Ravens running game vs. 49ers rush defense

New offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has stuck to the run, and it has paid off in the playoffs. The <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="ORSPT000161" title="Baltimore Ravens" href="/topic/sports/football/baltimore-ravens-ORSPT000161.topic">Ravens</a> are averaging 39 yards more per game on the ground than they did in the regular season. Three-time Pro Bowler <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT0000086232" title="Ray Rice" href="/topic/sports/football/ray-rice-PESPT0000086232.topic">Ray Rice</a> (pictured) has been effective at times, but his rookie backup, <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT0014976" title="Bernard Pierce" href="/topic/sports/football/bernard-pierce-PESPT0014976.topic">Bernard Pierce</a>, has been huge during the playoff run, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. The key matchup could be fullback <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT000009015" title="Vonta Leach" href="/topic/sports/football/vonta-leach-PESPT000009015.topic">Vonta Leach</a> against the <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="ORSPT000057" title="San Francisco 49ers" href="/topic/sports/football/san-francisco-49ers-ORSPT000057.topic">49ers</a>' talented inside linebackers. Leach consistently won his matchups against them when the teams met last year.<br>
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Over the past two seasons, nobody has stopped the run better than the 49ers. They allowed the fourth fewest rushing yards per game this season and the fewest last year, surrendering just 85.7 rushing yards per contest during that span. A big reason for that is they boast the best inside linebacker duo in the <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="ORSPT000007" title="NFL" href="/topic/sports/football/nfl-ORSPT000007.topic">NFL</a>. <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT000009009" title="Patrick Willis" href="/topic/sports/football/patrick-willis-PESPT000009009.topic">Patrick Willis</a> is regarded as the best in the league at his position, yet he didn't even lead the 49ers in tackles. Fellow linebacker <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT0013339" title="NaVorro Bowman" href="/topic/sports/football/navorro-bowman-PESPT0013339.topic">NaVorro Bowman</a> (pictured) does with 183. <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT000008996" title="Justin Smith" href="/topic/sports/football/justin-smith-PESPT000008996.topic">Justin Smith</a> is also extremely tough to move inside.<br>
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<b>EDGE</b>: 49ers

( MCT and Getty photos )

New offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has stuck to the run, and it has paid off in the playoffs. The Ravens are averaging 39 yards more per game on the ground than they did in the regular season. Three-time Pro Bowler Ray Rice (pictured) has been effective at times, but his rookie backup, Bernard Pierce, has been huge during the playoff run, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. The key matchup could be fullback Vonta Leach against the 49ers' talented inside linebackers. Leach consistently won his matchups against them when the teams met last year.

Over the past two seasons, nobody has stopped the run better than the 49ers. They allowed the fourth fewest rushing yards per game this season and the fewest last year, surrendering just 85.7 rushing yards per contest during that span. A big reason for that is they boast the best inside linebacker duo in the NFL. Patrick Willis is regarded as the best in the league at his position, yet he didn't even lead the 49ers in tackles. Fellow linebacker NaVorro Bowman (pictured) does with 183. Justin Smith is also extremely tough to move inside.

EDGE: 49ers

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Jeff Zrebiec has been with The Sun since 2000 and covered the Orioles from 2005 through 2011. A New Jersey native, he was a 2001 graduate of Loyola University in Baltimore. He also has covered University of Maryland basketball and college lacrosse during his time with The Sun.

Aaron Wilson joined The Baltimore Sun in August 2012 after 11 years at the Carroll County Times. He's entering his 12th year on the Ravens' beat. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans. Wilson attended East Carolina University.

Mike Preston has been with The Baltimore Sun since 1983. Prior to becoming a columnist in 2000, he covered the Ravens for four years. Preston is a native of Essex and a graduate of Towson State University, where he played football.

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