If you look at their stature and stats, the two starting running backs who will headline this year's Super Bowl are eerily similar:
Ray Rice: 5’ 8” and 212lbs
Frank Gore: 5’ 9” and 217lbs
Rice regular season: 1,143 yards, 4.4 average, 9 TD
Gore regular season: 1,214 yards, 4.7 average, 8 TD
Rice Postseason: 247 yards, 3.9 average, 2 TD
Gore Postseason: 209 yards, 4.8 average, 3 TD
So, which running back will be more crucial to their team’s success on Sunday?
While an argument could really be made for either one of them, I think Ray Rice is going to be slightly more important to the Ravens' success then Gore will be to the 49ers'.
Yes, I know the 49ers have a rookie quarterback who only has 2 postseason games under his belt, but there are other factors to consider. For instance, both teams need to establish some sort of running game in order to be able to throw the ball effectively and that is going to be much more difficult for Rice and the Ravens.
The 49ers run defense is very solid, while the Ravens run defense has been much more vulnerable. Add in the fact that the 49ers have a quarterback that can tuck and run at will, and that means that the 49ers should have a much easier time getting their running game going. Not to mention the fact that Gore has had much more room running the ball so far than Rice has (4.8 per carry compared to 3.9)
Also, the Ravens proved throughout the season that they have struggles winning games if they don’t get Ray Rice going early and often. In their 6 losses this season, Rice averaged less than 64 yards per game. In their 10 wins, he averaged 76 yards per game.
Last, but not least, in order for Joe Flacco to continued his downfield passing success, he will need Rice to get going. The 49ers have a MUCH better pass defense than anyone else the Ravens have faced (Colts, Broncos and Patriots) and if the Ravens aren’t able to establish at least some sort of ground game, Flacco could begin to struggle against a solid 49ers defense.
Follow Cole Stevenson on twitter: @Cole_Stevenson