On offense, everything revolves around Colin Kaepernick and his ability to use both his arms and his legs to cause a threat, and how that takes off the focus off Vernon Davis in the middle of the field and even the running backs, including Frank Gore, while Patrick Willis will need to bring his usual dominating self one last time this season.
Limited Receiving Crew – The San Francisco 49ers do have more receiving options than they did last year, but eventually, it mostly falls on the hands and shoulders of Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Davis was hardly used by Kaepernick until the NFC title game, averaging a catch per game.
Against the Falcons, the read option and the fear of Kaepernick taking off led to Davis enjoying more freedom and looks than before, catching five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. Crabtree simply continues to be Kaepernick’s go to guy when he thinks about going outside the numbers or the vertical option. He has 15 receptions, 176 yards and two touchdowns in the postseason.
The Running Game – Very obvious. The Pistol offense is mostly about allowing guys to run. The San Francisco 49ers have what is probably the best offensive line in the NFL, and use blocking schemes that sometimes use a sixth and seventh offensive lineman. The versatility and options it what makes them so dangerous – After Kaepernick ran for mostly untouched 181 yards against the Packers, he took off only twice (for 21 yards) in the Georgia Dome, while Frank Gore and a fresh and fast LaMichael James did most of the damage, running for 141 yards.
Linebackers Dominating – The Baltimore Ravens did an fantastic job by blocking the Patriots’ linebackers from having any kind of effect on the game in the AFC Championship game. With safeties that often bite a bit too much on play-action plays, the roles of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, possibly the best linebacker duo in the NFL, is greater than usual, making sure the Ray Rice play-action package, not to mention the battering ram that is Vonta Leach, doesn’t open up too many holes in what is usually one of the best defensive units in the NFL.