Colin Kaepernick's athleticism at the quarterback position for the San Francisco 49ers is something the Baltimore Ravens haven't seen in the playoffs thus far, and it is no doubt the key to victory for San Fran.
Against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, the Ravens did exactly what was necessary to stop Tom Brady and the Pats' lethal offensive attack. Baltimore was able to get consistent penetration on Brady throughout the course of the contest, and it clearly rattled the Pats' signal-caller.
On the season, Brady threw for nearly 5,000 yards and completed 63 percent of his passes. In the Pats' first playoff game against the Houston Texans, Brady completed 62.5 percent of his passes in the winning effort.
Against the Ravens, Brady's completion rate was below his average for the season, coming in at 53.7 percent. On top of that, the Ravens defense got seven hits on Brady, although he was never sacked.
That is more of a testament to how fast Brady gets rid of the ball than anything else.
That same type of pressure will be necessary to win in the Super Bowl against the 49ers, but the Ravens will have a much more difficult time in accomplishing that feat.
Sure, the Ravens can still get pressure on Kaepernick, but his incredible athleticism and speed will make it much more difficult to actually get their hands on him. It is a skill and talent that neither Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning or Brady possessed in the earlier rounds of the playoffs against Baltimore.
Kaepernick has the ability to stand in the pocket and throw the ball with great accuracy, which is something he proved last week against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game after completing 16-of-21 passes, good enough for a 76.2 percent completion percentage.
But when opposing defenses get penetration—which isn't easy to do in the first place considering the immense talent of the 49ers' offensive line—Kaepernick can easily avoid the pressure and potential sack, sometimes turning it into a big play.
Normally in such a big game as this, a young quarterback is vulnerable to having a letdown game because of the overall intensity of the opposing defense. But Kaepernick's ability allows him to level the playing field, so to speak, if Baltimore is successful in breaking San Fran's offensive line.
The Ravens are on a slippery slope in this game in preparing for Kaepernick. Coach John Harbaugh could choose to go with a spy, but there are few players on the field that can keep up with Kaepernick in the first place.
Not to mention that having the spy will take a Ravens defender out of pass coverage, thus opening things up just a bit more for the second-year quarterback.
Clearly Baltimore has a lot to contend with in the Super Bowl when dealing with San Francisco's offense. Not only do the Ravens have to contend with stopping all the ways Kaepernick can beat them, but they also have to deal with one of the best running backs in the game, Frank Gore.
If the Ravens can get that penetration and get to Kaepernick, it will disrupt what the 49ers are trying to do and could turn them into a one-dimensional offense. However, thanks to Kaepernick's speed and agility to keep out of the not-so-loving arms of the Ravens' defense, they won't be able to do that.