Super Bowl 2013: Explosive X-Factors That Give 49ers Edge over Ravens

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIJanuary 22, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20:  Running back LaMichael James #23 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after scoring on a 15-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

When the San Francisco 49ers take on the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, they will have several explosive X-factors that will give them the edge they need to win the Lombardi Trophy.

The fast track of New Orleans' Mercedes-Benz Superdome should lend itself to a high-scoring matchup despite the fact that brothers John and Jim Harbaugh will be squaring off in an historic head coaching battle—fully knowing each others' tendencies.

But a trio of Niners playmakers gives the younger Jim's team the edge. Here is a breakdown of what each of them brings to the table.


WR Randy Moss

He may not be quite as fast as he once was, but Moss is arguably the best deep threat in the history of the NFL. In what might be his final career game, the future Hall of Famer will be eager to make the most of the opportunity to get his first career Super Bowl ring.

This chance wasn't foreseeable prior to the 2012 season, with Moss lurking in retirement after a disappointing perceptive end to his playing days with the Tennessee Titans.

Since the season-ending injury to Mario Manningham, though, more passes have flown Moss' way, and he has proven that he can still play. Moss snagged three catches for 46 yards against Atlanta, and could be even more prominently involved on Super Bowl Sunday.

Baltimore will not only be keying in on the Niners' rushing attack, but will also have to focus a lot of attention on No. 1 WR Michael Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis, who came alive last weekend with a team-high 105 yards on five receptions, including a four-yard TD.

Moss will likely draw one-on-one coverage multiple times will that diverted attention, and QB Colin Kaepernick will likely be looking his way to take several deep shots down the field.

At the very least, Moss will provide a huge height advantage in the red zone, and the Niners will need all the help they can get in the scoring area after the Ravens' impressive stonewalling of the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship.


RB LaMichael James

The rookie out of Oregon certainly picked a heck of a time for his first NFL touchdown, which occurred on a 15-yard scamper last week in the conference championship game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Ever since the release of Brandon Jacobs, the speedy James has made the most of his increasingly prominent role in the San Francisco offense. Considered by many to be too small to play in the NFL, James is proving that he does indeed belong.

James provides a suitable change of pace to the powerful running style of workhorse RB Frank Gore, and is just another dimension that the Ravens will have to prepare for.

He was primarily used in Atlanta on a zone-read play in which Kaepernick either punches up between the tackles or James takes the hand-off on a sweep. That same concept could pose a lot of problems to the Ravens' front seven, which lacks speed and will be focused on all the problems Kaepernick causes with his unique running ability.

Look for James to break off at least one big play, and to possibly be used more in the passing game on screen plays that he could take to the house.


KR/PR Ted Ginn Jr.

The difference in this one could come down to special teams, which is typically John Harbaugh's forte. However, the Ravens have struggled in that dimension this postseason.

In the divisional round, Denver Broncos returner Trindon Holliday took both a punt and a kick to pay dirt. They were plays that should have knocked Baltimore out of the playoffs if not for Joe Flacco's miraculous touchdown bomb to Jacoby Jones with seconds to go.

As strong as the Ravens looked in New England, they nearly gave up another TD, as Patriots WR Wes Welker was caught just before he broke through the final wave of Baltimore's punt coverage.

All of that has to be good news for Ginn, a traditionally explosive returner who has not found the end zone in 2012.

Some might argue that Ginn is due, and there would be no better way to remedy a relatively disappointing career as a receiver than to have a moment that would live in Super Bowl history forever, particularly if San Francisco wins.

Should the Ravens get sloppy once again, don't be surprised to see the lightning-fast Ginn turn even the smallest sliver of daylight into a game-breaking score.