49ers-Ravens: Matchups to watch


49ers-Ravens: Matchups to watch

BALTIMORE -- The 49ers had demonstrated an all-around team defense. And the Baltimore Ravens have the most offensive playmakers the organization has ever compiled.But the 49ers' best defender and the Ravens' top producer will take center stage Thursday, and they are bound to see a lot of each other throughout the night.
Tale of the tape
49ers LB Patrick Willis (52): 6-1, 240, Mississippi, fifth season
Ravens RB Ray Rice (27): 5-8, 212, Rutgers, fourth seasonRice carried the ball just five times against the Seattle Seahawks a couple weeks ago, and the Ravens lost. On Sunday, he was fed the ball 20 times, gained 104 yards, and the Ravens defeated the Cincinnati Bengals.So the Ravens make it a priority to get the ball in Rice's hands. Rice ranks fifth in the NFL with 1,176 yards from scrimmage. He's a threat as a rusher and as a target in the passing game.Rice has 663 yards rushing with a 4.2 yards, and he also has 51 catches for 513 yards.
He will undoubtedly see a lot of Willis, who leads a 49ers defense that has been difficult on opposing running backs. Willis has also been a force in pass coverage, so he'll likely be asked to pick up Rice out of the backfield on occasion.CSNBaltimore: 49ers-Ravens -- the basics Keys -- pressure Smith, stop Gore predictions
The 49ers have been dominant against the run this season with Willis and NaVorro Bowman racking up most of the tackles. The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 32 games. And the unit has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season."You look at what's going on over there, and it kind of reminds us of our own defense," Rice said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "It's going to be a challenge. Every yard matters in this game. It's going to be a slugfest."And Rice said Willis is the closest comparison to Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.RELATED: Ravens roster depth chart injuries"He's a tenacious player," Rice said. "I have a lot of respect for that guy. Take Ray out, and (Willis) is the second-best linebacker in the NFL." Other matchups worth watching
49ers LOLB Ahmad Brooks (55) vs. Ravens RT Michael Oher (74): Brooks rarely comes off he field, as he plays standing up on base downs and lines up at defensive end in nickel situations. Brooks ranks seventh on the team in tackles, and his duty is to set the edge in the run game. As a pass-rusher, Brooks is second on the team with six sacks, matching his career-high. Oher, the subject of the book and movie, "The Blind Side," nearly was drafted by the 49ers in 2009. Then-general manager Scot McCloughan insisted on receiver Michael Crabtree over Oher, with then-coach Mike Singletary taking up the argument for the offensive lineman.49ers QB Alex Smith (11) vs. Ravens FS Ed Reed (20): If being a "game manager" means making good decisions and avoiding turnovers, Smith is guilty. But it becomes a lot more difficult to make good decisions and avoid interceptions with Reed patrolling the secondary. Reed is a seven-time Pro Bowl player. He produced a league-best eight interceptions in just 10 games last season, and he has three picks this year. Reed has 57 interceptions in his career, which is the league-high since entering the league in 2002. Thirty-three of his interceptions have come at home. Overall, the Ravens are 35-10 in games in which he has caught a pass from an opposing quarterback.

Falcons coach Quinn: Kyle Shanahan 'totally nailed that' vs Packers

Falcons coach Quinn: Kyle Shanahan 'totally nailed that' vs Packers

The Atlanta Falcons have provided the 49ers with a window from Friday afternoon through Saturday to meet with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, a source told CSNBayArea.com.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn has structured a normal work week to begin preparations to face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51, Quinn said at a press conference on Monday. The Falcons will have a day off on Saturday before the team travels to Houston on Sunday.

The 49ers are not allowed to officially hire Shanahan until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

Shanahan is the presumptive 49ers coach -- the only candidate remaining among the six whom 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe interviewed. Shanahan's offense rolled up 493 total yards and converted 10 of 13 (77 percent) third-down opportunities en route to a 44-21 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship game.

“I’m really proud of him,” said Quinn, who was hired by the Falcons two years ago after he served as Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator in Super Bowl 49.

“It’s not easy to do when there’s a lot of speculation and things going on outside your world to stay dialed in. I think it’s one that should be commended. Being on point and going for it, he totally nailed that.”

