Before we get to my preview, I feel the need to point you to some excellent Super Bowl previews I saw this week:
- Bill Barnwell at Grantland with his excellent Super Bowl preview
- Chris Brown on the Ravens defense against the 49ers offense and the Ravens offense against the 49ers defense, both also at Grantland
- Aaron Schatz brings his Super Bowl Preview to Football Outsiders
- Sam Monson at Pro Football Focus also previewed the 49ers offense (and how to stop it) and the Ravens plan of attack
- Scott Kacsmar picked the Ravens in an upset and updated his impressive library of career playoff drive stats for quarterbacks
- Brian Burke is a big Ravens fan, but his model gives them only a 38% chance of success
- Last but not least, my old comrade Jason Lisk has been chronicling all things Super Bowl at the Big Lead
The Ravens can stop the zone read, but at what cost?
In Colin Kaepernick’s nine starts, the 49ers have averaged 159 rushing yards per game on 4.9 yards per rush and have rushed for 14 touchdowns; at the same time, they’ve averaged 8.1 ANY/A through the air. That makes them close to unstoppable, much like the Seahawks when Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch were dominating defenses over that same stretch.For San Francisco, their dominance starts up front, and their offensive line needs only sustained success to rival what the lines of the ’90s Cowboys or ’00 Chiefs delivered. According to Pro Football Focus, left tackle Joe Staley is the best tackle in the league, while right tackle Anthony Davis is the second best run-blocking tackle in the league (behind only Staley). PFF ranks both Mike Iupati and Alex Boone as top-five guards in the league, and places both of them in the top three when it comes to run blocking. Center Jonathan Goodwin also ranks as an above-average center, and the 34-year-old veteran is more than capable of anchoring a line filled with Pro Bowl caliber players. As if that wasn’t enough, Vernon Davis is one of the top two-way tight ends in the league, while TE/H-Back/FB Delanie Walker and FB Bruce Miller provide excellent support in the run game.
Without any schematic advantage, the 49ers have enough talented beef up front to have a dominate running game. But add in what Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman have been able to do with the Pistol formation and the zone read, and you have a running game that borders on unstoppable.
We saw that against the Packers, as Colin Kaepernick broke the single-game rushing record by a quarterback. The beauty of the zone read is that it gives the offense an extra blocker, an advantage the 49ers didn’t need. After the Packers were shredded by Kaepernick, the Falcons focused on containing the quarterback. Take a look at the photograph below, courtesy of Ben Muth of Football Outsiders.
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