Five Baltimore Ravens Who Pose Greatest Threat to the San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers Should Watch Out for Five Baltimore Ravens
San Francisco may have nine Pro Bowlers on their roster, but the Ravens have several players who can pose problems for the red and gold. With a blend of young talent and veteran leadership, Baltimore has the formula to match up with Jim Harbaugh’s talented squad.
The Ravens will have two weeks to recuperate. Having played with the walking wounded during the regular season, Ray Lewis and Co. are catching their breath and making a historic run at the Super Bowl. With key players getting healthy at the right time, the Ravens are this year’s “hot” team. Much like last year’s New York Giants and the 2010-11 Green Bay Packers, Baltimore is rolling when it counts most.
The 49ers might possess the better record, but in the postseason you can throw out all the numbers. With the last matchup of the NFL season on the horizon, San Francisco has the formidable task of extinguishing Baltimore’s blazing fire.
John Harbaugh has his club clicking in all three phases of the game. With Lewis closing the book on his distinguished 17-year career, his teammates will give nothing less than 100 percent effort to send their leader out on top.
Baltimore routinely rallies behind Lewis and Ray Rice, but find out which other Ravens present the greatest challenge to the 49ers.
Dennis Pitta often gets overlooked in Baltimore’s offense, but the 27-year-old tight end is enjoying a career season with 61 catches and seven touchdown receptions. Last year Pitta was held to just two catches for 19 yards against San Francisco, but secured an eight-yard touchdown grab, which gave the Ravens a fourth quarter lead and eventually the win.
If he gets matched up with the 49ers linebackers in coverage, the Ravens could utilize his quickness and precise route-running to their advantage. Patrick Willis and the linebacking core had trouble defending Atlanta Falcons' Tony Gonzalez, so look for Baltimore to implement a similar plan of attack.
The fifth-year signal-caller has had sporadic performances throughout the regular season. One week he plays like the worst quarterback in the league, and the following week he lights up the scoreboard.
Consistency has eluded him for much of his career, but this postseason, Joe Flacco has thrown eight touchdown passes to zero interceptions. Flacco only sports a 54.8 completion percentage in three postseason contests, but he has been clutch and is capable of hitting the home run. Donte Whitner and the rest of his secondary better be ready to defend the deep pass.
Terrell Suggs is approaching full health while he’s in the midst of recovering from his torn Achilles. Much like the Ravens team as a whole, the standout linebacker is peaking at the right time. Over the past two games, Suggs has posted 12 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. If the reigning Defensive Player of the Year is indeed close to 100 percent, don’t be surprised if he causes trouble for the 49ers' offensive line.
Aside from Rice, Torrey Smith is Baltimore’s most explosive weapon. The combination of his size and speed make will him a difficult cover for Carlos Rogers. Averaging 22 yards a catch in the playoffs, the 49ers must have eyes on Smith at all times. In the postseason, San Francisco has been vulnerable through the air, allowing an average of 326.5 receiving yards per game. Smith is a game breaker, so expect the Ravens to get him involved early and often.
Playing through a knee and shoulder injury for much of the year, Haloti Ngata is starting to come along during the postseason. Against the New England Patriots, he helped limit them to 3.9 rushing yards per carry. If the 340-pound tackle can hold his own in the trenches, the 49ers will have difficulty establishing the run. Forcing Colin Kaepernick to pass would then tilt the odds in the favor of Baltimore's savvy defense.