Tale Of The Tape: Atlanta Falcons At San Francisco 49ers
- QuarterbackThe Falcons are in a tough spot, going across the country to play on Monday Night against a motivated opponent. Matt Ryan has to find a way to make the plays against a tough 49ers defense. When Ryan is on his game, he is one of the most accurate short- and medium-range passers in the game. Ryan has completed 66.7 percent of his passes and has a 22-14 TD-interception ratio.The 49ers are competing for playoff position, so they are not going to let up in this game. Colin Kaepernick and the Niners realize that the Falcons have been out of the playoff race for several weeks, so they need to assert themselves early in this game. Kaepernick has the athleticism and arm strength to slice and dice Atlanta’s defense.
- OffenseWhile the Falcons have suffered serious injuries on the offensive side of the ball from the earliest days of the season, they have gotten a boost from the return of running back Steven Jackson. While he does not have great numbers – 448 yards and a 3.5 yards per carry average – he gives the Falcons a power-running presence. Roddy White, Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez are all solid receiving targets.The 49ers will try to batter the undersized Falcons defense with their power-running attack. Frank Gore is one of the best between-the-tackles running backs in the league. He has rushed for 1,017 yards and eight touchdowns. Anquan Boldin is a strong receiver who will catch the ball in traffic. Tight end Vernon Davis can stretch the field.
- DefenseThe Falcons have been vulnerable all season and rank 29th on defense. While they have many weaknesses, linebacker Paul Worrilow has been a find this season. He leads the team with 109 tackles and he can go sideline to sideline to make plays. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora has been the Falcons’ best pass rusher. He has a team-high 7.5 sacks.The 49ers are a powerful, aggressive and hard-hitting defense that ranks third in the league. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman sets the tone for this unit and he leads the team with 124 stops. Ahmad Brooks has done a superb job of rushing the passer and has a team-high 8.5 sacks. Free safety Eric Reid has four interception and two fumble recoveries.
- Special TeamsThe Falcons have done a solid job of covering kickoffs and punts, but they have not gotten the kind of big plays they were expecting from Jacquizz Rodgers or Douglas. Placekicker Matt Bryant has had another solid year, connecting on 21-of-24 FG attempts.The 49ers have done an excellent job of covering kickoffs and punts this season. Jim Harbaugh’s team has excelled in that category for the last three seasons. Placekicker Phil Dawson has been a solid investment for the 49ers. He has made 27-of-30 FG attempts this season.
The Niners want to close the show at Candlestick Park with a memorable victory. The Niners move into a new stadium next year and they want to dominate in their final game at the former home of Joe Montana, John Brodie, Jerry Rice and Steve Young.