POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Feb 03, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 04:35 a.m. HST, Feb 03, 2013
NEW ORLEANS » Colin Kaepernick is a mystery man under center, a strong-armed passer one moment and a 25-year-old kid who can run right out of the pocket for a huge gain the next.
Baltimore must brace for the unexpected on every snap today.
There's flashy Michael Crabtree on the edges and Vernon Davis down the middle, Frank Gore and LaMichael James clogging things up in the running game.
The creative, switch-it-up San Francisco offense sure keeps opposing defenses guessing. The 49ers hope to do it again when the Ravens will face an array of looks from Jim Harbaugh's team.
Kaepernick has shown two drastically different styles in two postseason games. What he'll show the Ravens is anybody's guess.
In a 45-31 rout of the Packers in the divisional round, Kaepernick ran for a quarterback playoff record 181 yards and two touchdowns and also threw for 263 yards with two TD passes to Crabtree.
A week later at Atlanta, Kaepernick only ran the ball twice, instead handing off to Gore, and the 49ers rallied from a 17-0 deficit for the biggest comeback in an NFC championship game, 28-24, that sent San Francisco to its first Super Bowl in 18 years.
"He's very good, he's very accurate," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said of Kaepernick. "They've done a great job with putting him into a system and building a system to make him successful, but to be able to throw the ball deep you have to have guys that can run deep. Crabtree and Vernon Davis and Randy Moss can run deep."
And Gore can grind out yards. Gore, coming off his franchise-record sixth 1,000-yard rushing season, has three touchdowns and 209 yards rushing during this postseason run.
A balanced offense, indeed.
"There's a lot," Crabtree said. "I could go on talking about the talent that we have around here. On the tight ends, running backs, you have to remember we have three people injured that played a major part in our offense. But I would say that with all of these weapons, I don't think that you can go wrong."
San Francisco's offensive line, though, will have to do a better job than in a 16-6 loss at Baltimore on Thanksgiving night 2011, when the unit allowed the Ravens to match a franchise record with nine sacks.
"We've seen enough film to kind of know what to expect, unless they come up with something different," center Jonathan Goodwin said. "But definitely a talented group up front, and that's what makes them a good defense. They try to do some things to confuse you."
If Crabtree and Kaepernick can pull off another outstanding outing in the game of their lives, they'll take the podium together again.
The current 49ers are fully aware of the history, most notably a perfect Super Bowl record (5-0) that they must protect.
"This is incredible, man," Davis said. "Just being a part of this franchise is legendary -- Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Steve Young -- and to be able to bring a ring back, that's something that you can cherish for the rest of your life."
PREDICTION: 49ers 31, Ravens 27.