By Zach Walker
The Atlanta Falcons survived the fourth quarter surge of the Seattle Seahawks, who with 31 seconds left in the game allowed Matt Ryan to write a new chapter in his career. Completing a deep pass to Harry Douglas to jolt the nerves of everyone watching, then a pass over the middle to Tony Gonzalez to set up the go ahead field goal. After a last second heave by Russell Wilson, several Falcons ripped figurative and crippling monkeys off their backs. The next step for this team goes through their house. These Falcons haven’t been in further than one game into the playoffs under Ryan, but now the pressure has turned from can they win a playoff game to can they continue to win. Playing against Russell Wilson was a nice sparring session for defending the option style game, but with an aged group of defensive linemen, can they even hope to contain the explosive Colin Kaepernick?
In Week 10 QB Alex Smith was knocked out of the game and Jim Harbaugh was granted the opportunity to put in motion a more aggressive style of play and a more talented and athletic Colin Kaepernick. That game against the Rams ended in a tie and even with a cleared for play Alex Smith, Coach Harbaugh made the switch to Kaepernick for the foreseeable future and skeptics started pouring out of the woodworks. Replacing a solid manager in Smith, who took his team to the NFC championship only the year prior, for the shiny prospect of the big gun in Kaepernick, an as of then rough diamond. Colin’s aggressive approach to the option offense led to a 5-2 record over the final seven games and the second seed in the NFC. In his first playoff start, Kaepernick would try and outgun last year’s MVP, Aaron Rodgers. Through the air, the quarterbacks were very similar at about 260 yards, two touchdowns and an interception each. But where Aaron Rodgers is known as a mobile quarterback with the threat of running as the sixth option, Colin Kaepernick is a complete dual-threat. The arm needed to thread the ball into any window, and the running ability to pull down and score from 70 yards out. If Kaepernick continues to succeed, the already heavily respected Jim Harbaugh will look like an absolute genius.
The fans of the Georgia Dome did their part early, making the Seahawks as unwelcome as an STD. And they have the opportunity to do the exactly the same thing to the 49ers. The Falcons jumped on the aggressive Seahawks early and had shut them out in the first half. If they want to repeat that kind of performance, they will have to attempt to disrupt Colin Kaepernick, in both the ground game and in the passing lanes. Sean Weatherspoon is the rock in the middle of the Falcons defense, and will have his hands full dealing with the 49ers heavy run attack of Frank Gore, LaMichael James and Colin Kaepernick. If the Falcons safeties don’t make an impact, the 49ers will make 200 plus yards on the ground, which is bad for the Falcons for many reasons. Dashon Goldson with have the monumental task of trying to contain Tony Gonzalez. My prediction: 49ers 35 Falcons 27
Watch it: Sun. Jan. 20 – 2PM – FOX