49ers have tough matchup in Jackson, Ravens
Baltimore quarterback on a historic roll
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.