Baltimore has had the benefit of using two good running backs throughout the entire season. Ray Rice ran for over 1,100 yards during the regular season and Bernard Pierce ran for an additional 500.
As a team, the Ravens ran for just over 1,900 yards on the year, averaging around 120 yards on the ground per game—the 11th most in the NFL.
But taking into consideration that the 49ers have one of the best rush defenses in the league, Baltimore is bound to have some issues. San Francisco allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards during the regular season and just seven rushing touchdowns all year long.
The Ravens played two better rush defenses during the season and had inconsistent success. Baltimore split the season series with the Pittsburgh Steelers—the second-best rush defense—but the Ravens’ leading rusher never touched 80 yards in either game.
When playing the Denver Broncos—the third-best rush defense—the Ravens lost by 17 and Rice only managed to gain 38 yards on the ground.
To say that the Ravens don’t usually play too well when not having average games on the ground is a bit of an understatement. In all but one of the Ravens’ losses during the regular, the leading rusher went for less than 100 yards. When the leading rusher gains at least 100 yards, the Ravens are 3-1.
The play of Rice and Pierce during the postseason hasn’t been very impressive, either. Despite the fact they both see considerable time, neither is averaging more than 85 yards per game on the ground.
The duo has only run for two touchdowns in three games—both by Rice—and there have been just three runs for more than 20 yards. Rice averaged 7.8 yards per carry during the regular season, but he has averaged just 3.9 yards on the ground each time in the postseason.
Since quarterback Joe Flacco has played so well during the NFL playoffs, the Ravens may try and pull a fast one on San Francisco, thinking that the 49ers won't expect a lot of runs early on.
But if Baltimore does go run-heavy in the first half and doesn’t see success, the Ravens are in deep trouble. Putting a ton of pressure on Flacco is not the way to win a football game, especially the biggest game of the year.
Rice and Pierce may have had great regular seasons and played just well enough to get to the Super Bowl, but there’s no way they run the ball successfully against San Francisco—and that’s going to cost them the game.