Five keys for 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII

Posted by Vic Carucci on February 1, 2013 – 11:49 pm

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

NEW ORLEANS – Here are five keys for the San Francisco 49ers as they prepare to face the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII:

>>Colin Kaepernick must continue to be “Cool Colin” in only his 10th NFL start. Kaepernick has shown incredible poise through nine starts, including his first two in the playoffs. But the Super Bowl is an entirely different experience. There’s a reasonable chance that he could become overwhelmed by it all, although nothing he has done to date indicates that will happen. Kaepernick’s dynamic skills as a passer and runner should pose an enormous challenge to a Ravens defense that has struggled during the regular season but has been extremely stingy in the postseason.

>>The 49ers’ healthier defensive line has to be dominant. With an extra week to heal from his triceps injury, defensive end Justin Smith should be closer to top form. Despite doing a solid job against the run so far in the postseason, he has not been quite as effective rushing the passer. And the Niners have to be able to generate a great deal of heat on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who has been at the very top of his game. Aldon Smith showed improvement as a pass-rusher from his first to his second playoff game, but the 49ers have a mere two sacks in the postseason.

>>The Niners’ running game needs to do its part to help keep Baltimore’s defense off-balance. In dealing with the 49ers’ read-option offense, it’s a matter of picking your poison. If you focus on stopping Frank Gore and San Francisco’s running game, you risk Kaepernick tearing it up as a runner as he did against Green Bay in the divisional round. If you focus on stopping Kaepernick was a running threat, you risk leaving too much room for Gore, who took full advantage of that strategy with 149 yards on the ground against the Falcons in the NFC title game.

>>San Francisco’s secondary must be able to cope with Flacco’s hot passing hand while maintaining enough discipline to not bite too hard on play-fakes. Flacco is going to test the 49ers’ defensive backs in a big way, as he no doubt will look to carry the lion’s share of the Ravens’ offensive load on his passing arm. The pass-catching trio of Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, and tight end Dennis Pitta are capable of making life miserable for any pass defense. But Baltimore maximizes the impact of highly dangerous rushing threat in Ray Rice by using plenty of play-action, and aggressive 49er safeties Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson are susceptible to biting on those fakes.

>>Niners linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman have to keep the Ravens’ running game in check. Although the Ravens’ postseason run has been mainly driven by their passing attack, they are more than capable of taking a game over on the ground. Rice, Vonta Leach, and Bernard Pierce are likely to be even more effective, especially with Leach and Pierce having extra time to recover from injuries. However, they are facing two of the better linebackers in the league in Willis and Bowman, who was especially effective in covering plenty of ground and making plays against the Falcons.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/browns_daily, Twitter.com/viccarucci, e-mail: Daily@ClevelandBrowns.com, or by calling 855-363-2459.


Posted in Carucci's Call | Comments Off

Five keys for Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII

Posted by Vic Carucci on February 1, 2013 – 12:03 am

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

NEW ORLEANS – Here are five keys for the Baltimore Ravens as they prepare to face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII:

>>Quarterback Joe Flacco has to maintain his red-hot hand. The Ravens are in this game largely because Flacco is playing the best football of his NFL career. He and the rest of the team have been on a tremendous role since late in the season, and that’s why they’re here. Not only is Flacco throwing the ball exceptionally well, but he also is showing remarkable patience and poise in the pocket. Additionally, Flacco is doing an excellent job of evenly distributing the ball to his receivers.

>>Wide Receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, and tight end Dennis Pitta need to take advantage of holes in the 49ers’ secondary. The Atlanta Falcons found a great deal of success through the air in their loss to San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers allowed Julio Jones and Roddy White to combine for 282 yards in receptions, while tight end Tony Gonzalez added 78 receiving yards. Smith is a game-breaker, while Boldin will make difficult catches in traffic and keep the chains moving. And Pitta can do plenty of damage underneath the coverage.

>>Ray Rice must be his typically effective self as a runner and a receiver. It won’t be easy against the 49ers’ stout defensive front, but the Ravens have to find a way to get Rice going on the ground. At the very least, the Ravens must present the legitimate threat of the rush to slow down that ultra-intense San Francisco pass rush. It will help that two other members of the Ravens’ backfield who have been injured, Vonta Leach and Bernard Pierce, have had extra time to heal. Rice also should catch his share of passes in Baltimore’s balanced air attack.

>>The defense has to figure out a way to manufacture a pass rush. The Ravens didn’t sack Patriots quarterback Tom Brady once in the AFC Championship Game. And that was with Brady attempting a staggering 54 passes. Nevertheless, you can count on the Ravens to be creative with a variety of coverages and blitz packages in an effort to rattle and confuse young Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick. For the record, Baltimore has generated six sacks during three its last three postseason games.

>>The special-teams play needs to be up to the lofty standards created during the regular season. The Ravens do a much better job than San Francisco at kicking the ball, and if the game is tight, the Ravens would be extremely comfortable putting the outcome on the foot of rookie placekicker Justin Tucker. The same can’t be said with the 49ers, who have shaky veteran David Akers. The Ravens also must tighten their kick coverage, which allowed two scoring returns in the divisional-round game against the Broncos, and do a much better job at returning kicks than they did against the Patriots.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/browns_daily, Twitter.com/viccarucci, e-mail: Daily@ClevelandBrowns.com, or by calling 855-363-2459.


Posted in Carucci's Call | Comments Off