If you look back at Super Bowl box scores, you start to see some consistencies.
It's the case in every game. There are basic things that winning teams do and losing teams do not.
The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens have emerged from their respective leagues and will square off in New Orleans on Sunday for the Lombardi trophy. When the box score from the game is out on Monday morning, there's a good chance the winner will have major discrepancies in key areas.
Here's a look at three of those key areas, and what each team needs to do to jump ahead in the race to win Super Bowl XLVII.
San Francisco and Baltimore have a combined 5-0 record in the 2012 postseason, and in each of those five victories the pair has run for more yards than their opponent (granted, Baltimore out-rushed Indianapolis by just two yards).
If that trend continues, the winner of the Super Bowl will have more rushing yards than the loser. With Frank Gore and Ray Rice the two big-name RBs out of each backfield, there are going to be plenty of chances for fireworks on the ground.
The other running threats, QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Bernard Pierce, also look to get the ground game going on first and second down. Rice and Gore are the fantasy football stars and the main threats to break it wide open, but it could very well come down to the complementary pieces when looking at the total.
Of course, to call Kaepernick a complementary piece is blasphemy. He'll have more than a fair share of chances to beat the Ravens with his legs, and for good reason.
In today's NFL, rushing yards are often a secondary thought with the popularity now placed on the passing game. Make no mistake—the running game will have a big impact on this game.
Yards on First Down
This category goes right along with total rushing yards and while not very noticeable in the game, it's a big tell for how the offense is playing.
It also goes along with play-calling, as both offensive coordinators will try to trick these offenses with a mixture of first-down runs and passes.
For Baltimore, stopping the 49ers on first down is huge. The playbook is still open, but it will put more pressure on the San Francisco offense than if they are dealing with 2nd-and-3 and 3rd-and-1 type situations.
For San Francisco, keeping Rice bottled up on first down helps eliminate the playaction passing game for the Ravens, and that takes us back to rushing yards—the first key in this series.
Always a key for a football team, the 49ers and Ravens both finished with a positive turnover differential (plus-5 for the Ravens, plus-9 for the 49ers) in the 2012 regular season.
As noted by Russell S. Baxter, turnovers for a Super Bowl champion have been a no-no in the past three games:
Russell S. Baxter @BaxFootballGuru
46 @SuperBowl champions have committed combined 51 turnovers in Super Bowl, 0 by last 3 champs ('09 #Saints '10 #Packers '11 #Giants) #SB472013-1-30 15:48:12
Mercury News writer Cam Inman noted much of the same in this excerpt from his recent piece:
Over the past 10 Super Bowls, only one team has won without a winning turnover differential: the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers. Three teams in the past 10 Super Bowls had at least a plus-3 turnover ratio, and all won: the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (plus-4), 2004 New England Patriots (plus-3) and 2010 Green Bay Packers (plus-3).
Baltimore managed to overcome a two Rice turnovers against the Indianapolis Colts, but the Ravens likely won't be able to do the same with the San Francisco offense waiting in the wings.
It's somewhat cliche but applicable for this Super Bowl—hold on to the ball, and you'll have a good chance at winning the game.
San Francisco and Baltimore will remember that credo all game long in New Orleans on Sunday.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.