It is still hard to believe that the Baltimore Ravens are playing in Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers after reeling down the stretch, losing four of their last five regular season games. However, the best two teams during the regular season don’t make it to the NFL’s biggest stage; the best two teams in January do.
The Ravens are on fire, winning three straight postseason games on what has been quite the roller coaster ride. Their opponent, the 49ers, have won two games as they were fortunate enough to have a first round bye during Wild Card Weekend.
While the two teams aren’t playing for another 12 days, the Ravens are definitely losing sleep over how they are going to stop the dynamic quarterback of the 49ers — second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick was known in college for his rocket arm at Nevada and his ability to create plays in the pistol option offense on the ground as well. He was inserted into the lineup as the starting quarterback, replacing Alex Smith after head coach Jim Harbaugh decided he was the right man for the job.
Smith did suffer a concussion which sparked the move to Kaepernick, but the 49ers offense hasn’t been the same since… it has improved dramatically. They are putting up points in bunches, due to the creativity and options a guy like Kaepernick brings to Jim Harbaugh’s disposal.
Without a shadow of doubt, this will be a HUGE task for the Ravens to slow down this “college” offense. Luckily, the Ravens have some game film on a somewhat similar offense.
We all know the results of the regular season contest against the Washington Redskins…
Okay, now back to my point.
They ran a read option/triple option offense, which propelled them to first in the league on the ground. They also had great success early against the Ravens, but the defense seemed to buckle down on Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris in the second half, even though they came out on the short end of the stick.
The key in stopping these types of offenses sounds simple, yet isn’t: get a hat on a hat.
Generally, with a triple option, not traditionally ran by the 49ers, there will be three options. Give to the fullback/upback on the dive between the center and guard. Keep the ball and read the defensive end/outside linebacker to determine whether or not the quarterback can gain yards off-tackle or between the tackle. Pitch to the halfback or wide receiver coming in motion around the end if the defensive end/outside linebacker commits to the quarterback.
The triple option isn’t generally what the 49ers run because that isn’t what Kaepernick ran at Nevada. His pistol offense had triple option concepts, but is more based on read option concepts with two options; ride-and decide if you’re going to give the ball to the running back or keep it and try and gain yards the hard way.
The pistol presents an interesting challenge in terms of formation recognition for the Ravens as well. The pistol is a shorter version of the shotgun in that the quarterback lines up closer to the line than he would on a shotgun snap. This season, the 49ers have featured Kaepernick in the pistol, with running back Frank Gore, running back LaMichael James and tight end/fullback Delanie Walker alternating in different positions in the backfield. Sometimes, Gore will line up next to Kaepernick and there will be no running back behind them. Sometimes, Gore will be behind and Walker will be up. Sometimes, Gore and James are in there.
You get my drift.
This isn’t a “gimmick” offense like the Wildcat or the Patriots quick-snap offense…Brendon Ayanbadejo.
It doesn’t matter whether or not this offense will last in the future of the NFL. There will be debates raging on about that, but what matters is the Ravens have to face this offense Feb. 3, 2013 for the Super Bowl title.
Whoever is playing defensive tackle and defensive end/outside linebacker for the Ravens, they must be patient throughout the game. The key to stopping a fast-paced offense like this one is being patient.
Yes, the speed of the NFL is incredible, but slow-playing this offense is the ONLY way to stop it. Jumping the gun too early and not forcing Kaepernick to make decisions will get the Ravens caught on defense and give up big plays.
Just ask the Green Bay Packers.
If the Ravens defensive players can buzz their feet and hold their ground, forcing the action on Kaepernick and not vice-versa, the Ravens will continue their success they’ve had in the postseason in stymieing the run game enough, to get quarterback Joe Flacco and the boys on offense enough opportunities on offense to put points on the board.
Also, the Ravens will have to have a guy on the defensive side of the ball for each possible ball carrier on the 49ers. This means someone on the interior, preferably Haloti Ngata or Ray Lewis, will be assigned to the “give” read, an outsidelinebacker/defensive end, like Courtney Upshaw, who faced read options in the SEC last season, will be assigned to the “keep” read on Kaepernick and a strong safety or corner will most likely be assigned to the “pitch” man, if there is one.
It’s like the old adage goes…
KISS: Keep It Slow Stupid.
Oh, wait. That’s not it.
That’s what should be the Ravens’ motto for victory. After all, patience is a virtue.