The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens have had two weeks to get ready for one another. Two whole weeks. That is plenty of time for these coaches to come up with their keys to victory. The problem with having two weeks, however, is some coaches can over think the game itself. While the media stays wrapped up in the narratives, the staffs on each of these teams are continuing to break down tape to find an edge. Here are what I believe the 49ers have to do in order to have the best chance of hoisting the Lombardi trophy on Sunday night in New Orleans.
O-line Must Get Offensive – The 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in the league, but it will be going up against a trio of powerful defensive linemen and some quality edge-rushers. Those linemen will be attempting to eat up as many blockers as possible and controlling the gaps at the line of scrimmage. If San Francisco is to have any success in the running game, its offensive linemen must focus on getting to the second level and neutralizing Baltimore’s linebacking corps.
Run Baby Run – The running game will be San Francisco’s best asset in this contest. The 49ers were able to churn out 149 yards on the ground against Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game, due in large part to their ability to dominate at the line. Colin Kaepernick didn’t have to do too much, and he put together an efficient performance.
Baltimore finished the regular season ranked No. 20 against the run, but the Ravens have been much more stable this postseason. For San Francisco to open up some big plays later in the game, it needs to first dominate up front and keep Baltimore off balance with a strong effort from Frank Gore.
Ultimately, Kaepernick is San Francisco’s best big-play weapon, whether he gets it done with his arm or his legs. Kaepernick is still fairly inexperienced, though, and the 49ers have to limit the production of Baltimore’s safeties.
Getting the running game going and forcing Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard active in the box will open up wider windows for Kaepernick in the passing game, especially in the middle of the field where Vernon Davis can do a lot of damage.
Rolling in the Deep – The deep routes up the sidelines will be there at times, but the window will be microscopic with Baltimore’s safeties playing back in coverage. If the 49ers hope to make big plays in the passing game, first establishing the run and setting up play-action will be critical.
Baltimore and San Francisco have been terrific on offense this postseason, but with two weeks to game-plan and prepare, both defenses will be ready for a much more low-scoring affair. Limiting mistakes and protecting the football will be a big key for both teams, and could ultimately decide the winner of Super Bowl XLVII.