It feels like forever since these 2 teams have been division rivals, 2001 was the last season they were both in the NFC West. The 49ers hold the head to head advantage 44-30-1 as they get ready for their matchup, but since the divisions were realigned the Falcons have won every single matchup (4-0). Of the 75 times they have met up they have only played one postseason game against each other.
The Falcons won that 1998 Divisional matchup 20-18 and went on to play in the Superbowl where they lost to the Elway-led Broncos. That Divisional Round matchup was memorable for Niner fans for all the wrong reasons. It would be Steve Young’s final postseason game, running back Garrison Hearst would suffer a broken ankle on the first play of the game, which kept him out for the next 2 seasons. Ironically that game came after the 49ers beat Green Bay the week before to get to Atlanta.
That was ages ago, with both these teams going through countless coaches, quarterback issues and roller coaster performances. Over the last few seasons these teams have improved and have a chance to start back up that old division rivalry flame.
2012 Regular Season Stat Comparison
San Francisco Atlanta
Total Yards 11th 8th
Points per Game 11th 7th
Passing Offense 23rd 6th
Rushing Offense 4th 29th
Yards Allowed 3rd 24th
Points Allowed 2nd 5th
Passing Defense 4th 23rd
Rushing Defense 4th 21st
Turnover Dif. 8th 5th
Time of Poss. 4th 9th
Overall these 2 teams are very evenly matched, with Atlanta having a slight offense edge, but the Niners easily taking it on the defensive side. One thing that jumps out is Atlanta’s defense; they give up a lot of yards, but not points. They tighten up when the opponent gets in the red zone and either hold them to field goals or come up with turnovers. All you have to do is go back to last week’s game versus Seattle and see how twice before the half Seattle was inside the 15 and came away with no points. The 49ers offense will have to perform better if they expect to win today.
Keys to Victory
Stopping Atlanta on 3rd Down
Atlanta was 2nd in the league on picking up 3rd down conversations, which keep drives alive. 3rd down conversations does 2 things, it tires out the defense and hurts team moral because they can’t win on the one play. With receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones 3rd and long isn’t too big of a deal and with future hall-of-famer Tony Gonzalez working short-intermediate routes it will be a challenge for Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio all day long.
Get the Crowd Out of it Early
The 49ers have struggled in loud stadiums this year, and playing in a dome won’t be easy. The 49ers do more shifting and pre-snap movement than any other team in the NFL, and the one thing that messes with that the most is noise. If the Niners start jumping offside, having penalties for 2 men in motions without resetting, or have to burn timeouts early, you’ll know the crowd is doing their job.
The one way to take the crowd out of it is to come up with big plays early and often. If the Niners are able to force a 3 and out on Atlanta’s first possession and then take the ball down the field for a score, you’ll be able to hear a pin drop.
Run Colin Run
Last week he set a rushing for a quarterback in a game, today he has a chance to break it. Atlanta has struggled against 2-dimensional quarterbacks this year and Colin Kaepernickis going to be their biggest test.
I think Kaepernick is going to give Atlanta so many problems they won’t know what to do, if they play man he will run all over them, if they bring someone down to spy I think he throws over the top, and we all know how accurate he is with the deep ball. The other problem with having a one man spy on Kaepernick is who matches up with him? Most guys are either too slow or too small to bring him down, especially out in space.
If I were Atlanta, I’d zone blitz in passing situations and try and force Kaepernick into throwing the ball too soon. Forcing turnovers is the only way I see Atlanta stopping the 49ers from running up and down the field today.
I honestly liked going to Atlanta to play the Falcons a lot better than having to play Seattle at home. With how well the 49ers stop the run this game solely comes down to stopping Matt Ryan and those big receivers. This game will be won as a team and when it comes down to it the 49ers are the better team. I have the 49ers winning 31-24 and going on to play in the Superbowl. Have fun watching the game Niner fans.