Game Preview: Atlanta Falcons host San Francisco 49ers for NFC Championship Game

By
Updated: January 19, 2013
Having won his first playoff game in the Divisional Round, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan prepares to host the San Francisco 49ers at home in the NFC Championship.

Having won his first playoff game in the Divisional Round, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan prepares to host the San Francisco 49ers at home in the NFC Championship.

Title fight

This Sunday the Atlanta Falcons (14-3) host the San Francisco 49ers (12-4-1) for the most important home game in that team’s history — the NFC Championship game.

The 49ers are coming off a dominant performance against the Green Bay Packers in which Colin Kaepernick broke Michael Vick’s record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game.

It wasn't pretty, but the Atlanta Falcons' performance against the Seattle Seahawks was enough to secure them a Conference Championship berth.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Atlanta Falcons’ performance against the Seattle Seahawks was enough to secure them a Conference Championship berth.

For their part, the Falcons survived a performance against the Seattle Seahawks that songwriter James Taylor would have called “Fire and Rain.” They jumped out to a 20-point lead on the Seahawks with a quarter to go and somehow squandered it with 31 seconds to go. But quarterback Matt Ryan finally earned his “Matty Ice” moniker, driving down the field to set up a game-winning 49-yard field goal.

The question on everyone’s mind is did Atlanta finally get the postseason monkey off their back — or did they just get lucky? The , as they are underdogs at home, something that has only happened 14 times in conference championship history, the last being when the Chicago Bears hosted the Green Bay Packers in 2010.

Atlanta must prove their mettle if they are to earn a trip to the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

Atlanta offensive line vs. San Francisco pass rush

San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL but relies upon defensive end Justin Smith to him up. Atlanta’s offensive done a better job of stopping the pass rush lately, but the 49ers have the edge.

Advantage: San Francisco

Atlanta pass rush vs. San Francisco offensive Line

Defensive end John Abraham is Atlanta’s best pass rusher but is grappling with an injured ankle. San Francisco’s offensive line is perhaps the most physical in the league and is stocked with Pro Bowl-caliber talent. The challenge for Atlanta won’t be getting to and sacking Kaepernick, though; it will be in containing him and not allowing him to break off big runs.

Advantage: San Francisco

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick tore through the Green Bay Packers defense in the first half, setting a new NFL postseason record for most rushing yardage by a quarterback.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick tore through the Green Bay Packers defense in the first half, setting a new NFL postseason record for most rushing yardage by a quarterback.

Atlanta secondary vs. San Francisco receivers

Wide receiver Michael Crabtree is good but not great, Randy Moss isn’t as effective as he used to be, and Mario Manningham is out for the season. Between cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson and safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCloud, the Falcons should be able to handle the wide receivers. The player to watch will be tight end Vernon Davis. After all, if Seattle’s Zach Miller could break off 150 yards against the Falcons, what will Davis accomplish? My instinct tells me that Miller broke free because the Falcons were preoccupied with Seattle’s other major weapon. I think a defensive guru like Mike Nolan will make it a lot tougher for Davis this week.

Advantage: Atlanta

Atlanta receivers vs. San Francisco Secondary

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. A receiving corps with the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas, tight end Tony Gonzalez, and running back Jacquizz Rodgers has a leg up on almost any defense. Admittedly, the 49ers are stocked with good safeties, but they have benefited immensely from San Francisco’s elite front seven. Their cornerbacks are little better than average, and I expect to see While and Jones to exploit their weaknesses.

Advantage: Atlanta

Atlanta rushing attack vs. San Francisco run defense

Running back Michael Turner has been inconsistent all season and will be going up against a San Francisco front seven that is unmatched right now. Hopefully, the Burner can make an appearance for a second consecutive week.

Advantage: San Francisco

Atlanta run defense vs. San Francisco rushing attack

Atlanta has been inconsistent against the run, but they did an excellent job containing Marshawn Lynch last week. Unfortunately, San Francisco’s offensive line is better than Seattle’s; it will be tough to keep Frank Gore in check.

Advantage: San Francisco

The Atlanta Falcons are a rare conference championship home underdog.

The Atlanta Falcons are a rare conference championship home underdog.

