Here it is: one last, no frills, plain and simple, straight to the point Super Bowl preview. There’s no dwelling on the brother versus brother matchup and no gushing over the swan song of Ray Lewis. Just some no nonsense, good old fashioned football talk.:
RAVENS OFFENSE VS. 49ERS DEFENSE
The Ravens have basically reached the Super Bowl on the backs of their offensive linemen, and the five big men up front are going to have play their best once again if the Ravens expect to win. Baltimore will have to have some semblance of a running game against a San Francisco defense that is stout against the run, giving up less than 100 yards per game, and that responsibility falls on the offensive line, which will have to open up holes for Ray Rice.
Rice doesn’t have to be explosive, just consistent enough to keep the 49ers honest against the run, in order to keep the deep passing game open for Joe Flacco. Whether they can run or not, the offensive line will need to give Flacco the time he needs to throw the ball down field, but that’ll be a lot easier if the Ravens can establish a solid ground game.
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In addition to stopping the running game and making Baltimore one-dimensional on offense, the goal for the San Francisco defense will be to put pressure on Flacco, who has rarely been pressured in three playoff games, even against Denver, owners of the NFL’s best pass rush. Even if it means blitzing and playing man-to-man throughout the secondary, the 49ers need to make Flacco uncomfortable and keep him from having enough time to look downfield and take deep shots, because that’s when Baltimore’s offense is most dangerous and most effective.
49ERS OFFENSE VS. RAVENS DEFENSE
This is where the read-option play could become the biggest factor in the game. Priority number one for the Baltimore defense will be slowing down the San Francisco running game, and to do that they’re going to have to read and react well against the option. Whether Colin Kaepernick keeps the ball or hands off to Frank Gore doesn’t matter much if the 49ers are able to get consistent gains from their ground game. If San Francisco can stay ahead of the chains, they’ll be able to incorporate play-action into their read-option, which is dangerous for the defense with a player like Kaepernick at quarterback.
If Kaepernick can get out on the edge with the option to either run or pass he can be almost impossible to stop, especially with the caliber of receivers San Francisco has in Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Vernon Davis, and the aging Randy Moss. The best way the Ravens can prevent that is to keep the San Francisco running game at bay, and make Kaepernick beat them with his arm, and his arm alone. The 49ers will be a lot more dangerous on offense when they want to throw, not when they have to throw, so if Baltimore can put them in a position where they need to throw, the Ravens should be in good shape defensively.
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For a game with two pretty good defenses, this game gets awfully offensive, as Flacco has some success with the deep ball early, putting San Francisco in another early hole, much like the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta. However, as the game goes on, the 49ers are able to get some pressure on Flacco, and without an ineffective running game, the Baltimore offense goes stagnant. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens have no consistent answer for the zone-read, and Kaepernick ends up running and throwing for long touchdowns. Once they retake the lead, the 49ers are able to run the ball and milk the clock, sealing the victory for the younger Harbaugh brother: San Francisco 31, Baltimore 23.