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OPINION: It's Flacco's time to shine
I'm rooting for the 49ers.
Raised in a Niner household, it's tough not to pull for these guys.
But for the sake of argument, I can see this ending up sour for so many of you West Coast faithful.
The Niners and the Ravens played their way through the playoffs with two common traits — hitting hard and running the ball successfully. So those two aspects of the game are a wash.
Here's the breakdown: The only weakness the 49ers have on defense is in the secondary — cornerbacks, more specifically. We saw this two weeks ago as Matt Ryan and Co. carved up the secondary and put up gaudy numbers through the air — until the Niners brought the blitz. Then those passing numbers slowed.
Additionally, the Falcons are soft on defense, and the Niners eventually squeaked out the win. Well, likewise, Flacco has a cannon. He also has two great targets, but the Ravens' defense isn't soft. So here's the kicker (and for you Niners' fans sake, let's hope it's not David Akers): Flacco also has a better offensive line, playing their best ball right now, and that's where this game can be won.
Both teams will likely have some success running the ball, but if Flacco gets the time to throw the ball, believe it or not, the Ravens could be airing it out. That's a scary thing when guys like Rogers, Brown and Culliver, who have been exposed at times, and Whitner and Goldson, who are primarily known more for their tackling and hitting, not deep-ball coverage, are back there.
Meanwhile, Torrey Smith, one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL running the streak, could score with one strike.
I'm not overlooking that the 49ers' front seven is ridiculously good. They're probably the best in the NFL, but that doesn't always translate. They struggled getting to Ryan, and the Falcons finished with a sack rate of 6.4 this year. The Ravens' sack rate is closer to 5.5 — and they've only allowed four sacks in three games during the postseason.
And not only is the offensive line protecting to perfection, it appears Joe Flacco has finally risen to the heights we thought he would have a couple years ago.
During the Ravens' postseason run, he has completed 51 of 93 passes for 853 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions for a 114.7 rating. To put that in perspective, only 13 quarterbacks have finished with a better rating in the postseason. Nearly every one of them is a Hall of Famer, and only three are still playing — Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees. All three of them also lifted the Lombardi Trophy after those seasons. Now, it's time for Flacco to join that group.