Ravens vs. 49ers: What Each Harbaugh Must Do to Win Game
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When Super Bowl XLVII kicks off on Sunday, John and Jim Harbaugh will become the first pair of brothers to coach against one another for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
John's Baltimore Ravens have been able to ride often criticized quarterback Joe Flacco to three straight playoff victories, while Jim and the San Francisco 49ers won their two postseason games thanks to near-perfect performances from dual-threat signal-caller Colin Kaepernick.
Neither team is perfect though, and they have combined to lose 10 games throughout the course of the 2012-13 season. This leads to the most important question of the week: what must each Harbaugh do to win their first Super Bowl?
First and foremost, John will need to find an answer for San Francisco's rushing attack, which is spearheaded by Kaepernick and four-time Pro Bowler Frank Gore.
In three of the 49ers' losses this season, their rushing offense has been stymied.
Outside of two long runs of 50 and 23 yards, the St. Louis Rams held San Francisco to 75 yards on the ground in a Week 13 upset. The Minnesota Vikings only allowed 89 rushing yards when they beat the 49ers in Week 3, and the New York Giants surrendered nine fewer yards in a 26-3 rout on Oct. 14.
The Ravens should load the box early in the game to apply extra pressure on Kaepernick and make it difficult for Gore to generate positive yardage on San Francisco's first couple of drives.
Offensively, John should get aggressive in the first half. Baltimore struggled in the first half of the AFC Championship game with a conservative game plan, but once the Ravens spread the field out and ran several four-receiver sets in the second half it led to 21 unanswered points.
San Francisco has been susceptible to some breakdowns in the secondary on deep passes this season, especially second-year cornerback Chris Culliver.
Flacco needs to be put in a position take some shots down the field to either Jacoby Jones or Torrey Smith throughout the first half in order for the Ravens to win their first Super Bowl since 2001.
Conversely, Jim and the 49ers need to dial up some blitzes and stunts to confuse Baltimore's offensive line in order to apply pressure on Flacco, who was sacked 14 times in five of the Ravens six losses.
Making Flacco uncomfortable in the pocket should be priority No. 1 for San Francisco on Sunday.
On the opposite side of the ball, the 49ers need to control the clock with Kaepernick and Gore. Baltimore's defense has been on the field more than any other defense since 2001 (1,342 plays) and this could lead to some late-game fatigue if San Francisco is able to establish a balanced offensive attack.
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