Colin Kaepernick exploded into the spotlight with an NFL record for quarterback rushing yards, running for 181 against a Green Bay Packers team that was ill prepared for the San Francisco 49ers read option attack. Overshadowed by Kaepernick’s amazing game, was Frank Gore. Gore rushed 23 times for 119 yards and a touchdown against the Packers, balancing out the 49ers option attack and partially allowing for Kaepernick’s performance.
The Packers made a number of mistakes defending the 49er attack, the largest of which was no one accounting for Kaepernick on many plays, or a spy under qualified to chase down an athlete of Kaepernick’s quality. Green Bay was caught in man coverage on option runs, with no one accounting for the quarterback, and Kaepernick ran wild. The Falcons play a combination of man and zone, with zone heavy on the back end. Kaepernick will have less open opportunities to run with the Falcons playing zone, looking at the line of scrimmage. The Packers safety play was atrocious as well; Kaepernick used his reads and fakes to misplace the safeties, turning big runs into long touchdowns.
Atlanta’s safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCloud have been part of their strength this season, both in the teams top 5 in tackles, and 10 interceptions between them. The two deep shell that Atlanta uses creates turnovers and limits big plays, but with both safeties deep, opposing rushers have consistently ripped off short and intermediate runs. This has resulted Atlanta’s 21st ranked rushing defense, which gave up 123 yards to a Seahawks team that was throwing to catch up last week, and 7 rushes for 60 yards and a touchdown to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Mobile quarterbacks have haunted the Falcons this season, as Atlanta has allowed the highest yards per carry for quarterbacks. Cam Newton rushed for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Falcons in two games this year, and Michael Vick ran 7 times for 42 yards week 8. Now the Falcons are facing the 49ers 4th ranked rushing offenses, fresh off 323 yards against the Packers in a dominating playoff win. This is strength against weakness match for the 49ers, one they will look to exploit. The Falcons need a better scheme against the read option than Green Bay did, or this game may be a lot of the same.