NEW ORLEANS -- During the regular season, each NFL organization relies on its pro scouting department to compile advance scouting reports on upcoming opponents. Most teams have a pro scouting staff of about three to four people who share the advance scouting duties. A typical advance report requires two weeks of preparation, which includes an incredible amount of film study and a trip to watch the opponent play the week prior to the scheduled game.
As a young scout in Baltimore, I was assigned to handle the special teams portion of the advance report. This involved countless hours of charting where every player lined up on every special teams snap, as well as the distance, location and hang time of every kick. I would then write up a summary on each core special teams player and rank them from best to worst. This was a very minor part of the advance report. The pro scout handling the rest of the report would work insane hours in order to have each detail covered before handing it over to the coaching staff.
One of the sections in the advance report would contain "alerts." This was a way for the pro scout to offer up his opinion on a potential game plan. The purpose of this section wasn't to try and do the coaches' job, but to simply offer up a few broad ideas that could steer the coaching staff in the right direction.
The pro scouts for the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens turned in their advance reports quickly following the completion of the conference championship games. I don't have any knowledge of what those reports contain, but I do have my own opinion on an "alert" for each squad.
Keep the ball in front of you and don't give up the big play to Torrey Smith or Jacoby Jones.
The Ravens' passing game relies on chunk yardage. During this playoff run, Joe Flacco has connected on 15 passes of 20-plus yards and five passes of 40-plus. Over the past decade, only Aaron Rodgers (21 in 2010) and Jake Delhomme (17 in 2003) have connected on more passes of 20-plus yards in one postseason. Smith and Jones both possess explosive speed on the outside and they are also capable of out-jumping opposing defenders when the ball is in the air.
The 49ers' defense is one of the best tackling units I've ever studied. San Francisco defenders rarely miss open-field tackles and they excel at limiting yards after the catch. However, there have been too many instances where they've allowed the ball to sail over their heads in coverage. That simply cannot happen in this game.
Don't let Colin Kaepernick win this game with his legs.
The 49ers' offense is a bear to defend. Since Kaepernick took over as starting quarterback, the unit has become extremely diverse and explosive. The Ravens' defense is in a pick-your-poison type of situation. After watching tape on the 49ers, I would choose to take away Kaepernick as a runner.
I know the 49ers beat the Falcons, but I thought Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan employed the correct strategy in the NFC title game. Let Frank Gore pile up singles and doubles and hope that you can create a turnover over the course of a long drive. The Packers didn't account for Kaepernick in the running game and he hit several triples and home runs. That's a quick death.
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