Six Points: Ravens vs. 49ers
Can the San Francisco 49ers (1-4) take advantage of an injury-depleted Baltimore Ravens squad (1-4)?
After two subpar performances, Colin Kaepernick almost guided the 49ers to a come-from-behind road victory on Sunday Night Football.
Meanwhile, Joe Flacco and the Ravens are dealing with injuries to key players, including Steve Smith (back) and Justin Forsett (ankle).
Here are three keys to the game for both the Ravens and the 49ers.
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1. Don't let Torrey Smith get deep
Smith will certainly be looking to make an impact against his former team despite his recent lack of production. The Ravens secondary has struggled mightily, including top corner Jimmy Smith, who will likely be charged with covering his former teammate. Safety help over the top is essential.
2. Blitz often and from all angles
The depleted Ravens defense need to get pressure on Kaepernick somehow. If pass rusher Elvis Dumervil (groin) is unable to go, defensive coordinator Dean Pees will have to get even more creative with his blitzes. Kaepernick isn't exactly Peyton Manning when it comes to reading defenses, so confusing him is of utmost importance.
3. Offensive line must win
The offensive line is the only unit with all of its starters healthy. It needs to give Joe Flacco extra time to get through his progressions since his receivers may struggle to get separation. And it needs to open up running lanes for whoever will be carrying the ball.
1. Attack the secondary
In Week 5, the Ravens allowed Josh McCown to throw for 457 yards, and they currently rank 25th in passing yards allowed per game (278.2). The 49ers have not had much success through the air (31st in passing offense), though Kaepernick found some rhythm in throwing for 262 yards against the Giants on Monday.
As noted above, the Ravens secondary has struggled this year; they've allowed 19 pass plays of 20 or more yards (26th in the league). Over the last three weeks, Smith has totaled just four receptions for 96 yards. But against a struggling defense, this could be an opportunity for the 49ers to exploit.
Though Forsett's status is in question (ankle) for Week 6, the Ravens have relied on the running back over the last two games: 48 carries, 271 yards, 5.6 yards per carry. It's no secret the Ravens want to establish the run game to set up the deep ball for Flacco. But shutting down the running lanes would make an already depleted Baltimore offense one dimensional.