2012 NFL Playoffs: San Francisco 49ers vs. Atlanta Falcons Pick and Preview
It is conference championship week in these 2012 NFL Playoffs. That means the four teams remaining are all just one step away from the Super Bowl. The NFC Championship in Atlanta between the 49ers and Falcons matches up the top two seeds in the NFC.
Last weekend, the Seahawks fought back from a huge deficit to take the lead with under a minute against Atlanta in the Georgia Dome. But the Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan were able to set up kicker Matt Bryant for a game winning field goal.
The 49ers relied on Colin Kaepernick to lead the way and cut and carve the Green Bay Packers defense. So began the “Kaepernicking” sensation as the 49ers rolled; primed for a matchup in Atlanta.
Here is what I will be watching for as keys to the game on both sides of the ball with a prediction for who represents the NFC in the Super Bowl.
This is a prime example of a high powered offense vs. a stingy defense. Last week vs. Seattle, Atlanta was able to get Michael Turner going early. They were able to move the ball effectively on the ground in some big chunks. Since Seattle had to respect the run first, their corners weren’t able to get initial help and jumps on their routes; freeing up Roddy White and Julio Jones for some big plays.
San Francisco has a much better front than the Seahawks but lack the size and physicality of Seattle’s corners. So you might say that the defensive strength of the 49ers is the opposite of Seattle. The 49ers will be able to control Michael Turner and Atlanta’s run game. I don’t see Turner exceeding 75 yards for the game.
Last week we saw the ablility of Atlanta’s WR’s Roddy White and Julio Jones to get free on some big plays. I don’t see this happening against the 49ers. The 49ers will effectively shut down Atlanta’s running game with their front four alone; giving the 49er defense linebacker help for the corners on crossing routes and effectively jamming the middle. Also,since the front four can stop the run, the secondary will be able to play pass-first defense; not allowing White or Jones to beat them deep.
What also separated the 49ers’ defense from the Seahawks defense is the pass rush of the front four. The front of the 49ers are arguably the most disruptive in the league. They are able to get to the QB quickly. That is a huge difference from what Matt Ryan saw last week against Seattle. He had just that extra split second to give White and Jones separation time. He won’t have that against the 49ers. Even if they dont sack Ryan, they will hurry him and knock him down a lot more than last week against the Seahawks. That could also lead to turnovers in the 49ers’ favor.
I think the only way Atlanta can put up points is to use the 49ers aggressive approach against them. They need to let the 49er lineman get upfield and dump short passes to the TE Tony Gonzalez, use the screen pass to Michael Turner and quick bubble screens out in the flat to Jones or White. Other than that type of gameplan for Atlanta, the 49er defense will ovewhelm Atlanta’s high powered offense.
49ers’ QB Colin Kaepernick is making head coach John Harbaugh look like even more of a genius with every game. Harbaugh took some criticism midway through the year, deciding to stick with Kaepernick at QB and not give Alex Smith his starting job back. It’s obvious that Harbaugh made the decision that was best for the team and the correct one at that.
Kaepernick was sensational last week against the Packers; lighting them up for 263 passing and 2 TD’s while legging out 181 rushing with two TD’s. The guy can just flat out beat you in any way.
Atlanta’s defense was surprisingly good early on last week. However, Seattle QB Russel Wilson was able to get free and run some magic of his own; leading a huge Seattle comeback to take the lead in the closing minute. Once Wilson found his niche he couldn’t be stoppped. Seattle had no answer. Kaepernick is the same type of QB with great spead and a huge arm. The difference is that Kaepernick is bigger and stronger and tougher to take down.
Atlanta will face the same offense in theory as they did last week with Seattle; an offense with a very good running back and a mobile QB. However, the difference is that the 49ers have been running somewwhat of an option style attack that has been extremely effective. Atlanta, even when they have had to worry about a one-dimentional downhill style running back, have not been effective in stopping it. Now they have to worry about a deceptive option with a two-headed monster of QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Frank Gore. Forget it! Atlanta just doesn’t have the personnel to remotely slow this offense down.
Since Atlanta will have to concentrate on the run so much, WR Michael Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis should be huge beneficiaries. Kaepernick should be able to find them open in one-on-one coverage at any time he needs to. Atlanta just doesn’t have the personnel to match up with this type of offense. The 49ers should be able to put up a ton of points and yardage on the Atlanta defense.
There’s a reason why the 49ers are road favorites in this game. The matchup on both sides of the ball heavily favors the 49ers. They’re just too much for Atlanta to handle. Final score: 44-17 as San Francisco heads to the Super Bowl in New Orleans.