49ers vs. Falcons: Early Stat Predictions, Simulations for NFC Championship Game
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
It's a matchup of polarizing philosophies when the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons meet in the NFC Championship Game.
The 'Niners are a run-first offense that like to control the line of scrimmage and work play-action.
Atlanta is pass-first and relies on quarterback Matt Ryan to dice up defenses and push the pace. Along with the Seattle Seahawks, though, San Francisco's defense is on par with the best Atlanta will face.
Can Ryan and the Falcons get Tony Gonzalez to his first Super Bowl? Or will this group of 49ers restore history to San Francisco with a sixth Super Bowl appearance?
Let's check the simulated results and find out.
Note: Simulations are courtesy of WhatIfSports.com.
Simulation 1: Falcons 23, 49ers 3
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan thwarted San Francisco's defense by going 21-of-28 for 177 yards and one touchdown.
Atlanta's defense also stepped up big by blanking the 'Niners on third down: 0-for-6.
Include five field goals from kicker Matt Bryant and the Falcons are heading to New Orleans.
Simulation 2: 49ers 24, Falcons 21
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco's running game really got going here, as Frank Gore amassed 159 yards on 17 carries and one score.
On the contrary, Atlanta's ground attack was stifled to a mere 56 yards on 30 attempts.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan racked up 257 yards passing with two touchdowns, but it was not enough to match the 'Niners' effective control of the line of scrimmage.
Simulation 3: 49ers 24, Falcons 9
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
This game belonged to Colin Kaepernick.
Accounting for 194 total yards and two scores, Kaepernick didn't turn the ball over and the 'Niners gradually pulled away.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons could only muster field goals when inside the red zone, which ultimately was the difference. Not to mention two sacks by Ahmad Brooks and an interception from Tramaine Brock.
Simulation 4: 49ers 34, Falcons 15
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Maintaining balance throughout, San Francisco constantly moved the ball against Atlanta.
Frank Gore collected 116 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and rookie LaMichael James went for 90 yards on 12 carries.
Receiver Michael Crabtree caught five passes for 65 yards and one score, which kept the 49ers rolling in the first half.
As for the Falcons, quarterback Matt Ryan was intercepted three times—twice by defensive lineman Ray McDonald—and Atlanta went a mere 4-of-11 on third down. To no one's surprise this game was a route.
Simulation 5: 49ers 34, Falcons 13
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Riding the dominance of running back Frank Gore, the 49ers steamroll through the Falcons once again.
Gore carried 20 times for 138 yards and scored twice, and Michael Crabtree helped with a big 47-yard run in the first quarter.
As the game progressed, Atlanta's lack of ball movement proved to be costly. Gaining just 200 total yards, the Falcons managed only 11 first downs and were shutout in the second half.
Simulation 6: 49ers 34, Falcons 19
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Despite only making five receptions, Michael Crabtree scored three touchdowns and racked up 105 receiving yards for San Francisco.
The Falcons defense had no answer for the 49ers' balanced attack, because Frank Gore tallied 182 rushing yards and a score on just 18 attempts.
San Francisco didn't turn the ball over and Matt Ryan was intercepted twice. One key factor was Atlanta going 5-of-17 on third down and failing inside 'Niners' territory. Three of Matt Bryant's four made field-goals were from inside of 40 yards.
Touchdowns instead of settling for three significantly favored San Francisco.
Simulation 7: Falcons 26, 49ers 23
Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports
Courtesy of a big day from receiver Roddy White and kicker Matt Bryant, Atlanta edges out San Francisco.
White caught five balls for 75 yards and a score, whereas Bryant connected on all four field goals.
The running back tandem of Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers impacted as well. This duo combined for 114 rushing yards on 28 carries and one touchdown. In short, that easily set up the play-action pass.
San Francisco's downfall came from consistently failing on third down and losing the possession battle. The Falcons kept the 49ers off balance all game long, because Matt Ryan and the offense were on the field for nearly 35 minutes.
Simulation 8: 49ers 30, Falcons 19
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Surprise, surprise, Frank Gore bulldozes his way to another impressive performance.
In rushing for 174 yards on a mere 18 attempts, Gore also scored twice and controlled this game from opening kickoff.
Colin Kaepernick was ineffective, which only makes Gore's impact that much more dominant. Atlanta couldn't work the trenches and it was gradually worn down up front.
