NFC Championship 2013: Matchups That Will Determine 49ers vs. Falcons Outcome
Everyone on the roster must do his job in order to win in the NFL. In a tough battle like the NFC Championship Game, however, a few players will have tougher jobs than others.
The San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons will compete on Sunday for an invitation to the Super Bowl. After seeing what these teams can do in the divisional round, this is certain to be an intense game.
TE Tony Gonzalez vs. ILB Patrick Willis
When one lock for the Hall of Fame goes up against another player who could be in Canton someday, everyone needs to take notice.
The Falcons have a very successful passing game, mostly due to their ability to create mismatches. It is incredibly tough for a defense to cover both Julio Jones and Roddy White. When an opponent figures out how to do that, Tony Gonzalez ends up being the one with a big game.
With Patrick Willis, the 49ers have the ability to match up with the talented tight end. The All-Pro linebacker has the athleticism necessary to stay with opposing tight ends that are usually too big and fast to cover.
Atlanta needs to utilize Gonzalez to move the football, but this will be one of the toughest battles he has had all season.
OT Sam Baker vs. OLB Aldon Smith
Despite the fact that the Falcons throw almost as much as any team in the league, only six teams allowed fewer sacks.
A lot of that is due to Sam Baker, who had a great season of redemption after struggling throughout most of 2011.
Of course, it will not be easy to continue this great run against Aldon Smith of the 49ers. The linebacker finished the season second in the NFL with 19.5 sacks.
The issue is that he has now gone four games without a sack. He simply does not function as well without a healthy Justin Smith on the field.
However, the defensive lineman is getting better, which means that Aldon Smith will once again be a dangerous weapon as a pass-rusher.
Baker must make sure he slows down this duo in order to give Ryan enough time to find his talented wide receivers down the field.
QB Colin Kaepernick vs. S Thomas DeCoud
Against the Green Bay Packers, Colin Kaepernick showed that he can change the game with his legs, rushing for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
On the other hand, he has the ability to negatively affect a game if he cannot hold onto the football.
The second-year quarterback has made great decisions all year and only threw three interceptions during the regular season. Unfortunately, he threw an interception in his first playoff game that was returned for a touchdown.
Although the interception did not come back to hurt the team, it is certainly something that can be a problem in the upcoming game.
Thomas DeCoud quietly had one of the best seasons on the team. He finished with six interceptions, which tied him for fifth in the NFL.
Kaepernick loves to throw the deep ball to Michael Crabtree and others, but DeCoud is usually there to stop it. Something's got to give, and whoever gets the better of this matchup will really help his team.
OT Joe Staley vs. DE John Abraham
Although John Abraham left the game against the Seattle Seahawks with an ankle injury, he claims that he will play against the 49ers, according to ESPN.
Still, the veteran showed how important he is to the defense as the unit allowed three touchdowns in the fourth quarter with him off the field.
Abraham finished with 10 sacks this season, but no one else on the team finished with more than four. Without him, it seems like opposing quarterbacks get all day to throw the ball.
That is exactly what Joe Staley wants to happen in the NFC title game. Kaepernick is quick, but he is a much better passer when he has time to read the defense.
The Pro Bowl left tackle has done a great job all season at dominating opponents not only in passing plays but also as a run-blocker. If Staley can get the better of the injured Abraham, it will go a long way toward securing a 49ers victory.
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