Ever since the playoffs started, Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco has been playing lights out. To date, Flacco has torched defenses for 853 passing yards and eight touchdowns. However, despite those amazing stats, none has been more impressive than his zero interceptions. That’s right, Flacco has yet to throw an interception in this year’s playoffs. In a game where turnovers determine wins and losses, it has been Flacco that has catapulted the Ravens to the Super Bowl.
Flacco’s combination of arm strength and accuracy is as good as it gets. His uncanny ability to throw the deep ball is remarkable, and his confidence to throw a down-field strike in any given moment should be of concern to San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
So how will the 49ers counter Flacco’s strength? By first stopping the run.
The 49ers defense loaded with Pro-Bowl talent, ended the regular season with the 4th ranked rushing defense, allowing a paltry 94.2 rush yards per game. The Niners front seven is by far the best in the league, as they do an exceptional job of hitting their gaps while rarely missing their assignments. Their ability to stop the run while making teams one-dimensional, is a thing of beauty, and should help give them an advantage in Super Bowl XLVII.
Flacco, not known for his scrambling ability will then be forced to make plays through the air. And that’s where the fun comes in.
By taking Flacco out of his comfort zone, it will allow players like OLB Aldon Smith to play to his strengths, by rushing the passer. Aldon, who has been held sack-less in his last five games (including the playoffs) is long overdue for a breakout game. The player that was once on the verge of challenging the single-season NFL sack record, has since been relatively quiet. And that doesn’t bode well for Flacco, as I believe the Super Bowl will quickly become Aldon’s coming out party. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say Aldon gets at least two sacks on Flacco.
Also, by making the Ravens one-dimensional it will ease the pressure of playing the run, focusing only on the pass. And with the 49ers having not one, but two Pro-Bowl safeties in FS Dashon Goldson and SS Donte Whitner, that can’t be good.
The Niners secondary is among the very best in the league and boasts the 4th best pass defense in the NFL, allowing just 200.2 yards per game. Furthermore, they have arguably the next best ball-hawking safety in the game with Goldson, who will be licking his chops to jump a route, as Flacco will be forcing the ball downfield. Look for the 49ers defense to rattle Flacco early, forcing him to make bad decisions while breaking his streak of no interceptions. As I predict Flacco to throw at least three picks next Sunday.
This match-up heavily favors San Francisco, because they are an all-around better football team. Although, Ravens LB Ray Lewis is on the brink of retirement, that emotional high can only carry them so far, making them very vulnerable. The combination of the Ravens inability to run and Flacco’s failure to get the ball deep,will ultimately be there downfall, as the 49ers win a blowout 27-17.