Ravens vs. 49ers: Colin Kaepernick Is Too Versatile for Baltimore to Slow Down
The San Francisco 49ers offense might be most effective because of a brawling offensive line and strong running scheme, but the team also flourishes because it boasts a versatile attack.
The Niners can beat you with multiple running backs, athletic tight ends, a slew of talented wide receivers, a mauling offensive line and, oh yeah, a young quarterback who may already be the most versatile player at his position in the NFL.
When you look at Kaepernick, you're seeing the future of the quarterback position in the NFL. He's got ideal height to see over the line. He's very accurate and generally makes smart decisions, though admittedly the 49ers' passing game isn't the most complex in the league.
He's got excellent arm strength and stretches defenses vertically. He's an excellent runner when the tucks the ball himself, making the 49ers' pistol/read-option attack all the more devastating.
Unlike Robert Griffin III, he doesn't seem injury-prone. And he has a cool demeanor and doesn't seem to be too fazed by the bright lights. The Super Bowl is a whole different story, of course, but Kaepernick seems up to the challenge.
Plus, Kaepernick and the 49ers offense pose a different sort of challenge for the Ravens, as Bill Barnwell of Grantland notes:
During this postseason, the Ravens have had to contend with the Broncos and Patriots—teams who try to create mismatches against tired defenses by running different sorts of no-huddle attacks. Baltimore has been able to withstand those attacks by staying in a Nickel defense that has done a good job of matching up against the sorts of personnel sets the Broncos and Patriots tend to run. In the Super Bowl, don't be surprised if the 49ers try to attack the Ravens with a seemingly counterintuitive strategy: forcing them back into their traditional 3-4 alignment.
As Barnwell notes, the Ravens have actually become very proficient in the nickel, and it might be the team's best alignment. But the Niners will test the team's base 3-4 by bringing on extra offensive linemen and attempting to win the line of scrimmage in the running game.
Of course, stacking the box against the Niners is a risky proposition, as Barnwell goes on to add, because Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Kaepernick are more than capable of beating single coverage down the field.
The 49ers have become brilliant at forcing teams to make tough decisions. Do you focus on the inside handoff or Kaepernick on the read draw? Do you stack the box and risk the downfield throw or stay in your base defense and risk losing the line of scrimmage when the Niners run unbalanced lines?
Heck, how do you match up against the tight ends? Or LaMichael James? Or, oh yeah, Randy Moss?
These decisions are made so difficult because Kaepernick presents so many different types of threats to defenses. If you allow him to, he'll kill you on the ground (ask the Green Bay Packers). If you allow him, he'll methodically carve you apart through the air (ask the Atlanta Falcons).
If you focus too much attention on the other weapons the Niners have, Kaepernick will find your weaknesses and exploit them.
Look, I know he's still a young player. He threw a pick-six against the Packers. He can be pressured into mistakes. It's possible he'll choke.
But if he plays like he has since taking over as starter for the 49ers, he'll prove too dangerous a weapon for the Ravens to stop. And because of that, the Niners will be crowned Super Bowl champions on Sunday night.
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