NEW ORLEANS -- Ted Ginn Jr. received upbeat condolences right after the 49ers had their Thanksgiving ruined by the Baltimore Ravens last season.
"You guys have got a great team. I hope we'll see you in the Super Bowl," Ravens coach John Harbaugh told him.
It took 14 months, but "we made it," Ginn said Monday at the 49ers' hotel for Super Bowl XLVII.
The 49ers and Ravens carry many of the same traits -- solid rushing attacks, physical defenses and, of course, head-coaching brothers -- from that 16-6 Ravens victory. Don't expect a mirror image of that slugfest, however, during Sunday's rematch at the Superdome.
"It's a totally different team than they saw on Thanksgiving," cornerback Carlos Rogers said of his 49ers. "We're a lot better at a lot of positions."
No change is more noticeable than at quarterback, where the 49ers are hoping Colin Kaepernick's multifaceted skills deliver more points than the six-pack Alex Smith produced on Thanksgiving 2011.
Smith, in his defense, had little chance to make plays in that meeting. He got sacked nine times, matching single-game records for both teams. The offensive line was particularly vulnerable at right guard, where starter Adam Snyder left early with an injury and wasn't replaced well by Chilo Rachal.
"This, in the long run, is going to benefit us," left tackle Joe Staley said after the game. "It'll make us tougher, focused and dialed in."
Alex Boone has solidified that right-guard spot this season, and all five linemen have started every game. That said, the Ravens still have an imposing pass rush, and coming on of late is Terrell Suggs, who had three sacks in the 2011 game.
Asked Sunday how the 49ers are better prepared to battle the Ravens' pass rush, coach Jim Harbaugh didn't answer with any superlatives about his team and instead noted the "challenge" the Ravens pose with a 10-man deep rotation in their defensive front.
Boone, who blocked only on special teams in that game, has confirmed the obvious when it comes to the Ravens.
"I watched the game last year and just noticed how physical it was," Boone said. "Anytime you watch this (Ravens) defense, you know they're going to be a physical defense. That's what they're known for. It's going to be one of those full-day suckers."
Kaepernick has been sacked only once in each of the past five games. His elusiveness is only part of the challenge he presents defenses. Those legs also are causing conflicts for opponents when the 49ers deploy their read-option formations.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco isn't a sack-artist's friend. He's been sacked five times through his past five games, and the 49ers didn't sack him in the Thanksgiving game.
That 9-0 sack differential hasn't gone unnoticed by the 49ers, including their sack artist Aldon Smith, who believes the 49ers offense is much different with Kaepernick.
"We're two completely different teams," Smith said. "We've gotten a lot better. At the same time, they probably have, too."
Speaking of time, one league official remarked how it indeed was "unfair" that the 49ers had to travel cross-country and visit the Ravens after only three days' rest. Consequently, none of this season's Thursday night games forced visiting teams to travel over three time zones as the 49ers did in 2011.
Jim Harbaugh griped about that short-week aspect a few days before the game but didn't use it as an excuse afterward. Nor did he complain about the media hysteria over his brother being on the opposing sideline.
What still sticks in the 49ers' craws, however, were a couple of questionable penalties.
First, the 49ers thought they had a 75-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Ginn, only to see it nullified by a chop-block penalty involving Rachal and Frank Gore. The 49ers would have had a 10-3 lead. Instead, they came away without a touchdown for the only game last season.
Later in that second quarter, Tarell Brown had an interception nullified with a pass-interference penalty, setting up a Ravens field goal.
In the end, the 49ers came away humbled, and the Ravens came away impressed. Suggs wore a microphone for NFL Films, and he offered this prophetic message to 49ers safety Dashon Goldson: "We'll see you in the Super Bowl."
Indeed, they will.
Best of times? Golden age might be under way for Bay Area sports teams.
honored: Teammates vote Aldon Smith MVP, Justin Smith Len Eshmont Award.
revving up: LaMichael James has 49ers offense moving into a higher gear.
Thanks, Ravens: John Harbaugh recommended the 49ers' top two assistants.
Respect for Kaepernick: Ravens speak highly of 49ers quarterback.