Rush­ing de­fense will be tested by 49ers’ dy­namic ground at­tack

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - RAVENS -

Key matchup

49ers run of­fense ver­sus Ravens run de­fense: San Fran­cisco is se­cond in the league in rush­ing be­hind the Ravens, av­er­ag­ing 145.6 yards. The 49ers rely mostly on speed, mis­di­rec­tion and coun­ters, but they can power up with tack­les Joe Sta­ley and Mike McGlinchey. The 49ers also have a strong and ver­sa­tile full­back in for­mer Raven Kyle Juszczyk, who also dou­bles as a tight end and H-back. Half­back Matt Breida is the speed per­former and has rushed for 542 yards on 109 car­ries this season, and Tevin Cole­man has 448 yards on 115 at­tempts. The Ravens are third in rush­ing de­fense al­low­ing only 87.7 yards, and the key has been nose guard Bran­don

Wil­liams. The Ravens do a good job of keep­ing of­fen­sive line­men off in­side lineback­ers Josh Bynes and Pa­trick On­wua­sor, es­pe­cially on first-down sit­u­a­tions. Be­cause the Ravens usually have led in most games, they don’t stay in base de­fense long but that might change against a qual­ity team like San Fran­cisco.

What’s at stake

Both teams are look­ing to se­cure home field ad­van­tage in the play­offs as the No. 1 seed. The 49ers (10-1) are tied with the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots for having the best record in the NFL, and they have a half-game lead over the New Or­leans Saints (10-2) in the NFC race. Seat­tle is also right be­hind the 49ers at 9-2. The Ravens (9-2) want to over­take the Pa­tri­ots to pos­si­bly host all of their play­off games. The Ravens beat New Eng­land, 37-20, ear­lier in the season.

Un­der the radar

Sun­day’s game will fea­ture two of the top young tight ends in the NFL. The 49ers’ Ge­orge Kit­tle, a third-round pick in the 2017 draft, has 52 re­cep­tions for 670 yards and three touch­downs this season. Kit­tle has reg­is­tered 20 re­cep­tions on third-down sit­u­a­tions, tied for fourth in the NFL among all play­ers. He is ef­fec­tive any­where on the field but es­pe­cially in­side the red zone.

KYUSUNG GONG/AP

Mid­dle line­backer Josh Bynes, bot­tom, and line­backer Tyus Bowser have helped lead a stout rush de­fense for the Ravens.

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