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no one has run it better in the playoffs than the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick.
On Sunday, he'll face an Atlanta Falcons defense that has really struggled against mobile quarterbacks this season. Let's take a deeper look at Kaepernick's plan of attack against the Falcons and how they will try to stop him.
No team in the NFL uses more varied personnel groupings than San Francisco. It loves to use "heavy" formations with multiple tight ends, unbalanced looks and even defensive linemen as blockers to set up the run game. That is when Kaepernick becomes most dangerous thanks to his ability to run, either off designed scrambles or with the pistol/read-option.
Running back Frank Gore has become much more comfortable in this set in recent weeks after struggling with it early in the season. This makes those one-back sets very productive, where Kaepernick can either give the ball to Gore inside or keep the ball around the edge based on if the defensive end and/or outside linebacker crashes inside.
ABOUT THE 49ERS (12-4-1, 10-7 ATS): Kaepernick faced the questions that any first-time starter faces going into his first playoff game and answered every one against the Packers. After throwing an interception on his first series, Kaepernick set a playoff record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 181 and passed for 276, totaling four touchdowns along the way. The 25-year-old made a strong connection with wide receiver Michael Crabtree and helped open things up on the ground for Frank Gore, who rushed for over 100 yards (119) for the first time since Week 7. Defensively, San Francisco finished third in the NFL during the regular season but showed some cracks in the first half against Aaron Rodgers and company in the divisional round. Defensive tackle Justin Smith is dealing with a torn triceps and the 49ers struggled at times to get pressure on Rodgers
ABOUT THE FALCONS (14-3, 9-7-1 ATS): Ryan does not have the same ability to escape the pocket that Rodgers has and will need more from his offensive line against the San Francisco pass rush. Ryan finally proved he could win a playoff game last weekend, throwing three touchdown passes and driving Atlanta for the game-winning field goal in the final seconds. Overlooked is the fact that the Falcons’ defense put Ryan in the position to come back by breaking down in the fourth quarter. Ranked 24th in the regular season, Atlanta’s defense allowed Wilson to pass for 385 yards and rush for another 60 while squandering a 20-point lead. Defensive end John Abraham, who will be one of the keys to keeping Kaepernick in the pocket, tweaked his ankle against the Seahawks and is listed as questionable for this week, though the Falcons expect him to play. Atlanta has had trouble with mobile quarterbacks like Wilson and Cam Newton, who used a similar read-option offense to put up 58 points in two regular-season games.
49ers’ offense: With just nine starts under his belt, how Kaepernick handles the crowd noise and spotlight will be a major factor in Sunday’s NFC title game. Kaepernick was immense last week, throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns and setting an NFL record for yards rushing by a quarterback with 181. He scored on lightning-quick runs of 23 and 56 yards. Kaepernick has also found a great rhythm with wideout Michael Crabtree, who has 291 yards receiving and four touchdowns in his last two games. Frank Gore ran for over 100 yards for the first time since Week 7, most of it coming through the teeth of the Packers’ interior defense. Even kicker David Akers looked sharp after missing 13 field goals during the season. San Francisco rushed for 323 yards last week, amassing a total of 579 yards of offense in its most complete effort of the season.
Falcons’ offense: The Falcons actually ran the ball well in their win against the Seahawks, but for some reason they abandoned the ground game in the second half. Michael Turner looked strong in the backfield, rushing for 98 yards on 14 carries, and Jacquizz Rodgers continued to give the Falcons a great change of pace. But Atlanta finished just 29th in the league in rushing, the main reason the Falcons like to go to the passing game where Ryan has plenty of options at his disposal. Roddy White and deep threat Julio Jones both went over 1,100 yards and combined for 17 touchdowns this season. Tight end Tony Gonzalez caught 93 passes during the season and hauled in a scoring pass in the win against the Seahawks. His catch also set up Matt Bryant’s game-winning field goal in the game’s final seconds.
* Under is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Underdog is 9-3 ATS in their last 12 meetings.
* 49ers are 24-11-1 ATS in their last 36 games overall.
* Falcons are 0-5 ATS in their last five playoff games.