The key areas where the Super Bowl will be won or lost on Sunday night.
Ravens offence v 49ers defence
Baltimore rarely bother with short throws, preferring to go middle-to-long with QB Joe Flacco's powerful arm. Count on San Francisco's cornerbacks covering man-to-man with both safeties deep. The Ravens' pedestrian receivers must exert themselves to spring free. San Fran must account for Ray Rice out of the backfield for screens. He and Bernard Pierce present a change-of-pace rushing combination that tests defences to the hilt. Both run behind superb blocking FB Vonta Leach. The 49ers vary their pass rush and that might force Flacco into scrambles, though he is better at it than you might think.
49ers offence v Ravens defence
QB Colin Kaepernick can beat you with his feet, as he did against Green Bay, or his arm, as he did against Atlanta. Defences cannot be fixated on one approach or they will pay. The cornerstone remains TB Frank Gore's runs behind a massive, proficient line. The 49ers like to open with short throws, especially on first down, to bring the cornerbacks up, then strike downfield. The Ravens line has size to match. LB Ray Lewis sniffs out runs but has regressed with pass coverage, which opens opportunities for TE Vernon Davis. The Ravens will look to take (legal) shots on Kaepernick to discourage him from running.
Ravens special teams v 49ers special teams
Baltimore returner Jacoby Jones is a threat to score on kick offs and punts, so the Niners might boot it away from him. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is a rookie phenom, ranking fifth in kick-off touchbacks as a rookie while nailing all but three field goals and hitting four from 50-plus yards. 49ers' David Akers booms kick-offs but has been wayward on field goals, so they might eschew some three-point attempts for punts or fourth-down gambles. San Fran has the punting edge with Andy Lee. Promoted kick returner LaMichael James has lifted the Niners, while Ted Ginn is passable as a punt returner.
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