By Samuel Njoku
The Super Bowl is two weeks away and Baltimore has already begun preparing for the huge showdown. The San Francisco 49ers will present challenges that the Ravens have dealt with in the past, but the NFC Champs also present new challenges for Baltimore to overcome.
The player that most analysts will be focused on is Colin Kaepernick. This is to be expected because he completely changed the dynamic of the 49ers’ squad. Prior to his ascension, the 49ers had a decent offense supported by a great defense. Jim Harbaugh knew that for them to get over the hump, they would have to put more pressure on opposing defenses, and Colin Kaepernick does just that. His ability to both run and pass effectively could spell big trouble for the Ravens’ defense.
Baltimore played a player similar to Kaepernick earlier this year. When the Ravens traveled to Washington to battle the Redskins, Baltimore was forced to deal with the dynamic plays of Robert Griffin III. Even though the Ravens came up short in that battle, it should be noted that Baltimore did a decent job of containing him. The Ravens will implore a similar gameplan to stop him from running with the football.
But Ravens fans shouldn’t get too excited. For Baltimore to protect the edge in that game, they gave up a lot over the middle in the running game. This aspect makes the pistol formation extremely lethal for defenses. Frank Gore can gash defenses even with 8-men focused on him in the box. When you have defenders wondering whether or not to tackle him or the quarterback, it’s easier for Gore to slip by the first line of defense. It’ll be interesting to see how the Ravens contain the Pistol Formation. Dean Pees will have 2 weeks to figure it out.
If the Ravens somehow contain Kaepernick inside the pocket, they’ll still have to worry about the 49ers’ vaunted defense. They don’t have the talent that Baltimore possesses on that side of the ball, but they do have the ability to shut opposing offenses down. The Ravens will need to pay close attention to how the defense plays in the early portion of next Sunday’s game. The Ravens have the ability to beat in you in the ground or in the air. Jim Harbaugh may not want Flacco to torch them like he’s done to every team he’s faced this postseason. The result of that respect may mean bigger running lanes for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.
The 49ers’ defense struggled early against the Falcons before the defense shut it down in the second half. The Ravens’ offense is built very similar to that of the Falcons. Because of that, expect Caldwell to look closely to film from the NFC Championship game in order to pick up any weaknesses the Falcons may have exploited.
There are plenty of things for Baltimore to watch out for in this contest. The 49ers are a complete football team, but the Ravens have the right personnel in place to get the job done.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.