Saturday, February 2, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII Preview: San Francisco 49ers

     The San Francisco 49ers were a touchdown away from reaching Super Bowl XLVI in 2011, but were unable to take down the New York Giants in overtime. A busy offseason made San Francisco an early favorite to win Super Bowl XLVII. However, people were assuming Alex Smith would be the quarterback leading his team through the playoffs. A quarterback change mid way through 2012 left many fans scratching their heads. Clearly, the change was a complete success, as Jim Harbaugh eyes his first Super Bowl title as a head coach in the National Football League. In this post, we will analyze San Francisco's offense and defense as the 49ers wait patiently for tomorrow's big game.

LaMichael James
Offense: Colin Kaepernick had yet to make a name for himself in football before 2012; however, after Alex Smith suffered a concussion halfway through the season, Kaepernick stepped up and enhanced the offense drastically. His running abilities provided Jim Harbuagh with the opportunity to use the read option, where, especially in the playoffs, teams were dumbfounded by San Francisco's running game. Frank Gore and Lamichael James are two lethal running backs that averaged 5.1 yards per carry throughout the duration of the playoffs. San Francisco's wide receivers include Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss, as well as tight end Vernon Davis. Kaepernick proved against Atlanta that he is capable of mounting a comeback, even if the odds are not in his favor. San Francisco was losing 17-0 to the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, but Kaepernick led multiple drives downfield, as San Francisco won by a final score of 28-24. The 49ers averaged 24.8 points per game in the regular season, and their balance is what makes this offense so lethal.
Grade: A-

Defense: The San Francisco defense is mainly centered around their front-7, a group that consists of two All-Pro defenders: Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis. Aldon Smith, a second year outside linebacker for the 49ers, came extremely close to snapping Michael Strahan's sack record, and though he was unsuccessful in getting 23 sacks in 2012, Smith constantly applied pressure on the opposing team's quarterback. Even if offensive coordinators choose to double Aldon Smith, players like Justin Smith and Patrick Willis will make you pay. San Francisco ranked fourth in rushing yards allowed per game during the regular season, and even though their pass defense is under scrutiny at times, they too ranked fourth in passing yards allowed. This defense will need to sack Flacco on each possession, or at the very least, knock him off his feet. By doing so, the Ravens quarterback would be unable to set the tempo early on in the big game. The Ravens offensive game plan revolves around Ray Rice, so if he too were to struggle early on, the Ravens may be traveling back to Baltimore empty handed.
Grade: A

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