They didn’t take the easiest road in the world to get here, but the Baltimore Ravens have made it to the Super Bowl for the second time in their franchise’s history. They’ll get a chance to claim their second ever Lombardi Trophy on February 3rd, but they have a long road to climb to be able to get to that point. Check out our Super Bowl keys to the game and what the Ravens needs to do to beat the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.
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#4 Baltimore Ravens vs. #2 San Francisco 49ers
Superbowl 47 Location: Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Superbowl Date/Time: Sunday, February 3rd, 6:30 p.m. (ET)
Superbowl TV Coverage: CBS
Key #1: Joe Flacco has to come up with one more “elite” game
We’ve had this one drilled down our throats for weeks, months… and heck, even years! QB Joe Flacco isn’t an elite quarterback. We know this. All we have to do is look at the way that he stands in the pocket, the way that he ultimately plays under pressure from time to time, and his numbers, and we know that he isn’t the second coming of John Elway or Joe Montana. However, what Flacco is, is a winner. He has brought his team to the playoffs for five straight seasons, has won at least one playoff game for five straight seasons, has made it to the AFC Championship Game three times in the last four years, and now, he has his team just one game away from the Lombardi Trophy. Something different has happened this time around, though. Flacco is actually outplaying some of these truly “elite” quarterbacks. QB Tom Brady looked like a chump in the second half of the AFC Championship Game in comparison to Flacco, while the week before, Flacco was throwing big time passes, while QB Peyton Manning was busy getting picked off in overtime. The former first round pick of the Ravens has thrown for 853 yards and eight TDs over the course of his last games here in the postseason. Sure, some of it was luck, and sure, had that 70-yard floating pass not found its way into the hands of WR Jacoby Jones, we’d probably still be talking about Flacco as the man that has never won the big game in his career. But now, Flacco can say that he is a winner. He has been in the Super Bowl. And with one more game with the stats of an elite quarterback, there might be no way to avoid putting Joe Cool in the same discussion with Brady and Manning.
Key #2: Torrey Smith has to find space deep in the San Fran secondary
The 49ers can be had in their secondary, and we have seen it time and time again over the course of the last few weeks. They allowed WR Julio Jones to catch 11 passes for 182 yards and two TDs against the Atlanta Falcons, and he hasn’t nearly been the only receiver of late to make some big plays happen against these 49ers. Roddy White did it (7 catches, 100 yards). James Jones did it (4 catches, 87 yards, 1 TD). Michael Floyd did it with Brian Hoyer throwing him the football (8 catches, 166 yards, 1 TD). Brandon Lloyd did it, too (10 catches, 190 yards). Four of these five names all share the same thing in common: They aren’t No. 1 receivers on their own teams. In fact, short of the NFC Championship Game, there really aren’t any top targets that have beaten up the Niners. It’s always been the No. 2 or No. 3 guy in the pecking order. Smith is that type of receiver, and he is a man that can get up the field in a hurry. It isn’t a prerequisite for him to score, and he doesn’t even have to have one of these games where he catches 10 passes for 130 yards. Smith just needs to break through the 49ers in the back end a time or two over the course of the game, and the passing game could really open up.
Key #3: The offensive line has to keep Aldon Smith out of the backfield
The best games that the 49ers have had this year have seemingly all involved big outings from LB Aldon Smith. The man from Mizzou had 19.5 sacks this year, and in games in which he logged at least one sack, the team allowed 13.1 points per game. In games in which Smith doesn’t get a sack, which now includes five games in a row, the Niners have conceded 24.6 points per game, and they certainly have looked beatable. Of course, we know that there are some fallacies in there, as Smith is getting more attention and room is opening up for some of the other members of the front seven to get to the quarterback. However, this is a real key in this game. When the Ravens were struggling at their worst this year, they were allowing men like DE JJ Watt or DE Von Miller wreak havoc on Flacco and the offense. If the offensive line and the combination of tight ends and FB Vonta Leach can figure out how to put a hat on Smith, it’s going to make life a heck of a lot easier for this offense for the whole game.
Key #4: The defense has to confuse Colin Kaepernick
It is clear that the more time that QB Colin Kaepernick has to throw the ball and get into space, the more likely he is to make the big time play to burn the Baltimore defense. We have seen that time and time again. Teams just underestimate how fast this guy really is, and in the end, he has blown just about every unit he has faced up, especially here in the playoffs. However, Kaepernick isn’t without his struggles, and he has made some young mistakes. There isn’t a defense that has more ornate schemes than this Baltimore ‘D’, especially with two weeks to game plan for the mobile quarterback. Though the Atlanta defense didn’t end up having the most success in the world, it was clear that it had a better chance to get off the field when Kaepernick was in the pocket than when he was out of it, but that doesn’t have to remain the case when push comes to shove. Remember that the pick six that Kaepernick threw against the Green Bay Packers at the outset of that game came while he was on the move, and he made a poor decision. Whatever it takes to make Kaepernick make some of those bad decisions, as rare as they are, is what will be the key factor here for Baltimore defensively.
Key #5: The emotion just can’t run out
If you really look at the talent level that the Ravens have been playing with and playing against over the course of the last several weeks, you have to think that they have just been overmatched. They certainly weren’t a more talented team than either New England or Denver, but they were able to persevere in spite of the fact, largely because of the emotions that are coming from the squad in purple. Oh sure, LB Ray Lewis’ pending retirement is helping the team ride that wave, as is the fact that the team has that “us against the world” mentality to it. However, there is always a danger, especially with the long layoff before this one kicks off, that any team is going to fall flat. The Ravens have to keep this intensity up for the next two weeks, because they are running into a very businesslike team in the 49ers that are going to be in the Bayou for business and business only, not a party. If that intensity isn’t high from the start of practice on Monday through the very last second of the Super Bowl, the Ravens are going to be in some trouble for sure, and they run the risk of getting their doors blown off.
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