The Falcons also struggled immensely when inside the red zone. Relying on Matt Bryant to knock three field goals from inside 30 yards, San Francisco consistently tightened up when Atlanta was expecting a touchdown.
Simulation 9: 49ers 23, Falcons 9
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
This is why the 49ers selected Oregon's LaMichael James in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Possessing the speed, quickness and downhill attack to punch at the line of scrimmage, James rolled for 212 yards on only nine carries.
He also scored a receiving touchdown from three yards out.
A defensive battle from the start, it was the red-zone offenses that became the greatest factor. Atlanta once again settled for three Matt Bryant field-goals: None longer than 32 yards.
Each of San Francisco's two touchdowns, though, were from inside the 10-yard line.
Simulation 10: 49ers 24, Falcons 21
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan performed better than anyone by completing 80 percent of his throws and tossing three scores.
Still, he was also sacked four times by San Francisco.
The constant pressure allowed the 'Niners to control the trenches and prevented Atlanta from gaining momentum. As a result, Frank Gore and LaMichael James teamed up for 172 rushing yards and two scores.
Forcing the Falcons to go 5-of-13 on third down, San Francisco's defense assisted its offense from losing the field-position battle.
Simulation 11: 49ers 21, Falcons 10
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
As expected, San Francisco's rushing offense leads the Bay Area to New Orleans.
LaMichael James was fed 10 times and gained 90 yards with two touchdowns.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons' passing game was solid, as he went 19-of-24 for 300 yards and a score. Ryan, however, was also sacked three times and Atlanta rushed for only 67 yards.
Penalties were the main disparity here, because the Falcons got flagged 10 times for 60 yards to just three for 20 for San Francisco.
Simulation 12: 49ers 33, Falcons 10
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
For as much as San Francisco's running game has proven to be, the defense continues to dominate as well.
Ray McDonald collected a sack and an interception of Matt Ryan, and Atlanta was held scoreless in the second half.
Altogether, the Falcons gained a measly 211 total yards and lost the possession battle by over 10 minutes. That was also because San Francisco got 111 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Frank Gore.
Plus, the 49ers didn't turn the ball over and got four field goals from kicker David Akers.
Simulation 13: 49ers 41, Falcons 23
Harry How/Getty Images
The 49ers were clicking in all three phases en route to another simulated victory.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick only attempted nine passes, but he completed seven for 179 yards and two scores (no turnovers).
Kaepernick also ran for a touchdown, whereas Frank Gore slammed for 118 rushing yards.
San Francisco got a punt return for a touchdown from Ted Ginn, and the defense recorded three sacks and an interception.
The Falcons failed to establish a ground attack, which appears to be a theme entering Sunday's matchup.
Overall Predicted Outcome
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Based on 13 Simulated Results
Final Score: San Francisco 26.7, Atlanta 16.7
Total Yards: San Francisco 358.7, Atlanta 317.7
First Downs: San Francisco 19.5, Atlanta 16.8
3rd Down Efficiency: San Francisco 44.2 %, Atlanta 43.7 %
Sacks: San Francisco 2, Atlanta 0.7
Time of Possession: San Francisco 29:30, Atlanta 30:30
Colin Kaepernick: 8.61-of-14.9 for 124.3 passing yards, 0.92 TDs and 0.38 INTs; 4.23 carries for 14 rushing yards and 0.23 TDs
Frank Gore: 16.6 carries for 126.7 rushing yards and 1.07 TDs
LaMichael James: 10.07 carries for 58.84 rushing yards and 0.30 TDs
Michael Crabtree: 4.08 receptions for 56.8 receiving yards and 0.53 TDs
Vernon Davis: 1.84 receptions for 31 receiving yards and 0.15 TDs
Matt Ryan: 18.7-of-29.07 for 245 passing yards, 1.15 TDs and 0.73 INTs
Michael Turner: 14 carries for 38.38 rushing yards and 0.07 TDs
Roddy White: 5 receptions for 69 receiving yards and 0.30 TDs
Julio Jones: 4.46 receptions for 66.3 receiving yards and 0.38 TDs
Tony Gonzalez: 3.38 receptions for 42.5 receiving yards and 0.23 TDs
Follow John Rozum on Twitter.