The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers will meet in New Orleans on Feb 3 for Super Bowl XLVII. While this may not be the matchup that most desired, there will be plenty of story lines to captivate us leading up to—and during—the game.
Can Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco take another step toward cementing his status as an elite signal-caller, or will the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick continue his implausible run through the postseason?
While all the side-chatter in advance of the Super Bowl is compelling, the game itself must still be played. And in order for the 49ers to come out on top, it is imperative they prevent the Ravens from storming out to an early lead.
In last weekend’s NFC Championship, the Atlanta Falcons built an early 17-0 lead on the 49ers only to see it gradually fade away as the game wore on.
Costly turnovers rightfully receive partial blame, but the Falcons’ inability to establish and maintain a consistent rushing attack ultimately cost Atlanta its second trip to the Super Bowl.
Though Kaepernick wasn’t as dynamic as he was against the Green Bay Packers the previous week (444 total yards and four touchdowns), keeping the ball out of his hands should have been Atlanta’s primary objective.
Instead, the Falcons ran the ball just 23 times compared to 42 Matt Ryan passes.
While much of the credit should be given to the 49ers defense for mitigating Atlanta’s ability to extend drives for the entire game, the Falcons made a colossal mistake by not running the ball more—especially after going into halftime with a 10-point lead.
The 49ers will not have that same luxury against the Ravens. If Baltimore is able to jolt out to an early lead, expect a healthy dose of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce for the balance of the game.
Though the Ravens averaged less than 3.7 yards per carry, their commitment to the run (121 yards on 33 carries) kept the New England Patriots offense off the field. And maybe more importantly, it caused Tom Brady to force the action when he was given the chance to make plays late in the game.
Jim Harbaugh will never tell you that he doesn’t trust his team in a similar situation as the 49ers experienced against the Falcons. However, he certainly doesn’t want to be in that position in the first place.
The 49ers, themselves, don’t necessarily need to get out to a hot start to capture the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl title; they just need to prevent Baltimore from doing so.
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