Coming into Sunday's battle in Baltimore, the Ravens had the best rushing offense in the NFL. That still is true, but the 49ers actually held the Ravens in check, despite losing 20-17.
The Ravens, who average well over 200 rushing yards per game, ended with 178 on 38 carries. San Francisco's defense allowed only 4.7 yards per carry while its own offense had 174 yards rushing on 29 carries, good for a 6-yard average.
But quarterback Lamar Jackson did gain 101 yards rushing on 16 carries and scored once on the ground. Jackson only had 105 passing yards, but the threat of he or running back Mark Ingram carrying the ball still hurt the 49ers.
Jackson was significantly better passing with play-action Sunday as opposed to no play action, and his wide receivers gained much more separation against the 49ers' vaunted defense.
Lamar Jackson relied on play action to create separation for his receivers downfield (season-high 58% of attempts).— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 1, 2019
Play Action: 4.2 yds avg target separation
No Play Action: 1.8 yds avg target separation#SFvsBAL | @Lj_era8 | #RavensFlock pic.twitter.com/mKQHjbhaT1
Baltimore's only touchdown through the air came off play action, with Jackson hitting tight end Mark Andrews to tie it up 7-7 in the first quarter.
Any run-action from Jackson will keep a defense on its toes. The 49ers won't face another dual-threat QB until their rematch with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, who they also lost to earlier in the year, when San Francisco goes to Seattle for the regular-season finale.
But if the 49ers do face the Ravens in the Super Bowl as they hope, there will be plenty to digest from the film, especially with defending play action.