Prediction

How the 49ers can win:

  1. Collect sacks on Ryan.
  2. Protect the football.
  3. Make third-down stops.
  4. Allow Kaepernick to shine.

How the Falcons can win:

  1. Pass the football.
  2. Win the time of possession battle.
  3. Be opportunistic with turnovers.
  4. Avoid turning the ball over.

Unfortunately, in the interest of journalistic integrity, I have to look at the facts and pick with my head, not with my heart. The fact is the 49ers have better the offensive lines and defensive lines, and football games are won in the trenches.. Kaepernick has shown something special to him as well. I said after the 49ers’ thumping of the Chicago Bears game that he was legitimate and that he would turn out to be a future MVP. There is a reason why the Falcons are the largest home underdogs in conference championship history at 4.5 points.

Nevertheless, the Falcons have a puncher’s chance because of their receivers. I just hope that Rocky Balboa can take the fight to Apollo Creed and that this fight winds up more like Rocky II than Rocky.

Final score: 49ers 31, Falcons 28

About the author(s)

Joe Mixon covers the Atlanta Falcons beat for the Water Cooler Sports Network and also serves as the NFC South Insider for the It's Your Dime radio show. A graduate of Okefenokee Technical College with an associates degreee in Allied Health and Radiology Technology, Joe is a fan of not just the game of football but also its players. He is a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, good southern barbecue, and comedies, as well as a maven of all things pop culture. He wants his readers to have fun and love the game -- win or lose. Feel free to contact him with questions, comments, or suggestions for future articles at .

1379 comments
Joedirte
Joedirte

Maybe the Falcons change to the 3-4 next season who knows

Joedirte
Joedirte

1. Denial- The Falcons can still win this game

2. Anger- The Falcons were robbed by that dumbass ref

3. Barganing- Come on God let the Falcons win

4. Depression- This fucking sucks I'm gonna go take a nap

5. Acceptance- Ok we need to get stronger O-Line and better D-Line players

Joedirte
Joedirte

I hope the Falcons can try to go after Margus Hunt as well

SDL
SDL

Good night, Cub Scouts

(eat shit Brady and Boomer E)

Joedirte
Joedirte

But every team that has beaten the Falcons goes on to go to the Superbowl

Joedirte
Joedirte

The Falcons may need to take a page out of the Vikings playbook and trade for a Jared Allen type of player

SDL
SDL

Boomer Esiason can suck my ass, too.  

In the pregame, he was crowing about Brady being the best QB ever to play the game.

Pffttt!! He's damn good, but he's always had a great team and great coaches.  

My 75 year-old mother runs better than he does.... and WTF was up with that pussy slide and then kicking the defender?


SDL
SDL

Condolences, Joedirte...

I would have preferred the Falcons as winners, but Matty Shinebox showed up, again.

I don't like either Harbaugh.  

However, I'm very glad Tommy Fucking Brady is out.

Maybe next year ... for the Packers and the Falcons

Joedirte
Joedirte

I could be up here complaining that there was defensive holding on that 4th down play but we love the regular refs now?

Joedirte
Joedirte

So we have the Harbaugh bowl..........fantastic

This sucks

niemerg1
niemerg1

thank god NE didn't win...i don't know if i could handle all the douchebaggery involved for the Superbowl if both John Harbourgh and Belechick won...

Rourke
Rourke

My wife expressed disappointment in Houndog's avatar. She didn't like the way there are no shadows on the ass. heh

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

Great question. They play both on road in 2013. RT : what are chances  are opening night opponents for SBXLVII champs?

Evil Donkey
Evil Donkey moderator

Brady put his cleats into some guys thigh. What a fucking Prick.


Needless to say, this town is going apeshit.

DWargs KING OF THE NORTH
DWargs KING OF THE NORTH

I enjoyed the outcome of tonight's game.  There were quite a few calls that were questionable that went in favor of the Patriots, but the Ravens won anyway, and were able to pull away because of some stellar defensive effort.

niemerg1
niemerg1

 i think your Oline played very well last night

Joedirte
Joedirte

Well Wake is a former Nolan Player so maybe thats who they trade for.

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

 I wish Green Bay would have traded a WR to Miami for Wake :)

Joedirte
Joedirte

 Well Matt Ryan outplayed Tom Brady today, can we all agree on that

Joedirte
Joedirte

 The great Refs blew a call. But the NFL wanted the Harbaugh bowl for all the extra ratings it will get. plus West Coast vs East Coast means more ratings as well. I dont know I gotta make some sort of excuse we had the chance he made the play and the 49ers got away with a defensive holding play. Matt Ryan did fuck up on that bone headed botched snap where they would have gotten a FG if nothing else

Rourke
Rourke

 I was a little surprised that there appears to be no tripping rule for QBs.

