In preparation for the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers have a multitude of questions that they will be asked leading up to the game. It’s a right of passage over these next few days for the players and coaches, which are termed media days. We at 49ers101 also have a host of questions to ask, but not to the 49ers players. We have questions for the Baltimore Ravens, just to get an inside glimpse of what to expect. Mr. Josh Michael, our friend over at Ravens101.com was kind enough to listen to our quandaries and provide some insight for us. Many thanks to Josh, his dedication to this joint publication is very much appreciated. To view the questions he asked of 49ers101, please visit Ravens101.com.
1. Joe Flacco's passing attempts has risen with each playoff game, as has his completion percentage. Would you say that fact has more to do with his confidence growing in the system and new offensive coordinator, or are those statistics merely a sign of what the defenses have been giving him? And what's more important, Flacco's confidence or his recognition defensive shortcomings?
I believe it is a little bit of both. His confidence has obviously increased with each quarter, half and game in this postseason as well as his confidence in new Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell's system. I will say also though that this Ravens offense is taking exactly what the opposing defenses are giving them. If you watched the AFC Championship, you could see that Baltimore wanted to run the football in that first half, but New England seemed to be determined to shutdown Baltimore's rushing attack, so come the second half of that game, Flacco threw it all over the field and Baltimore put up 21 unanswered points.
I would have to say Flacco's confidence is always there, so his recognition of defensive shortcomings is more important as he can identify where his mismatch is on the defense and exploit it.
2. Should the 49ers secondary look to double team wide receiver Anquan Boldin? And if so, who stands to make the biggest impact in the Ravens receiving and tight end core if Bolden is somehow handcuffed?
I would not necessarily say that San Francisco should double team Boldin, as most of the time when Boldin starts dominating a football game is when the opposing defenses start to really pay attention to Torrey Smith with double teams or zone coverages that favor the side Smith is on, so if the 49'ers were to double team Boldin, Smith and TE Dennis Pitta could have really big days.
If Boldin is handcuffed, Smith would be the obvious choice, especially with the deep ball threat, but I believe Pitta will have a bigger influence in this game. He has shown that he is a very capable big game receiving option and has no fear of going over the middle of the field, which is huge in this revamped Baltimore offense.
3. Ray Rice has had a roller coaster post season as far as the number of carries go. Is there logic in limiting his carries even more in the Super Bowl against the tough run defense of the 49ers?
I do believe there is some logic to it, but Baltimore will likely do the same thing it did against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game which is to come out with a balanced attack, and if the 49'er defense is showing vulnerability in the passing game then look for Rice's carries to decrease and Flacco's pass attempts to increase.
4. During the regular season Joe Flacco was sacked 35 times, tied for seventh most in the league. If there is a weakness to the Ravens offense at all, would it be the offensive line play? And would it be in the 49ers best interest to stunt more on the defensive line and bring more blitz packages with the linebackers?
During the regular season, the Baltimore offensive line was not only a definite weakness on the offensive side of the ball, but was probably the biggest overall weakness on the entire team. Once the playoffs began, they made some changes on the O-line and my goodness what a difference it made in the offensive line's play. Baltimore moved Michael Oher from LT to RT, move Kelechi Osemele from RT to LG and imputted Bryant McKinnie in at LT and it has made all the difference in the world. This revamped offensive line has only allowed four sacks in three postseason games and two of those were coverage sacks. They have handled some of the best pass rushers in the game in these Playoffs in Dwight Freeney, Von Miller and Elvis Dumerville just to name a few, so other than rushing seven or more, it is going to be tough for this 49'ers defense to get to Joe Flacco.
5. Offensively, how does playing in a dome benefit the Ravens, as opposed to benefitting the 49ers defense?
Honestly, I do not believe that playing in a dome helps either team in this case, and I say that because both of these teams play their home games outdoors so what benefit there is to gain in playing in a dome, both teams share equally.
6. The Ravens win if they offensively…
Stay well balanced at the beginning of the game to see where the San Francisco defense is most vulnerable. If Baltimore can run the ball somewhat effectively with Rice and Bernard Pierce against this stout 49'ers rush defense, it is going to pay huge dividends in the play action passing game. Also, if the Ravens do run the ball well enough to keep the 49'er linebackers near the line of scrimmage, Boldin and Pitta should have a big day receiving over the middle.
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