By Matthew Asher
Less than 11 months ago, Atlanta and San Francisco met in the Georgia Dome as the 49ers were able to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl, ending Atlanta’s playoff run. If Atlanta wants to spoil the last game played at Candlestick Park, and possibly deal the 49ers a blow to their playoff hopes as well, this is what they need to do to win their fifth game of the season.
Falcons Defense: Shut Down Both Davis and Boldin
Tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Anquan Boldin are Colin Kaepernick’s two favorite targets. Davis and Boldin have combined for about 56 percent of San Francisco’s receptions, 66 percent of the receiving yards and a mind-boggling 94 percent of all touchdown receptions.
It wasn’t until last week’s game against Tampa Bay that Michael Crabtree became the first 49er not named Davis or Boldin to record a touchdown reception. That’s right, through the first 13 regular season games, Kaepernick had only thrown touchdown passes to two players.
Kaepernick has been on quite a roll lately. San Francisco has won its last four games and in that stretch, Kaepernick has thrown seven touchdowns but only one interception. If Atlanta wants to win, they need to take away Kaepernick’s security blankets.
Falcons Offense: Use Run and Pass Equally
This is a rough task for the Falcons because San Francisco has one of the best overall defenses in the league. The 49ers allow less than 200 passing yards and 100 rushing yards each game, the fourth and sixth least in the league, respectively.
The best way to counter with such a great defense is to keep the 49ers on their toes. While Matt Ryan has done a decent job of passing the ball this season, especially with all the injuries to the wide receiver corps, it was that predictability that spelled doom for Atlanta in close games. Still, Ryan has thrown for almost 4,000 yards, and should eclipse that number this week, for the third straight season in his young career.
Steven Jackson finally looks like a Pro Bowl caliber running back after dealing with his own injuries. Since he missed quite a few games, he’s a lot fresher than most running backs are this late in the season. With nothing to lose as far as making a run in the playoffs go, Atlanta should set Jackson loose the next two games and see what kind of running back they’ve got on hand for the 2014 season.
Kickoff for the Monday Night Football game is scheduled for 8:40 pm EST. #RiseUp
For more Falcons news and updates, visit Falcons Central.
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.