Ray Lewis: Ravens LB Will Struggle Against 49ers Running Attack
Ray Lewis can dance like a maniac before the game, inspire his Baltimore Ravens teammates with another goosebumps-laden pregame speech and generally dominate the headlines for the next two weeks before the "Harbowl."
But he won't be able to shut down the San Francisco 49ers running game.
Lewis may still be a fine football player, but he's going to struggle against Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore and the Niners offensive line.
It's no secret that, despite his amazing recovery from a torn triceps and the "Win it for Ray!" rallying cry he's created in the Baltimore locker room before his pending retirement, Lewis has lost a step this season.
While still a very good athlete and incredibly smart player, Lewis can often be seen out of position, struggling to shed blockers and even missing the occasional tackle, something you rarely would see in his prime.
Now he faces a Pistol offense that traditionally puts defenses in a pickle. Do you make sure you keep outside containment so that Kaepernick can't beat you by running around the corner, opening up running lanes inside, or do you stuff the middle and take your chances with Kaepernick on the edge?
One would imagine Lewis' primary focus will be on the running backs in the read-option, meaning he'll be looking to scrape over offensive linemen, taking on blocks from the fullback or pulling tight end. And while I don't doubt Lewis will easily diagnose the play and know where he has to get, I wonder if he'll be able to get there.
The Atlanta Falcons struggled to do so. Yes, they kept Kaepernick from beating them with his legs. However, they didn't have an answer for the running backs in the read-option, as the 49ers gashed them inside and regularly found spacious running lanes to exploit.
Remember, the 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in the league and like to wear out defenses by running early and often. That also sets up passing lanes for Kaepernick and keeps a very talented defensive unit fresh.
Plus, the fact that the 49ers can trot out the incredibly quick and shifty LaMichael James to change the pace will give Lewis just one more weapon to worry about.
Ray Lewis will...
I can't emphasize this enough—I'll never question Lewis' heart or intelligence. But I do think the 49ers offensive line and rushing attack will wear him down.
I'm not saying the Ravens are simply going to roll over and die every time San Francisco runs the ball, but I just think Lewis will struggle against this type of rushing attack. There are plenty of intriguing battles in this game that will decide the outcome, and this is just one of them.
But in this particular battle, I'm giving the 49ers offensive line and running backs the advantage over Lewis.
They've got nothing on him in the inspirational speech battle, however.
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