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Strengths, Weaknesses Of 49ers

Posted Jan 31, 2013

The 49ers have a powerful running game and a great pass rush, but where are their weaknesses?


Any team that makes it to the Super Bowl doesn’t have many weaknesses, but here’s a look at some of the strengths and weaknesses for the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII opponent:

Strengths

Powerful running game
With Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore in the backfield, the 49ers are able to beat teams with a ground-and-pound approach. Gore is a big, strong back who runs well between the tackles, and Kaepernick is a speedy playmaker that burst onto the scene in the second half of the season. In their two playoff games, Gore has rushed for 209 yards and Kaepernick has 202. With Kaepernick at the helm, the 49ers use the pistol offense, similar to what the Washington Redskins run with Robert Griffin III. It’s a tough offense to defend because the linebackers have to account for either player to take the ball upfield for a big gain, especially with a quarterback as fast as Kaepernick.

Elite pass rush
The foundation of the 49ers' dominant defense is their stellar pass rush, carried by Aldon Smith. He was second in the NFL with 19.5 sacks during the regular season. His production has trailed off somewhat in the playoffs, as he has had to take on more double teams with fellow defensive lineman Justin Smith dealing with a triceps injury. Justin has played through the injury in the playoffs, but he isn’t at full strength and Aldon hasn’t been able to get as much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Much of the responsibility to keep linebacker Aldon off quarterback Joe Flacco will fall on left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who says that he’s playing his best football as a Raven.

Dynamic receiving targets
A big part of Kaepernick’s emergence this season has been the players he’s throwing to in the passing game. Fourth-year receiver Michael Crabtree enjoyed his best season in the NFL, topping the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the first time of his career. Another big part of the passing game is tight end Vernon Davis, who presents matchup problems for just about any linebacker who ends up covering him. At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds with breakaway speed, Davis is a physical freak that is tough for anybody to guard. The 49ers also have veteran Randy Moss, who at 35 years old is still a deep ball threat. He’s not the same receiver he was five years ago, but Moss still knows how to go up and get the football, and can catch teams off guard if he gets overlooked in the coverage.

Weaknesses

Inexperience
As much as Kaepernick has impressed the league this season, he’s still learning the ropes as an NFL quarterback. He has just nine starts under his belt and the Super Bowl will clearly be the biggest stage of his career. On the opposite side of Kaepernick will be future Hall of Famers like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, who will have gone through two weeks of preparation to get ready for the second-year quarterback.

Susceptible to big plays
The Atlanta Falcons jumped out to an early lead on the 49ers in the NFC championship mostly because of big plays in the passing game. Wide receiver Julio Jones caught 11 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns, outplaying the San Francisco secondary throughout the game. The Ravens could look to take some similar downfield shots with Torrey Smith, similar to what they did against Denver’s Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey.

Kicking game
Veteran David Akers is having the worst season of his career. He made 29 of 42 field goal attempts during the regular season and led the league in misses. He missed a 38-yard attempt in the NFC championship, and the 49ers brought in former Raven Billy Cundiff to compete with him heading into the playoffs. The 49ers cut Cundiff before the NFC championship and decided to stick with Akers throughout the playoffs.


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