Colin Kaepernick has the Bay Area one game away from the Super Bowl.
Coming off a performance against the Green Bay Packers where he accounted for 444 total yards and four touchdowns, he easily outplayed Aaron Rodgers. Now Kaepernick must outplay Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons.
So, what can we anticipate from Kaepernick on Sunday?
More of the same to say the least, because he has proven to set or match the pace of any explosive offense San Francisco has faced since Week 11.
Defeating Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on the road and outscoring Rodgers and the Pack, sets Kaepernick up for this date against Ryan and the Dirty Birds. And the Falcons' vulnerable defense, that still needs to prove weekly consistency, is quite the favorable matchup for the 'Niners.
The Falcons' ability to control Kaepernick could be compromised because of a key injury in Sunday's game. Defensive end John Abraham, 34, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, exited in the second quarter after aggravating an ankle injury he sustained Dec. 30. Abraham led the Falcons with 10 sacks and six forced fumbles.
Without Abraham, Atlanta allowed 298 yards, 18 first downs and four touchdowns in the second half as [Russell] Wilson wiped out a 20-point, fourth-quarter deficit.
Even with John Abraham's contributions during the regular season, though, Atlanta still allowed an average of 4.8 yards per carry and ranked No. 21 in rush defense. Not to mention the Falcons were No. 24 in total defense.
Checking out how Russell Wilson performed on Sunday, Kaepernick presents a similar threat.
When dropping back his ability to survey from the pocket, Kaepernick can pick apart any coverage. Although he only completed 17-of-31 passes on Saturday, Kaepernick connected with seven different players.
In short, utilizing the entire field is what spreads opponents out and keeps the running game consistent.
Atlanta will also be forced to honor both, since controlling the line of scrimmage and getting physical up front is San Francisco's forte. We know Frank Gore will get fed throughout and his impact will make traditional play-action relevant.
Kaepernick's dual-threat; however, is slightly different than Wilson's.
Most of Seattle's rushing yards came from Wilson scrambling since Marshawn Lynch was isolated. Kaepernick has a wider range of designed plays, simply because the 'Niners run that much more.
What should Atlanta's primary defensive objective be?
The read-option is a given, but other designations such as bootlegs, draws and powers will suffice as well. Just as we saw Alex Smith's Tecmo Super Bowl-esque run on the Saints last postseason, Kaepernick provides that capability on an expanded level.
Atlanta struggled against mobile quarterbacks like Wilson and Cam Newton thus far, which easily bodes well for Kaepernick. And going 8-of-13 on third down against the Packers sums San Francisco's offense up in a nutshell.
It's balanced with impressive ball control, but at the same time, explosive and efficient to win the possession battle and still push the pace.
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