Ravens’ Reed the prototype FS for pass-first NFL

Published 11:45 pm Friday, February 1, 2013

If you’re like me and you like seeing consistent greatness rewarded, then you may well be pulling for Ed Reed to get his first Super Bowl ring this Sunday.
Reed, for my money, is the best safety I’ve seen play in my years as an NFL fan (granted, I began following the NFL in the 90’s … so you Ronnie Lott fans can simmer down). I didn’t have the fortune of covering him at Destrehan, but I know every time Reed takes the field on Sunday, he’s a threat to take it to the house.
For a defensive player, that’s not all that common. Yet for Reed, it almost seems like habit. He’s scored 13 touchdowns on returns in his career and he’s done it in a variety of different ways: interceptions, fumbles, blocked kicks, kickoffs … if Reed is on the field and the ball is live, you can bet he’ll either find it himself or convince a teammate to lateral the ball his way.
Usually, they’re wise to.
Ray Lewis gets most of the pub for the Ravens, and he certainly deserves attention for the accolades he’s racked up throughout his career. Yet for my money, Reed’s been the team’s defensive MVP over the Ravens’ most recent seasons. A defensive back with Reed’s ball skills is almost impossible to find, and in today’s pass-heavy NFL it’s among the very most valuable traits a defensive player can have.
In a league where turnover ratio correlates to wins and losses more than any other stat, Reed has intercepted 61 passes. He’s forced 11 fumbles and recovered 13 more. Quarterbacks don’t like to throw his way; as many plays as Reed has made, the ones that he’s stopped opposing quarterbacks from even attempting to make are also numerous.
Even if Ed wins himself a ring this Sunday, the 34 says he’s not ready to retire. He’s also a free agent.
Given that, maybe he’d be a nice fit for a certain local team searching for a defensive playmaker. Just sayin.
Having said all of the above … my official pick isn’t the Ravens.
I just don’t think the 49ers are a good matchup at all for Baltimore, even as I fully acknowledge that this Ravens team in no way, shape or form resembles the one that played most of the second half of the regular season.
In short, the Ravens’ offense is charged on the power running game and deep play-action pass … things the 49ers are absolutely built to crush. The Niners philosophy is to play plenty of coverage, make you work down the field, and all the while dare their playmakers to, well, not make a play and take it away.
They also hit the you-know what out of you the entire way. And their run defense is as good as there is.
The last time the Harbaugh Bros. faced off was last Thanksgiving. The Ravens won a close one, but both defenses stymied the opposing offenses that day. While I think both offenses are better this season, I think the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick present an entirely different set of problems for Baltimore than they did that day, while Baltimore’s offense runs upon the same principals.
The Raven defense may keep it interesting, but I suspect a relatively comfortable 49er victory.
The Pick: 49ers 27, Ravens 16