Friday afternoon on ESPN Radio, NFL Scout Matt Williamson and former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker broke down the matchup between the 49ers’ pistol zone-read running attack and the Ravens’ run defense. Here is their breakdown. Before you get into the text, I am not saying they’re correct. It makes for intriguing reading.
WILLIAMSON: “I think the running game eventually wins this game for the 49ers, but the Ravens’ defense is going to be more challenging than Green Bay, who looked like they never saw the option and just let Kaepernick run wild down the sidelines, or Atlanta that overcompensated and totally took away the outside and just left gaping holes up the middle for Frank Gore, who is playing great. That’s a huge component of this game.”
TUCKER: “Everybody out there says, ‘I just think the 49ers’ defense is better.’ Over the course of the year of course they are, but all I really care about is the last two games. You look at the last two games – the Ravens only gave up 21 offensive points to Peyton Manning and a Denver offense that had been electric on the road. Trindon Holliday took two to the house, and maybe Peyton would have scored another one, but still. The defense played exceptionally well in that game.
“Then they gave up 13 points to the Patriots, a team that scored 100 points more than any other team in the league, a team that torched the Texans for 41 and could have scored more. The Ravens gave up 13.
“Now they get two weeks to prepare for a team that, I believe, has had a lot of their success offensively in the postseason because of the fact that teams don’t have a great plan for the zone read. Green Bay had no plan whatsoever. I thought that was an absolute travesty and an embarrassment, and I think Dom Capers should be fired for that. And I never, ever say that. I’ve never seen a team have less of a plan for something than they did.
“Atlanta had a plan, and it worked on some level. The plan was to not let Kaepernick run. I’ve got to think after two weeks, the Ravens will have a better plan. They’ll have done all their research, talked to all the college coaches.
“I would have the defensive end come crashing down the line and take the dive back – the running back – every time, and then have a linebacker scrape over the top, or a late filling safety, like Bernard Pollard, take the quarterback.
“What I’m not going to do is let Frank Gore just gash me for nine yards every play. I’d rather have somebody scrape over the top and take some big time shots at that quarterback.
“The other thing I think you should consider is when Kaepernick puts the football into the stomach of the running back, I think you should bring the corners (on a blitz) and then have the safeties cover for them, because that takes some time. The pistol stuff, the zone read stuff, it’s a pretty long fake and I suggest bringing the corners as soon as they see that read-run.
“What’s the worst case scenario? The worst case scenario is it’s actually a pass, but then by the time Kaepernick raises up to pass, the safeties will be covering those receivers, and whatever side Kaepernick faces open to, you’ve got a corner screaming off the edge unblocked.
“I really envision the Baltimore Ravens having a pretty good plan. I have trust and faith in the defensive plan of the Ravens. I think the Niners are going to have to throw the ball.”