San Francisco 49ers – Keys to Victory

For the San Francisco 49ers, reaching their first Super Bowl in nearly two decade will be about Colin Kaepernick running wild, targeting Vernon Davis for a chance and stopping the Atlanta Falcons running game, meaning halting Michael Turner.

Colin Kaepernick just running and running. Everyone knows he has an arm that’s just as good, and probably better, than what Alex Smith has, but it’s his running, and those 181 yards on the ground he got against the Packers, that make him such a special weapon. The Falcons have a real problem with quarterbacks who opt to make plays out of the pocket, allowing 8.9 yards per carry. What’s worst? They can’t handle the read-option, if the QB doesn’t hand off the ball, giving up 20 yards per play.

More with Kaepernick – he needs to start using Vernon Davis. Not for hurting the Tight Ends’ feelings, but because the Falcons have a very hard time stopping TEs. Since week 11 of the regular season, Davis has caught only 7 passes without scoring a single touchdown. Kaepernick prefers other targets (or to run), but the Falcons’ defense ranks last in the NFL in Total QBR allowed (96.8), last in yards allowed per drop-back (9.3) and 31st in yards allowed per completed pass (12.6) when tight ends are targeted.

Stopping Michael Turner from getting yards early is going to be crucial. The veteran running back gained 98 yards for the Falcons in the win against Seattle, just above the 94.2 the 49ers allow on average, 4th best in the NFL. Hitting Turner hard and early limits the declining back, who’s the only option to get yards on the ground for the Falcons. Matt Ryan has been great this season, even when having a bad day he knows how to pick himself up and come up with the right play at the right time, but against one of the best defenses in the NFL, not enjoying some early ground support might be too much to handle.