After eight years of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger or Peyton Manning taking the stage in the Super Bowl, newcomers finally emerge ready to prove to the world that they are the best team in the league. The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens will finally clash on February 3 in one of the most anticipated meetings of the entire postseason.
The teams’ top performers will be tested to the ends of their abilities as they face a team they have not faced all season. While both teams have performers who have been flying high in the postseason, they will be in for a rude awakening on February 3 as they meet with the best of the best. On that foreseen day, two players will be instantly humbled as they come face-to-face with a hungry defense.
One player who will probably receive the rudest of awakenings will be Colin Kaepernick. This young and quick-moving quarterback for the 49ers has easily shifted through defenses all season; it seems as if there haven’t been many teams who could contain him. Atlanta appeared to have gotten to him, but a lackluster second-half performance opened up Kaepernick to absolutely dismantle their efforts.
However, the Ravens, whose defense has been injury-ridden all season, will bring the strongest defense they have had all season to New Orleans, ready to shut down Kaepernick at all costs. Baltimore boasts a stout defense with Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed viciously defending at will. That means Baltimore poses a threat as deep as Kaepernick can throw.
This defense, in the playoffs, has forced eight turnovers and has only allowed four offensive touchdowns. Not to mention, they beat the unbeatable Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. And Kaepernick can be beat. You can bet that this defense will bring the pain as Lewis urges them on stopping any threat Kaepernick may pose.
On the other hand, Joe Flacco will be jolted awake in this matchup. Flacco has put up impressive numbers this season; his efficiency in the playoffs has been something that many quarterbacks have not been able to do. He has essentially dismissed anyone who has previously doubted his ability to lead his team.
Unfortunately, Flacco folds under pressure, and there is sure to be a tremendous amount of pressure for Sunday’s game. He currently ranks 24 out of 38 in accuracy when under stress. When pressured, Flacco misses blitzes, unsuccessfully avoids the rush and his efficiency takes a nose dive.
The 49ers will use this to their benefit. Their pass rush, with Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, will be lethal and put Flacco in a bind. When using four men or fewer, Smith has a hefty 34.0 of his 35.5 career sacks, while Brooks has 13.5 sacks using this same type of pressure. The 49ers know what it takes to make Flacco tick, and their defense will be cranking up the tension on Sunday night.
Both quarterbacks have played incredible postseason games, in which both reached their full potential. Both have been able to excel, leading their teams within a fingertip’s reach of the Vince Lombardi Trophy. However, both will be exposed to defenses ready to rattle that remarkable talent they have shown throughout the playoffs. It all boils down to who will stand their ground as the other begins to crumble.