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Five keys to a Baltimore Ravens win

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Ray, Ray and some unleashed Flacco throws

Saturday, February 2, 2013 - 12:01 am

1. The bold-and-beautiful Flacco.

The Ravens need quarterback Joe Flacco to do what he has done so masterfully this postseason: Hit the deep ball and make the opposing secondary pay. Flacco has had an extra level to his passing game leading up to – and especially after – finding a way to steal a win at Denver. He doesn't have to throw a lot. In fact, a huge number of attempts will probably mean the Ravens' downfall. But he has to deliver the goods at exactly the right moment.

2. Rays of sunshine and doom

Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis (Have you heard this is his last game?) and running back Ray Rice needs to pace their respective sides of the ball. Lewis came under fire this week for performance-enhancing deer antler spray. (Bambi's family gone wild?) He has been criticized for his insistence on preaching with every interview. But there's no denying he's playing as well as ever. This week probably fuels his fire. The Ravens also need to utilize Rice and the running game to use clock and set up Flacco's deep ball.

3. The calm of the older Harbaugh

John Harbaugh knows ways to get under his younger brother's skin, and experience has to count for something. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh has made some great moves, but he's still only in his second NFL coaching season. John just seems a little more under control, a little more composed under pressure. That extends to his team, especially his offense.

4. Foiling sneaky Colin Kaepernick's moves

There's no doubt Kaepernick and his ability to run the 49ers offense – literally, to run and run – make him dangerous. He throws a great football, too. The Ravens defense needs to make this a game where their veteran savvy, up front and at linebacker, comes through. Baltimore was built on defense. Lewis has been the central focus point of that defense. They've studied enough of Kaepernick to have a feel for what he can do. The sooner they stuff him – get some hits on him, since he's been virtually untouched in the postseason – the better their chances. Maybe they need to blitz Bernard Pollard on him.

5. Red-zone toughness

Say the Ravens can't slow Kaepernick entirely (a valid supposition). Suppose he moves the ball rapidly between the 20s. Then they have to clamp down and force field goals. The Ravens must own the red zone. They have allowed touchdowns in just 40 percent of their opponents' red-zone appearances. That stinginess is an absolute must. A field goal can be defeating to an offense, and it's important to put a bit of failure in Kaepernick's mind. He hasn't faced much lately.