The Baltimore Ravens have traditionally been known for their defense.
Led for years by future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the Ravens are among the league-leaders in stopping their opponents. Baltimore’s reputation began in 2000, when the club allowed just 10.3 points per game, en route to a Super Bowl victory.
This year, however, it’s been the Ravens offense that has led them to Super Bowl XLVII.
During the 2012 regular season, Baltimore’s offense was average, totaling 352.5 yards per game. They’ve turned that around in the playoffs, averaging 424.7 yards and 30 points in postseason wins.
The San Francisco 49ers were one of the best defenses in 2012, allowing 17.1 points per contest. They will have their work cut out for them in the 2013 Super Bowl.
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Will the 49ers be able to stop Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense?
Many people scoffed at Flacco when he suggested that he was the best quarterback in the NFL prior to the start of the season. He may not have had a great regular season, but Flacco has certainly played like an elite quarterback in the playoffs.
Flacco outplayed both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in wins against the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos. He’s thrown for eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the 2013 postseason.
Deep passes is where Flacco has been most dangerous. In 116 attempts of at least 20 yards, he’s thrown for 15 scores and no touchdowns. His biggest deep pass was a 70-yard touchdown pass that sent the matchup against the Broncos into overtime.
San Francisco does have the talent to prevent Flacco from getting the ball down the field. In Aldon Smith, the 49ers have one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. He led the NFC with 19.5 sacks, and could do a lot in preventing Flacco from getting enough time to make those long throws.
Defensive end Justin Smith also has the ability to be a force in the pass rush, but hasn’t looked the same since returning from his triceps injury. His production could key in slowing down Flacco and company on Sunday.
Along with Ray Rice out of the backfield, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith could give the 49ers’ secondary some trouble. Julio Jones scored a 46-yard touchdown in San Francisco’s win over the Atlanta Falcons, and Smith is one of the more dangerous deep threats in the league.
The 49ers ranked fourth in passing defense in the regular season. Their level of competition has certainly increased in the playoffs, and they haven’t played nearly as well in the postseason. Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan totaled 653 three passing yards against San Francisco.
San Francisco is expected to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy, giving Baltimore 3.5 points at most sportsbooks. However, if they allow Flacco to complete a few big plays, the Ravens will have a chance to pull off the upset.