The Ravens have won 7 consecutive games including victories over the Patriots, Seahawks, and Texans. Still, they will face possibly their biggest test yet on Sunday against the 10-1 49ers. Here are 5 keys to victory.
Be prepared for the rain
Sunday's weather forecast includes a 100% chance of rain. Greg Roman had the Ravens practice with wet footballs to prepare for Sunday's conditions.
Roman said Ravens practiced with wet footballs this week in preparations for Sunday’s elements.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) November 29, 2019
The Ravens played the Seahawks earlier this season in the rain and came out victorious. In that game, the passing game slightly struggled due to many receivers dropping passes. Nevertheless, Lamar Jackson was able to gain 116 rushing yards on 14 carries and score a touchdown, which brings me to my next point.
Rely on the running game
The 49ers have an elite pass defense, but they are significantly weaker against the run. The 49ers are giving up 4.7 yards per carry which is only 26th in the NFL. Running the football will be their best bet to score on the 49ers, which plays to the Ravens strengths. They are averaging a league leading 210.5 rushing yards per game. The 49ers are actually 2nd in the NFL at 145.6 per game.
Additionally, the Ravens showed earlier this season against the Seahawks that they can successfully run the football in the rain. The Ravens had 199 rushing yards to only 141 passing yards that game.
Playing in the rain naturally raises the probability for turnovers. The ball is slippery, so in turn, mistakes are more common. The 49ers played against the Redskins in the rain earlier this season, and Garoppolo threw an interception and fumbled.
The Ravens thrive at creating turnovers. Marcus Peters is tied for the league lead in interceptions, and Matthew Judon forced fumbles in consecutive weeks. Every drive will be important in a game like this, and a turnover could sway the game in the Ravens favor.
Stop the run
Like the Ravens, the 49ers play through the run on offense. As I previously mentioned, they are 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards per game. The Seahawks are the only team to beat the 49ers this season, and they were able to slow down their running game. The 49ers were held to only 87 yards on 27 carries. Tevin Coleman led the team with just 40 yards.
Their running game obviously makes things easier for Jimmy Garoppolo. Shutting down the run and making Garoppolo beat you through the air in the pouring rain is a good plan.
Contain the pass rush
The 49ers are leading the league with 44 sacks. Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa are leading the way with 10 and 8 sacks each. Things will be slightly easier than normal as Dee Ford is set to miss Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. Ford is 3rd on the team in sacks.
Nevertheless, the 49ers pass rush is capable of singlehandedly taking over a game. They did exactly that against the Packers last week. Lamar Jackson's speed will help him evade pressure, but the Ravens offensive line will still have their hands full on Sunday.