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The 49ers are small but clear favourites to win the Super Bowl.They have a better defence, a better offence, and a hotter quarterback.
But it’s not going to be a blowout, and the game will come down to a handful of micro battles.
We picked out the 11 keys that will decide they game. They involve Joe Flacco’s deep ball, Kaepernick’s inexperience, and the Ravens’ one secret weapon.
Joe Flacco's deep ball is what makes him an above-average QB.
The 49ers secondary has been shaky in the playoffs, but the Ravens entire offence relies on the ability to make two or three big plays a game for instant points. So plays like these will be key:
Rice averages ~19 carries in Ravens wins this year. He averages 12 carries in losses.
He's their best offensive weapon.
Dancing return man Jacoby Jones is going to be huge in the return game.
The Ravens are outclassed on both sides of the ball. But they rank #1 in special teams, and the 49ers rank #20. If there is one area where they have a chance to gain an edge, it's here.
Akers has the third-worst field goal percentage among kickers with at least 10 attempts.
He also has only made 9 of his 19 kicks beyond 40 yards.
Kaepernick has been unbelievably good since throwing a pick six on the first playoff drive of his career.
But he's still a second-year player with negligible amounts of experience. He's also taking more risks in the playoffs, and the threat of him turning the ball over multiple times is real.
The 49ers have completely overhauled their offensive system for the playoffs.
They're now running the 'pistol formation' (where the running back lines up behind a QB in shotgun), and they're scoring way more points than they did in the regular season.
A lot of NFL people think the pistol is a gimmick. But no one has been able to stop San Fran in the playoffs.
Since Flacco throws deep so much, it would greatly benefit San Francisco if the refs allowed the defence to be physical.
In a big early-season win against New England, Baltimore was just chucking the ball deep and praying for defensive pass interference.
The 49ers have been dominating with a play called the read option.
Basically, Kaepernick reads the linebackers and if they are cheating toward tackling him, he hands it off, and if they are cheating toward tackling the running back, he runs it himself.
It's all about linebackers vs. Kaepernick. If they mess up, this will happen:
Smith hasn't sacked an opposing QB in more than a month.
That drought can't continue against the Ravens. Flacco will find receivers deep if he has time to throw -- just like Matt Ryan did in the first half of the NFC title game.
Vernon Davis has always been talented, but Kaepernick is in love with him. He has as many catches in the playoffs as he did in the final five games of the regular season combined.
Last week, he torched the Falcons.
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