Anyone who loves seeing some good old fashioned ground-and-pound will be thrilled when they watch the 2013 Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers are set to run all over the Baltimore Ravens next week.
The Ravens have undoubtedly been playing some fantastic football en route to the Super Bowl. They just recently limited Tom Brady and the New England Patriots offense—one of the league’s best—to just 13 points, and they’ve also been moving the ball with impunity. They’re looking good.
The thing is, the Ravens' biggest weakness so far this season just so happens to be the 49ers’ biggest strength—the running game.
The Ravens’ dramatic wins and Joe Flacco’s recent brilliance have masked the fact that the Ravens rushing defense hasn’t near held its own this season.
The Ravens rank 20th in the league against the run, allowing over 120 yards per game. What’s really concerning, though, is the way they’ve looked against the league’s best ground games.
Baltimore has faced five of the top 10 rushing attacks throughout the course of the season (per NFL.com)—the Patriots, the Indianapolis Colts, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Washington Redskins and the Houston Texans. It has fared well in just one of those games, the AFC Championship win over New England (allowing 108 yards on 28 carries).
In every other one of those games, the Ravens have gotten wrecked by the run, allowing 150 yards per contest. When you consider who they’re playing this week, that’s a big concern.
The 49ers have had far and away the best rushing attack in the postseason. They’ve racked up a whopping 236 yards per game on a 6.6 yards per carry average. They’re steamrolling their opponents.
It all starts with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who just over two weeks ago rushed for 181 yards against the Green Bay Packers. That stands as the most ever for a quarterback in an NFL game.
At 6’4” and 230 pounds, Kaepernick is strong enough to break arm tackles and fast enough to outrace the secondary. He’s inarguably the most dangerous player on either team.
Throw in the fact that the 49ers have quite possibly the best offensive line in the league and one of the best backs in Frank Gore, and you’re looking at real trouble for the Baltimore defense. Honestly, how can you possibly defend this?
There is one speck of good news for the Ravens. They’ve seen the 49ers' pistol offense (in which Kaepernick stands a few yards behind the center with a running back behind him) before. The Redskins ran it in their early December matchup, so the Ravens aren’t dealing with an entirely new entity.
Of course, the flip side is that Baltimore allowed 6.2 yards per rush when it faced the pistol (according to ESPN Stats & Information). And that was against a banged-up Robert Griffin.
Kaepernick and the 49ers offense, averaging 8.4 yards per rush in the pistol formation this postseason, promise to be a different animal entirely.
The 49ers have conquered the NFC primarily on the strength of their running game. At this point, the Ravens look like they’ll be the next victim.