Falcon’s defense needs to put a cap on 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org January 19, 2013 3:56PM
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) against the Green Bay Packers during an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in San Francisco, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:38AM
In trying to describe San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith suggested he’s a cross between Russell Wilson and Cam Newton.
That bodes poorly for the Falcons.
The Falcons have the better record, and they’re playing at home, but the 49ers seemingly have a distinct advantage based on recent history. The Falcons’ defense took a considerable step backward from a year ago, dropping from 12th to 24th, and it has struggled against athletic, dual-threat quarterbacks.
The Falcons did well against Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III, who left the October game in the third quarter with a concussion. But they were shredded in two games against Newton and in the second half last weekend by Wilson.
Wilson rallied the Seattle Sea-hawks from a 20-0 halftime deficit to a 28-27 lead with 30 seconds left. The Seahawks lost on a 49-yard field goal by Matt Bryant, but Wilson finished with 60 rushing yards, including one touchdown, and completed 24 of 36 passes for 385 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Newton, meanwhile, ran the ball 18 times for 202 yards and two touchdowns and completed 38 of 59 passes for 502 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in two games against the Falcons.
They haven’t faced Kaepernick, but he’s coming off a dominant performance against the Green Bay Packers, a team with a defense ranked considerably better than Atlanta’s. Kaepernick ran for 187 yards (a record for a quarterback), including two touchdowns, and he completed 17 of 31 passes for 263 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
“I was definitely impressed with the way [Kaepernick] carried the team,’’ Falcons linebacker Sean Witherspoon said. ‘‘He did a great job of running as well as passing the ball. It’s something that you have to take your hat off to them, but it’s a great challenge, and I think we’ll be up for them.”
That, of course, would be a departure from the past.
Discipline and technique have been a recurring problem for the Falcons, and the 49ers have the offensive personnel — ranked 11th in the NFL — to exploit any defense. The 49ers boast a grinding back in Frank Gore, a Pro Bowl tight end in Vernon Davis, an emerging receiver in Michael Crabtree and arguably the league’s best offensive line.
Just ask Smith.
“No disrespect to any other teams, but this is the best offensive line we’ve faced all year,” Smith said. “They’re big, and they’re physical. They want to run the football.”
Falcons safety William Moore suggested this week that the defense needs to deliver a big shot on Kaepernick to slow him down.
“I don’t think that has any impact on me,” Kaepernick said. “Any defense, if they get a shot at a quarterback, they’re going to take it. That’s just part of football.”
For the Falcons, their best defense might be their offense.
But can Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan have a dominant performance against the 49ers’ fourth- ranked defense? He didn’t have any bulletin-board material, only respect for the unit.
“When you turn on the film, you see a really good defense,” Ryan said. “They are solid. They have six Pro Bowlers on defense who are extremely talented. They play as hard and as physical as anybody in the league.”