Archive for January 31, 2013

Born and bred a winner - Dennis Pitta

Born and bred a winner – Dennis Pitta

by Lawrence Vos

Super Bowl XLVII will likely be one of the more brutal games played in recent championship memory.

The Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers are playing against each other in the Har-Bowl because they execute to the highest standard the two most fundamental aspects of professional football, the ability to block and the ability to tackle.

I have to say the hype surrounding the running ability of Colin Kaepernick has gone a bit galactic, but sustaining long clock dwindling drives, through a dominant running game will be a big key to this game.

So without further ado here are my top five individual matc=hups for this game…

1) Ravens tight-end Dennis Pitta against the 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith.

Pitta, in his third season, was second on the team in receptions (61) and receiving touchdowns (7). He had five catches in the AFC Championship and score. In five playoff games he has scored three touchdowns. What frustrates fantasy football fans with Pitta is that his production is as boing-boing as Zebedee with a spring freshly sprayed with WD-40. Twice this season he failed to register a catch and once he got just one grab. In other games he went up to eight catches (at Philadelphia) and 125 yards (home against the Broncos).

The 49ers outside linebackers will need to show discipline in their pass coverage skills, as Brooks will likely be man marking Pitta for the majority of the game. Both Brooks and Smith are excellent at rushing the passer, combining for 26 sacks and 5 forced fumbles this season, but they can play so hard that Pitta could find himself open throughout the game for those 8-12 yard gains that help sustain drives.

Prediction – Pitta to get 6 catches for 77 yards and one TD

2) 49ers wide-receiver Michael Crabtree against the Ravens cornerbacks Corey Graham and Carey Williams

It took a change of quarterback (in Week 10) for Crabtree to move from an average NFL stater to a top 10 in his position. The former Texas Tech wide-out went from 39 catches for 440 yards in games 1-8 to an outstanding 46 catches for 665 yards in games 9-16. Crabtree’s touchdown total doubles in the second half of the season and his yards per catch went up from 11.3 to 14.5 during that span.

Despite a quiet performance in the NFC Championship Crabtree still managed 7 catches. Now he faces a pair of cornerbacks who are not exactly household names. Graham stepped up to a starting role when the Ravens lost up-and coming star Lardarius Webb after six games. Williams in his fourth year with the Ravens had four interceptions this year, the first season he recorded picks in his five year career.

Crabtree knows how to find separation in the end-zone and also has the advantage of being Kaepernick’s out and out number one target. With Randy Moss on the opposite side of the field and rampant post-hibernation tight-end Vernon Davis ready to perform, Crabtree may find himself in a number of single coverage battles that he has the speed and guile to win. Now he has the confidence to match the talent, and could put up MVP type stats if the Ravens focus too hard on trying to stop the running game.

Prediction – Crabtree to lead the game in receptions with 11 for 131 yards and two tds. MVP like numbers but he isn’t a quarterback so he wont win the award.


by Lawrence Vos

When the 2012 season began there certainly was no thought in my head that I would be witnessing the dawn of a new dynasty, from a team that I grew up idolising.

I predicted the Houston Texans to finally rise to the occasion and win a Vince Lombardi Trophy. I even went as far as to say they would beat the Detroit Lions in said game.

The Lions were their typical basement dwelling selves, and the Texans got knocked out in the final eight by a fading Patriots team.

When the Baltimore Ravens shutout the New England Patriots in the second half of the AFC Championship I was one of millions of neutrals to punch a proverbial fist in the air.

Not having to suffer another four hours of Tom Brady’s smug mug, and his puppet master the evil Emperor Belichick was one of the true delights of a truly remarkable NFL season.

Perhaps the most remarkable performance of the season was San Francisco 49ers second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick single-handed destruction of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional playoffs.

To then somehow defy ridiculous odds, a longer shot than a bullet fired from Mars, we have two brothers, both head coaches in the NFL, both facing each other in the Super Bowl.

So, to the game, which mercifully pits two teams in the big dance who have never faced each other at this stage, and who have both not reached the Super Bowl for over a decade.

Baltimore Ravens path to the Super Bowl

My feeling was that a year ago when former Buffalo Bills wide receiver Lee Evans dropped a Joe Flacco pass in the end-zone against the Patriots in the AFC Championship that the drop was the last chance for the current Baltimore Ravens team to reach their second Super Bowl for the next ten to fifteen years.

Their defensive captain Ray Lewis had already cemented his place in history and lifted a Super Bowl, so when he tore his triceps and was not projected to return until the playoffs I just thought the Ravens were going to personify their leader on the field and limp into the night like a wounded bird with a broken wing. Instead they have fought far harder than I or any non Ravens fan thought possible.

The whole ‘Wild Card entry reaches the Super Bowl’ is no longer such a rare occurence,  The New York Giants did it only last season. The Ravens run actually bears a remarkable resemblance to the Giants in that they won a home Wild Card game and then they beat the number one and number two seed on the road.

This is not the same Ravens team that sent chills down the spine of the teams they played, as this season they allowed over 420 yards five times in the regular season and twice in the playoffs. They also leaked 150+ yard rushing yards in five games.

What mattered was their playoff performances where the rushing yards allowed has gone down during each playoff performance.

San Francisco 49ers path to the Super Bowl 

The 49ers followed a similar playoff rout to the Ravens, having suffered a painful NFC Championship loss to the Giants a year ago.

When their coach decided that veteran quarterback Alex Smith was no longer good enough to remain the number one there were plenty of cynics, myself included. I believe in redemption and thought Smith, who was 6-2-1 when pulled, was enough of a game manager to get the Niners to the big dance. He remains the 49ers quarterback rating leader for 2012.

Coach Harbaugh’s call to install Colin Kaepernick as the signal caller was brave, and proved to be the edge that the 49ers needed for a deep playoff push.

What made the 49ers turn from a wannabee to a conference champion was not Kaepernick alone, it was a monster offensive line, a workhorse gritty Frank Gore at running back and a defense that man for man is superior to the Ravens defense.

Kapernick said of Gore just today: “He’s a great player. He’s a great leader. He’s a workhorse. He’s going to do whatever it takes to win and we need Frank Gore to be Frank. That will be good enough on Sunday. I think you can put Frank in any offense and he will be successful. He’s the type of running back that can adapt. He can do anything we need him to do. I think that’s why he has been doing so well.”

The 49ers defense had four first team All-Pro’s on defense (the REAL judge of excellence) linebackers Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman along with safety Dashon Goldson, compared to zero first team Ravens.

Part Two of my preview will look at breaking down some of the key match-ups.