The title of this Article could be taken two different ways: one being the 49ers found Gold in Colin Kaepernick after he lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years and two, the foreshadowing of the 49ers winning their first Super Bowl in 18 years.
When Kaepernick first broke onto the scene I was a fan of the kid, after he started getting taunting penalties and kissing his bicep I lost a little respect. Coach Harbaugh started reeling the youngster in and better kick up the mentoring for the immature Nevada QB before hitting arguably sports biggest stage on February 3rd. I think the 49ers have another huge edge on offense. With Ray Lewis being at the end of his career with essentially 50% of his arm use, containing this running attack will prove difficult (as if arm-tackles worked on Frank Gore in the first place). Terrell Suggs will do everything in his power to contain the outside, but the whole idea of the read option is to render the OLB powerless by forcing him to go one way while the ball goes the other. The Ravens rank 20th against the run and the 49ers are a top 5 rushing teams. Needless to say, if the Ravens want to stay in it, they’re going to have to put up a lot of points, most likely through the air and I’m not sure if Flacco will be able to pull it out for Baltimore.
Another factor against Ravens is the 49ers have debatably the most athletic TE in the NFL in Vernon Davis. Yes, Gronkowski has a much more diverse skill set, but he didn’t play in a single post season game this year and I don’t care how vast your skill set is, what matters is what happens on the field. Being a huge fantasy football player, I know that the Ravens have been very “middle of the road” not only on defense all year, but also against he TE position, a soft spot that the 49ers coordinators will acknowledge and exploit.
The interior linebackers for the Ravens do not have the speed and capability to guard against the pistol offense that Kaepernick runs so efficiently. Safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard will be dropping back to defend the deep ball leaving Davis wide open to reek havoc across the middle of the field. San Francisco hasn’t been a home run team all year; they put together drives and wear down the defense. Yes, San Fran does have the occasional big play (more so now that they chose Kaepernick over Alex Smith), but that hasn’t been they’re biggest strength. Being able to use their athletic secondary receivers in crossing routes will allow them to build up the types of sustained scoring drives they’ve relied on all year.
When it comes to the Ravens offense, Joe Flacco is most definitely the shining star, passing for 853 yards in 3 games this postseason. He has 8 touchdowns with 0 interceptions, I repeat ZERO interceptions. Yeah, he faced a mediocre pass defense in Indy, but the Bronco secondary is impressive and it’s never easy to beat New England. With a QBR in the post season of 77.4 as compared to 46.8 in the regular season and an overall passer rating of 114.7 compared to a 87.7 regular season, Flacco has obviously stepped up his game. I think Flacco could have a big game, but I also think what is more likely is that the 49ers will control the line of scrimmage, getting pressure on Flacco and forcing him to make mistakes.
I know Ravens are playing with heart, and determination, but the last time the “Purple Birds” faced a running QB it was against the Washington Redskins, a game the Ravens ended up losing in OT. RG3 had 7 rushes for 34 yards and Alfred Morris had 23 rushes for 129 yards. I’d be willing to bet that the 49ers have a better all-around athlete in Kaepernick and that Frank Gore is a more dangerous and more experienced RB than Alfred Morris. Not taking away anything from Skins, I’m just saying that I’d take the duo of Kaepernick and Gore over RG3 and Morris, especially with Harbaugh on my side.
If the boys in purple want to win, Ray Rice is going to need to step up and do more than just run between the tackles. Firstly, Dennis Pitta, a subpar TE at best who has helped spring him lose several times this year, is going to be shadowed by either Patrick Willis/Navarro Bowmen all game and, secondly, even if he wanted to, Rice isn’t going to be able to get through DT Ngata in the middle or the stellar linebacking group behind him. What I’m saying is that Baltimore will need “Hey Diddle” to do a lot more than just go up the middle; off-tackle runs may be their only chance considering the nickel scheme is the closest thing to a weakness that the 49er’s defense has.
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