NEW ORLEANS - It’s a good thing the Ravens’ defense had two weeks to prepare for the Super Bowl because it’ll be facing anything but a conventional attack Sunday at the Superdome.
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers boast a balanced, quirky attack that is able to function because of a bevy of high-quality weapons.
San Francisco can burn you with the pass or the run, especially using the pistol option sets that utilize Kaepernick’s legs or the number of skill players he has at his disposal.
This isn’t a one-man show, as Kaepernick has tailback Frank Gore in the backfield and a set of receivers that includes Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Vernon Davis.
During the regular season, San Francisco ranked 11th in the NFL in total offense (361.8 yards per game) and fourth in rushing (155.7 ypg).
Kaepernick appeared in 13 games, starting the last seven for the 49ers. He completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 1,814 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also finished second on the team with 415 rushing yards and five scores.
The Ravens know they’re up against a different kind of threat.
“You look at (Washington’s) Robert Griffin III, you look at Kaepernick and they’re very special talents,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “They’re guys who can kill you with both their arm and their legs. It goes back to being smart as a defense. Everyone can’t try to do everyone else’s jobs. If you do that, they’re going to find an opening. We’ve had two weeks to prepare. Anything that’s happened in the past doesn’t matter. We just need to be sound and know what we’re doing.
“If he runs, you’ve got to hit him. He’s basically a running back who can throw the ball very well. He’s showing people that he’s capable of playing in this league. He’s able to win.”
The 49ers have gone 7-2 with Kaepernick starting, including two playoff wins. His best performance came in a 45-31 win over Green Bay in the divisional round, when he ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns on top of his 263 yards and two scores through the air.
Perhaps it’ll help the Ravens that they’ve faced two similar dual-threat quarterbacks this year in Griffin and Philadelphia’s Michael Vick.
“It’s tough. When we played Washington with RGIII, they hit us in the beginning of the game with a bunch of read option and pistol formation plays,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “We had to adjust, and once we did, we did better. Hopefully, it doesn’t take us too long to adjust, and hopefully the things that we’ve been practicing will work. We can’t hesitate, and they’ve been successful getting a lot of teams to hesitate and guess. Communication is key. You have to understand what you’re doing.”
Although the Ravens face a unique challenge, their defense has performed well during the playoffs against some of the best teams the AFC had to offer.
Baltimore’s defense held the Colts to just three field goals in the wild card round, limited the Broncos’ offense to 21 points (but allowed 14 on special teams) in the divisional playoffs, and then afforded the Patriots’ top-ranked unit just 13 points (none after halftime) in the AFC championship.
“I think we stepped up our intensity,” cornerback Cary Williams said. “It’s a time for us to be accountable and to step up to the challenge. I think every man has held themselves accountable and understood their role, understood what is expected out of them and we’ve been playing pretty well.
“It’s when we got Ray (Lewis) back. That was a defining moment for the defense. When he was able to go out there and strap up his last game against the Colts in M&T Bank Stadium, I think that really ignited the team and really ignited the defense. As a team, we’ve been able to ride that.”
And the inspiration for that ride is looking forward to facing the 49ers in his last game.
“I don’t know if anybody knew this, but my favorite team of all time was the San Francisco 49ers, growing up as a kid,” Lewis said. “That was my childhood team, probably because of the people who were playing: Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig, who were probably my favorite San Francisco 49ers.
“This young team that is coming in here now, when you watch them on film, they are young, aggressive, and you see that they are very hungry. Since I’ve been in this business for 17 years, and I’ve been with one team for 17 years, and we play the game one way, we play the game on our terms.
“Kaepernick is doing some great things with his legs. We accept the challenge. This is the final dance, so what they do on film, it doesn’t intimidate anything we are coming here to do. We are coming here to play football, and if you are carrying the football, from my defense, we gonna hit you, because that is what the game is all about. That is what we are here to do.”