By: Danny Cox
After defeating the Seattle Seahawks thanks to a late field goal, the Atlanta Falcons weren’t necessarily thrilled with how they achieved their victory. Leading 20-0 at halftime, the Falcons seemed to have the game in the bag, but then had to scurry, scrape, and fight to advance to the NFC Championship game.
One fault that the Falcons have had during their miraculous 13-3 season is that they seem to sit back on their heels once they’ve built a good lead. The problem there is that this isn’t the regular season, it’s the playoffs. Only teams that are supposed to be here, are here, and playing only 30 minutes won’t amount to a win against the San Francisco 49ers.
That especially holds true after seeing what 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did last week against the Green Bay Packers.
The young stud leader for the 49ers went out and threw a great game in which he amassed 263 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Making things even better is that he set an NFL record for single-game rushing yards by a quarterback with 181.
Combine the running skills of Kaepernick with those of running back Frank Gore, and it is no surprise that San Francisco has the fourth best rushing game in the entire NFL. Gore had 1214 yards on the ground during the 2012 season and eight rushing touchdowns.
Kaepernick finished the season with 415 yards on the ground, and that’s only after coming in midway through the season in relief of Alex Smith.
San Francisco isn’t just all about running the ball though. The team may have the 23rd ranked passing offense in the league, but the weapons are there to make them dangerous through the air. Wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss combine with tight end Vernon Davis to give Kaepernick plenty of options when he drops back to pass.
Having to guard against that many viable options in the passing game will be a problem for Atlanta simply due to the fact that Kaepernick has the option game in his pocket. If some injuries don’t heal on the Falcons’ defensive line, then it is going to be a long day in Atlanta.
Speaking of that side of the ball though, the defense of the San Francisco 49ers may be even scarier for the Falcons. The overall number four unit in the entire NFL is something that the team from the bay prides themselves on and it is going to put Matt Ryan to the test like no other has yet this season.
The most frightening thing is that defensive end Justin Smith and linebacker Patrick Willis are healthy and will be in the line-up for the 49ers. Two of the most dominating defensive players in the entire league will be in the front eight for San Francisco and coming after Matt Ryan.
Ryan will also be throwing against a secondary that includes Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner. That right there is reason to be cautious when dropping back to pass against the 49ers, but there’s more. Let’s not forget about Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver who both have two interceptions and 14 passes defended each.
Oh, and then there is free safety Dashon Golden leading the team with three interceptions to go along with his 11 passes defended.
This 49ers team is nothing to take lightly even though the Falcons had a better regular season record. They are fully loaded on both sides of the ball and have the talent that can take them into New Orleans for the Super Bowl. Atlanta will need to play their best game and do it for a full 60 minutes in order to get past San Francisco.
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Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.