For the past two weeks, there have been so many storylines popping up about the Super Bowl that it is hard to keep up with the happenings surrounding Sunday’s big game.
This weekend, all those storylines will evaporate; the only thing that will matter is the play on the field.
Nobody will care about Ray Lewis and his deer concoction, everyone will forget about the Harbaugh brothers, Joe Flacco and his quest to join the ranks of the elite will disappear and the Randy Moss versus Jerry Rice debate will end.
The only thing that people will remember is the play on the gridiron.
In order for the Ravens to leave the Superdome as the champion, they will have to accomplish certain tasks.
Here are the keys to victory for the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
It is no secret that the 49ers want to run the ball out of the pistol formation. With Colin Kaepernick as San Francisco’s starting quarterback, the 49ers instantly evolved into an explosive offense.
In the nine games since the electrifying quarterback has been under center, San Francisco has scored 24 or more points eight times. Kaepernick allows the 49ers to run the read option, which has given opposing defenses fits.
The former Nevada signal-caller, who ran a similar offense in college, has been on a tear in the playoffs. Through two playoff games, Kaepernick has rushed for over 200 yards.
The play where the elusive 49ers quarterback picks up the majority of his rushing yards is the read option.
Kaepernick starts in the pistol formation with a back behind him. After taking the handoff, he will key on the defensive end or outside linebacker. He will then do one of two things: keep the ball or hand off the ball.
If the defensive player assigned with the duty of holding the edge comes crashing in toward the running back because he thinks it’s a run play, Kaepernick will keep the ball and take off to the spot vacated by the defender.
However, if the defensive player is disciplined and plays his responsibility, Kaeprnick will hand off the ball.
There is no question San Francisco will try to run the ball—it has rushed for 379 yards this postseason. The question for Baltimore is if it can limit the damage of the 49ers’ rushing attack.
The way Baltimore can limit San Francisco on the read-option plays is by playing disciplined football.
Terrell Suggs, Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw, the players who will be charged with holding the edge, will have to play their technique and not get sucked in on the fake handoff to the running back.
Randy Moss proclaimed this week that he is the greatest wide receiver in the history of football. While it might be a stretch to make that declaration, there is no question that Randy Moss is one of the top players to ever play the receiver position.
However, as good as Randy Moss thinks he is, the 35-year-old is nowhere near the receiver he once was.
After taking last season off, Moss signed with San Francisco and caught 28 balls for 434 yards and three touchdowns. This season for Moss marked the lowest number of touchdowns in a season in which he played all 16 games.
While he is not as explosive as the man who torched teams in his younger years, Moss is still fully capable of getting overtop a defense and beating Baltimore deep. With the strong arm of Kaepernick, expect San Francisco to take a couple shots deep with Moss being the target.
Ed Reed, the center fielder of the Ravens defense, will have to keep one eye on Moss. If Moss is forgotten about Sunday, the veteran receiver could very well score on a long pass, which could end up being costly for the Ravens.
Through the three playoff games for Baltimore, Joe Flacco has played about as well as any quarterback in playoff history.
The strong-armed quarterback has won two road games against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, two of the best quarterbacks to ever sling the football. Flacco has not thrown an interception, passing for 853 yards and eight touchdowns for a passer rating of 114.7.
The secret to Flacco’s success has been the protection his offensive line has given him.
In the playoffs, Flacco has attempted 93 passes. He has been hit just 9 times, which equates to Flacco being hit on only 9.7 percent of his pass attempts. During the regular season, Flacco attempted 531 passes. He was hit 69 times, equating to 12.9 percent of his passes.
From the stats, it is clear the protection has been better in the playoffs, and as a result, Flacco is playing like an elite quarterback.
On Sunday, Baltimore’s offensive line will have its hands full. The 49ers feature Aldon Smith, who has quickly become one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL. The second-year player ranked second in the NFL with 19.5 sacks.
Outside of Smith, there is really not a player who can dominate an offensive line. So, if the Baltimore offensive line can shutdown Smith, Joe Flacco may have time to continue his playoff-passing onslaught.
On Sunday, there will be a clear correlation between Flacco’s performance and the play of the linemen. Additionally, there will be a correlation between Flacco’s play and the outcome of the Super Bowl.
In any game, mistakes will kill a team. In the Super Bowl, one mistake could very well change the game’s outcome.
With that being said, the Ravens must not let the bright lights of the Super Bowl stage affect their play.
One missed tackle, one holding penalty, one turnover or one dropped pass could potentially send the Ravens back to Baltimore as losers.
The reason the Ravens made it to the Super Bowl is because they limited mistakes. In the three previous games, Baltimore committed three turnovers compared to the eight turnovers they caused.
If the Ravens win the turnover battle Sunday, the probability of winning a second Super Bowl drastically increases. With a number of veterans sprinkled throughout the roster, you can bet Baltimore will be focused and ready to go for kickoff.