The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens are readying themselves for this weekend's grudge match in Super Bowl XLVII. There will be tons of talent present in New Orleans, and plenty of intriguing in-game match-ups.
One of the more interesting story lines going into this game will be how the Ravens defense quarterback Colin Kaepernick and this read-option attack. So far, there haven't been any teams that have been able to figure out how to stop this Pistol read-option attack by the 49ers.
The team has found a way to utilize the incredible athleticism of their quarterback to optimize the production of this offense. However, this Baltimore defense is toughest test they will face. This should be the most challenging unit Kaepernick has faced as a starter.
But as we've seen, Kaepernick can rise to the occasion.
The second-year quarterback may have a tremendous advantage this Sunday with his running ability. It's a certainty that the Ravens will be well prepared, but when it comes down to physical ability versus physical ability, are they going to be able to contain No. 7?
Their four best players at each level of the defensive infrastructure - Haloti Ngata (29), Ray Lewis (37), Terrell Suggs (30) and Ed Reed (34) - are an average age of 32.5. Only Ngata is under thirty years of age. There is a lot of wear and tear within this group, and it may be difficult for them to run down the 6'5", 230-pound sprinter in Kaepernick.
Then there is the secondary:
Corey Graham: 4.42 forty
Cary Williams: 4.43 forty
Jimmy Smith: 4.42 forty
Ed Reed: 4.57 forty
Bernard Pollard: 4.62 forty
So, here is the burning question: What happens when Colin Kaepernick gets them in a foot race?
As for the safeties - or the last line of defense - Reed's 4.57 was clocked over a decade ago. The future Hall of Fame safety has had a torn labrum, banged up ribs and a neck injury since then. Meanwhile, Pollard is known as a punishing hitter rather than a speedy coverage back.
At first glance, they don't have the physical capacity or tools to catch Kaepernick in open space.
The Ravens cornerbacks, Graham and Smith, are the only two capable of hanging with Kaepernick. Fortunately for the 49ers, their wide receivers, especially Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss, have done a tremendous job blocking in the run game.
The receivers have been able to take away the cornerbacks, sealing the perimeter with consistency. While the misdirection aspect of the read-option freezes the entire front seven and allows for Kaepernick to get around the edge.
When he's got a lane, he's gone in a flash, which is the concern for the Ravens. They cannot over-pursue on the blitz and give Kaepernick running lanes or he will shred them.
Also, the offensive line has been great moving defenders off the ball. They have had to block doubly hard, creating two possible lanes for the designed option run. The good thing for the 49ers is, Kaepernick only needs a seam - he can get skinny and be behind the defense in an instant.
He squeezes through tight closures like he's rushing to catch an elevator before the doors shut behind him. After that, Kaepernick has that long stride and pull-away speed. The other problem for the Ravens is that Kaepernick is decisive with his running - he usually only takes off if he knows he's got a head start on the defense.
All the Ravens can do is try to get the right angle on him. If Kaepernick has space, no matter how much heart this Ravens team has, they won't be able to catch him.
Want to join the Niners Nation discussion? Register for free (no spam!). Make sure and follow us on Twitter @ninersnation and Like us on Facebook to get the full experience in what hopefully leads to Lombardi No. 6 in New Orleans!