The defense of the San Francisco 49ers will undergo its toughest challenge Sunday when they take on the surging Baltimore Ravens. One of the main reasons why the Ravens have had so much success this season is because of the elite performance from quarterback Lamar Jackson. He has been playing like a mad man which is why he is in the MVP conversation. 

The offensive system that the Ravens have built around Jackson has his abilities fully optimized. Baltimore runs the ball effectively well with Mark Ingram and Jackson, which then sets up the zone-read. The zone-read has knocked defenses on their heels over and over because it’s difficult to tell who actually has the ball. That is why Robert Saleh is preaching to his defense “don’t chase ghosts” in preparation for the Ravens on Sunday.

“Everyone’s just got to be disciplined, clean with their eyes and go play football and just play sound football. Don’t chase ghosts, just play sound football and just rally to the ball.”

So many defenses have bitten on the fakes and have allowed either Ingram or Jackson to rip off a massive gainer. It isn’t just the threat of one of them taking off with the ball. Jackson can easily pop up or roll out to gash the defense on a seam or cross play. The Ravens offense isn’t far off from the 49ers. 

Greg Roman, the Ravens’ offensive coordinator, loves to attack defenses with variety. That is exactly how Kyle Shanahan operates his offense. To attack using different styles every time to keep defenses confused and guessing. Only except the offense of the Ravens might be more of a challenge. They can attack either using finesse and/or aggressive power. 

It is thanks in part to the way Ingram runs in a power style offense. The same goes with their tight ends who do a great job being aggressive at the point of attack with their blocks. It creates issues for a defense that could cause them to overthink their play-calling and formations.

“That’s a lot of the challenge is that they are a downhill, power running football team. Then you implement the read-zone stuff that is kind of designed to spread you out and do all that stuff. He’s got a good system going, so it’s going to be a good challenge. They’re a physical bunch. We’ve got to bring it to them.”

The 49ers are just gonna have to play smart and sound football. It’s what Saleh is preaching to his defense. “Don’t chase ghosts.”, react instinctively and don’t get dominated. Sounds much easier said than done, but if there is any defense out there that can slow down the Ravens’ offense it is the 49ers.