It's been a golden rush to Super Bowl XLVII for the San Francisco 49ers, a team destined to win its first title since 1994, thanks to four big factors:
Big-Play Run Game
The 49ers clearly hold the advantage in the run game, having rolled up 472 yards on the ground in the playoffs against the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons. And those yards haven't come from a ground-and-pound attack; the read-option play has opened massive holes for a 49ers ground game that's averaging 6.6 yards per carry in the postseason.
The 49ers are committed to the run. RB Frank Gore has recorded 20-plus carries in four of the last five games, and he should expect a similar workload against the Ravens.
Best 'Backers in the Game
This space used to belong to Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. Now, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are regarded as the best middle linebacker tandem in the NFL.
The Ravens offense has big-play potential, but the 49ers D rarely gives up a big play. The Niners are also elite in stopping the run, which means the Ravens may try to work the middle of the field with a short-to-intermediate passing game.
The 49ers run plenty of man coverage, and they are capable of creating pressure with a four-man rush, which frees up Willis and Bowman to do what they do best: get to the ballcarrier and make plays.
Benefit of the Doubt
Who will be the primary benefactor of the read-play option for the 49ers? Against the Packers, it was QB Colin Kaepernick, who ran wild for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts. When the Falcons focused on containing Kaepernick in the run game, their coverage opened holes for Gore, who rushed for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game.
That game proved that Kaepernick is a threat even when he's not carrying the ball, and that alone will lead to big plays on the ground for the 49ers. Also, Kaepernick throws bullet passes that hit the target. Check out Kaepernick's five best moments of the season.
The Ravens may be considered the team of destiny, but they've engaged in three hard-fought contests to advance from the wild card to the Super Bowl, while the 49ers enjoyed the luxury of a first-round bye. Adding more juice to the 49ers rush attack has been the emergence of RB LaMichael James, who scored his first career touchdown in the NFC Championship game. It took awhile for the 2012 second-round pick to enter the mix, but the Oregon product is a dynamic player who adds another weapon to the 49ers ground game.
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