Although the Baltimore Ravens feature one of the league’s premier running backs in Ray Rice, during Super Bowl XLVII they face the unenviable task of trying to gain yards on the ground against the San Francisco 49ers' top-ranked run defense.
They can hand the football off all they want, but the Ravens are not going to beat the 49ers on the ground.
How will Rice figure in the Ravens' game plan against the Niners? Look for the star running back to be a factor in the passing game.
Rice's 61 catches in 2012 were good enough for second place among NFL running backs during the regular season. And, as he proved in the “Check down, Hey Diddle Diddle, Ray Rice up the middle” miracle, fourth-and-29 play against the San Diego Chargers, Rice can be a matchup nightmare as a receiving option out of the backfield.
The 49ers play plenty of man coverage, with inside linebackers Patrick Willis often taking on the tight end and NaVorro Bowman keying on the running back.
Bowman is an elite linebacker with exceptional athleticism and sideline-to-sideline range, but we’re not sure any linebacker in the league is capable of keeping up with the elusive Rice once he gets the ball in space.
Rice can be effective on a simple checkdown pass, but one play that could lead to big chunks of yardage calls for QB Joe Flacco to execute a five-step drop and sprint forward into the pocket or at a 45-degree angle before hitting Rice with a pass in the middle of the field.
Watch the above video to see Flacco perform the Five-Step Drop with Sprint Pass, and see if you can sniff out the play when the Ravens offense takes the field on Super Bowl Sunday.