The 49ers play the Ravens Sunday at the Super Dome in Super Bowl XLVII. In the meantime, I’ll break down the key matchups.
DT Haloti Ngata vs. The 49ers’ offensive line
As good as Justin Smith is, Haloti Ngata might be a better defensive tackle right now. He’s younger – Ngata is 29 years old and Justin Smith is 32 years old. Ngata is bigger – Ngata weighs 340 pounds and Smith weighs 295 pounds. Ngata probably is healthier, too. He was dinged up earlier in the season with shoulder and knee injuries, but he’s been a force the last four games.
Ngata is almost impossible to block one-on-one because he’s extremely powerful and quick. The Ravens line him up all over the defensive line, searching for the weakest link, forcing the defense to double team him right away. That opens up lanes for the linebackers on runs and it leaves the offensive line susceptible to blitzes on passes.
Expect the Ravens to line up Ngata in the middle against Jonathan Goodwin or on the strong side against Alex Boone in passing situations. Boone and Goodwin have had good seasons, but they almost surely cannot block Ngata one-on-one. Mike Iupati is the only 49er offensive lineman strong enough to contend with Ngata one-on-one, but even Iupati probably will need help with him.