A #1 seed in the NFC hasn't lost a conference championship game since the 2002 Philadelphia Eagles. Are the Falcons going to join them or will we see them defy the odds?
NFC Conference Championship Matchups: 49ers Kaepernick And Crabtree Passing Attack vs. Asante Samuel Falcons Secondary
The San Francisco 49ers 23rd ranked passing attack enters their second straight NFC Championship behind outstanding sophomore quarterback Colin Kaepernick. San Francisco is traveling to the Georgia Dome to take on the Atlanta Falcons and their 23rd ranked passing defense.
Kaepernick has a rocket for an arm, and aside from the early interception to Sam Shields, played a good game against an aggressive Packers pass defense last week. A big part of that was Michael Crabtree. The Kaepernick-Crabtree combination has been one of the NFL’s most effective combinations since Kaepernick took over as the 49ers signal caller.
NFC Conference Championship Matchups: Kaepernick And Gore-Lead 49ers Rushing Attack vs. Decoud, Witherspoon And Falcons Run Defense
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.
NFC Conference Championship Matchups: 49ers Offensive Line vs. John Abraham And The Falcons Defensive Line
The Falcons pass rush will have a little less bite against the 49ers in the NFC Championship on Sunday. The Falcons only double-digit sack producer, John Abraham, is questionable, but expects to play.
The Atlanta Falcons struggled to create pressure all season, finishing 28th in the NFL with only 29 sacks, and with their primary pass rusher Abraham limited with an ankle injury, creating pressure against the 49ers outstanding offensive line may be a problem.
Against the Seahawks last week, the Falcons managed two sacks, both from defensive tackles. The Falcons defensive tackles face 49ers Pro-Bowl guard Mike Iupati and center Jonathan Goodwin, who has yet to give up a sack this post season. Even if Abraham plays at a high level, he faces another Pro-Bowler in left tackle Joe Staley. Staley gave up a sack to Clay Mathews last week, but was mostly dominating against Green Bay’s All-Pro pass rusher.
NFC Conference Championship: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White And Falcons Passing Attack vs. 49ers Secondary
Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez both got their first playoff win, in an emotional victory at home against the Seattle Seahawks last week. Hosting the San Francisco 49ers will provide similar difficulties. The 49ers play physical with their corners Carlos Rodgers, Tarell Brown, and Chris Culliver, and keep Pro-Bowl safeties Dashon Goldson and Dante Whitner deep to create turnovers, and make bit hits attacking the offense downhill.
Ryan was able to catch the Seahawks secondary off guard, and get an early lead on the a Seahawks team that seemed asleep early in the game, having traveled across the country and playing in Sunday’s early game. The 49ers are undefeated on early Sundays traveling east. The Falcons best chance to win is to get an early lead, as the 49ers have shown a weakness to coming back from a two-touchdown deficit. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Roddy White highlighted the NFL’s 6th best passing offense this season, and were a big part of the Falcons win last week. Jones, White, and Gonzalez caught 17 of Ryan’s 24 completions against the Seahawks, and caught 264 of Matt Ryan 422 completions for 62.5 percent of all passes this season.