The Baltimore Ravens have made an improbable run to Super Bowl XLVII. That impressive run is on its final leg, though, and will end with a decisive loss to the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.
Nobody expected this late-season revival by the Ravens after the team lost four of its last five games.
But, the Broncos and Patriots are different teams than the beast they will meet on Feb. 3.
They got healthy at the right time. Ray Lewis made a miraculous recovery from a triceps tear and linebacker Terrell Suggs made his way back from a torn ACL after missing the first eight games of the year.
But even with their top linebackers back, the physicality of the 49ers is going to end up being too much for them.
San Francisco is young, powerful and fundamentally sound. They are not going to come out and be elaborate with their approach. Pounding the football with Frank Gore and their talented running backs will help them open things up for Colin Kaepernick to exploit the Ravens’ secondary.
That secondary has improved as the season has gone on, but it has been susceptible to being beat as well.
Kaepernick presents a unique challenge for their defense as a whole. The unit is aging, and will struggle to contain the mobile QB in the pocket. The threat Robert Griffin III posed allowed his offense to rack up 171 yards on the ground against the Ravens in their Week 14 win.
With San Francisco’s QB running wild, or the threat of him running wild, the Ravens will have no choice but to lock down the edges and contain Kaepernick.
Taking away his ability to get up the field is a key for the Ravens, but it isn’t the 49ers' only option. They are a well-rounded offense that can do all things well. The Niners will simply adjust and take shots downfield if Baltimore takes away the scrambles and designed read-option plays.
Defensively, the 49ers have been beaten, as everyone has, at times this season. But that doesn’t take away from the impressive play of the dominant unit.
You can’t help but think San Francisco when discussing the elite defenses in the NFL. They are young, strong and disciplined and will make the Ravens work for every inch they accrue offensively.
That’s a daunting task for a Ravens offense that has been hit or miss with Joe Flacco at quarterback.
Baltimore is certainly a good football team, but the 49ers are just too good in all aspects of the game and too talented personnel wise.