A Tougher 49er Team

A Tougher 49er Team

The New, Tough, and Bolder 49ers

The only thing that would make this a better Super Bowl for me is if the Steelers were in it instead of the Ravens.  The game itself would feature the same factors, it’s gonna get physical.

The Baltimore Ravens won the 2000 Super Bowl with a defense that dominated everyone.  Their signature bone-crushing tackles put at least a little fear into the best running backs.  Quarterbacks knew they would be hit hard, even if they completed a pass.  The 2012 Ravens defense is not quite up to their previous level, but they are still formidable.

In 2011 along comes Jim Harbaugh, and the resurgence of the San Francisco 49ers.  The team he led had some critical pieces in place, and he added more by trading positions in the draft, most notably acquiring linebacker NaVorro Bowman, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Bowman, Patrick Willis, and Aldon Smith comprise the best linebacking corps in football.  Aldon Smith is a relentless pass rusher, and Bowman and Willis are interchangeable on the field, wearing numbers 52 and 53.  Their defensive line is big, and is anchored by defensive tackle Justin Smith, another furious pass rusher.  Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio has his secondary playing position football, which will be critical against Flacco’s ability to throw the long ball.  Dashon Goldson, Tarell Brown, and Chris Culliver have 7 interceptions between them.

The “Niners” are just as physical on offense, demonstrated by Frank Gore.  Gore never avoids a tackle, he hits his opponents harder than they hit him.  He ran for 1214 yards in 2012, averaging 4.7 yards a carry.  But statistics don’t tell the tale.  Defenses have to think “stop Gore first”, or he will amass enough yards to win the game himself.  With the addition of LaMichael James from Oregon, they have a quick runner who can get to the outside.  At 5’ 9” tall and 195 pounds, he will evade tackles, but also will challenge tacklers with a pair of powerful legs.

Offensive Coordinator, Greg Roman, has made adjustments throughout the season.  He has switched his offensive linemen from being a ‘zone blocking’ group to a ‘one-on-one’ attack.  With the change in quarterback to Colin Kaepernick from Alex Smith, he has adjusted the offense to compliment Kaepernick’s unique skills.  His ‘read-option’ offense allows the young quarterback to hand off the ball, pass from the pocket or on the run, or to run the ball himself, depending on the reaction of the defense.  The offensive line has adjusted perfectly and gives San Francisco an explosive offense, and keeps the defenses uneasy.

Both teams are physical.  Both teams are “fired-up”, as are their coaches.  Jim and John Harbaugh are obviously their father, Jack’s, sons.  Both teams are ‘old school’, they believe in hard-hitting, power football.  Sunday will see two teams playing like the teams of the 70’s, the Browns, Bears, Lions, Vikings, Raiders, and Steelers.

My assessment of the game is two-fold.  The 49er defensive line and linebackers must not let Joe Flacco have the time he needs to complete long passes.  If he is pressured, as was Tom Brady in the AFC Championship, the game belongs to San Francisco with one other caviat.  Ray Rice must not be able to get 25 to 30 touches.  Rice, like Gore, is a determined running back, who has often carried the Raven’ offense.

If you don’t want to miss some good old-fashioned football, plan your bathroom and beer runs carefully,  One play might change this game.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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