The San Francisco 49ers have been one of the most dominant teams in the NFL over the past two seasons. However, they have one more test to pass before they can crown themselves champions for the first time since the 1994 season. What must the Niners do to keep the Ravens in check and win the game?
Play Smothering Defense
The 49ers like to play a suffocating defense that doesn’t allow you to get any type of rhythm going. Although they like to play off the receivers whenever possible, they are not afraid to hit you, grab you or knock you off of your route if they need to. Their linebackers are among the best in the game and can do many different things well. Ultimately, San Francisco can frustrate the Ravens just by playing their game on defense.
Unleash Colin Kaepernick
It is hard to believe that this second year player out of Nevada will be making only his tenth career start. The reason why he has been so successful is that he has not been limited in what he is allowed to do in the Niners offense. If San Francisco wants to win the Super Bowl, they will continue to unleash Kaepernick. It would not be surprising to see him throw the ball more than he hands off to Frank Gore. Although this is one of the toughest defenses he has played against all season, it shouldn’t stop him from being able to run and throw the ball at will. After all, he did make the Chicago Bears defense look like a college defense in his first career start.
They Need To Start Fast
In the divisional round against Green Bay, the Packers defense returned an interception for a touchdown to open the scoring. Against Atlanta, the Niners were down 17-0 before they finally woke up and started executing. However, a slow start against Baltimore is going to be their ultimate downfall. Baltimore has a better defense than either the Packers or Falcons. They will be able to shut the 49ers down if they get to play with a lead. Baltimore is also much better at running the ball than the Packers or Falcons.
It May Be Time To Get LaMicheal James More Touches
Frank Gore is a great running back. Unfortunately, the Ravens should be able to slow him down with some degree of effectiveness. He is a typical between the tackles runner who has started to show his age down the stretch this season. However, James is a speedy runner who can catch the ball out of the backfield. If he is sprinkled in to the offense, it could allow for other routes to open up down the field because the Ravens linebackers will have to pay attention to him. An offense that utilizes the speed of James, tight end Vernon Davis as well as Kaepernick is going to be almost impossible to stop.
Keep Donte Whitner In The Box And Out Of Coverage
Donte Whitner is the one person who the Baltimore Ravens can take shots at if he is matched up against Dennis Pitta. He is a liability in coverage and often goes for the ball when he should be trying to make a tackle or tries to hit people so hard that he whiffs on the tackle altogether. While he may be good for a big hit or two, he tends to give up big plays because he is either out of position or makes a bad decision during a play. With that said, he is decent in run support and should be the eighth guy in the box if the Ravens attempt to run the ball a lot.
The Niners are going to be the clear favorites to win this game. They have the better quarterback, the better defense and more weapons to work with on offense. Although the game will be a good one at first, the Niners should be able to win this one if they start quickly and play a physical game from start to finish.
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 49ers NFL merchandise.