The San Francisco 49ers were far from perfect against the Atlanta Falcons, but they were good enough to win.
However, it’s going to take a big day from a lot of players to boost the 49ers past the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
Frank Gore scored two touchdowns and Colin Kaepernick was very efficient in the NFC Championship, after his record-setting day against the Packers the week earlier. Kaepernick and the 49ers have kept defenses off-balance, while maintaining a strong defense.
Can they continue to have their way against the Ravens? If these three players do well, then the 49ers will.
After an incredible first 13 games, Aldon Smith has been virtually invisible in the 49ers’ last five games.
Smith followed up 19.5 sacks in 13 games with none in five games, as he is in the midst of a terrible sack drought. Justin Smith hasn’t been there to occupy defenders in some games, and he’s been playing well below 100 percent due to his triceps injury.
However, Aldon needs to make an impact. He doesn’t bulldoze defenders like Justin does, but he’s more than capable of getting by a defender with finesse moves, which we’ve seen him do multiple times. Smith hasn’t done anything outside of the fumble recovery he lucked into against Atlanta, and he needs to step it up as well.
Joe Flacco can and will be rattled by pressure, so it will make things easier on the secondary as well if Smith gets some pressure on Flacco. He needs to end his sack drought and play like he played in the first 13 games of the season, or else Flacco will throw for 396 yards and three touchdowns like Matt Ryan did.
Frank Gore has been brilliant in the playoffs, and he is finally thriving in Kaepernick’s pistol offense. He’s going to need to continue to thrive, though, for the 49ers to beat the Ravens.
Kaepernick is an incredible talent, but he can’t do it alone, as it’s already tough enough to have your 10th start come in the Super Bowl, which is the
case for San Francisco’s second-year starter. However, the 49er offense is built to run the ball, and they beat Atlanta because they ran the ball well when they were behind, something that took a lot of guts to do.
Gore rarely lets the first guy to get a hand on him tackle him, as he is a power runner despite being a mere 69 inches tall. He is heavy and can break tackles and has great vision. He almost never loses yards and is a reliable short-yardage back, making him the complete package. With Baltimore having the 20th ranked run defense, it’s a perfect time for the grinder to shine.
LaMichael James is a very good compliment to Gore, as he possesses lots of speed, but he isn’t a first-string running back. Baltimore can shut down James, and if they can shut down Gore, they will have the 49ers in a tough situation. Kaepernick isn’t going to win a game by himself, but he’s a talented quarterback who can win it easily with Gore.
While he doesn’t play for the 49ers, Greg Roman might just be the biggest X-factor on the team.
Roman has been masterful in the postseason, and I believe the 49ers would be watching the Super Bowl from the couch with a different offensive coordinator. He completely confused the Packers, who had to helplessly watch the 49ers drop 45 on them. Then, Roman kept Atlanta’s defense guessing by running, even when the 49ers were down by double-digits, which eventually led to the win.
The Ravens have talent, but also lots of age on their defense. Kaepernick and the offense have lots of big-play weapons, and they can wear down the Raven defense. With two weeks to prepare, it’s likely that Roman and the 49ers will have something else up their sleeve for John Harbaugh and the Ravens.
Kaepernick has opened up a world of possibilities for Roman and the offense, and Roman is using all of these opportunities. He’s using them effectively as well, and that’s why San Francisco is here. However, Roman’s going to need to add the cherry on top, and that cherry needs to come in the form of an offensive eruption from the 49ers.