While much of the Super Bowl talk from the past 24 hours has been centered around whether or not Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis consumed deer antlers, Baltimore is actually preparing to play the San Francisco 49ers in America's biggest sporting event on Sunday. Ravens blog Baltimore Beatdown has been keeping tabs on all the stories, both football and non-football related, as the big game approaches.
Randy Booth got the week started by hoping the Ravens can prevent Colin Kaepernick from joining an elite club of quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl in their first year of starting:
Like Brady and Warner, Kaepernick reached his first big game in his sophomore season. Brady and Warner both won their first Super Bowl appearances while Ferragamo, who was in his third season with the Los Angeles Rams, lost to Pittsburgh in 1979.
Of course, Kaepernick isn't the only 49er to worry about, as San Francisco is loaded with weapons on both sides of the ball. Baltimore Beatdown scouted the NFC Championship and came away impressed with the work that the 49ers do up front to help Kaepernick and running back Frank Gore pick up yardage on the ground. However, they do have a weakness:
San Francisco has a phenomenal run-blocking O-line. Yes, Frank Gore is an outstanding runner - he is a load, he is quick, almost nimble for a guy his size and has great vision. His job is much easier when he is not touched until a yard or two beyond the line of scrimmage. Pass blocking, they can be beat and pressure can be applied.
Bruce Raffel believes the Super Bowl is likely to be a defensive battle, and is encouraged by Baltimore's performance in the playoffs, where they have faced Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, two of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. Raffel sees that the 49ers and Ravens have allowed a similar number of yards per game in the postseason, but digs deeper to find that Baltimore has actually outperformed the 49ers on the defensive side of the ball:
While the Ravens continue to give up yards to opposing offense's in bunches, they are only giving up an average of a half-yard more than the 49ers (415 vs 414.5 yards/game). A key stat is that despite the closeness in yards allowed, the Ravens are only allowing 4.9 yards per play while the 49ers are allowing 6.8 yards/play. Perhaps the biggest difference is that Baltimore's defense has been on the field for 256 total plays, or over 85 per game, a huge amount, prompting so many so-called "experts" to keep predicting them to lose due to tiredness, which obviously hasn't made a difference and won't be a factor after two weeks of rest prior to Sunday's game. San Francisco, in comparison, has had their defense on the field for a two-game total of 122 plays or just 61/game.
Head coach John Harbaugh made big news when he fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron late in the season and handed the reigns over to Jim Caldwell. Baltimore Beatdown has been encouraged by the results thus far:
Four games is also a good number because it makes extrapolation for a full season very easy. So here are Joe’s (and Jim’s) passing numbers for those four games: 60% completion, 1162 yards, 10 TD’s, 0 picks (as in zero, notta, zilch, zippy), 1 lost fumble for a QB rating of 115 and a ridiculous 9 Y/A. Extrapolate those numbers over a full season and you get: 60% (a little low, agreed), 4642 yards, 40 TD’s (!) and 4 turnovers (!!!). Those are very similar to Peyton Manning’s numbers for 2012. Do I believe that Joe will throw for 40 TD’s and 4 turnovers in 2013? No. But he could keep his turnovers to around a dozen or fifteen or so (very respectable) and break 30 TD’s and 4,000 yards. Baltimore will take that for as long as we can.
Finally, be sure to check out Baltimore Beatdown's Q&A with 49ers blog Niners Nation, and head over there to get San Francisco's side of the Super Bowl story. For continued coverage from a Ravens perspective, follow Baltimore Beatdown's Super Bowl 2013 StoryStream, which will continue to be updated throughout the week with pregame and postgame coverage.