49ers vs. Falcons: Colin Kaepernick Will Be Too Much for Atlanta to Handle

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIJanuary 17, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 12:  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers in actions against the Green Bay Packers during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Candlestick Park on January 12, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons will face their second consecutive dual-threat quarterback in Colin Kaepernick in Sunday's NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Considering Atlanta's inability to contain Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson in the divisional round and the superior skill set of Kaepernick, there is little reason to believe that Kaepernick will not continue to light it up.

The second-year signal-caller bounced back from an opening drive pick-six against the Green Bay Packers to throw two touchdowns and most notably run for two more in a record-breaking, 181-yard performance on just 16 carries.

If that's not overcoming pressure, what is?

In taking over for Alex Smith—who led the team to the NFC title game last season—the level of expectations haven't changed for the first-time starter Kaepernick. What does he do in his first postseason drive? Spots the Packers a touchdown.

Did he ever roar back. Wow.

Wilson lit it up in the Georgia Dome this past weekend with some eye-popping quarterback play of his own, throwing for 385 yards and two scores while scampering for 60 yards and a TD.

And the scary thing for the Falcons is that Kaepernick is even more explosive. With slightly more speed, better size and a stronger arm, Kaepernick presents all sorts of problems.

Here is the biggest issue that makes this matchup so difficult, though: in the regular season—against relatively weak competition—Atlanta ranked 23rd in pass defense and 21st in rush defense. The key was the red zone, where the unit was able to stand its ground.

In the Seattle game, it worked for three quarters. Suddenly, everything began to go south for the NFC's No. 1 seed. Three late, unanswered touchdowns in the scoring area put the Seahawks on top with 31 seconds left, only to result in a dramatic comeback and game-winning field goal.

But that's not the point.

The point is that Kaepernick is a home run threat both throwing and running with the football. Any other relatively mobile quarterback may gash the defense for a big gain, but as has been on display since Kaepernick graced the field, he can run away from everyone.

The Niners' physical running game spearheaded by Frank Gore, with Kaepernick reading and reacting on option plays, will not only be nearly impossible to stop alone, but it will also open up huge opportunities for San Francisco to break the game open on play-action passes.

Look for TE Vernon Davis to become more involved as a pass catcher after Seahawks TE Zach Miller's explosion last week. The Falcons have no answer for the Kaepernick-Davis combo, should the Niners look to him more frequently.

Oh, and then there is the potential for Michael Crabtree and even Randy Moss to beat them over the top.

Atlanta may be able to keep other players in front of them, but the speed of Moss and Davis, combined with Kaepernick's cannon arm and Crabtree's dangerousness after the catch leaves too many questions and not enough answers as to how the Falcons can stop Kaepernick and Co.

That's especially true in the context of their collapse down the stretch in the divisional round against a similarly athletic quarterback.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will do all he can to make sure the Falcons stay disciplined on the option plays so that Kaepernick doesn't have an explosion on the ground reminiscent of last week.

Allowing a significant number of yards is simply not going to cut it for the Falcons this time around.

Not against a great team, and a great quarterback like Kaepernick who, although less touted than the three sensational rookies that came out of this year's draft class, may be the star who in fact is revolutionizing the most exciting position in sports.

Even the home crowd and the most complex schematics won't be able to stop Kaepernick from pushing the Niners to the Super Bowl.