The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens face off in the Super Bowl, and it won't necessarily be each team's biggest strength that pushes them to victory. Instead, each team must focus on dominating these keys to win one of the sports world's biggest events.
It may not have been the most realistic Super Bowl matchup, but after both teams finished one win away from Super Sunday last season, it was far from surprising that the Harbaugh brothers are set to show down.
However, each team was forced to get away from their conventional style of winning in order to survive in the playoffs. Whoever can become the most versatile will raise the Lombardi Trophy.
Here are the biggest keys to Super Bowl XLVII.
Battle of the Big Play
It was no secret in the middle of the 2012 season that the 49ers opted to go with Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith in order to maximize their big play potential, and it's worked incredibly well in the playoffs.
On the other hand, there were very few football fans who expected Joe Flacco's deep passing ability to be the main reason why the Ravens made it to Super Bowl XLVII. Without his bomb to Jacoby Jones in the closing seconds of their Divisional matchup against Denver, Ray Lewis would have already played his last game.
San Francisco's secondary is awfully tough to beat, but the same could also be said for the Broncos' and Patriots', which both softened up upon playing the Ravens.
Flacco's ability to hit the home-run ball will be even more important since he's facing Kaepernick. The dual-threat quarterback's ability to scramble forces defenses to be accountable, but he can also drop back and fire the ball with as much velocity and accuracy as anyone in the NFL.
Kaepernick has been able to utilize Vernon Davis deep down the middle of the field, while also turning Michael Crabtree into the elite play maker that the 49ers thought he was when they drafted him.
While this game features two insane defenses, it won't be short on firepower.
The Kicking Game
So many Super Bowls in the last decade have come down to game-winning field goal opportunities. Saying it won't have a major impact in Super Bowl XLVII–whether or not it comes down to a final kick–would be a glaring misconception.
For both teams, the kicking game has become somewhat of a sore subject recently.
49ers kicker David Akers has quickly gone from one of the most reliable in the game to the exact opposite. In fact, no kicker has missed more field goal opportunities (13) this season than Akers.
For the Ravens, a missed field goal by Billy Cundiff cost their team a shot at last year's Super Bowl. He's since been replaced by Justin Tucker, who kicked the game-winning field goal against the Broncos just over a week ago.
But Tucker is a rookie, and there's arguably no bigger stage in the sports world than the Super Bowl. It's safe to say jitters will be flowing through his body from the opening kick.
It may or may not come down to a game-winning field goal try, but neither team can afford to leave points off the board in what should be a tight matchup.
Containing the Running Game
It just so happens that the two teams facing off in the Super Bowl possess two of the most uncontainable running backs in the league in Frank Gore and Ray Rice.
The 49ers stud running back, Gore was discounted as a player too old to remain elite at his position at the start of the season. He's proven his critics wrong with a string of impressive playoff performances, amassing more than 160 combined yards against Green Bay and 90 rushing yards against Atlanta.
Rice has had an incredible year as well and is awfully hard to keep from busting first-down runs over and over. Keeping him to a three-yard gain is a feat in itself.
Both backs will be able to move the ball and help their team sustain drives, but with two of the best rushing defenses in the NFL, it will be awfully hard for either to bust big runs. There's no shortage of well-known linebackers–Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis, Terrell Suggs–who will be sniffing out the run.
Whichever team can use their star linebackers to best contain the other team's running game will have a huge upper hand.
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