49ers vs. Falcons Predictions: How Atlanta Can Advance to Super Bowl XLVII
The 2013 NFC Championship Game will feature a top-three defense on the road against the NFL's eighth-best total offense during the regular season.
As we saw on Saturday night against the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is blossoming right before our eyes as one of the most dynamic and athletic QBs in the NFL.
Kaepernick combined for a total of 444 yards and four touchdowns in San Francisco's 45-31 victory over Green Bay in the divisional round, as Kap set an NFL record in the process (h/t ESPN Stats & Info):
FROM ELIAS: Colin Kaepernick sets the NFL postseason record for single-game Rush Yds by a QB with 163 (Michael Vick - 119 on Jan 15, 2005)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 13, 2013
As a team, the 49ers rushed for a gaudy 323 yards, as Frank Gore accounted for 119 yards and a touchdown while averaging 5.2 YPC.
That said, the key for the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game will be to stop the run and utilize the running game of their own on the offensive side.
Atlanta's defense held the second-leading rusher during the regular season, Marshawn Lynch, to just 46 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
If the Falcons defense can mirror that performance and contain Gore and Kaepernick—which certainly won't be an easy task—they'll immensely increase their chances of advancing to the Super Bowl.
Linebackers Akeem Dent, Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas need to be extremely active in their pursuit of the Niners offense in order to win this game.
Also, the Falcons need to establish the running game as early as possible to keep San Francisco's defense on its toes.
Michael Turner has been largely inconsistent this year but was very impressive against Seattle, rushing for 98 yards on just 14 carries, which amounts to seven yards per carry.
With the monkey finally off of Matt Ryan's back, he should be playing a lot looser and more effectively in the championship game.
Ryan should utilize the play-action pass and get the ball to his big receivers, Roddy White and Julio Jones, and should be looking for Tony Gonzalez in the red zone.
Obviously, Ryan will need to limit his turnovers for the Falcons to win, but the real key for Atlanta is its rush defense and ground game on offense.
It's going to take a near flawless game to beat San Francisco, but if the Falcons rushing defense plays the way it did Sunday, they'll be heading to New Orleans on Feb. 3.
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