 23-10 in the Meadowlands. Big Blue wouldn’t lose again, rallying to beat the Patriots seven weeks later to win Super Bowl XLVI.
In Week 5 of 2010, host Washington surprised Green Bay 16-13 in overtime. Four days shy of four months later, the Packers outlasted the Pittsburgh Steelers to win Super Bowl XLV, their first title in 14 years.
That’s three straight seasons in which the Redskins (combined record 21-27) have knocked off the eventual Super Bowl champion.
This weird development can be doubled with an allowance for a couple of near-misses.
In Week 13 of 2009, Washington was shocking undefeated New Orleans 30-20 but lost 33-30 in overtime following gaffes by safety Kareem Moore, fullback Mike Sellers and kicker Shaun Suisham. The Saints secured their only Super Bowl title eight weeks later.
In Week 3 of 2008, Washington held off Arizona 24-17 in Landover. The Cardinals, who hadn’t played for a title since 1948 when they still called Chicago home, would lead the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII before falling 27-23 on a touchdown with just 35 seconds remaining.
And in Week 15 of 2007, the Redskins whipped the Giants 22-10 in wind-swept Giants Stadium behind quarterback Todd Collins, starting his first game in a decade in place of the injured Jason Campbell. Seven weeks later, New York stunned New England to win Super Bowl XLII.
So 2006 was the last season in which Washington didn’t beat the eventual Super Bowl champion, take that team to overtime, or top a team which led the title game in the final minute.
If this pattern continues in 2013, Arizona, Baltimore, Buffalo, Carolina, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Miami, New England, New Orleans, the New York Jets, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Tennessee have no chance of winning Super Bowl XLVIII. That’s because none of those teams will meet the Redskins in the regular season.
The great news for Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Kansas City, Minnesota, the New York Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Diego and San Francisco is that they all face Washington in 2013.
Let’s combine the Redskins’ role in determining a champion with two other often-telling factors.
Only the 49ers, Giants, Packers, Bears and Eagles have been to the Super Bowl during the past decade. But since the Colts’ Jim Caldwell was the only rookie coach to reach the title game during that span and Chicago and Philadelphia will have new bosses in 2013, that leaves San Francisco, New York and Green Bay. However, no home team has ever won the Super Bowl, a fact which would eliminate the Giants.
So you heard it here first: either the 49ers or the Packers will win Super Bowl XLVIII. Unless, of course, Robert Griffin III makes a full recovery from last month’s knee surgery and leads the Redskins to their first title in 22 years.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin