When the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers meet in the New Orleans Superdome on Sunday to decide Super Bowl XLVII, a lot of the focus will be on how the storylines leading up to the game will eventually play out.
Which Harbaugh (John or Jim) will emerge victorious?
Will Joe Flacco take the next legit step into elite status among NFL quarterbacks, or will Colin Kaepernick continue his implausible run through the 2012 regular season and playoffs?
As interesting as this matchup is from every angle, what happens on the field will obviously determine the game's outcome. And if the Ravens can utilize their receiving corps similar to how the Falcons did during the NFC Championship, the 49ers will have their work cut out for them.
Matt Ryan and Co. got out to a quick start on San Francisco, scoring the game's first 17 points and went into halftime with a 24-14 lead.
Spreading the ball around to Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, Ryan—who finished the game with 396 yards and three touchdowns—made the 49ers defense look unlike its normally-stout self.
Though the Falcons were unable to come away with the victory, the 49ers have to be concerned with this area heading in to the Super Bowl.
While not as accomplished, the Ravens feature a talented receiving trio of their own: wide receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, and tight end Dennis Pitta. In the win over the New England Patriots in last week's AFC Championship, the three combined for 14 catches, 184 yards and three touchdowns.
Where the Ravens might lack in their passing game in comparison to Atlanta, they make up with a consistent rushing attack that features Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Along with a hot Joe Flacco at quarterback (853 yards, with eight touchdowns to zero interceptions in the postseason), Baltimore has a balanced attack that could dictate the flow of the game.
San Francisco will not be able to key on any one player the Ravens will throw at them, which could result in a similar quick start as Atlanta was able to accomplish.
It is impossible to imagine Smith, Boldin and Pitta duplicating the 26 catches, 360 yards and three scores that Jones, White and Gonzalez tallied against the 49ers last week. But their impact on the outcome of the game carry more weight should Baltimore pull out the victory.
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