USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Falcons host the San Francisco 49ers this week in the NFC Championship, and more importantly the honor of playing in the Superbowl. It's a final chance to give veteran Tony Gonzalez a chance at the success he's been waiting for, while putting to rest any rumors that this stage is too big for Mike Smith's team. These are the three things to watch in Sunday's game.
1. Stopping Colin Kaepernick
While Atlanta's defense under Mike Nolan has improved, they've been woefully inept at stopping mobile quarterbacks. Allowing over 200 yards rushing by Cam Newton is 2012, last week they allowed Russell Wilson to run for over 8.0 yards per carry.
As the Green Bay Packers learned, respecting the legs of Kaepernick is vital to stopping the San Francisco offense. The inability to stop him running up the center of the field, paired with poor safety help was their downfall.
2. Use Sean Weatherspoon
Atlanta's outside linebacker has outstanding sideline-to-sideline speed, while also showing the strength to tackle larger players. It's here where he can be a huge benefit. With both Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore, they need a defense player with closing speed and tackling ability.
In those previous struggles with mobile quarterbacks, the lack of Weatherspoon making an impact was present. He needs to be featured in a roving role more, one where he can show his skills.
3. Continue the quick throws
The key reason why the Atlanta Falcons had success against the Seattle Seahawks was their ability to shift their offense towards more short passes, and away from long-developing routes. This allowed them to attack before the pass rush could be effective, while also using receivers' ability to get yards after the catch.
While the 49ers don't have the same ability at cornerback, they should be aware of their pass rush. Provided Aldon Smith in 100%, Matt Ryan should get rid of the ball quickly to counteract the speed rush. if they can do this, they can have success.