1. Colin Kaepernick: All we hear about is how the 25-year-old quarterback busted onto the scene in the playoffs when he exploded against Green Bay with 181 rushing yards then led the 49ers from a 17-0 deficit to win the NFC Championship game.
But Kap has been performing at a high level ever since he got his first start on Nov. 19, which was enough to keep the starting job over Alex Smith. And he doesn't need to run to succeed against the best. He showed that in a road win over the Patriots in December when he became the first 49ers QB to throw for four touchdowns in a game since Jeff Garcia in 2003.
2. Ohhhh-line: The five men in the trenches have played every game together this season and are recognized by many as the top offensive line in the NFL. Joe Staley, Mike Iupati and Jonathan Goodwin are All-Pros. Staley, Iupati and Anthony Davis are former first round draft picks. Throw in 6-8, 300-pounder Alex Boone, who combines speed and power, and it's no wonder the 49ers have averaged 5.1 yards per carry during the regular season and 6.6 in the postseason.
3. Inside edition: It's a daunting duo of inside linebackers in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman that give opposing offenses fits. The duo doesn't just stop running backs they can cover the top receivers in the game. Bowman, a former star at Penn State, broke up a fourth-down pass intended for Roddy White late in the fourth quarter against the Falcons to send the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
Willis has been All-Pro all six of his seasons. He's piled up at least 100 tackles in five of his first six seasons. The time he was below 100, he missed three games with an injury. He's also registered 17.5 career sacks with seven interceptions, two returned for touchdowns.
4. The Smith brothers: They aren't brothers on the 49ers defensive line, but outside linebacker Aldon Smith and tackle Justin Smith are dominant together. When Justin missed two and a half games with an injury, opponents piled up 79 points in eight quarters. Before the injury, Aldon was on pace to shatter the NFL record for sacks in a season with 19.5 through 13 games; he went sackless in the time Justin was out.
The Niners defense is fourth in the NFL allowing 94.2 rush yards per game and only three running backs –Ahmed Bradshaw (116), Marshawn Lynch (twice, 103 and 111) and Steven Jackson (101) – went over 100 yards. They kept Adrian Peterson (86) and Matt Forte (63) in check.
5. Flacco is due to falter: His production this postseason has been in another galaxy. His numbers from previous playoff years were those of an average Joe. With stats like a touchdown-interception ratio of 8-0 in 2012 as opposed to 8-8 from 2008-11 and a quarterback rating of 114.7 in 2012 compared to a 70.4 from 2008-11, it will be hard for the Ravens QB to keep up those numbers.
Dave Rosengrant, a sports writer at The Times Leader, is a lifelong 49ers fan. He grew up watching Joe Montana lead San Francisco to four Super Bowls wins and recalls all five of Steve Young's TD passes in Super Bowl XXIX like it was yesterday. He also has a plethora of team memorabilia, which brings good luck on game days.