Ravens-49ers: Seven key matchups

Ravens-49ers: Seven key matchups
January 29, 2013, 4:00 pm
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Editor's note: 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco and Ravens Insider J. Michael have seven matchups that stand out in Sunday's showdown. Just as we've done all season long, we'll provide detailed looks at each matchup leading up to Super Bowl XLVII Feb. 3.

Matchup No. 7:  RT Anthony Davis vs. OLB Paul Kruger

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.

It's a different 49ers offensive line this year, as Anthony Davis played at a Pro Bowl level for much of the season. But it'll be difficult for him to impose his will against Paul Kruger, who developed this season into one of the top players on the stout Ravens defense. ...

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Matchup No. 6: WR Michael Crabtree vs. CB Cary Williams

There is little doubt that quarterback Colin Kaepernick has found his go-to receiver. In his fourth season since the 49ers made Crabtree the No. 10 overall selection in the 2009 draft, he emerged as one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.

When Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 6, it elevated Cary Williams to the top cover corner and earned him a Super Bowl date with Crabtree.

Williams, who rejected a three-year, $15 million contract from the Ravens before the season because he felt he was worth more, has lived up to expectations. He snatched four interceptions this year, and another two in the Ravens' three three playoff games. ...

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Matchup No. 5: LB Patrick Willis vs. FB Vonta Leach

Linebacker Patrick Willis, a six-time Pro Bowl selection in six NFL seasons, will have his hands full trying to wrap up one of the top running backs in the league.

But before Willis can deal with Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice in Super Bowl XLVII, he must first contend with the best lead-blocker in the league -- three-time Pro Bowler Vonta Leach. ...

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Matchup No. 4: DT Justin Smith vs. LG Kelechi Osemele

Defensive tackle Justin Smith, who might be the most important player on the 49ers, has felt better and gotten stronger every week since sustaining a 50-percent tear to his left triceps tendon on Dec. 16.

That's good news for the entire 49ers' defense, and terrible news for Ravens rookie lineman Kelechi Osemele. ...

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Matchup No. 3: CBs Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers vs. WRs Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin

The 49ers' pass defense struggled in the first half against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship, as they fell behind 17-0.

And the secondary will be equally challenged on Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens' outstanding pair of wideouts, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. ...

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Matchup No. 2: RG Alex Boone vs. DT Haloti Ngata

The Baltimore Ravens put the clamps on the 49ers' offense in a 16-6 victory on Thanksgiving Day in 2011, as the 49ers managed only 170 yards of total offense.

And it all began with Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata's thorough domination of Chilo Rachal, the 49ers' overmatched backup right guard, who was forced into the lineup when Adam Snyder was injured in the first quarter.

This time, on the NFL's biggest stage, first-year starter Alex Boone will mostly be entrusted with the assignment of neutralizing a player who can clog run lanes and push the pocket as a pass-rusher.

Boone has played at a high level after making the transition to guard from his role as the 49ers' top backup tackle. Boone has provided the biggest upgrade for the 49ers at any position from a year ago. ...

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Matchup No. 1: Colin Kaepernick vs. Joe Flacco

Their play will be analyzed, scrutinized and long-remembered.

They will never set foot on the Superdome artificial turf at the same time, but one of them will be the winning quarterback in Super Bowl XLVII and one will be on the losing side.

The football lives of Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco will never be quite the same after Sunday's finale to the NFL season.

Kaepernick will be making just his 10th NFL start after taking over for Alex Smith, whose concussion on Nov. 11 provided him with the opportunity to take over as the permanent starter. ...

 

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