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Ravens Look To Shut Down 49ers’ Pistol Read Option

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By Samuel Njoku

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 09: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers drops back to pass against the Miami Dolphins in the first quarter at Candlestick Park on December 9, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Credit, Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Ravens continue preparations for their huge showdown against the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.  As the countdown continues to gameday, the focus has shifted from sibling rivalries to gameplans for the opposing teams. Baltimore’s biggest challenge rests with stopping the highly touted pistol formation that the 49ers have run to perfection in 2012. The Ravens will seek to shut it down in the Super Bowl.

“I think [the pistol read option] will have staying power in the league,” stated John Harbaugh on Wednesday. “The beauty of it is and part of the genius of it is it’s such a simple idea. It goes back to Nevada and Coach Ault out there. You can run your whole offense on it. You aren’t limited to an option type attack out of it. Not just the entire run game but the entire pass game as well. The backs get position to protect. You can run all your drop back stuff, you can run power run game inside and outside, and you can run read option, triple option. So it’s just a very versatile type offense and it forces you to defend a lot of different elements of the offensive attack.”

The biggest element of the offensive attack is Colin Kaepernick, who holds a skill set that is tailor-made for this offense. The pistol read option isn’t a brand new style of offense as Harbaugh pointed out. It’s been used in college football for years. The knock on the read option is that NFL players are too big and fast to run the read option effectively. Time will tell if that opinion holds true as Baltimore fields one of the best defenders in the NFL. But even Terrell Suggs realizes how effective the read option can truly be.

“We just know it’s a problem and too many teams haven’t had success in stopping it, Suggs stated. “We get the ultimate test on the ultimate stage. They’ve been a team that’s been primarily known for their defense; they took the challenge. That’s a stress with the guys over there also. It’s going to be interesting and we’re going to have a lot of fun playing this game.”

The Ravens will use QB Dennis Dixon a great deal in practice. He’ll simulate what Colin Kaepernick is able to do on the field. The key for the Ravens in this game is patience; something that Haloti Ngata reiterated to reporters this week.

“We definitely have to be patient,” Ngata said.  “We have to make sure that if you have a dive, you take the dive.  If you have the quarterback, you take the quarterback.  We’ve got to be careful and make sure that we communicate and get a stop.  Our guys up front have to beat their blocks because they do very well with double teams.  Once we get to the running back, we have to bring him down.”

Ngata and the rest of the defensive staff speak from experience. The Ravens went up against another dual threat phenomenon in RGIII. The Ravens hope to draw as much information they can from the previous game in order to avoid making similar mistakes.

“When we played Washington with RG III (Redskins QB Robert Griffin III), they hit us in the beginning of the game with a bunch of read option and pistol formation plays,” Ngata continued.  “We had to adjust, and once we did, we did better. Hopefully, it doesn’t take us too long to adjust (on Sunday), and hopefully the things that we’ve been practicing will work.  We can’t hesitate, and they’ve been successful getting a lot of teams to hesitate and guess. Communication is key. You have to understand what you’re doing.”

The Ravens seem to have the blueprint down to successfully defend the read option. With the stakes as high as it gets, Baltimore hopes to ground this high flying offensive attack.

For more Super Bowl content and the latest Ravens news, see CBS Sports Baltimore

Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.

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