NFL Playoffs: Can the Falcons Stop the 49ers Read Option?
This past Sunday, when the San Francisco 49ers squared off against the Green Bay Packers, Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick rushed for 176 yards on read-option runs.
According to ESPN’s NFL Nation Blog, the Falcons gave up the most yards per rush by quarterbacks in the league this season.
Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it?
The Falcons skipped by the Seahawks last weekend with a score of 30-28, but not before losing a 20-point lead over Seattle.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson rushed for 60 yards, averaging 8.6 per clip, and ran one in for a touchdown. Wilson’s score came early in the fourth quarter, a touchdown that was the first of three consecutive touchdowns for the Seahawks in the game’s final period.
So, while the Falcons were able to win and hold Seattle’s running back Marshawn Lynch to just 46 yards on 16 carries, they were unable to stop Wilson on the ground.
With Colin Kaepernick on his way to town, can the Falcons actually stop the 49ers read option and make their second ever trip to the Super Bowl?
The short answer is maybe.
Against running quarterbacks this season, the Falcons have given up 209 rushing yards. This was all against the legs of Cam Newton, twice, and Robert Griffin III. The Falcons had games against elusive quarterbacks like Tony Romo and Josh Freeman, but teams are more afraid of the arms on those guys instead of their legs.
Can the Falcons stop Colin Kaepernick on the ground?
The Falcons biggest problem came against the Panthers' Cam Newton. Newton rushed for 202 yards, 116 in one game alone.
On the surface, Newton and Kaepernick are just about the same. Newton is 6’5” and 245 pounds while Kaepernick is 6’4”, 230 pounds.
In addition to trying to handle the size of the Niners second-year signal-caller, Atlanta may be without defensive end John Abraham to stop him. He re-injured his left ankle against the Seahawks and did not finish the game.
He has vowed to play in the NFC championship game versus the 49ers, and the Falcons will need him.
Abraham had 10 sacks this season, and his aggressiveness off the edge will be needed to bring down Kaepernick.
In the end, I do not believe the Falcons will be able to put an end to Kaepernick's zone-read greatness. He uses his size, speed and vision very well, and Atlanta just isn't good at stopping quarterbacks on the ground.
But that doesn't mean the Falcons can't win the game. Wilson ran all over them last weekend, but Atlanta still came out on top.
The 49ers are a different animal than Seattle, being that this is their second consecutive trip to the NFC championship game. Their experience and thirst to make it to the Super Bowl will play a role in how they attack Atlanta as well.
While the zone-read will be an important part of the Niners' game plan, they will have to do a lot more if they plan to beat the scrappy Atlanta Falcons.
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