The Baltimore Ravens made it to the Super Bowl in a season that meant a lot for the franchise.
Despite a 10-6 season and being only the No. 4 seed in the AFC, the Ravens, led by linebacker Ray Lewis, managed to make their way to the Super Bowl.
The Ravens have the advantage in this game for a few reasons. First, they have a perfect way to practice how to stop 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor is a mobile quarterback and has been running the 49ers’ offense against the Ravens defense in practice. The Ravens now have a real solid view of what they will see in the game.
Much of the 49ers’ offense comes from Kaepernick’s double threat ability to run and to throw the football. The Ravens should end up staying with the zone read and use their high football IQ to stop the Niners’ two-headed rushing attack instead of attacking Frank Gore, who ran for 1,214 yards and averaged 4.7 yards a carry in the regular season.
Secondly, the Ravens’ pass rush will disrupt Kaepernick’s ability to throw accurately. The Ravens know that, given time, Kaepernick will pick a player apart, but with Pro Bowl defense end Haloti Ngata, the Ravens’ defensive will be able to get to the quarterback.
The experienced Ravens secondary should not have too difficult a time taking care of the 49ers’ receivers – Michael Crabtree and the aged Randy Moss are nothing to write home about.
The real key lies in defending Vernon Davis, the 49ers’ tight end. The Ravens have seasoned players like Lewis and strong safety Bernard Pollard to help out when Davis goes out on passing routes.
On offense the Ravens must establish the run early, which they will not be able to do by running the ball inside. They need to run tosses and sweeps to the outside to exploit their own quick offensive line and running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, and to keep the 49ers’ two Pro Bowl linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis out of the game.
In the passing game Joe Flacco needs to get the ball out of his hands quickly, as 49ers defensive ends Aldon Smith and Justin Smith are terrors. With time, Flacco has the arm and deep accuracy to stretch the field and wreak havoc on the 49ers’ secondary.
My prediction? Lewis will retire on top with a ring in a defensive struggle.