In the heavyweight fight that is the San Francisco 49ers vs. Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan really needs to spread the ball around for Atlanta to win.
Why is this so important? Well for one, Ryan can't simply lock on to Roddy White or Julio Jones. The 49ers will wise up to that plan and shut it down quickly.
Against the Seattle Seahawks, Ryan did a really nice job of using all of his weapons. Jones and Tony Gonzalez caught six passes, while White caught five.
That's good ball movement on the part of Ryan. Loading up on one receiver is a recipe for disaster.
Here's another reason why Ryan needs to spread the love: The Atlanta run game is bad—really bad.
In the regular season, they averaged 123.2 yards per game, which was ranked 21st in the NFL. Against Seattle, they ran for 164 yards.
That is better, but the 49ers really know how to stop the run.
They had the fourth-best regular season rushing defense, giving up only 94.2 yards per game.
If the Falcons cannot run and Ryan locks on to, say, White, then it's game over for the Falcons.
The Falcons don't want that. They want to play for the Lombardi trophy.
To do that, everyone needs to get involved. In addition to White, Jones and Gonzalez, Ryan needs to target Harry Douglas in the slot and Jacquizz Rodgers out of the backfield.
Because the 49ers feature such a stout defense, changing up the nature of the offense is critical to their success. If the Falcons get too vanilla, they won't be able to score.
The nature of the NFL game is variation. The Falcons need to embody that.
They need to throw out of multiple bunch and stack formations in order to create confusion at the line of scrimmage. The more confusion, the better off they will be.
The Falcons have a great offense, but the 49ers have a fantastic defense, and good defenses usually win out over good offenses. In order to buck that trend, the Falcons have to make the 49ers' lives miserable. Any and all variations should be considered.
The only way for the Falcons to win is for Ryan to spread the ball around. If he does, they'll be playing for that sacred Lombardi trophy.