SANTA CLARA -- Atlanta probably doesn't know what's coming, and that's exactly the way Greg Roman loves it and planned it.

That's essentially the 49ers' Roman Offense in a perfect, pressure-packed NFC Championship Week nutshell.

You try to figure out what Roman and Jim Harbaugh are going to do, and meanwhile they're busy plotting out something entirely different.

Just ask the Green Bay Packers, who were so thoroughly blindsided by Colin Kaepernick's quarterback keepers last weekend that he broke records and the Packers choked on fumes.

"Our ace card," Roman said afterward.

Next up: The 49ers travel to Atlanta for the NFC title game on Sunday, when Roman and Harbaugh might opt to keep running Kaepernick, go power-run with Frank Gore, throw it deep or try a big mix of everything.

Greg Roman, 49ers Offensive Coordinator, speaks to the media during a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara,
Greg Roman, 49ers Offensive Coordinator, speaks to the media during a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif. as they prepare for the NFC Championship game. The 49ers will play the New York Giants on Sunday. (Gary Reyes/ Staff)

That's the beauty of having a QB as talented as Kaepernick, of course. Which is why Roman laughed when I asked him if he likes to see Kaepernick get into a running groove.

"Yes, I love when he's galloping down the field behind the defense," Roman said. "That's nice."

But it's also a credit to Roman, who reworked the 49ers offense on the fly once Kaepernick took the job from Alex Smith in November, then adjusted it a couple of more times, and probably is readjusting it again right now.

I asked guard Alex Boone on Tuesday what, exactly, Roman brings to this offense, and Boone's answer was immediate.

"Amazingness?" Boone said, realizing he just made up a word.

After Saturday's game, Roman said the 49ers coaches realized the offense had slowed down in the last few weeks of the regular season, so they decided to get Kaepernick running the read-option against Green Bay (after Kaepernick ran only three times in the season finale).

That doesn't mean the 49ers will stick to that game plan Sunday, or in the Super Bowl, if they get that far.

But it showcases the versatility, the adaptability and the unique strengths of a Greg Roman Offense (which is how Harbaugh himself describes it) and a coordinator with such a varied background.

"For me, the thing that's just drastically different is he's coached in the O-line room, he's coached the quarterbacks," Alex Smith said of Roman -- the seventh coordinator of Smith's 49ers career.

"You don't find many guys that are that well-versed in run game, pass game, defenses. Most guys have their niche, you know? A coordinator is either a pass-game guy or he's a run-game guy.

"Not many I've ever known have coached the defensive side of the ball for that long, played defense. For him, it's just such a wealth of knowledge."

And that's the inherent value Roman brings to Harbaugh's staff. If Roman leaves for a head-coaching job, I'm sure Harbaugh will have plenty of intriguing in-house or outside replacement options.

But will Harbaugh's next OC have Roman's breadth of experience, his canniness and -- perhaps most important -- the brainpower and personality to thrive and command in Harbaugh's atmosphere of creative tension?

"The thing I've learned, it doesn't matter if I have a worry," Roman said when asked about his game-time thinking.

"And if you can get over that, you have a chance. It's all about moving forward, finding a way."

Roman was a defensive lineman at John Carroll University, got his first coaching job on the defensive side with the Carolina Panthers, has been an offensive line coach, a QBs coach, a tight ends coach ...

Finally, Roman landed with Harbaugh's Stanford team in 2009 as the run game coordinator. Once he arrived, Stanford started running Toby Gerhart constantly, and that has become the Harbaugh/Roman hallmark.

First, they will run. And everything else spins off that offensive physicality.

Which brings Roman far more in tune with the men on the trenches than most offensive coordinators ever get.

"Oh yeah, and we love that," Boone said. "Normally offensive coordinators don't get involved with the offensive line. They're more with the skill guys ...

"We always have last-minute reminders with him ... he's so dialed in with the entire offense, it's unbelievable."

Oh, by the way, Roman and Harbaugh have in quick succession developed Andrew Luck, revived Alex Smith and now unleashed Kaepernick on the world.

That's the kind of track record that could and should get an OC many looks for head-coaching opportunities in the NFL or college.

Interestingly, Roman's John Carroll roommate David Caldwell just was hired as the Jacksonville general manager and has a coaching vacancy.

"Obviously that's all speculation," Smith said of Roman's head-coaching chances, "but I think for the same reasons he's a great offensive coordinator, he'd be a great head coach. I do."

But until then, Roman is all about the 49ers, the next game, and figuring out ways to score points on the Falcons.

There are a lot of ways Sunday's game could go -- some great for the 49ers, some not; and you know that Roman has plotted them all, adjusted, reworked, realigned and identified all the aces in his hand.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.