SF 49ers: 3 X-Factors Who Will Be Crucial for Them in Super Bowl XLVII
In the NFC Championship, Frank Gore scored two touchdowns and Colin Kaepernick remained efficient after his record-setting day against the Packers the week earlier. Kaepernick and the 49ers have kept teams off-balance, while the defense has remained consistent throughout.
Can they continue to have their way against the Ravens? Here are three players which will be key to the 49ers' dominance.
After an incredible 13 games, Aldon Smith has been virtually invisible in the last five, including the playoffs.
He's in the midst of a terrible sack drought, which is mainly due to Justin Smith playing well below 100 percent due to his triceps injury.
However, Aldon needs to make an impact. He doesn't bulldoze defenders like Justin does, but he's more than capable of getting by a defender with finesse moves, something we've seen him do multiple times. Smith hasn't done anything outside of the fumble recovery he lucked into against Atlanta, and he needs to step it up.
Joe Flacco can and will be rattled by pressure, so it will make things easier on the secondary if Smith can get into Flacco's face. He needs to end his sack drought and play like he did in the first 13 games of the season, or else Flacco might start looking a lot like Matt Ryan.
Frank Gore has been brilliant in the playoffs, and he is finally thriving in Kaepernick's pistol offense. He's going to need to continue to thrive for the 49ers to beat the Ravens.
Kaepernick is an incredible talent, but he can't do it alone, as it's already tough enough to have your 10th start come in the Super Bowl, which is the case for San Francisco's second-year starter. However, the 49ers offense is built to run the ball, and they beat Atlanta because they ran the ball well when they were behind, something that took a lot of guts to do.
Gore rarely lets the first guy to get a hand on him tackle him, as he is a power runner despite being a mere 69 inches tall. He is heavy and can break tackles and has great vision. He almost never loses yards and is a reliable short-yardage back, making him the complete package. With Baltimore having the 20th ranked run defense, it's a perfect time for the grinder to shine.
LaMichael James is a very good compliment to Gore, as he possesses lots of speed, but he isn't a first-string running back. If Baltimore can shut down Gore, the 49ers will be in a tough situation.
Kaepernick isn't going to win a game by himself, but he's a talented quarterback who can win it easily with Gore.
While he doesn't play for the 49ers, Greg Roman might just be the biggest X-factor on the team.
Roman has been masterful in the postseason, and I believe the 49ers would be watching the Super Bowl from the couch with a different offensive coordinator. He completely confused the Packers, who had to helplessly watch the 49ers drop 45 points on them. Then Roman kept Atlanta's defense guessing by running, even when the 49ers were down by double-digits.
The Ravens have talent, but also a lot of age on their defense. Kaepernick and the offense have lots of big-play weapons, and they can wear down Baltimore's D with their speed. With two weeks to prepare, it's likely that Roman and the 49ers will have something else up their sleeve for John Harbaugh and the Ravens.
Kaepernick has opened up a world of possibilities for the offense, and Roman is using all of them quite effectively. However, Roman's going to need to add the cherry on top, and that cherry needs to come in the form of an offensive eruption from the 49ers.