49ers-Ravens key matchup No. 7: Davis vs. Kruger

Boone & Davis form dependable duo

49ers-Ravens key matchup No. 7: Davis vs. Kruger
January 28, 2013, 2:45 pm
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Paul Kruger led the Ravens this season with 9.5 sacks. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

The Ravens sacked Alex Smith nine times in their 16-6 win over the 49ers on Thanksgiving Day, 2011. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

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This is the first part in a series by CSNBayArea.com 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco and CSNBaltimore.com Ravens Insider J. Michael that spotlights seven 49ers-Ravens matchups to watch in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday in New Orleans.

49ers RT Anthony Davis vs. Ravens OLB Paul Kruger

Tale of the tape
Davis (76): 6-foot-5, 323 pounds, third season, Rutgers
Kruger (99): 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, fourth season, Utah

Maiocco's take:

When the teams met on Thanksgiving Day in 2011, the Baltimore Ravens exploited the right side of the 49ers' offensive line en route to nine quarterback sacks and a 16-6 victory.

One of the big reasons the 49ers have advanced to the Super Bowl this season is because they've found stability on the right side of their line. Davis and right guard Alex Boone, a first-year starter, were the 49ers' only players to line up for every snap during the season.

[MAIOCCO: Boone, Davis provided stability on right side of O-line]

Davis played at a Pro Bowl level for much of the season, as his game has improved dramatically due to his first full NFL offseason. Always known as a good run-blocker, Davis did a much better job in pass protection, too. More often than not, Davis got the final word this season in most of his head-to-head matchups.

"I don't know what's wrong with me," Davis said. "I just like it when a grown man who trains and dedicates his life to not letting me do what I want to do and I make him do it. It's like, 'Ha!' You impose your will."

It'll be difficult for Davis to impose his will against Kruger, who developed this season into one of the Ravens' top players.

Michael's take:

Kruger’s pass-rushing ability stimulated a unit that had trouble getting pressure on QBs in the first half of the season. When he played vs. the 49ers a year ago, he saw limited action and only had two tackles. With the loss of LB Jarret Johnson in free agency and injuries that decimated the entire linebacker corps for the Ravens this season, Kruger’s time has increased and he has delivered. The Ravens were able to rattle Andrew Luck for four quarters in a playoff game and Peyton Manning and Tom Brady fell pretty in the second half of their matchups because of the pressure.

In his fourth season, and a contract year, Kruger has overcome an early-season back injury that slowed him and finished with a team- and career-high 9.5 sacks, and has evolved into a three-down player. Kruger’s greatest value is in pass situations, as a rusher and dropping into coverage. He had 42 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and six pass breakups in the regular season. In three postseason games, Kruger has 11 tackles, including two for losses, 2.5 sacks seven quarterback hits, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.

“Honestly, I could’ve done a lot more. The first half of the season I didn’t play the way I wanted to. I was kind of banged up,” Kruger said. “I was able to show some of the stuff I can do. I’m glad it came to this point because I’ve been fighting for a couple years to get on the field and show my skill. Finally, it’s all coming together.”

Kruger is difficult to block one-on-one because of his power and speed. A chip is usually needed to keep him out of the backfield. He still has to get better against the run, something the 49ers do extremely well.