One of the legitimate concerns heading into this game was how the 49ers' back end would perform against these receivers. Joe Flacco was connecting with his guys on another level this postseason, giving them every opportunity to make plays.
And while the 49ers have played great against big-time quarterbacks, they have struggled against athletically gifted receivers that are aggressive at the point of the catch.
Because of this, Anquan Boldin's huge evening on Super Bowl Sunday was hardly a surprise.
Whether it was Carlos Rogers or Chris Culliver on him, Boldin refused to be denied. All night, he just had great concentration looking the ball in and making acrobatic receptions. Toward the end of the season, the Niners secondary struggled against the Falcons and Seahawks.
Both teams had aggressive pass-catchers that just consistently beat the 49ers' defensive backs to the ball.
Going into the Super Bowl, it was clear to see the Ravens had this profile of receiver in spades. With the tandem of Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, Baltimore was able to put pressure on the 49ers' secondary. They also had the speed factor with Jacoby Jones, who wound up being an impact player.
The killer was that several key members of the Niners' secondary were exposed. Their individual flaws were brought to light, and the Ravens took advantage. Again, Culliver and Whitner were two players that had great seasons in 2012, but fell apart in the postseason.
Donte Whitner in coverage: 5 rec on 6 targets, 57 yards, 2 TD, a 145.8 QB rating which topped his 128.5 rating allowed in reg season. #49ers— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) February 4, 2013
The Super Bowl performance by those two was by far their worst individual outings this year.
This game should impact how the 49ers proceed in the offseason. They have some decisions to be made in the secondary, and could get a little unorthodox with it given the contract situation in relation to player performance. For instance, Whitner has one more year left on his contract, but San Francisco may find a way to work around that.
Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown had the more stable performances from the secondary and both deserve to stick around.
Goldson is a free agent, while Brown will be entering the final year of his contract in 2013. The 49ers should prioritize the retention of this two players in the offseason. Rogers and Whitner, as quickly as they came, may be on their way out sooner rather than later.
Rogers and Whitner alone will cost the 49ers $12,177,684 against the cap in 2013. It wouldn't surprise me if the 49ers looked to upgrade at the position while being cost efficient -- i.e., they will rebuild this secondary through the draft.
No safety got beat more for TDs in the regular season than Whitner with 8. That's his third of postseason.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 3, 2013