How the 49ers Will Dominate the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII
In the highly anticipated Super Bowl between the brothers of Jim and John Harbaugh, there is great reason to believe that Jim's San Francisco 49ers will run away with the Lombardi Trophy.
While the postseason run of the Baltimore Ravens has been impressive, the 49ers have a more complete package and are the perfect team to match up against the Ravens. If San Francisco jumps on Baltimore early, Beyonce's halftime show might be more entertaining than the second half of the game.
This is why the San Francisco 49ers will take over Super Bowl XLVII.
Pistol and the Read-Option
John Harbaugh and the Ravens coaching staff will have two weeks to prepare for the dynamic offense of the 49ers, but that won't be close to enough time.
While only a handful of teams are currently running some form of the pistol offense, fewer teams have had success stopping it.
The only in-game experience the Ravens defense has had against the pistol was at the Washington Redskins, where Baltimore gave up 423 yards. Along with giving up significant yardage, the Ravens gave up three touchdown drives of 80 yards or longer. Even though one of those drives was completed by Kirk Cousins when Robert Griffin III went down, Griffin put up a quarterback rating of 101.8.
One note to factor in is that Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs did not play in Baltimore's overtime loss to Washington. While some might think that is a sign of life for the Ravens, it's a daunting task for the two linebackers to help stop a prolific offense the first time they see a new scheme.
Spreading the Wealth
With the exception of Kaepernick's first two starts in November, Crabtree has led the 49ers in targets and receptions each game. Additionally, in Kaepernick's previous six starts at quarterback before the NFC Championship, Crabtree was the only 49ers player to have more than five catches or 54 yards in a game.
Davis pulled in five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons.
What's even scarier for the Ravens is that the 49ers didn't even use Kaepernick's legs on the read-option against the Falcons. He simply handed it off to the running backs and then used his arm from the pocket. According to Pat Yasinskas and ESPN Stats & Information, Kaepernick stayed in the pocket on 21 of his 23 drop backs.
If the Ravens defense is required to focus on two main targets while worrying about Kaepernick's running ability outside the pocket, the Ravens will have more than their hands full.
Despite Baltimore defeating Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in three consecutive weeks, the Ravens have averaged giving up 415 yards a game in the postseason. Baltimore has relied on forcing turnovers in the playoffs, but Kaepernick has only thrown four interceptions in his nine starts this year.
Since the San Francisco 49ers have two weeks to prepare for the Baltimore Ravens, it's likely Davis will be just as involved in the game plan as he was in the NFC Championship. Combining Crabtree and Davis with secondary options in Randy Moss and Delanie Walker, the Ravens defensive line must get pressure on Kaepernick and contain him to have a chance at success.
Everyone knows that, statistically, San Francisco has one of the premier defenses in the NFL (fourth against the run and pass). But do people know how impressive the 49ers pass defense really is?
Ask Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. All four quarterbacks failed to defeat the 49ers, and Rodgers even had two cracks at it. In San Francisco's five games against these quarterbacks, the 49ers defense forced seven interceptions. This defensive success gave San Francisco a lead at halftime in every game, except against the Falcons.
If these quarterbacks struggled against the San Francisco secondary, do you think Joe Flacco can beat this group?
Flacco does have eight touchdowns and zero interceptions in the postseason, but only a 54.8 completion percentage. Also, the Baltimore quarterback earned playoff victories over the Indianapolis Colts (21st in pass defense), Denver Broncos (third) and the New England Patriots (29th). While the Broncos defense has been solid for most of the season, playing in the AFC West certainly helped their numbers out.
For as much success as Joe Flacco has had the last three weeks, February will tell a different story. The 49ers secondary is on another level.
The punt game might seem like one of the more irrelevant factors for a Super Bowl, but it will make a great difference in this game.
Not only did Andy Lee join Thomas Morstead as the season leaders in net punt yards at 43.2 per game, but Lee also had 36 punts downed inside the 20 (third in the NFL).
One aspect that should help Lee in the Super Bowl is that the game will be played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. When asked about playing away from home before the NFC Championship, Lee said he preferred playing in a dome according to Taylor Price at 49ers.com. Without any rain or wind to worry about, Lee should be at his finest next Sunday.
With a dangerous punt returner like Jacoby Jones on the Ravens, Lee's ability to eliminate Jones' opportunities to touch the ball will be crucial in determining field position and not allowing momentum-changing plays.
Eliminating the Ravens Run Game
The Baltimore Ravens running game is on fire. They have averaged 175.2 yards per game on the ground in their last five contests and will need a sixth just like that if the Ravens want to earn a second Super Bowl championship.
Joe Flacco deserves credit for bringing the Ravens back against the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos the last two weeks, although Baltimore was never trailing by more than one possession.
If San Francisco executes their strategy and builds a double-digit lead, the Baltimore offense isn't built to pass the ball a majority of the time. Once the 49ers build their lead, the Ravens will eventually be forced to abandon the run. Therefore, San Francisco's options with blitz packages increase, and the protection Joe Flacco has had in the playoffs will be gone.
Prediction: San Francisco 34, Baltimore 17