After racking up 181 rushing yards, finding the end zone twice on the ground and connecting with receivers for two more through the air while out-dueling Aaron Rodgers in his first playoff start, Kaepernick proved that Jim Harbaugh made the right decision when he elected to bench Alex Smith.
Kaepernick's elite athleticism commands the attention of every defense he faces. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan had his hands full last week against the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson, who ran for 60 yards and a score against the Falcons.
The Falcons allowing the Seahawks to jump to a 28-27 lead after being ahead 7-27 going into the fourth quarter proves Atlanta's defense is susceptible to giving up points in a hurry. Kaepernick has transformed the San Francisco 49ers into an explosive offense, and Atlanta won't be able to come back on the 49ers should they find themselves in an early hole.
The Falcons allow 123.1 YPG on the ground. In the past, Frank Gore has been the focus for opposing defenses. Now, he's an afterthought. The poor tackling the Falcons have put on display all season makes the 49ers rushing attack the key to this game. Kaepernick will be Atlanta's focus now, which makes Gore more dangerous than ever.
The most interesting part of Kaepernick's entrance is the evolution of Michael Crabtree. Including the playoffs, Crabtree has racked up more than 100 yards in four out of his past six games, after hitting the 100-yard mark just once in his first 11 games this season.
Kaepernick has transformed the 49ers offense into a dynamic rushing and passing attack. Atlanta is going to want to enter a shootout and, for the first time in a long time, the 49ers have the firepower to compete in such a game.
The only noticeable setback of inserting Kaepernick into the offense is the regression of Vernon Davis. After Smith's concussion and subsequent benching, Davis has caught more than two passes in just one game and has only found the end zone once.
Luckily for Davis, Atlanta was exposed last week, giving up 142 yards and a touchdown to tight end Zach Miller. Davis is a tremendous athlete and though he's in a slump, he still must be accounted for on every play.
The Falcons are going to find the end zone in this game. With Jacquizz Rodgers and Michael Turner coming out of the backfield and the unstoppable trio of Roddy White, Julio Jones and future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta has the weapons to drive up the score.
Still, the 49ers have the edge on defense, and with holes in their front seven and secondary, the Falcons aren't going to be able to keep pace with Kaepernick.
After scoring 20 points in the first half last week, Atlanta's offense slowed and let a seemingly overmatched Seahawks team crawl back into the game. The 49ers don't need to completely shut down the Falcons to build a sizable lead.
Kaepernick kicked off his playoff legacy with an unforgettable performance, and there is no reason to believe he won't carry the 49ers to the Super Bowl with a big win over Atlanta this weekend.
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