The 49ers’ 33-19 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Levi’s Stadium was a Christmas meltdown.
But the reality check might be what San Francisco needed to get its wrinkles out before the NFC playoffs.
On the latest edition of “Hitner’s Hot Take,” NBC Sports Bay Area’s Donte Whitner explained how the 49ers' embarrassing defeat against the Ravens will pay off for San Francisco in the long run.
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“The 49ers' loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night is a blessing in disguise,” said Whitner. “[The loss] gave the 49ers' defense a chance to see Lamar Jackson first-hand, up close. And seeing the type of speed that [Jackson] plays with, [the loss] also gives Steve Wilks the opportunity to go back, analyze the film and craft a game plan on keeping [Jackson] in the pocket and individual players on tackling him in the open field.”
The 49ers and Ravens last met during the 2019 NFL season, when San Francisco lost 20-17 at M&T Bank Stadium.
The 49ers' poor Week 16 outcome also was just the second time the team has faced Jackson, certainly giving San Francisco a reminder of what the two-time NFL MVP is capable of.
Whitner also believes the 49ers’ loss to the Ravens will play a role in the teams’ potential Super Bowl matchup.
San Francisco 49ers
“This first look at the Baltimore Ravens also gave Kyle Shanahan an opportunity to check this Baltimore defense and figure out -- if they meet later -- who they’re going to attack,” Whitner emphasized. “Is it going to be Kyle Hamilton, the big nickel, 6-foot-4, 200-pound safety with versatility?
“For the 49ers' secondary, [the loss] gave them a chance to see -- if they see the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl -- how long they’re going to have to cover and latch onto receivers in the back end. We call that ‘plaster.’ ”
Whitner added that a certain 49ers star also had a much-needed first look at what the 12-3 Ravens offer, hopefully learning from the poor performance.
“The game also gave Brock Purdy an opportunity to get the turnovers out of his system,” Whitner shared. “This was the first time all season that we saw Brock Purdy flustered in the pocket. And that turned into four interceptions on the day. Two that were his fault and two that were tipped balls.”
Purdy finished 18-for-32 with 255 yards, four interceptions and a quarterback rating of 8.0 before leaving the game with a stinger.
Overall, Whitner remains optimistic about San Francisco, believing that its loss to Baltimore will pay off for the 49ers to come in the win-or-go-home playoffs.
“The biggest thing that the loss gave, in my opinion, was the 49ers individual players on offense and defense the opportunity to see the physicality which the Baltimore Ravens play with each and every play,” Whitner explained. “If you’re going to win a championship, you have to bully the bully, and the 49ers will be prepared the next time they face the Baltimore Ravens.”
In the standings, the 49ers and Ravens remain the two best teams. And no one would be surprised if the two teams met at Allegiant Stadium for the Super Bowl in February.