Johnathan Wood
Johnathan Wood moderator

 the most questionable call of the game was the "fumble," and that went BAL way.  But NE left too many points on the board early, and it cost them dearly

aciddragon
aciddragon moderator

 i can't complain, i really think the best 2 teams left won, and i think it gives us the bet matchup overall 

Joedirte
Joedirte

But hes 30 so maybe they trade a 3rd round player for him

SDL
SDL

 & Miracle Man

I actually think Ryan will be better than Romo, someday.  He's got a tendency to choke, but it's hard to deny he's getting better as time goes by

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

  Ryan can't play with a lead. His team blew 20 and 17 point leads and he had back breaking turnovers in both games that let the other team back in the game.

Joedirte
Joedirte

  His hands were under the ball. The rule is the ball can touch the turf as long a some part of the ball has a hand under it.

Rourke
Rourke

 Nope. She likes girls, but she likes girls who look real. I tried to explain that the photographer used a lot of spot lighting to avoid the shadows, but that was not a satisfactory explanation apparently. An ass should have shadows to accentuate the curves in her book.

Evil Donkey
Evil Donkey moderator

  Suh did aim for the balls. Brady is just a pussy.

DWargs KING OF THE NORTH
DWargs KING OF THE NORTH

   I agree. The better teams won today. No question.  I'm not really keen on the 49ers, but that's mainly due to their fans. I'd have like to have seen both the Ravens and the Falcons win, but 1 outta 2 ain't bad.

Joedirte
Joedirte

They may try to sign Cliff Avril or Osi or Dwight Freeney as well

Joedirte
Joedirte

  Yea this is a game that will haunt all offseason. Maybe the Falcons make another blockbuster trade to acquire a Pass Rusher like they did for Julio Jones

SDL
SDL

Well, nobody chokes like Romo... except maybe ManCans (or SlapNutz against the Packers)

But, a pick and a fumble in the NFCCG will do it against a good opponent

Joedirte
Joedirte

  Ryan didnt do a complete Romo Choke. He had the chance to win the game and the 49ers made the stop. Which should have been defensive holding but thems the Breaks. Now the Falcons need a stronger O-Line and a better D-Line.

Joedirte
Joedirte

   The thing was they take the foot off the pedal. But they dont have the D-Line that gets penetration against the Run and Pass and that allows offenses to have time to do what they need to do. Plus we need a stronger O-Line. But if you look at Peyton Manning and Ryan and their 1st 5 years in the league are almost the same. Maybe he is gonna need a Tony Dungy to come there and take them to the next level as well

Joedirte
Joedirte

  It moved when he came back up......But its one of those indisputable evidences situations. But man I cant focus on that

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

  I don't think it was. There was a lot of movement. 

Joedirte
Joedirte

  The shadows of Houndogs ass cover this entire site

Johnathan Wood
Johnathan Wood moderator

  If it's SF, it'll be SEA.  If it's Bal, it'll be PIT

Evil Donkey
Evil Donkey moderator

  I didn't even want to say that. I'm contractually obligated. 

DWargs KING OF THE NORTH
DWargs KING OF THE NORTH

  

I don't know, It just seems to me like ever since Manning and the Colts beat the Patriots in the 06 AFC Championship game, the Pats haven't had the same Aura of being unbeatable.  Even in the '07 SB, the Giants had the Patriots right where they wanted them the entire game.

DWargs KING OF THE NORTH
DWargs KING OF THE NORTH

True, but you could say that about a lot of plays in many different games.  The fact remains that the Ravens were the ones that came out on top, and they were the ones who beat the Patriots by 15.  The Ravens earned their spot in the Super Bowl.

aciddragon
aciddragon moderator

   i would have liked to see the Falcons win only because to Gonzalez, but at the time i wanted them to lose because i thought NE would beat Baltimore and i thought NE would truck ATL 

Mr. Horse
Mr. Horse

   One pass defensed by the Broncos' safety or by Champ Bailey and the Ravens wouldn't have been there.  Denver fired the DB coach on Monday.