With each wild-legged scramble and noticeably emotive biceps flex, the San Francisco 49ers took the lead in the weekly race of Most Likely to Win The Super Bowl.
Almost odd, in a way, the 49ers find themselves knocking down the door of a record-tying sixth Super Bowl championship with an inexperienced quarterback, considering their previous five championships (and nearly every championship ever won in the NFL) came with a quarterback who started the entire year.
Colin Kaepernick is the talk of the NFL playoffs, with his hugely muscular arms but small hands and his massively powerful thighs but skinny calves, he doesn't look the prototype part as Joe Montana and Steve Young, winners of the first four and the last Lombardi Trophy, respectively, in San Francisco.
But Kaepernick steamed his way through a different path to the NFC Championship game, taking the defense and ground-assaulting 49ers along with him. The pistol offense (as discussed here between SB Nation's Ryan Van Bibber and NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden) is so terribly UN-Montana, maybe it's just crazy enough to work this weekend when the favored 49ers take on the NFC's top seed, the Atlanta Falcons.
Despite the objections of Aaron Rodgers - who was pistol-whipped by Kaepernick's 49ers in the NFC Divisional round - the read-option in concert with the pistol offense is getting production from quarterbacks who don't fit that rhythmic, timing-based passer the 49ers won so many titles with in the 1980s and mid-90s.
The heavily-tattooed and lightning-fast Kaepernick isn't even close to the kind of passers Montana and Young were, and for all of Young's Hall of Fame-worthy scrambling highlights, he never ran wild the way Kaepernick did in his first NFL Playoffs start.
Much of that can be attributed to a Packers defensive game plan that honestly looked more like they expected Kaepernick to throw 60 or more times, but Kaepernick's brutally aggressive style of play dictated the flow of the game; not so much that he wanted to win it as much as he wanted to advance upon it and conquer it.
He should feel confident leading his armored division of heavy artillery into battle. The 49ers possess arguably the best-coached defensive team in the league, and while Atlanta shredded the defense-heavy Seahawks in the divisional round, they fell victim to the read-option shenanigans of fellow first-playoff-starter Russell Wilson, who led Seattle within a missed field goal from the biggest playoff comeback win of all time.
The overall balance the 49ers are able to achieve with Kaepernick, as opposed to the athletically adverse Alex Smith, gives San Francisco an outstanding chance of catching the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins of all time.