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September 19, 2014

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What to watch for on Super Bowl Sunday

Image

Associated Press

San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers, right, reacts with holder Andy Lee after missing a 33-yard field goal during overtime of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in San Francisco on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012.

NEW ORLEANS — Here’s what we’ll keep our eyes on during the Super Bowl Sunday:

THE NINERS’ STRUGGLING KICKER

David Akers has had an absolutely horrible season. His .690 field goal percentage was the second worst in the league. He converted just seven of 13 attempts from 40-49 yards. He bounced a 38-yard attempt off the left upright in the NFC Championship Game. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh no doubt is hoping he doesn’t have to rely on Akers much on Sunday.

SEE KAEP RUN (OR NOT)

The Ravens are 0-2 this season against mobile quarterbacks, losing to Michael Vick and the Eagles and RGIII and the Redskins. Colin Kaepernick, who ran for 181 yards in the Niners’ divisional-round win over the Packers, had just two carries in the NFC title game against the Falcons. But the threat of him running opened creases for Niners running backs Frank Gore and LaMichael James, who combined for 124 yards and three touchdowns.

JOE’S VERTICALITY

Joe Flacco has the strongest arm in the league and the Ravens have let him use it in the playoffs. He attempted just 92 passes that traveled 20 or more yards in the air in the regular season, completing 25. But he’s 12-for-24 on 20-plus yard passes in the playoffs. The 49ers, though, are tough to throw deep against. They’ve given up just 38 completions of 20-plus yards, the third fewest in the league.

RED-ZONE BATTLE

The Ravens finished 11th in the league in red-zone offense in the regular season, converting 57.1 percent of their trips inside the 20 into touchdowns. They have been even hotter inside the 20 in the playoffs, converting eight of their last eight red-zone trips into touchdowns. The 49ers were 28th in the league in red-zone defense percentage, but allowed the fewest red-zone opportunities.

RAY’S LAST RIDE

Sunday will be the final game of Ray Lewis’ career. The 37-year-old linebacker is retiring. After missing the final 10 games of the regular season with a torn triceps, Lewis returned for the playoffs and leads the team in postseason tackles. He has spent much of Super Bowl week answering questions about whether he used an illegal performance-enhancing drug to speed his recovery from the injury.

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