With this new found identity on offense, the Niners have been a conundrum for opposing teams. Not only do the 49ers ask you to beat them physically, but they demand that you match them mentally. In this climactic battle of titans, I expect the 49ers to pull out all the stops.
1. Multiple Formations
The 49ers have one of the more creative offensive staffs in the league and it shows through the versatile sets and play calling. San Francisco has one of the more extensive playbooks in the NFL and have virtually no limitations on ways they can attack opponents.
The Ravens should see a multitude of a formations and sets that dictate a change in personnel. By doing this, the 49ers may also be able to identify and expose mismatches.
#Filmstudy Niners: Wow, what a study. I am overwhelmed by the dimensions of the Niners run game & skill of the players. Lots to share— Trent Dilfer (@TDESPN) January 18, 2013
2. Special Teams Tricks
The Niners have had a few effective special teams plays since Jim Harbaugh brought in Brad Seeley in 2011. The Niners executed a fake field goal that resulted in a Michael Crabtree receiving TD. They had a successful surprise onside kick against the Giants last year. Dashon Goldson even took a direct snap on a fake punt to convert a 4th and long this year.
I wouldn't put it past Seeley and this special teams unit to have something up their sleeve.
3. 4th Down Conversions
Greg Roman and Jim Harbaugh have been bold on the offensive side of the ball, showing they are not afraid to line up on 4th down. On some occasions they try to draw the defense offside with the hard count, and on others, they look to pound it with the jumbo formations.
The Ravens are tough up front, but isolated runs where the Niners employ double-teams for short yardage could be effective. Let's not forget about play-action and the read-option as well; both of which have been extremely potent methods of attack for San Francisco.
4. General Trick Plays
It would not be surprising to see either of these coaches employ some trickery to get an advantage on the other. The Harbaughs are throwback coaches who spent quite a bit of time at the college level. Jim, more than John, has brought with him some collegian-style dimensions to the pros.
With the way the 49ers utilize sleight of hand, I could see a classic trick play making it's way into the game plan. With the speed, misdirection and dynamism from the 49ers backfield, I'd be hard pressed to rule out the Statue of Liberty play. With LaMichael James' explosiveness and Kaepernick's ability to sell the fake, this could be an effective red-zone play.
#Filmstudy Niners: BE ALERT for "deception plays" from Pistol on Sunday!!! So many clean looks for trick plays & mis direction. Scary for D— Trent Dilfer (@TDESPN) January 18, 2013
The 49ers have played things close to the chest before in order to give themselves a strategic advantage in future contests. They also have the arsenal and offensive ingenuity to get the upper-hand on their opponent in a number of different ways. The depth on the roster partnered with this experienced and daring coaching staff has proven to be a winning combination.
On their best days, they have an uncompromisable "play to win" mentality.
And when it's all said and done, all of this leads to the 49ers being as competitive as possible in the last game of the year.