When the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers meet in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII next weekend, there will be plenty of players and storylines to keep everyone engaged throughout the contest.
Most of the attention will be on the sideline battle between brothers John and Jim Harbaugh; how both Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick can further establish themselves among the NFL’s quarterbacking hierarchy; it will be the final game for future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis; and if wide receiver Randy Moss can add the elusive title to his storied career.
While the performances of everyone will have an impact on the outcome of the game, tight end Vernon Davis could end up being the deciding factor.
San Francisco’s offense isn’t as wide-open as that of the New England Patriots, whom the Ravens were able to hold to just 13 points in the AFC Championship Game last weekend. Baltimore will be able to primarily focus on containing just four players: Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Davis.
Though allowing either to have a huge game could prove costly, mitigating Davis’ ability to stretch the field and prolong drives should be the Ravens' main concern.
Including the postseason (19 total games), Baltimore has allowed 93 receptions, 1,083 yards and just two touchdowns to opposing tight ends. Davis will receive plenty of attention from the Ravens defense.
However, Baltimore might be able to slide its focus more toward other areas depending on whether or not the 49ers build off of last weekend’s success—when Davis caught five passes for 106 yards and a score.
Though the emergence of Crabtree could be a factor, Davis endured a down year in 2012 tallying just 41 receptions for 548 yards and five touchdowns—including just seven catches for 105 yards and zero touchdowns over his last seven games prior to the NFC Championship win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Involving Davis in the offense will give the 49ers the ability to stretch the field. And building a game plan around him will prevent Joe Flacco and Co. from doing much when the Ravens have the ball.
Davis has proven that he can shine when it matters. In four career postseason games, he has 16 catches for 442 yards (27.6 YPC) and five touchdowns.
How San Francisco plans to utilize Davis will dictate a lot of what the Ravens can do on defense. If the 49ers choose to look elsewhere for offensive production, Baltimore’s road to another Super Bowl title will become much easier to travel.
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