It’s been a forgettable sophomore campaign for defensive end Pernell McPhee after the 2011 fifth-round pick missed four games and finished with only 1 1/2 sacks in the regular season as he’s dealt with a knee issue since the spring.
McPhee had largely become a forgotten man in the Baltimore defense, but the Mississippi State product has made an impact in each of the last two postseason wins over Denver and New England. Against the Broncos, it was McPhee’ sack and strip that set the Ravens up in Denver territory to score a tying touchdown late in the third quarter. In New England, the defensive end batted two Tom Brady passes into the air, one being intercepted by Dannell Ellerbe in the fourth quarter.
He’s playing only 25 to 30 percent of the team’s defensive snaps these days after a disappointing season that followed a rookie campaign in which he had six sacks in a part-time role. However, McPhee has made critical plays in each of the last two games and is once again looking like a valuable depth player.
Extra time to prepare produces extra dividends under Harbaugh
The Ravens have thrived under Harbaugh following a bye week in the regular season, producing a 5-0 record, but even more impressive is how they’ve performed in the scope of having an extended time to prepare for any regular-season or postseason contest.
Including season openers in which the coaching staff has extra time to get ready — the coaching staff doesn’t game-plan for preseason opponents — the Ravens are 11-0 with two or more weeks of time to prepare for an individual opponent. That mark includes five season openers, five week-after-bye victories in the regular season, and their divisional-round playoff win over Houston that followed a first-round bye last year.
Baltimore will have its hands full against arguably the most complete roster in the NFL in the 49ers, but an extra week to prepare for second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his use of the zone-read and pistol formation will be beneficial. Of course, the Ravens prepared for Robert Griffin III and a similar offensive attack in their Week 14 loss to the Washington Redskins, so they can use those experiences as well as nine weeks of game film on Kaepernick to try to solve the 49ers’ offensive attack.
The extra week will not only help in devising a game plan, but it’s welcomed by a team that had to win back-to-back road games to punch a ticket to New Orleans and is still far from 100 percent from a health standpoint.
San Francisco had the benefit of a first-round bye as the NFC’s No. 2 seed.