Warren Sapp spoke on KNBR Thursday afternoon. Here is his breakdown of the 49ers and Ravens defenses, as well as his scouting report of the 49ers’ offensive line and the Ravens’ defensive line.
Q: What do you think of the Ravens’ defense?
SAPP: We love the Baltimore defense because of Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, T-Sizzle – the names roll off the tongue. And everything they’ve gone through this year to this point – no doubt about it, they can still play some defense. When they played in Denver, Peyton Manning only threw for 204 yards and they were 31 percent on third down. That’s the money down. Peyton Manning knows what that is – you continue the drive. And [the Ravens defense] had five starters missing that day.
I love the way the Ravens’ defense can react to anything. Any kind of wild set you want to give them, they have a system that is unprecedented as far as defensive knowledge, to be able to cover and keep the ball in front of them.
Q: Take a look at the 49ers defense. They seem to be mirror images of the Ravens.
SAPP: No, they’re absolutely opposite. They go downhill. They attack you. They strike you. We talk about Ray passing the torch to Patrick Willis, but NaVorro Bowman might be the finest linebacker in this game. When I put on the tape the 49ers, I salivate watching this man play. And those two safeties – Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner – oh my goodness they play the way it’s supposed to be played. You’re talking about six Pro Bowlers and five of them are starters. That reminds me of the Bucs when it was ’02. It was me, Quarles, Brooks, Simeon Rice – we still didn’t have that many. These boys, they will strike you, and I love the way they play the game.
Q: What do you think of Haloti Ngata as a player?
SAPP: Him and [Terrence] Cody look like they’re on skates sometimes, and they don’t protect Ray in the middle. You see the New England game? You see that center get up on Ray? If they allow Goodwin to get up to Ray, Frank is coming downhill and these two guards are coming up, it’s going to be a long day. That’s just the way the game is played inside. It’s man-for-man, hat-for-hat, bone-on-bone, and Haloti Ngata doesn’t impress me a little bit.
If he comes out and plays a monster game – I thought about it today – he is the only answer to this read option. If you have a defensive tackle inside that can smash that dive, now that end plays the quarterback and you’re home. They’re going to need that type of game from Ngata. If there’s any kind of crack where the center gets to the next level, oh my goodness, it’s a crease. And once they crease you as a defense, it’s to the safeties.
Q: What do you think of Mike Iupati?
SAPP: I love the guy, but he’s top-heavy, wide-based and I can tell when he’s pulling. Trust me, if I’m going after him it would be a long day. But Goodwin and Staley and Boone, they come to smash you. I love this offensive line. They protect the quarterback, they get the run game going downhill, they do everything that you’re supposed to be. That’s the biggest weapon that they have. They lined up in a goal line set down 17 in Atlanta. I looked and I said, where’s the receiver at? They didn’t even think about it. They’re just going to run Frank Gore downhill at you. They’re going to put it on this offensive line and you can’t stop it. I love this team.