One of the most intriguing questions leading up to Super Bowl XLVII revolves around Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis, and whether or not the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year will make a significant impact in his final game as a professional.
Although Lewis has put together an impressive comeback effort thus far, the San Francisco 49ers have more than enough talent along the offensive line and at tight end to keep the 17-year veteran in check.
Lewis has racked up 25 total tackles and assisted on 19 others in Baltimore's three postseason games after returning from a torn tricep, which some expected would sideline the seven-time All-Pro selection for the remainder of the 2012-13 season.
Those numbers are not too shabby for a 37-year old linebacker.
Unfortunately for Lewis and the Ravens, though, the 49ers and dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick will present the most difficult matchup Baltimore's defense has faced all season long.
It is no secret Lewis is nowhere near as dominant as he once was, and this is most evident in pass coverage. The 49ers have talented tight ends in Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, who combined to haul in 62 receptions for 892 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
In addition to the matchup problems San Francisco will create for Lewis in the passing game, its offensive line—headlined by Pro Bowlers Joe Staley, Mike Iupati and Jonathan Goodwin—will keep the 6'1", 240-pounder from wreaking havoc in the backfield.
In the 49ers' two playoff victories, their offensive line has only allowed two sacks and a mere three rushing plays have resulted in negative yardage.
San Francisco has not exactly had any problems running the football this postseason, either. Kaepernick set an NFL-record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 181 yards against the Green Bay Packers.
The 49ers finished the 45-31 rout with 323 rushing yards and followed that performance up with 149 yards on the ground in their 28-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC title game.
The Ravens have done a decent job of slowing down opposing ground attacks in the playoffs, but this is mainly due to the fact the Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos do much of their damage through the air offensively.
Don't expect to see many tipped balls for Lewis to hunt down either. Kaepernick has done an outstanding job of taking care of the football since taking over as San Francisco's starting quarterback and has only thrown one interception in his only two playoff contests.
There is no doubt Lewis' return from injury has been admirable and absolutely heart-warming to watch. Just do not expect it to end happily for the Ravens and their star linebacker.
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