49ers have tough matchup in Jack­son, Ravens

Bal­ti­more quar­ter­back on a his­toric roll

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - SPORTS - By Jon Becker

In­de­fen­si­ble. Rev­o­lu­tion­ary. Tran­scen­dent. These are words some NFL an­a­lysts have used to de­scribe what makes La­mar Jack­son and the Bal­ti­more Ravens of­fense so dom­i­nant.

But maybe the sim­plest ex­pla­na­tion for what makes them so spe­cial can be summed up this way: You can’t stop what you can’t see.

“Even on tele­vi­sion, I had no idea where the foot­ball is,” said

Dan Orlovsky, an ESPN an­a­lyst and ex-NFL quar­ter­back who watched the Ravens an­ni­hi­late the Rams 45-6 on Mon­day Night Foot­ball. “Imag­ine play­ing on the field and try­ing to stop it.”

Eric Wed­dle didn’t have to imag­ine it, he lived it. And the vet­eran Rams safety is still per­plexed by Jack­son and the Ravens of­fense.

“I kid you not,” Wed­dle told re­porters. “Half of the time, I didn’t know who had the ball.”

Wed­dle and the Rams, who had given up just 44 to­tal points in their last four games, were seem­ingly de­fense­less as the Ravens be­came the first team in NFL his­tory to win three straight games by at least 34 points.

“You guys all saw what I was try­ing to stop out there,” Wed­dle said of the Ravens of­fense that

rolled up 480 yards on his unit. “What they’re do­ing on of­fense … a lot of times, I wouldn’t know for a few sec­onds if (Jack­son) handed it or if he still had it.

“Imag­ine the whole de­fense … you’re try­ing to play your rules and play the guy, and these guys are just com­ing down­hill … and you’re try­ing to fig­ure out what’s go­ing on. (Jack­son’s) Play­ing out­stand­ing. … We got our faces peeled off. You guys watched it.”

Here’s a closer look at what some are call­ing a pre­view of Su­per Bowl LIV.

Rea­sons for 49ers’ op­ti­mism:

JUST ANOTHER PRETENDER? » Here we go again? The 49ers have spent vir­tu­ally the en­tire sea­son knock­ing off teams that were sup­posed to give them noth­ing but trou­ble. From the Browns to the Rams, the Pan­thers, and, fi­nally, the Pack­ers, there were strong cases made why the 49ers might be in over their col­lec­tive heads. All San Fran­cisco did was go out and thump ev­ery one of them, us­ing its dy­namic of­fense and top-ranked de­fense to outscore those four teams 13931. Now, here come the Ravens, the lat­est, and sup­pos­edly, great­est threat to the 49ers’ cham­pi­onship as­pi­ra­tions. Is this the week the pun­dits fi­nally get it right? NOT AN IM­PEN­E­TRA­BLE DE­FENSE » The Ravens may be ranked 11th in the league in yards al­lowed per game

San Fran­cisco 49ers start­ing quar­ter­back Jimmy Garop­polo throws against the Pack­ers in the first quar­ter at Levi’s Sta­dium on Sun­day.

(322.7), but cu­ri­ously they al­low more points per game at home (20) than they do on the road. Their de­fense has seemed to re­bound well from the off-sea­son losses of vet­eran lead­ers Ter­rell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, and Wed­dle, but there have been mo­ments when the Ravens had been un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally been bad de­fen­sively. Ear­lier this sea­son, in fact, Bal­ti­more al­lowed more than 500 yards in back-to-back games for the first time in fran­chise his­tory.

RAVENS MAY HAVE BIG HOLE TO FILL » The Ravens might have to face the 49ers with­out start­ing cen­ter Matt Skura, an im­por­tant piece in their line. Skura sprained his knee against the Rams Mon­day and didn’t re­turn. He was re­placed by for­mer Cal start­ing line­man Pa­trick Mekari, who drew praise from coach John Har­baugh for his play against the Rams dur­ing the fi­nal three quar­ters. The un­drafted rookie from Thou­sand Oaks played more snaps Mon­day

(62) than he had in the only five games he’s played in this sea­son (43). Mekari might be in the spot­light while hav­ing to make cru­cial line calls against one of the fiercest de­fen­sive fronts in the league come Sun­day.

Rea­sons for 49ers’ pes­simism:

A FA­MIL­IAR OF­FEN­SIVE WIZARD » The ar­chi­tect of the well-dis­guised Ravens of­fense is Greg Ro­man, the same man who ran the Colin Kaeper­nick-led 49ers unit that helped lead San Fran­cisco to its last Su­per Bowl. The Ravens had a whop­ping 480 yards of of­fense on Mon­day, but it was just their fourth-high­est to­tal of the sea­son — topped by a 643-yard game against woe­ful Mi­ami. Ro­man is big on adapt­ing his dom­i­nant trap­ping and mis­di­rec­tion run­ning game to his op­po­nent’s weak­nesses. So far, it’s been wildly suc­cess­ful as the Ravens, led by Jack­son and Mark In­gram II

while lead­ing the NFL in rush­ing by a large mar­gin. For the sea­son, Bal­ti­more av­er­ages 210.5 yards per game — in­clud­ing 225 per game the past three weeks — and the 49ers are sec­ondbest at 145.6 per game.

BIG PLAYS APLENTY » Even when teams are able to slow down the Ravens, they’ve seemed to be able to pop a big play when they need it most. The Ravens are the most suc­cess­ful team in the league on third-and-long sit­u­a­tions (six yards are more). In ad­di­tion, Bal­ti­more has the most ex­plo­sive run­ning plays in the NFL this sea­son, and it notched an NFL sea­son-best 12 run­ning plays of 10 yards or more on Mon­day. For the sea­son, the Ravens have 66 ex­plo­sive run­ning plays, which dwarfs the next two best teams — the Vik­ings have 46, and the 49ers have 44.

RAVENS' BUR­GEON­ING OF­FEN­SIVE LINE » The 49ers will be tak­ing on an of­fen­sive line that’s keyed much of the Ravens’ suc­cess. The unit, ranked No. 5 in the league by Foot­bal­lOut­siders. com, helped clear the way for a sea­son-high 285 rush­ing yards against the Rams. The line is an­chored by Pro Bowl right guard Mar­shal Yanda, who had his best game of the sea­son while al­low­ing no pres­sures and earn­ing an out­stand­ing run­block­ing grade of 79.1, ac­cord­ing to Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus. Tackles Ron­nie Brown and Or­lando Brown Jr. also ex­cel in the run game. The line’s big­gest trick on Mon­day was some­how mak­ing reign­ing De­fen­sive Player of the Year Aaron Don­ald dis­ap­pear — the Rams star had just one as­sisted tackle.

NHAT V. MEYER — BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

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