Super Bowl XLVII was a high scoring affair. Baltimore put up 34 points on the stout 49ers defense which gave up more than 34 points only once this season against their division rival Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers offense which was revitalized with Colin Kaepernick under center instead of Alex Smith put up 29 points on the Ravens (the final two points were due the Ravens taking a safety with four seconds left in the game) which was a feat only three teams did all season.
Baltimore scored early touchdowns on big plays whereas San Francisco did not wake up until the stadium lights went to sleep. Baltimore struggled to score touchdowns in the 3rd and 4th quarter as there only second half touchdown was a result of a Jacoby Jones 108 yard kick return for a touchdown which came on the opening kickoff of the second half.
So what changed? Did the Niners flip the switch once the stadium lights were switched off? Did the Ravens power down light the lights in the second half? Did the blackout jolt the Niners?
With 13:22 left in the 3rd quarter the stadium lights turned off which halted the game for 34 minutes, coincidentally the same amount of points the Ravens scored. But once the lights went back on the game changed.
The 49ers successfully rushed the passer and put the Ravens in 3rd and long situations which led to the Ravens being forced to kick field goals and not convert their red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. But the lack of production from Aldon and Justin Smith led to the eventual Niners defeat.
In the first half the Ravens were seven of eight on play action pass attempts. They were three of four on attempts to the right and four of four on attempts to the left. The high success rate of play-action passes suggests that the Ravens offensive line was giving quarterback Joe Flacco plenty of time to throw by halting the Niner pass-rushers. Bryant McKinnie did not play much all season, but he started all four post-season games which moved Michael Oher to right tackle, a position where Oher is far more successful. McKinnie is arguably the MVP of the Ravens post-season run as when he played left tackle almost nobody got to his quarterback which in turn made Joe Flacco look like “Joe Flaccool”.
In the first half the Niners had zero sacks, which again illustrates the point above. But in the second half, Baltimore was far more conservative running the ball on first and second down almost every drive. This set up 3rd and long situations which statistically do not favor the offense.
The conservative run calls are a staple of the Jim Caldwell offense, Caldwell being the offensive coordinator ever since Cam Cameron was fired late in the regular season.
While in the first half the first down runs set up play-action passes in the second half, Caldwell shied away from them only attempting three play-action passes which resulted in total for less than ten yards. Flacco converted two of these three attempts but both were short check down passes not long passes into the secondary.
Not surprisingly the 49ers pass rush got to Flacco as a result, as both Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald sacked Flacco in the second half. But Brooks and McDonald are mediocre pass-rushers and were not the focus of the Ravens.
Aldon and Justin Smith, the 49ers best defensive ends struggled against the Ravens offensive line as they both had less than five tackles combined. The Ravens O-line shut down two of the best ten pass-rushers in the NFL and they deserve a lot of the credit for the Ravens Super Bowl victory.