Shanahan is also expected to be heavily involved in the 49ers’ search for a general manager. The two remaining candidates among the nine who previously interviewed are Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton and Arizona vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough.

The 49ers have left open the possibility of adding more GM candidates to the list, according to a source.

49ers, Raiders fans ready to accept Tom Brady as best QB ever?

49ers, Raiders fans ready to accept Tom Brady as best QB ever?

The Super Bowl is designed ostensibly to be a massive trade show with a football game stuck on the end of it, with the idea that the teams and their fan bases who don’t have a dog in the Sunday fight can still amuse themselves by making their own news – as long as it’s very low level and doesn’t steal thunder away from the real reason for the season.

The accumulation of money.

So it is that we must find reasons to care about a game between a team 2,473 miles away and a team 3,099 miles away. After all, what else is a Super Bowl party for?

Well, let’s ignore the obvious Bay Area topics like “Any news on the Raiders moving?” or “What will Kyle Shanahan say about the soul-eviscerating task he is about to undertake?” Instead, let’s ask a third.

Is the Bay Area’s football base ready to face the very real possibility that Tom Brady could become the area’s best-ever quarterback? Yes, better than Joe Montana and his four rings, and yes, better than Ken Stabler and his willingness to fight the power, and yes, better than Aaron Rodgers and Jim Plunkett and . . . well, fill in your favorite blank.

This one is hard for many folks to swallow because, other than the Switzerland of San Mateo (starting at Serra High School and radiating out to Highways 82, 101, 280 and Crystal Springs Road), Brady doesn't resonate here the way a normal favorite son would. He would have been a perfect Raider or 49er. He also would have been a perfect Cardinal or Golden Bear. He would have been part of something that was, for lack of a better term, ours.

Instead, he did his work for geographically evil empires far to the east, and did it obnoxiously well. He went where he was wanted (Michigan) and where he was drafted (New England), grafted onto a coach (Bill Belichick) who could find the best outlets for his gifts as Montana and Stabler and Plunkett and Rodgers did, and has helped construct a ring factory to rival Montana’s and Terry Bradshaw's and dwarf everyone else’s.

And if he can guide these Patriots to a victory in 13 days over the Atlanta Falcons, he will have more rings than any other quarterback ever, and will almost surely reduce the best-ever debate to ash.

Argue all you want, you amateur Spicers, but facts sometimes beat sentiment, prejudice or child-based idolatry, and there is no objective argument a person can make to claim that Brady is merely equal, let alone inferior, to any of the others we have mentioned.

That is, if you’re trying to stack his baggage as a fort against the data.

His detractors will link him to the evils of the Patriot empire (commanding technology, skullduggery and the very air we use to breathe to circumvent the natural order of fair play, honor and dignity, or some equivalent nonsense), or dismiss him, Montana-style, as merely the product of the greatest coach of the age (well, name a great quarterback who didn’t have a great coach, or vice versa). You could even hold his choice of wives against him (which seems even pettier than normal fandom) or his choice of candidates against him (so far, it’s hard to see a countervailing argument here, though it’s only been four days out of an expected 1,461).

But the numbers and jewelry and the raw football data argue more convincingly for Brady than for anyone else – if you’re interested in settling rather than prolonging an argument.

That last part is the key, though, because once engaged, arguments are hard to kill. The development of the alternative-facts movement renders data and logic less important than the depressingly more fashionable “Well I say it’s this instead of that, I’m not changing my mind no matter what you say and I’d rather remain ignorant than consider another idea. Ya wanna fight?”

Now all this becomes moot if Atlanta wins, mostly because nobody is going to advance the idea that Matt Ryan is the best quarterback of all time. Then the arguments remain sprightly and energetic and “my facts v. your facts,” and everyone goes home drunk and satisfied that you didn't annoy the hell out of the other patrons.

But if Brady wins, the argument becomes sullen and angry and unpleasant and “Well I say it’s this instead of that, I’m not changing my mind no matter what you say and I’d rather remain ignorant than consider another idea. Ya wanna fight?” Just to name one.

And frankly, we're already getting a gutload of that as it is.