The San Francisco 49ers will look to atone for last season’s shortcomings in the NFC Championship game when they take on the Atlanta Falcons today in Atlanta. The bitter taste of coming a missed field goal/two fumbles/one third down conversion away from reaching the Super Bowl remains in the 49ers’ mouths while the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith/Tony Gonzalez look for postseason win number two. This will be a back and forth matchup, and here is one key that each offense will need in order to win.
Frank Gore vs. Atlanta’s Run D
The key to the 49ers offense is NOT Colin Kaepernick, it is Gore. Yes, Kaepernick has become the biggest weapon of their offense, but Gore’s success in the run game goes a long way in dictating Kaepernick’s success. If Gore is able to maintain a steady level of production, it makes the run-option play that the 49ers run deadly. But if Gore isn’t running well, the threat of him taking the ball on the option is less effective and the defense can sit and wait to react to where Kaepernick goes. If the San Francisco’s quarterback is going to roast the Falcons defense, he’ll need Gore to have a very good game to set things up.
Atlanta’s Deep Threats vs. San Francisco’s Secondary
Atlanta’s run game is good, but not great. And while the 49ers tend to struggle with bigger running backs (Marshawn Lynch, Steven Jackson, etc…) there’s no reason to believe they’ll struggle today. Seattle’s defense kept Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers in check last week, and the 49ers run defense is just as good if not better than Seattle’s. So the Falcons will look to their pro-bowl caliber receiving core to do their damage. Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and company will look to stretch the field with their speed and/or catching prowess. The 49ers secondary does a good job of keeping receivers in front of them, and that bodes poorly for the Falcons. Atlanta will have to find a way to get behind Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner or utilize combination routes to free up space for the receivers to rack up yards after the catch.
This will be a closer game than many are predicting, and it won’t disappoint. Ultimately, the 49ers ability to run the ball and dominate the clock will lead them to their sixth Super Bowl. 49ers win 34-27.981390