The Ravens are used to being underdogs in big games. No one expected them to win a playoff game let alone get to the Super Bowl. A victory in this game would cement the legacy of coach John Harbaugh as one of the best in the game today. What do the Ravens need to do if they hope to defeat the 49ers in the Super Bowl?
Contain Colin Kaepernick
Containing Colin Keapernick is much easier said than done. He has the speed, arm strength and accuracy to confuse and frustrate defenses. The most common way to contain a quarterback is to put a spy on him. In other words, someone is going to have to follow him around the field to make sure that he cannot run down the field untouched. Fortunately, guys like Ray Lewis have seen everything that an offense can possibly throw at them. Expect pass rushing specialist Paul Kruger to be busy getting after Kaepernick to make sure he doesn’t have a lot of time to throw.
Mental Mistakes Must Be Avoided On Defense
Last week against New England, the Patriots scored an easy touchdown in the third quarter because of two defenders failed to change their defensive responsibilities after Wes Welker came in motion. Therefore, he was wide open in the end zone for the touchdown. Against the Niners, it will be imperative that they are sharp and maintain their assignments at all times. If not, Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are going to be running wide open all day.
The Offense Must Protect The Ball
In any football game, the team that wins is typically the team that turns the ball over the least. The Ravens demonstrated that by intercepting Tom Brady twice and forcing a fumble in the second half. That allowed the Ravens to control the clock and keep the Patriots offense off of the field. History shows us that whichever team wins the turnover battle generally wins the Super Bowl. It will be imperative that Joe Flacco make good reads, throw accurate passes and not throw any interceptions.
Control The Clock
Protecting the ball is just one thing that the offense must do to be successful. If the Ravens win the time of possession battle, they will put themselves in great position to win the game. This means that Ray Rice should be given the ball at least 20 times or more against San Francisco. Adding some screen passes and other short throws will keep the defense off balance and keep the ball moving in the event that Rice is ineffective as a pure rusher. It is often said that screen passes are akin to long hand-offs.
Everyone Needs To Be As Healthy As Possible
Baltimore has been dealt more than its fair share of injuries this year. Players such as Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata and Ed Reed have been dinged up or knocked out of games completely due to various injuries this season. If the coaching staff is smart, they will hold the veterans out of as many contact drills as possible this week to keep everyone fresh and healthy. Due to their experience, they will be ready to play regardless of how much practice time they get in.
The Baltimore Ravens have a great chance at winning their second Super Bowl this century. However, they will need to limit their mistakes, play sound defense and make sure that everyone is healthy and rested up for the game. Although no one expected them to be here, they have earned the right to be considered legitimate threats to win this game.
Written by Don Phan. Don currently writes sports content for blogs part-time and is with Fanatics Inc. full-time as a marketing associate. Fanatics is a leading retailer of NFL merchandise and is a premier source for officially licensed Ravens NFL merchandise.