For the San Francisco 49ers, relying on a dynamic rushing attack has led them to this point, and that rushing game could lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl win.
San Francisco averaged 155.7 rushing yards per game, which ranked the team fourth in the NFL. This rushing attack kept the 49ers on the field, allowing its top-notch defense to be well-rested whenever it took the field.
The 49ers ranked second in the league with 26 drives this season of five minutes or longer. On those drives, the team scored 14 touchdowns, which ranked first in the NFL on drives of five minutes or more.
The team can control the clock if it methodically picks up first downs on the ground. Yes, the team has weapons on the outside including Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Vernon Davis – all of whom will likely play a role in the outcome of the game. But when Frank Gore and LaMichael James pick up chunks of yards while keeping the clock running, that’s when the 49ers are most effective.
In addition to those backs, Colin Kaepernick gives the 49ers’ offense another gear. He actually only rushed for 21 yards on two carries in the NFC Championship game win over the Falcons. In fact, he had one carry for 23 yards and then one for a loss of two.
But he’s just three weeks removed from setting the single-game rushing mark for a quarterback with 181 yards in the divisional round against the Packers.
Expect Kaepernick to run with the ball often to try to keep the Ravens’ defense off balance. San Francisco ranked second in the league this season with 81 runs of 10 or more yards.
It’s certainly helped that the 49ers have had the luxury of consistency along their offensive line. The team’s regular unit started every game this season, making it one of three teams (Vikings and Jets) to have all five normal starters start every game.
Baltimore’s defense allowed 122.8 rushing yards per game this season, ranking them 20th in the league.
The Ravens’ defense has been effective however in limiting touchdowns in the red zone. Baltimore’s red zone touchdown efficiency this season was 43.4 percent (second in the NFL). The team’s defense has ranked in the top-five in red zone efficiency for the past nine years.
Ball control on the ground is a distinct advantage for the 49ers. Now, the team must go out and execute the game plan this Sunday.
With the Ravens’ defense looking to step up in Ray Lewis’ last game, nothing will come easy for the 49ers on the ground. But if the Ravens can’t stop the 49ers rushing attack, San Francisco may “run” away with the Super Bowl.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.