Ravens vs. 49ers: Passing Game Key to Baltimore Victory

Sam StrykerContributor IIIJanuary 28, 2013

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco leads an impressive Baltimore passing game.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco leads an impressive Baltimore passing game.Al Bello/Getty Images

The hype leading up to the Super Bowl is on first-year starter Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers.

But next Sunday, expect Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to make waves with his receivers if Baltimore plans to win in New Orleans.

While all eyes may be on the dynamic young San Francisco quarterback, Flacco leads the NFL in postseason passer rating (114.7 to Kaepernick’s 105.9), and receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith rank first and fourth, respectively, in postseason receiving yards.

Boldin has hauled in an impressive three touchdowns already this postseason, which also leads the league. He’s a deep threat, and if Flacco can connect with the former Cardinals receiver several times Sunday, the Ravens could open up the game big time.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact Flacco has completed 15 passes of 20 or more yards this postseason, which is unmatched by any other quarterback.

That’s not to mention the fact that Flacco has beaten all-time greats Peyton Manning and Tom Brady—on the road, nonetheless—in back-to-back weekends to reach the Super Bowl.

It would seem Flacco is finally backing up comments he made in 2012 when he told WNST in Baltimore he believed he was a top-five quarterback in the league.

“Without a doubt. What do you expect me to say?” he said. “I mean, I think I’m the best.”

It helps that the Ravens' passing game can exploit one of the 49ers’ weaknesses. San Francisco has given up 644 passing yards in two games. Opposing quarterbacks completed 69.1 percent of their passes against the 49ers in those two games for an average 103.6 rating.

While the quarterbacks they did face—Packers gunslinger Aaron Rodgers and Falcons passer Matt Ryan—are certainly among the best in the league, the 49ers defense will have to step it up come Sunday if they are planning on winning the Super Bowl.

The question is, can they bring the heat against the Ravens' passing game? 

While running back Ray Rice may lead a powerful running game and linebacker Ray Lewis headlines the defense as the heart and soul of Baltimore in his last career postseason, the Ravens will live and die by the passing game come Sunday in New Orleans.

Luckily for them, they have Joe Flacco slinging the ball with an elite receiving corps led by Anquan Boldin at his disposal.