Ed Reed's Desperation Dive Shifted Super Bowl to Ravens
The 49ers looked in control in the open field as Colin Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree and he broke away from Corey Graham before 37-year-old Ray Lewis clung on for dear life at the Ravens 40. On the next play Frank Gore broke free for another 33 yards before 34-year-old Ed Reed dove to slow him down just enough for Dannell Ellerbe to push him out at the seven. And with Reed’s dive, it was the Ravens game to lose.
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To the average fan, it seemed like the 49ers game to lose. Certainly a team that just got 27 and 33 yards on two plays could get another seven yards in four plays to win 36-34.
However, once in the Red Zone, the advantage all shifted to the big, experienced Ravens defense. In the open field, the Ravens were no match for Kaepernick. However, with only 17 yards from the line of scrimmage to the back of the end zone to defend, San Francisco’s offense suddenly became average and the Ravens defense became elite.
Normally NFL teams score touchdowns on 53.7% of red zone possessions this year.
However, San Francisco’s offense goes from dominant to barely above average once in the Red Zone, scoring touchdowns only 1.0% above average at 54.7% of all red zone drives. The Ravens defense holds teams to 10.8% below average in the closed quarters of the red zone, at 42.9%. Only the Dolphins are better on red zone stands.
Put the two together, and statistically the 49ers had only a 43.9% of scoring once Reed was able to slow down Gore for the stop at the seven yardline.
If the roles had been reversed, the Ravens would have been much more likely to punch it in. The Ravens were also the fifth best offense in the red zone, and the 49ers were the 6th worst red zone defense, meaning the Ravens would have had a 66.8% chance to score in the red zone verses the 49ers.
Lewis clinging to Crabtree on the play before Reed dove for Gore to set up the red zone stop – score one for the old guys.