It’s hard to believe that it doesn’t happen more often, but the two top seeds in the NFC did their job; they protected home field and have advanced to meet each other for the right to head to New Orleans as the NFC representative in the Super Bowl.
With a dominating performance over my preseason Super Bowl pick, the Niners demolished the Packers to head to Atlanta to take on the team that just beat the hottest team in the NFL in the Seahawks.
San Francisco 49ers (2) @ Atlanta Falcons (1)
For those who turned the Seattle and Atlanta game off after the third quarter last week, you missed something remarkable. It was almost the second biggest comeback in NFL postseason history, but Matt Ryan decided he was tired of being “the guy who can’t win a playoff game” and, with the help of Tony Gonzalez, marched down the field in under thirty seconds to set up the winning field goal.
A lot of people are taking away from the Falcons performance because they actually lost the lead after being up twenty points in the fourth quarter. But how about we give the Seahawks a little credit? They were picked by a lot of pundits and analysts to win that game because they have been arguably the best team in the league the second half of the season.
So did the Falcons win it or did Seattle lose it? Personally, I’m on the side that thinks Atlanta won t for two reasons. First, we haven’t seen a team gash the Seahawks with the run like that almost all season. The Falcons made it clear they were going to run the ball and Seattle still couldn’t stop it. By establishing a run, Matt Ryan had the time in the pocket to do what he does. Therefore, the pressure was taken off of the Atlanta defense to not have to play lights out to have a shot.
Next, this is the NFL. Teams are almost always going to make a run late in the game. I’m no fan of a prevent defense, but I understand giving an opponent the middle of the field to eat up some clock to protect a big lead. However, the Falcons offense has a tendency to go ice cold for a quarter every now and then. They don’t have the ability to just switch it on and switch it off. And that could hurt them this Sunday.
For the Niners, I don’t think even Colin Kaepernick’s family thought he was going to play as well as he did against the Packers last Saturday night. To put it simply, he made the Green Bay defense quit. They couldn’t catch him on the ground and they couldn’t defend him against the pass. And the defense…wow.
To make a guy like Aaron Rodgers, who has been playing at every bit of the MVP level he was last season, look like a mere mortal. If they play this kind of game, I’m not sure if it is logical to declare the Niners anything other than the Super Bowl favorite right now.
That leads us to the game this Sunday in the Georgia Dome. Matt Ryan has an impressive record in that building, so you can’t just discount home field advantage like you would most other teams. However, the Niners have shown they have little problems facing an opponent’s big time home field advantage and persevering. No one can expect Kaepernick to play the same game as he did against Green Bay.
The first reason is because Atlanta’s defense actually has a pulse. They aren’t world beater’s or anything like that, but they’ve been known to make an actual stop here and there. There wasn’t one point in that game on Saturday where I was convinced the Packers were going to force a punt. Not once.
With the way the Atlanta offense has been prone to cold streak’s all season, going up against a defense that isn’t missing their best pass rusher, they can ill afford to fall back into this habit. The Niners defense is brilliant and Dirk Koetter has his work cut out for him trying to decipher that unit. Because the same plan they used against the Seahawks just might get Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers murdered.
I probably gave away my ending by calling the Niners the Super Bowl favorite right now, but the speed and intimidation of this defense is a tough match up for the sometimes struggling Atlanta offense. Seeing what a similar speed guy in Russell Wilson did against their defense isn’t comforting either. Therefore, I have to go with the Niners in a comfortable victory and their first Super Bowl appearance in nineteen years.
San Francisco 31 Atlanta 21
Tagged with: Aaron Rodgers, Aldon Smith, Atlanta Falcons, Colin Kaepernick, Dirk Koetter, Green Bay Packers, Jacquizz Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, NFC, NFC Championship, NFC South, NFC West, Russell Wilson, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tony Gonzalez