49ers Gab NFL Week 12 Preview – San Francisco at Baltimore

WHEN THE 49ERS HAVE THE BALL

San Francisco totaled 431 yards of offense versus Arizona, over 100 yards better than its season average of 322.5 per game that ranks 20th in the league. The 49ers’ sixth-ranked ground game accounted for 164 yards, including 88 on 24 carries by Frank Gore (870 rushing yards, 5 TD). Gore, who is 61 rushing yards shy of passing Hall of Famer Joe Perry (7,344) for the most in club history, was supported by backups Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter (284 rushing yards, 2 TD, who posted 32 and 27 rushing yards, respectively, in the win. San Francisco’s two touchdowns against the Cardinals came through the air, with Smith (1976 passing yards, 13 TD, 4 INT) finding both wide receiver Kyle Williams (9 receptions, 2 TD) and tight end Vernon Davis (39 receptions, 5 TD) for scores. Williams had a career day with five catches for 54 yards, while Davis caught the 34th touchdown pass of his career to pass Brent Jones for the most by a San Francisco tight end. Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree (38 receptions, 1 TD) were both targeted 10 times on the day, with Crabtree logging game highs of seven catches and 120 yards. He averaged 17.1 yards per catch. Smith did have an interception, but the 49ers are still tied for the fewest turnovers in the league with nine.

The Ravens’ defense figures to match up well against the 49ers even if Lewis (68 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) can’t play. Baltimore is third in the league with just 17.6 points allowed per game and is holding opponents to 92.3 rushing yards per game, fifth-best in the league. The Ravens have also allowed the second-fewest 100-yard rushers (26) dating back to the 1999 season and produced a string of 39 straight games without allowing one from Dec. 17, 2006-Oct. 4, 2009. With Lewis out, fellow inside linebacker Jameel McClain (47 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) stepped up with a team high-tying nine tackles against the Bengals, matching safety Bernard Pollard (45 tackles, 2 sacks). Pollard also had one of Baltimore’s two sacks, with rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee notching the other, while safety Ed Reed (38 tackles, 1 sack, 3 INT), cornerback Lardarius Webb (51 tackles, 3 INT) and rookie corner Jimmy Smith (4 tackles, 1 INT) all had interceptions. Suggs (46 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 INT) will be looking to get in Smith’s face when the 49ers opt to pass, while defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (42 tackles, 3 sacks) will try to clog up Gore’s running lanes.

WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL

Running back Ray Rice (663 rushing yards, 51 receptions, 10 total TD) continues to be the Ravens’ top offensive weapon. He ran for 104 yards on 20 carries last Sunday, finding the end zone twice while adding another five receptions for 43 yards. Rice leads Baltimore in receptions this season and with 5,720 career yards from scrimmage, needs just 59 more to pass Derrick Mason for second on the club’s all-time list. Quarterback Joe Flacco (2576 passing yards, 12 TD, 8 INT) targeted Rice a team-high 10 times against Cincinnati, but it was rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith (29 receptions, 5 TD) who led the club with six catches for 165 yards. One of those grabs was a 38- yard score and he posted an incredible 27.5 average per catch, and he’s already set a Ravens rookie record for single-season receiving yards. Smith also leads the NFL with a 20.3 yards-per-catch average, while his total from last week was the best ever by a Baltimore rookie. No. 1 wideout Anquan Boldin (44 receptions, 3 TD) was limited to only one catch last Sunday, but it was a 35- yard touchdown, while tight end Ed Dickson (42 receptions, 3 TD) made a pair of grabs. Flacco ended with steady numbers of 17 completions and 270 yards, getting sacked once while throwing one pick.

San Francisco leads the NFL with a plus-17 turnover differential and padded that stat last week by forcing five turnovers against Arizona. The 49ers logged three interceptions while holding the Cardinals to 149 passing yards, with linebacker Patrick Willis (85 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) and safeties Dashon Goldson (45 tackles, 3 INT) and Donte Whitner (40 tackles, 2 INT) all recording picks. Willis also forced a fumble in addition to making a team- leading seven tackles, while Whitner recovered an Arizona miscue. Willis and fellow inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (95 tackles) will be tasked with keeping an eye on Rice and both are capable of the challenge, while corners Carlos Rogers (30 tackles, 5 INT) and Tarell Brown (29 tackles) will look to contain Torrey Smith from going deep. San Francisco ranks first in both points allowed (14.5 ppg) and rushing defense, yielding 73.9 yards per outing. Defensive lineman Justin Smith (35 tackles, 4.5 sacks) is the anchor of the Niners’ three-man front, which has helped San Francisco not allow a 100-yard rusher in 32 straight games. The 49ers have also yet to yield a rushing touchdown on the season.

KEYS TO THE GAME

The 49ers make their living on the ground, keeping the pressure off of Alex Smith. San Francisco got all three of its running backs work last week and will likely spread the workload out again to keep fresh legs going against the Ravens’ run defense.

Jim Harbaugh mentioned in his press conference the challenge of traveling to the East Coast, but the Niners have already picked up wins at Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Detroit and Washington this year. He has done a great job of getting San Francisco road ready, but the team will face its biggest travel adversity of this year this week.

The Ravens average just under 100 yards per game on the ground, but that doesn’t take away from Rice’s importance. The small back has six touchdowns in his past four games, though last week was just his third 100-yard rushing game. San Francisco certainly has the talent in Willis and Bowman to contain the playmaker, and this matchup is certainly the one to watch.

Prediction – Thanksgiving is traditionally about family, but Jim and John Harbaugh will certainly be putting their blood ties aside this Thursday. As the home team, the Ravens will certainly be favored, but the 49ers have been proving doubters wrong for eight straight games. However, the odds of San Francisco running the table from here on out is pretty slim and the club is due for a letdown. Baltimore’s defense is the best that the Niners have faced at this point and should offer the club a bit of a reality check. Ravens 20 49ers 16

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