Ray Lewis may be a powerful emotional leader for the Baltimore Ravens, but it's his limitations in pass coverage that could be a difference-maker in the Super Bowl.
Lewis has received tons of praise for his ability to will the Ravens to three inspired postseason victories. However, it's no secret that he has slowed down dramatically over the years. Baltimore has tried to hide his deficiencies in pass coverage by allowing him to roam free, but teams are still finding ways to take advantage.
According to Pro Football Focus, in the playoffs alone, Lewis has been targeted 19 times, with receivers making 15 catches for 178 yards. Those are big numbers against a linebacker covering the intermediate zones of the passing game.
Very rarely will you see Lewis trying to run with a receiver or running back in man coverage. He's usually the designated "hole" dropper if he isn't thrown into the rush, which means he would be responsible for the middle of the field between five and 10 yards deep.
With the size and speed of Vernon Davis, the 49ers should be able to generate favorable matchups against Lewis. He will not be asked to cover Davis alone much, if at all, but formations and personnel groupings could force the Ravens' hand at times.
This will clearly put much of the burden of covering Davis on guys like Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. But that will also force Lewis to run with the backs out of the backfield.
Expect to see deep routes by the running backs, designed to isolate the coverage on Lewis without much safety help over the top. If his 37-year-old legs are not up for the challenge, he may cost his team first downs and several big plays.