“We play an old school style of football. We play a physical style of football. Stop the run, and then we get after you in the pass game and get pass rushers. That’s how you win football games. It’s won up front, really, with the offensive and defensive line, and really with us affecting quarterbacks. So, it’s no coincidence.”
Whitner is suggesting a return to 1990-era run-first approach by teams built from the inside out (offensive and defensive lines first and then the playmakers) is the way to do it now.
(Now my head is exploding).
This coming at a time the NFL is relying more on the passing game. This at a time wide receivers have become more precious commodities, quarterbacks must be great passers, and many running backs have become secondary players.
But the 49ers, with Frank Gore leading a running game that features quarterback Kaepernick as a primary threat, and the Ravens, with Ray Rice at running back, have ground games that, ahem, fly in the face of today’s pass-first offenses.
The 49ers boasted the NFL’s fourth-leading rushing attack in 2012. The Ravens had the No. 11 rushing attack, compared to their No. 15 pass ranking.
“It’s been really special to see what a lot of running backs have done this year,” Rice said. “ I think every running back came out with a chip on their shoulder this year because everybody was saying our value as a player on the field was going down.
“I’m satisfied where I’m at, but look at what Adrian Peterson did after knee surgery and his ACL. You look at what guys around the league are doing. Running backs are still very important to their teams.”
That doesn’t mean the passing game is not important in Baltimore and San Francisco. Both teams have invested heavily in being able to pass the ball efficiently.
The Ravens invested a first-round pick on quarterback Joe Flacco, a second-round pick for deep-threat Torrey Smith and traded for Anquan Boldin.
On defense the 49ers run a classic 3-4 front while the Ravens have actually gone to more of a 4-3 look. That suggests there is more than one way to succeed.
But regardless of the look, both show multiple fronts.
Both move players around so the offense cannot absolutely determine where key pass rushers such as Suggs and San Francisco’s Aldon Smith will line up.
“This year, we’re moving around a bunch and using two defensive ends quite a bit instead of just having the 3-4 with one big end and one small end,” Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata said. “It’s been more of a mix this year. Right now, it’s probably the hot thing to do, but once the offenses figure it out, the defenses will probably move back to the 4-3.”
Something both the Ravens and 49ers enjoy is good play from their safeties. They both get good production from their tight ends. They both have solid offensive lines although those were built in entirely different fashion.
So what does all this say about the Ravens and 49ers?
“It says the team with the most talent and best coaching usually survive and get here,” Baltimore receiver Torrey Smith said. “They’re very talented. I think we’re very talented. So it shouldn’t surprise people we’re here.”